NRA Boss Days After Uvalde Mass Shooting: We’re the Real Victims Here

HOUSTON — Nineteen children and two adults were murdered at Robb Elementary School, in part because the gun lobby in Texas made it legal for 18-year-olds to buy guns intended for mass murder.

But when you hear Wayne LaPierre, Honcho of the National Rifle Association, say, the real victim here is the NRA.

LaPierre took the stage at Saturday’s National Rifle Association governance meeting to the tune of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and delivered an angry speech in which he portrayed the NRA as a target of “armed government.”

The NRA’s “Annual Meeting of Members” was held in the same 3,500-seat convention center arena where Donald Trump appeared on Friday night and read aloud the names of the children massacred in Uvalde, with each garbled Spanish pronunciation marked with the synthesized sound of a bell.

But if Friday’s events were staged for a nationwide audience, Saturday’s meeting was devoted to NRA domestic politics. Senior brass players sat in a row at a long table on the stage and rose to make fiery speeches of their own. The event – which gives NRA members a rare opportunity to introduce and vote on resolutions calling for changes in the way the gun lobby is governed – did not draw crowds. It was attended by maybe 1,000 people.

LaPierre is a tall man with gray hair. He wears rimless glasses and has piercing blue eyes. He took the stage in his signature blue corporate suit. And in a stark reversal of his own sad speech On Friday, LaPierre barely mentioned the slaughter at Uvalde.

Instead, the NRA honcho delivered a pugnacious speech in which he portrayed the National Rifle Association as an “underdog” threatened by a liberal cabal.

LaPierre condemned politicians who have “armed the power of government against us” and are trying to “silence their voices permanently.” He has also blasted the media, whose “agenda” he insisted was “inciting hatred against patriotic Americans like you and me.”

Ultimately, LaPierre pledged that the NRA would keep fighting for gun rights expansion “and not just in the face of tragic, horrible events, when politicians and demagogues try to scapegoat us,” he stressed, “but every day – for weeks, e.g months, decades.”

A thwarted rebellion

Not only is LaPierre one of the most maligned men in America, he is also being opposed by a hard-line faction of NRA members who on Saturday attempted to force a vote of no confidence in his leadership and called for his removal.

The effort was unsuccessful — they were thwarted by LaPierre loyalists on the scene — but this rebel faction was anxious to speak out against him after the meeting. “The only way to get rid of a cancer is to cut it out,” said Robert M. Ryan, an Arkansas NRA member, who wears a white Stetson, jeans and cowboy boots Rolling Stone the effort. “There is corruption in the NRA,” he stresses. “It’s our NRA; It’s our money. You spend it on yourself.”

LaPierre’s alleged mismanagement of the NRA has sparked a high-profile lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James accusing LaPierre: “Proprietary Trading, Abuse and Illegal Conduct.” And during the business portion of the meeting on Saturday, similar allegations surfaced.

After the board speeches, the program turned to the members’ resolutions. In theory, these resolutions provide a mechanism for individuals and factions within NRAs to voice grievances, demand responses and hold top leadership accountable.

And LaPierre’s leadership of the NRA has raised troubling questions. Allegations of corruption and self-enrichment by senior executives – including LaPierre, who has already repaid $300,000 in “Excess Benefits” — form the basis of legal action in New York State.

This lawsuit failed to dissolve the NRA’s charter, but still seeks to impose new governance on the organization to ensure the NRA adheres to its charitable purpose under the law. To avoid that legal scrutiny, the NRA tried to file for bankruptcy and re-incorporate itself in Texas — a move that did discarded in court. The New York Attorney General has taken a dim view of such moves, insisting that “the leadership of the board is broken and all.” the rot runs deep in the NRA.

A LaPierre lovefest

LaPierre is nothing but a capable fighter. He survived a coup attempt at the last in-person NRA board meeting in Indianapolis in 2019 by then-NRA President Oliver North, and LaPierre has since consolidated power, including on the board that hosted that meeting and determined the order in which members’ resolutions were presented will.

The first resolution? A dear leader’s salute to Wayne:

Be determined that the members of the National Rifle Association of America, in a gathering, declare their deep support for the past, present and future leadership of their Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre.

The reading of that text was followed in the convention hall arena by nearly an hour of shouts, props and praise for the embattled CEO, many of them from loyalist members of the NRA leadership who lined up to do a lap at the microphone.

A prominent LaPierre supporter, Janet Nyce, denounced Wayne’s critics as “the enemy within” who she accused of “bringing our beloved NRA to its knees.” A former Montana sheriff who is also a board member insisted that at every one of these meetings he was “sick of these sons of bitches coming in and trashing Wayne LaPierre.”

Not every speaker was a treat. An NRA member named Jerry — who, as the author of Texas’ right-to-carry bill, promoted his own Second Amendment bonafides — took offense at the rhetoric calling LaPierre’s critics “enemies” of the NRA. “We have problems,” he said. “I think we’ll whistle past the graveyard.”

“I mean, look around this forum,” he said, pointing at the arena, which was two-thirds empty. “Can you call that well attended?! Our problem is declining membership. Our problem is financial. Our problems aren’t just Letitia James,” he said, referring to the Attorney General of New York. “Why aren’t we allowed to discuss substantive issues?”

“No self-confidence”

When debate on the first resolution finally ended – and the resolution passed with a solid majority of members holding cards in support – far less flattering resolutions were read aloud by the Assembly Secretary.

One called for the NRA to settle its legal dispute with the state of New York, including agreeing to clean NRA governance and appointing an “outside overseer.” Another suggested an independent audit of 20 years of NRA’s previous financial records and the creation of a trust to recover misused funds. Another tried to impose salary and travel expense limits on NRA executives like LaPierre.

But one by one, those resolutions were struck down by NRA President Charles Cotton, who chaired the forum. Cotton ruled that the resolutions were “out of order” because, as he put it, they “encroach on the province of the board” and its officials to make such decisions. Cotton’s rulings prevented the resolutions from going to a vote.

Robert Ryan, who introduced many of the resolutions, threw his arms around in frustration. “They don’t want to hear from us,” he said. “They don’t want the truth to come out.”

(For the avoidance of doubt, Ryan isn’t trying to soften the NRA’s firearms positions. He’s a gun hardliner who’s furious that the NRA and the Trump administration worked together to ban bump stocks — devices containing semi-automatic rifles make machine guns more similar – after the massacre in 2017 Concert in Las Vegas.)

A final resolution was introduced by Jeff Knox — a prominent gun rights activist and author of Ammoland.com, whose father helped orchestrate a rebellion at an NRA meeting in the 1970s that transformed what was then a lumbering hunting organization into a hotbed of Second Amendment fundamentalism .

Knox’s lengthy resolution, read aloud by the clerk, bemoaned the recent decline in NRA membership, revenue and assets — even as LaPierre’s salary has swelled and the CEO enjoyed costly perks like private jet travel and lavish expense reports. (It also recalled – as a point of criticism – LaPierre’s comments after the Columbine massacre when the NRA executive requested it “completely gun-free” schools.)

The resolution ended by calling for LaPierre’s removal: “We hereby declare that we have no confidence in Wayne LaPierre’s ability to lead this organization going forward. [And] We are asking him to step down as Executive Vice President.”

But Cotton also found a way to reject this resolution. Citing Robert’s Rules of Order, the body of parliamentary rules to which the NRA adheres, he insisted that it was forbidden to table a motion of censure against an official at the same sitting at which a motion to recommend that person had already been passed was. Cotton ruled that the resolution was “out of order.”

Ryan was angry after the meeting. “If the board decides what happens on the board, that’s corruption.” He insisted that the NRA is bigger than LaPierre and that the NRA would do well to settle their lawsuit in New York.

For his part, Knox condemned the NRA leadership for the machinations protecting LaPierre, initially giving praise to defeat Knox’s motion of no confidence:

“It was part of their plan,” he emphasized.

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/uvalde-nra-wayne-lapierre-victims-1360374/ NRA Boss Days After Uvalde Mass Shooting: We’re the Real Victims Here

Emma James

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