Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

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The SPOTLIGHT on Congress: Trouble Brewing at NRA?

  • Was the recent in-house NRA battle a tempest in a teapot, or does it portend an irrevocable split in the nation's largest pro-gun organization?

It was the best of times: The National Rifle Association (NRA) had widened its scope, achieved observer status with the United Nations, helped elect a Republican majority to Congress and became "respectable" in the eyes of middle America.

It was the worst of times: The NRA sold out its base constituency to make deals with the Clinton administration and the anti-gun crowd and had forgotten its prime mission-to defend the Second Amendment.

These two scenarios were repeated time after time in the mainstream media since the first of the year when a battle between two identifiable factions within the NRA became public knowledge. Whether one side or the other "leaked" the information to the media in the hopes of influencing undecided board members became moot when daily newspapers across the country began to speculate on the cause and the outcome. The two factions were identified with the group's chief executive officer, Wayne R. LaPierre Jr., and an "old guard" board member, Neal Knox.


On Sunday, February 9, the first battle ended with LaPierre still in charge. Once the fight became public knowledge, Knox and LaPierre tried to downplay their differences, with a statement from Knox to the mainstream media that he wasn't trying to oust the NRA's leader. But the two-day directors' meeting on February 8-9 belied that.

It wasn't an up-and-down vote. What was under consideration was a change in the bylaws which would allow replacement of the executive director by a simple majority instead of the now-required three-fourths. The dissidents needed a two-thirds majority to change the bylaws and fell short by six votes with 69 board members casting ballots, according to published and broadcast reports.

The next battle is expected to erupt at the general meeting of the 2.8-million-member organization in May in Seattle, Washington. According to pro-LaPierre board members, the current executive took over a stagnant group and turned it into a politically powerful force instrumental in the Republican takeover of Congress. Anti-LaPierre board members claim the top officer has spread the group too thin, wasted millions of dollars on membership drives and angered long-time members by repeated fund-raising drives. According to published reports, membership has dropped from 3.4 million in 1994 to the 2.8 million reported at the meeting.