As the NRA convention packs up with at least one early report that longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre has been unanimously re-elected, here’s a look at what played out over a 48-hour period as the NRA’s inner turmoil became a public relations crisis:
To start, as the NRA Convention got underway on Friday, purported lifetime NRA member Maria Butina was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the attorney general.”
Later that day Friday, reports emerged that NRA executive vice president LaPierre had said that NRA president Oliver North was extorting him to force him to resign. By Saturday, North announced he wouldn’t be running for reelection after serving just one of the customary two one-year terms, warning board members that the organization could lose its nonprofit status. Longtime NRA board lawyer, Steve Hart, was suspended on the same day.
Then, the New York Attorney General’s office issued subpoenas and began an investigation into the National Rifle Association’s tax-exempt status.
The weekend’s events seemed to be the clearest indication yet of the crises within the NRA, of which Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, wrote about in the Indianapolis Star.
“Although the NRA bills itself as the voice of American gun owners, it’s increasingly become a fringe group for gun rights extremists rather than the hunters and sportsmen it claims to represent,” wrote Watts, a former Hoosier who founded Moms Demand Action while living in Zionsville. “The NRA used to be a power broker, but now it’s just broken. The gun sense majority is now louder than the vocal minority of gun extremists.”
Speaking with MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Sunday, Watts said “We’ve definitely seen the NRA weakened more than we’ve ever seen it before in their history.”
Last week, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund unveiled a new report on the “NRA in Crisis,” following a New Yorker/The Trace investigation that uncovered questionable financial transactions involving NRA insiders and the NRA’s longtime media contractor, Ackerman McQueen. Also, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund launched a suite of ads highlighting the NRA’s crises, which were seen in Indianapolis during the duration of the annual NRA convention.
One thing is for sure: while the NRA is in turmoil, the gun safety movement is only getting stronger.
Also this weekend in Indianapolis, gun safety advocates gathered nearby for a grassroots day of action. Doctors and local officials addressed gun violence from personal experience, survivors and students held advocacy workshops, and volunteers from Moms Demand Action discussed their statewide efforts to reduce gun violence.
“We’re organizing,” Rachel Guglielmo, who leads the Indiana chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told South Bend’s ABC 57 in an interview about the day of action. “We are growing our knowledge of the facts around gun violence and around reducing gun violence.”
Moms Demand Action volunteers keep fighting because they know there’s no time to waste. While the NRA’s leaders line their pockets, America’s gun crisis continues – from Poway, California to Topeka, Kansas, Baltimore and so many places in between. If the NRA insists on standing in the way of progress, we will stand in the way of the NRA.