NRA is in trouble and could use our help

Gun Rights

By Dave Bates

For the Observer-Reporter

I am not a politician nor do I enjoy politics. This installment, however, comes dangerously close to taking a political stance.

If you are reading this outdoors column that is directed towards hunters, shooters, fishermen and the like, there’s a good chance you might already be a member of the National Rifle Association. While it pains me to write this article, I must. As I am penning my column the news is announcing that Wayne LaPierre, former leader of the NRA, has been found liable for mismanagement of organizational funds and has been ordered to pay nearly $5.5 million back to the organization. Good luck.

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Numerous accusations of misrepresentation on taxes, accepting lavish and often unreported gifts, and using the NRA’s bankroll as his personal slush fund have been addressed during this week’s proceedings in New York court. LaPierre has been the face of the NRA for nearly 30 years and stepped down at the onset of these proceedings.

NRA general counsel John Frazer and retired chief financial officer Wilson Phillips were also included. Phillips was ordered to pay back $2 million while Frazer is believed to have been derelict in his duties but was not required to return any back monies to the organization.

So where do we go from here?

I have been a member of the NRA for most of my adult life and a life member for a large portion of that tenure. I have always been proud to maintain membership in the NRA because I believe that the National Rifle Association is one of the most influential watchdogs of our American Second Amendment rights. That pride has taken a beating as of late.

I am often displeased with the manner in which my dues have been spent by the organization. The obscene amount of literature I have received over the years requesting more and more money from membership has proven exasperating. I initiated myriad phone calls to headquarters over the years to express the same. Within the last decade I’d have to say I think they might have heard my voice and those of others like me. Mailings have decreased. But to what end?

The recent uncovering of such widespread corruption and abuse within such a large, and frankly well-heeled, entity is staggering. The violation of our trust cannot be permitted to go unpunished. But as we turn the corner, am I ready to give up on what once was, and could be once again, the greatest protector of my firearms freedoms? No way. I am hearing that there is a movement already under way within the NRA to reorganize and push forward a reform initiative within the ranks. I am heart-broken that this is the case. I am excited to think that the reins can again be transferred to more capable, responsible, trustworthy hands, dedicated to protecting our second amendment rights. I believe this might be the best thing for a struggling NRA.

I may be a gullible old soul but I believe the mission is still a noble one and greatly needed. While I don’t know enough about the day-to-day operations of the NRA and its internal polity, we have to do the research and backgrounding to recognize who is liable to be placed in charge of such an important effort. And we need to get involved.

Frankly, I have never voted in an NRA board of directors election. Shame on me. Maybe that is the reason that we are in the shape we are in. I am proud to say that as an American citizen, my voting record is a strong one. This NRA effort needs no less from our membership. Think you can’t make a difference? You most certainly can.

The ballot for the upcoming election is contained within this month’s copy of the NRA membership publications: American Rifleman, American Hunter, America’s 1st Freedom and Shooting Illustrated magazines. I urge you to become involved in this upcoming NRA election because it could very well determine the fate of a most precious resource.

In order to learn more, I have turned to the The Outdoor Wire site and There is some solid information contained therein but it is only a starting point. I have learned much and still have much to learn. I’d urge you to follow up with these resources and make it a point to become more informed (rather than simply complaining about the current state of affairs.)

As a hunter, shooter, police officer, firearms instructor, and more so as an American citizen, you can imagine my devotion to the second amendment. Certainly as a history teacher and writer my attachment to my first amendment rights is equally engrained. Truth be told, I’m rather smitten with our Bill of Rights and the entirety of the U.S. Constitution.

Let’s not let this one get away from us. Get involved in this grass-roots effort and let’s make a difference starting now.

Dave Bates writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter. He can be reached at

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