The Second Amendment v NRA fratricidal fire
By Mark Alexander
When I was 19, during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I graduated from a state police academy, which provided certification to work as a uniformed patrolman while completing my undergraduate degree. I was old enough to carry a sidearm as a police officer, but too young to purchase a handgun for academy training, so a department head purchased the gun for me to use for qualifications. These were the days just before semi-auto pistols became the standard sidearm, and my supervisor suggested a Colt revolver — a .357 Magnum Python with a four-inch barrel.
I was the youngest recruit at the academy that summer, but on qualification day, I took the top marksmanship award with that Python — much to the mocking of the more seasoned officers in my class. In the years that followed, I was involved in more than a few memorable calls ranging from humorous to life-threatening, and that Python was on my side for the whole tour. I even had the privilege of walking perimeter gun for two presidents.
A few years after graduating from college, I heard about two six-inch Pythons that were part of an estate sale, and I managed to purchase those guns — serial numbers three and five — ahead of the auction for $2,500. That was a lot of money 30 years ago, and it was one of the most expensive "collectible" purchases I've ever made. But I have no regrets. In 2016, when doing an insurance evaluation, I thought those guns might now be worth $10,000 and had each appraised. Much to my surprise, multiple appraisals returned values well into six figures for the pair. I was shocked at those valuations and decided against keeping something of such value in my house and paying those premiums.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I could've sold the two Pythons and put the proceeds against our mortgage. But instead of having those end up in a private collection on somebody else's shelf, I decided to share them with tens of thousands of people and donated the pair to the NRA museum.
I did so because, like many of you, I'm a firearms enthusiast. And because I wanted to inspire the next generation of firearms enthusiasts. Far more important than the value of those Pythons as works of art is the fact that we need defenders of Liberty in every generation — those who are committed to ensuring that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Which leads me to this...
There is no way to put a smiley face on the contentious and disgraceful leadership disputes of the National Rifle Association. While those spilled into the public domain in April, for years concerns about how the organization spends its member dues have been simmering among some board and staff members.
After former NRA President Oliver North resigned in late April — during the national convention in Indianapolis — it became clear to me that those expenditure concerns were far from resolved.
For the record, I'm a lifetime member of the NRA.
Let me state clearly that I take no pleasure in publishing the following analysis, which may infringe upon some annual support from a few NRA principals. But my devotion and our Patriot Post team's allegiance is, first and foremost, to Liberty, which is protected, first and foremost, by our Constitution's Second Amendment. Thus, central to The Patriot Post's mission is advocating for the Second Amendment.
By extension, we stand with the grassroots Americans who sustain Liberty — and the five million NRA members whose dues sustain the organization as the nation's foremost defender of the Second Amendment against enemies seeking to weaken or repeal that "palladium of the liberties of the republic."
In his resignation letter, North, who was elected to his NRA office in May of 2018, wrote about his concern regarding the organization's spending, specifically that of NRA Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre: "There is a clear crisis — it needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment." North was in the process of setting up a special committee to look into alleged financial misappropriations by LaPierre, which he believed were serious enough to threaten the NRA's nonprofit status.
LaPierre, who has been at the NRA's helm since 1991 and has the support of most of the NRA board, retained his position after North's departure. He's been a very effective leader for many years, and he now enjoys an annual compensation package of more than $5 million.
The NRA tried to contain this internal dispute, but within weeks of North's resignation and replacement by Carolyn Meadows, one of the NRA's most respected board members, Allen West, called for LaPierre's resignation.
West, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, former U.S. congressman, and longtime defender of the Second Amendment, said: "I do not support Wayne LaPierre continuing as the EVP/CEO of the NRA. There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the Board of Directors. It must cease, and I do not care if I draw their angst. ... It's very important for us to have the trust and confidence of the members."
Indeed it is.
At a time when those in control of the nation's most powerful socialist Democrat urban centers, New York and Los Angeles, in collusion with their Leftmedia propagandists, are trying to silence the NRA's advocacy of our First Civil Right — the Second Amendment — by suppressing the organization's First Amendment rights, the NRA dispute has become a very public distraction from its all-important agenda.
According to LaPierre, "This case, what we're dealing with right now, is perhaps the most important First Amendment case in the history of the United States of America." Unfortunately, what the NRA leadership is also dealing with is the most significant challenge to its organizational support and tax status in its history, and the Demo/MSM talkingheads are basking in the glow of this circular fratricidal fire.
Coinciding with North's resignation, the NRA sued its ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, over millions of dollars in billing issues and amid accusations of questionable expenses, including those of LaPierre. As a result, the NRA announced Tuesday that it is shutting down NRATV.
Then, earlier this month, LaPierre decided to file suit against North over his alleged effort to "coerce" LaPierre's resignation. LaPierre later suspended NRA legislative director Chris Cox for the same reason. Cox resigned just this morning.
Cox, who also ran the NRA's PAC and was arguably more indispensable than LaPierre, has not given a public statement about his resignation. But he responded to his suspension, saying, "For over 24 years, I have been a loyal and effective leader in this organization. My efforts have always been focused on serving the members of the National Rifle Association, and I will continue to focus all of my energy on carrying out our core mission of defending the Second Amendment."
By way of disclosure, I've met all of the above players, but I know LaPierre and Cox primarily by reputation.
However, I first met LtCol Oliver North more than 30 years ago when he worked for Ronald Reagan's National Security Council. After his involvement in the so-called Iran-Contra Affair, I helped North's former commanding general raise the funds necessary for North's legal defense. In 1991, his convictions were vacated and reversed, and all charges filed against him dismissed.
Suffice it to say, I supported North because he was then, and remains now, a Patriot of the first order.
As for LtCol Allen West, I was his earliest defender in 2003, when he was charged with violating Articles 128 (assault) and 134 (general article) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, West received an intelligence briefing of a pending plot to ambush men under his command near Tikrit, Iraq. In an effort to convince a detained enemy to divulge what he knew about the plot, West had discharged his sidearm within safe proximity of the man's head. "I know the method I used was not right," said West, "but I wanted to take care of my soldiers."
He did just that, and in order to defend West, we launched a successful media campaign. His charges were ultimately referred to an Article 15 proceeding instead of a court-martial, but he was still relieved of his command. Notably, there were no ambushes against American forces in Taji until after West's departure.
As is the case with Oliver North, Allen West is a Patriot of the first order.
Bottom line: It is Wayne LaPierre against North, West, and Cox — and, increasingly, against the NRA's grassroots membership. So, who to side with amid what firearms policy and politics expert Stephen Gutowski correctly labels "Chaos at the NRA"?
As such battles of Titans go, there is one thing that is plain to me, and it does not require taking any side other than that of the Second Amendment.
In his own letter to the NRA board about the dispute, LaPierre began with these words: "Leaders in every walk of life must often choose: between what is true, and what is polite; between what is convenient, and what is right."
Regardless of the accusations being fired back and forth, and taking full account of Wayne LaPierre's remarkable service leading the NRA's defense of the Second Amendment for decades, a growing number of NRA members agree with Allen West — that "what is right" for the good of the organization and its mission is for LaPierre to conjure up the humility to fall on his sword, to gracefully bow out. The fact he did not do so months ago is troubling.
Watching the NRA's slow-motion leadership meltdown is reminiscent of another recent leadership meltdown that left a once-great organization in decline. It is my hope that the NRA does not go the way of the BSA.
The NRA's most visible supporter, Donald Trump, insists, "The NRA ... must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, and get back to greatness fast!"
Achieving that goal is in LaPierre's hands.
All who stand with us as defenders of Liberty have a stake in resolving the NRA dispute, and Justice Joseph Story outlined why in his foundational Commentaries on the Constitution: "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.