I Disagree With Mr. Pearson

Richard Pearson is the Executive Director of the Illinois State Rifle Association. He has held that position for many years and I have a lot of respect for what he has done over the years in a difficult state.

In the course of his job, he puts out a weekly email newsletter dealing with gun rights, issues within the Illinois General Assembly, and other issues.

In this week’s issue, he started off regarding problems within the NRA. Specifically it dealt with declining membership, declining revenues, and Wayne LaPierre. He said:

The online publication “The Reload” reported what we already suspected about the NRA and their financial condition. The phalanx of lawsuits launched against the NRA and Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, has hurt them badly.  Of course, the lawsuits were designed to do just that.  Legal fees now make up 20 percent of the NRA’s expenses.  The Reload sort of backhands the NRA for paying Wayne LaPierre’s legal expenses but in the real world, that is what has to be done.  LaPierre was acting on behalf of the NRA and I am glad they are backing him up.

There are those who want Wayne LaPierre fired immediately.  I am not one of those.  First of all, to fire Wayne LaPierre at this time would give the anti-gunners an immediate victory.  Secondly, just who do you have in mind to take that job at this time?  You may have noticed there are no long lines of people applying for the position. Their name plate wouldn’t be on the office door before they were sued.  Third, there is no one who has the corporate knowledge that he has.  Like it or not, that is important.  These are perilous times.  You may not like the captain but it still wouldn’t be a good idea to replace him with the cabin boy.

I would agree that the NY Attorney General’s lawsuit has hurt the NRA. I would also say that given what has been contained in the allegations and what many of us know to be true that it is also a self-inflicted injury. There would have been no grounds to bring a suit to dissolve the NRA if Wayne and company hadn’t treated it like their personal piggybank. Moreover, if the Board of Directors had done their fiduciary duty – which I contend they have not – then the issues would have been identified and remedied long ago.

It is the second paragraph with which I really take issue. Firing Wayne might be seen as a victory for the gun prohibitionists. It would, however, be a win for every one of us who wants to see a reformed NRA where money is spent wisely and judiciously, which has a board doing its fiduciary duty, and, most importantly, a NRA that stops compromising on Second Amendment issues.

As to the second point, Wayne and his coterie of followers have actively prevented any sort of succession plan. In October 2020 I attended the NRA Annual Meeting. I did so at my own expense. I presented a well thought-out resolution calling for a formal succession plan. I watched as directors Joel Friedman, Don Saba, and Kayne Robinson savaged my resolution saying it was not needed. I watched Wayne himself raise his hand to vote against this. Study after study has shown successful organizations have formal succession plans; troubled organizations do not.

Finally, to the third point, there was a person who not only had the corporate knowledge but had the skills to replace Wayne. Thanks to Wayne’s paranoia and what I suspect was the Machiavellian string-pulling by Bill Brewer, Chris Cox was forced out of the NRA after heading the institute for Legislative Action for many years. He was the natural successor and thus a threat to Wayne’s continuing in office. While I can’t speak for Mr. Cox, I get the feeling he would have booted Bill Brewer’s gaudy, pin-striped ass out the door if he had his choice.

I agree with Mr. Pearson that the NRA will continue to struggle for a long time. I am also gratified to see other Second Amendment organizations stepping up on the national scene. However, none of these have the clout, real or perceived, on Capitol Hill of the NRA. Imagine what a growing NRA with the spine of a GOA, the dexterity of a FPC, and the legal prowess of the Second Amendment Foundation could do in battling the Biden Administration and the gun prohibitionists in Congress. Unfortunately, until Wayne is gone, that will only be a pipe dream.

5 thoughts on “I Disagree With Mr. Pearson”

  1. I actually also disagree with his take that NRA should be footing Wayne’s personal legal bills at this stage. I understand indemnification and the importance of offering that to members of your team who may be targeted for doing the heavy lifting of policymaking that can make you a legal target. However, this is a case where NRA the organization is the victim in the accusations against him. You don’t pay the legal bills against someone committing fraud against your own group.

    It would be more appropriate to handle this in a way that puts Wayne’s legal bills on him for now. However, if a court were to find that he did not commit any crime or other wrongdoing against NRA, then the NRA should reimburse him for all of the fees. No harm was found, then that’s fine to cover those expenses and have the back of your team. But, if harm is found, we’ve now just covered the expenses of the person who caused the harm with no hopes of making the NRA whole for the financial losses. If Wayne is right, then he’ll get reimbursed. If Wayne has caused harm, then he – appropriately – would be on the hook for his own personal defense.

    It’s the fact that the specific harm is against the entity that Pearson is clearly ignoring.

  2. Agree with Bitter, and as long as WLP is there, the NRA is doomed. The losses will only continue, and more and more will NOT fund them or donate.

  3. Anything WLP is being sued for should be covered by the organization, but anything he’s being sued for in a personal capacity, like taking gifts from donors, should be defended on his own nickel. I understand some issues will be intertwined but they’re not that hard to differentiate – but the Board are such lapdogs that they won’t.

  4. At this point, it looks like the NRA is going to die a lingering death, doing harm to the 2A in the process. We really need to start thinking about a successor organization. SAF is great but occupies a different niche than the NRA. GOA is just another set of grifters. I have hope for the FPC but so far they mostly seem to be a competitor for the SAF rather than a replacement for the NRA. What is missing in the mix is the NRA’s former role as an effective political actor, their vastly important training network, and an organization that links the emerging GC 2.0 with the still large and important GC 1.0. While much of the energy and growth in the movement is linked to personal protection, we do need the hunters and traditional shooting sports people to be effective. The NRA provided this connection.

    Perhaps a coalition, outside the NRA, of the various state associations could be a substitute. Many of these are affiliated with the NRA. Not sure of the specifics of their incorporation and whether it would allow for an independent operation. Or the FPC could expand it’s scope.

  5. As long as the media considers the NRA to be the big dog in the fight, the NRA will have clout. I am just going along with what Joseph Tartaro mentioned in Chapter 2 of REVOLT AT CINCINNATI about why people were joining. Attacking the NRA is free advertising.
    I do not know of anything that LaPierre has done wrong. I just hear accusations. With that said it is nonsense that he is still the EVP at close to thirty years. Nobody should be in that position for much more than six years. I think it was around 1986 when the Board changed the by-laws so that they would be the ones voting for the EVP. I came close to leaving.
    The Board is not very receptive to members. Supposedly, if you write a letter to a particular Board member and have some sort of proof that you are a member the secretary will forward it on. I left my life membership # next to my return address and it has been now at least a year with no answer. I wasn’t complaining about anything.
    It almost appears that the ‘old guard’ of 1977 still lives on as the ‘new guard’ of this century with your experience in trying to make changes

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