Opinion by Marion Hammer
A Short Recap of the History & Success of the National Rifle Association
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- This is an email I sent to NRA Board members awhile back, but apparently “leakers” on the Board don’t want anything out there that gives facts. NRA members and AmmoLand News readers should see it as it gives a lot of factual history.
~ Marion Hammer.
TO: Fellow Board Members and Select Staff
FROM: Marion Hammer, Past President
RE: An Open Letter to NRA Board Members
June 15, 2019
Fellow Board Members and Select Staff:
Here we are again-same old story – The Washington Post wrote another article that presents a misleading view of the NRA and its financial outlook.
Reading the tripe yesterday inspired me to write this open letter.
I want to share some important history about our Association. There are many things about NRA’s history of which even Board members may not know, simply because they haven’t been involved in NRA until more recently.
Our shared understanding of the NRA’s history directly impacts the decisions we make today. Further, this information exposes how intentionally deceitful dissidents can be. Unfortunately, they are to often embraced by some in the media who apparently think muckraking is at the top of their job descriptions.
HERE WE GO AGAIN
The current attack on the NRA and Wayne and the “dire warnings” about finances are much like the strategy dissidents used over 20 years ago. Like now, they tried to take control of NRA, NRA finances and oust the leadership most responsible for the multi decade success of our Association- Wayne LaPierre.
Prior to the failed coup attempt in 1996-1997, the dissidents began the attack with fire reports of impending financial disaster and “leaks” of documents – taken out of context- to the press. They contrived “confidential” letters with dire warnings and they constructed documents with the deliberate intent of “leaking” them to the press. Sound familiar?
Then, like now, the media was all too eager to accept these self-serving, disingenuous people and use their falsehoods to gleefully write about a failing NRA. This excerpt from an article published in The New York Times in June of 1995, was part of the plan to lay the foundation for taking control of NRA and removing Wayne as CEO.
“The disintegration of the assets of the N.R.A. under current spending policies have eroded our future viability,” Max W. Goodwin, the chairman of the group’s finance committee, wrote in a confidential letter last year to the organization’s president. The letter and other documents were provided to The New York Times by members concerned about the group’s finances.
“Mr. Goodwin warned in the letter that the situation was “cause for great alarm.” Because of the N.R.A.’s weakening finances, he said, “the management, the board of directors and the National Rifle Association itself all may fail.”
“In addition to the concerns raised by Mr. Goodwin in his confidential letter, the group’s documents show that the discrepancies have also triggered alarm among other senior N.R.A. leaders. Last year, Mr. [Tom] Washington, the president, wrote to Wilson H. Phillips, the group’s treasurer, saying, “We really need to have some better figures for the finance committee.”
“Mr. Goodwin, in his letter, put much of the blame on Mr. LaPierre, who is essentially the N.R.A.’s chief executive officer.”
It has a familiar ring, doesn’t it? Confidential letters written so they could be leaked to the media? Same garbage now, as 23 years ago – hysterical claims that finances are a cause for alarm, the organization is going to fail and it’s all Wayne’s fault.
What we are going through is déjà vu for those of us who were on the Board in the early to mid 90’s.
Since many of you don’t have the institutional background with NRA, I wanted to share some things with you that are important for you to know. Without some perspective, based on our history, there may be a lack of understanding regarding these tactics and mistaken impressions of who is best able to run this organization. Here are some financial facts.
FINANCES (according to our CFO)
– Total Assets in 1991 were $125 million.
– Total Assets in 2018 were $326.8 million
– Net Assets in 1991 were $2.8 million
– Net Assets in 2018 were $144.7 million
– Total Revenue in 1991 was $87.1 million
– Total Revenue in 2018 was $412.3 million
We are on budget for 2019, a budget approved by the Board.
– In 1991, there were no documented Planned Gifts
– To date in 2019, there are $308 million in Planned Gifts
In 1993, we purchased our NRA headquarters building for $16.9 million (including closing costs). Today the building is valued at approximately $61.3 million.
I think this is particularly important because a faction on the Board was opposed to purchasing the building and moving out of DC. They argued that we couldn’t do our job on the Hill with a headquarters outside of DC. Further, they argued that property values were “going down” in Virginia and when we had to move back to DC, we’d never get our money out of the building. They predicted “financial ruin” if we bought the building. After an extensive and intense fight, Wayne prevailed and we bought the building.
Membership numbers were dropping when Wayne became CEO in 1991.
Warren Cassidy became CEO in 1986 when membership was at 2.8 million. By 1991 we had lost over a quarter of million members and membership was at 2.5 million.
Part of Wayne’s job was to rebuild membership. Today we have more than 5 million members. Membership is now more than double what it was when Wayne took over.
Here’s the bottom line: Wayne LaPierre became CEO in early 1991 and his success can’t be denied.
FROM THE BOTTOM UP
As I have told many of you in the past, Wayne is the only one who truly knows this organization from the bottom up.
Wayne LaPierre was hired by NRA in 1978 as a state liaison. I met Wayne at the NRA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in 1979. Wayne was a bright, energetic, patriotic and passionate young man who impressed me as a leader even back then.
It was at that meeting in San Antonio that I first met Charlton Heston. I was invited to have dinner with him, the NRA officers and a couple of Board members. I was introduced to Mr. Heston as NRA’s official activist in Florida. At that time, Florida was projected to be the next bastion of gun control in the nation – joining New York, New Jersey and California. My job was to stop that from happening.
In 1980, Wayne was promoted to Director of State and Local Affairs. Once he got settled into that position he and I worked out the plan to create and pass the “Shall Issue Right to Carry” legislation. Bob Dowlut, in the NRA General Counsel’s office worked with me on drafting the legislation because we planned for it to be a model for the nation.
Our plan also included passing a firearms preemption bill. Wayne wanted a “double” to make sure we made a statement that the NRA is on OFFENSE and would not stop until gun rights were protected.
Wayne was next promoted to Director of Federal Affairs and then to Executive Directive of ILA It was on Wayne’s watch that ILA passed the Firearm Owners Protection Act (also called the Volkmer – McClure bill). It was the most sweeping pro-gun reforms ever passed in a piece of federal legislation to protect the rights of everyday law-abiding gun owners.
Wayne remains one of the very few lobbyists in the history of our nation to pull off passage of a major piece of legislation by discharge petition.
After 5 years as head of ILA, Wayne became NRA’s Executive Vice-President (CEO). And look at all that we – the NRA – have accomplished on his watch.
More recently, we came together to help elect Donald Trump as President of the United States! Without the NRA, he would not have been elected. Wayne was the guy who pushed for the early and unprecedented endorsement of Donald Trump. Without Donald Trump – we would not have two newly confirmed members of the Supreme Court in whom we place great confidence. Add to that the numerous other judicial vacancies to be filled at the federal level and we know that this Presidency is pivotal.
Without the NRA – George W. Bush would not have been elected. Don’t take my word for it – take Bill Clinton’s. he acknowledged that the NRA played a major role in helping turn a handful of states from Al Gore’s grasp into George Bush’s hands. And, again – gun owners got two Supreme Court justices and numerous federal judicial appointments.
We passed Castle Doctrine and brought Right-to-Carry to more states. Passed range protection, preemption, anti-hunter harassment laws in numerous states. Let’s not forget that the NRA saved the entire American firearms industry – first state by state and then at the federal level.
Where the heck were all these people who are attacking Wayne and the NRA then?
And, now – he’s leading us against the most potent attack that we have faced. Mike Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo ( along with New York AG Letitia James) want to destroy the NRA. And know this- they are gleeful over the dissidents among us who – for selfish reasons – are on the attack against Wayne. They know that if Wayne is off the playing field now, they will likely succeed in destroying the NRA before the crucial 2020 election.
Let’s face it. The finances, the membership numbers and all our accomplishments – along the respect and love our members have for him, are a clear indication that Wayne was the right person for the job – every job – he has held at NRA.
As strong and independent individuals, we may not always agree with every decision he makes, but when people want his job and then plot and scheme to oust him, you should recognize that no one – NO ONE – has accomplished as much for NRA as Wayne LaPierre. He has earned, our respect, our loyalty and our support.
~ Marion Hammer.