In April, during the NRA annual meeting, we ran an open letter from Steve Hoback, a former NRA staffer who was part of the firearms training staff. He’s a life member and training instructor and he was concerned about what he’d seen at the NRA before he’d left and the recent controversies surrounding the Association.
Since that time, Hoback became a board member of savethe2a.org, though he recently left that position. On Sunday he posted the following open letter on his Facebook page, encouraging NRA trainers to use their positions to push for change at the top of the Association and preach the message to those they teach . . .
This is a long letter, but I’m asking your indulgence in seeing it through. I just made a very emotional decision based on the relationship that I had with many of you and the belief in the words that follow. So, please, hear an old, bald guy out: remember, I AM Very Easily Confused!
As a former member of the Training Department staff, I was proud to work for and with you. I worked closely with many of you and fielded questions and provided clarification and direction when asked. I also collaborated with you on keeping course curriculum current and relevant.
In some cases, I was there when you got your Instructor certification, and I handed many of you your Training Counselor hat when you completed your Training Counselor Development Workshop. And I was proud of a team that provided the gold standard in basic firearm safety training.
Your pushback on Blended Learning seemed, to you, to fall on deaf ears, but know that Training Department staff heard you, and agreed wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, decisions were made at higher levels that – masked as “ensuring program integrity” – were simply based on greed.
Prior to even hints of Blended Learning, staff were tasked with finding and stopping any online training that hinted at being NRA sanctioned or even mentioned NRA Training credentials. This was done because we all know the core of and reason for success: NRA courses cannot be effectively delivered without Total Participant Involvement and a thorough, in-person evaluation of all student actions to ensure that the proper Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude are displayed throughout the training. I had suggested that staff conduct in-person review of courses and instructors in the hopes of finding the bad apples and weeding them out.
Instead, after I left the Training Department, leadership decided that the Blended Learning model would be implemented and be the cure all. We were kept in the dark and given false deadlines, and, the night before announcement, when staff who worked so hard with us were told that the student cost was to be $60, they begged leadership to reconsider that high cost.
They knew the detrimental effect it would have on NRA Trainers, in the trenches, delivering the programs. After all of this, we had a confusing product dumped in our laps and were told that this was final and no discussions were needed.
Why? Because leadership realized that they were leaving money on the table. The only income that the NRA got from our conduct of NRA Basic Firearm Safety Courses were the cost of program material required by Lesson Plans, any new memberships as a result of your course, and the cost of your credential renewal; for Training Counselors conducting Instructor courses, the added NRA revenue for new instructors’ credential fees could be added in.
All “profit” above the cost of required material went to the Training Team. With Blended Learning, that all changed. Now, the NRA got a piece of every student via the online fee for Part 1. And no credence was paid to your concerns that, with that fee already being paid, you almost couldn’t afford to conduct Part 2 without losing money. And we all know the results: the number of new shooters finding quality firearm training dropped substantially; policing of program and trainer integrity was not addressed; a major rift was created between NRA Trainers and the Training Department; and many trainers either stopped teaching courses or formed or joined other training programs.
All of these changes came about solely by way of outside vendors’ influence which was followed by leadership to the point that money far outweighed principle. The old saying goes that, whenever someone says it ain’t about the money…it’s always about the money.
Consider the current crisis at the NRA, and how much of it has been caused by unvetted and unfit leadership. How much has been caused by decisions being made to fill the coffers, which, for some at the top became an open account to use at their discretion with no oversight.
Consider the declining departmental integrity (think CarryGuard training) and good relations between leadership and the Members that they serve? How many times have valid questions been brushed off with an arrogant, “Trust us to do what’s right”? How many see that withholding seats on – and even the chair of – the Board’s Training and Education Committee from Directors who have bravely questioned the status quo, and giving those positions to those who have acted through their inaction and blind allegiance to that status quo.
The best men or women for the jobs are not filling the seats in which they are most needed.
I know that NRA Trainers are not only the most active and concerned of the total NRA Membership but also have the most sweat equity and personal financial security to lose of any Member. And I – along with you – know what drives that activity and concern: a genuine dedication to the NRA’s core mission of defense of Second Amendment rights and the development and conduct of firearms safety and education programs.
I ask you to use the power you yield and the passion you have to demand change at the NRA. If you feel that outside audits are required, take action. If you feel that executive positions based on cronyism and not merit need to be evaluated, take action.
If you feel that the policy of non-essential, executive level “deputy director” positions instead of added staff at the “worker bee” level would better benefit the Members, take action. And, if you feel that there needs to be wholesale change at OUR Association so that a stronger, more transparent and honest, more inclusive, and more focused NRA is better for the protection our Second Amendment rights and to develop and deliver the gold standard in firearms safety and education programs, take action and write to our elected servants on the Board of Directors and demand that your voice be heard. These letters can be written to:
NRA Office of the Secretary
ATTN: (“Name of Individual Board Member(s)” or “NRA Board of Directors”)
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA, 22030
As all correspondence addressed to any or all Board Members must be forwarded to them, and even in these technology-advanced times, letter writing appears to be the best way to contact. However, you can also email the Board at [email protected] If you want your questions addressed by the Directors with, supposedly, the most power in making training related decisions, you may want to contact the members of the Training and Education Committee.
As information on the Board of Directors in general and specific Directors and Committees is difficult at best to get, here are the names of the members of the Training and Education Committee, to the best of my knowledge (although I have recently learned that there may be changes and the source is questionable, at best): Dave Butz; William Allen, Kenneth Blanchard, Anthony Colandro, Lou Ferrigno, Scott Johnson, Carrie Lightfoot, Buz Mills, Il Ling New, Janet Nyce, Mitch O’Neal-Mitchell, and Mark Vaughan.
Until recently, I was on the board of Save the Second, a grassroots movement that was founded by two NRA members with valid concerns and a well thought out plan for reform at NRA. I had originally drafted this letter to be released as a call to action to NRA Trainers from Save the Second.
My resignation was over one Save the Second member’s m continued call for boycott of all NRA programs, including training. Another board member and I pushed back against it, and I thought our claims were heard and that boycott call would stop. Worse, when asked advice on where someone should get training, he responded with the name of an organization with which he had personal ties.
The call for boycott didn’t stop, and lip service was played to questions of self-dealing. Many of you know, loyalty runs deep with me, and I could not remain in a Board position of a group that was allowing an ideal that I did not believe in to continue to be pushed, and I could not remain in an organization calling on review of ethics and self-dealing at NRA who were not willing to do that with their own members.
That being said, the founders of StS and our mutual friend and NRA Trainer on the board are good people, and they truly believe in doing all they can to save our Association from itself.
I do encourage you to visit, Save the Second at savethe2a.org, or follow them Facebook at Save the Second. I look forward to hearing from you and, once again, stand next to you on the firing line to make sure that OUR Association and the Programs we all believe in can move forward stronger and better.
NRA Life Member and Appointed Training Counselor
TTAG talked with Hoback this morning and he emphasized that while he’s no longer a board member of Save The 2A, he still very much supports the organization.
Yesterday, NRA first vice president Willes Lee tweeted this about Hoback’s departure:
Hoback noted that contrary to what Lee wrote, he was not, in fact, fired. He chose to leave of his own accord and reiterated his support for Save the 2A’s mission.