LaPierre Made a Career of Second Amendment Compromises

by Tommy Grant

“I admired Wayne LaPierre 20-30 years ago,” a comment left on The Captain’s Journal, a blog I frequent admitted. “Yes, he screwed up and started living high off the hog on the members’ dime… But there were some great victories… during his tenure, particularly the proliferation of shall-issue CCW and constitutional carry…That was all grassroots NRA lobbying.”

“Yes, they were wrong for supporting NICS and some other things, but I think it is unfair to tag Wayne’s tenure with some of the Fudd [stuff] the NRA supported in the past, like the NFA,” the poster continued. “The NRA once had the loyalty of a LOT of Democratic members and Democratic politicians… The NRA now has ZERO influence in places like New York, California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts… Wayne deserves to be held accountable… by the Board of Directors and the members, not by Letitia James or any… so-called court of ‘law.’”

Such sentiment is not unique among gun owners. Unfortunately, it’s also not correct. Working backward through the assertions, of course it’s in the interests of a state to ensure that corporations it registers are in compliance with its laws, and while there’s no doubt that AG James has a personal axe to grind and incentives to wield it, NRA management knew the environment they were operating in, and the many reported breaches of fiduciary duty appear so reckless, irresponsible, and arrogant they defy explanation. And the buck stops with the top guy.

As for loss of influence with Democrats, it’s certainly not because LaPierre’s NRA didn’t try to suck up to them– only to be betrayed time and again and never seeming to learn. Looking back to the early 90s, NRA was boasting Rep. John Dingell on its board, who went on to vote for the “assault weapon” ban and endorsing others like “A-rated” Rep. Bart Stupak, who went on to endorse Barack Obama.  Take your pick of others presented by LaPierre as “true champions of the Second Amendment,” like Sen. Harry Reid, who NRA threw its endorsement for after he’d begun to turn, by declining to endorse “A”-rated GOP candidate Sharron Angle even though Reid had since been downgraded to a “B.” We saw the ultimate Democrat loyalties of “pro-gun” Max Baucus and Jon Tester from Montana. Then there was NRA-darling-turned-Chuck Schumer protégé Kirsten Gillibrand…


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The bottom line, and savvy political players shouldn’t need to be told this, is there are no “pro-RKBA Democrats” to the point where they won’t undo their occasional “good” tactical votes the party allows by supporting the broader strategic agenda and candidates. Yet the NRA under LaPierre was instrumental in urging its members to give power to politicians they knew would end up working against them, and then either acted surprised when it happened or just ignored it when it did. In any case, how many times does someone need to be cheated on before they admit the problems might be on them?

And one need not go back all the way to passage of the NFA to find NRA and LaPierre himself endorsing citizen disarmament edicts. Take “gun-free school zones” (please). In a transcript of LaPierre’s post-Columbine statement at it’s annual meeting (since deleted from the NRA website and now only available via the Internet Archive), he expressed association support for schools being “gun-free zones.”

“First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period … with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel,” LaPierre declared. And when NRA president-to-be Sandra Froman floated the idea of armed teachers, she quickly walked it back after “NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre clarified the following week that the NRA is not advocating arming teachers and supports the federal law that bars most guns from schools.”

Crediting NRA with the advance of concealed carry laws mixes the message that while their influence cannot be denied, in some cases state groups were claiming interference with their efforts and worse. Case in point is an alert from Grassroots North Carolina, which charged “North Carolina’s first permitless carry bill … was introduced … in 1997 as SB 810 at the behest of GRNC and [Gun Owners of America]. We actually went as far as filing a discharge petition when Democrat Marc Basnight refused the bill a hearing. At around this time, we heard reports from gun rights groups in other states that NRA lobbyists were actively sabotaging permitless carry bills.”

As for the most significant Second Amendment case recognizing it is an individual right, “Attorney Alan Gura, in a 2003 filing, used the term “sham litigation” to describe the NRA’s attempts to have Parker (aka Heller) consolidated with its own case challenging the D.C. law. Gura also stated that “the NRA was adamant about not wanting the Supreme Court to hear the case [and] the Parker plaintiffs ‘faced repeated attempts by the NRA to derail the litigation’ [and] interference in this process set us back and almost killed the case.’”

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Then there’s NRA- and LaPierre-backed Project Exile, a federal program to sentence felons for having a gun. The problem with that, as the Project Exile Condemnation Coalition, comprised of leaders like GOA’s Larry Pratt and Aaron Zelman of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership noted, is “Unconstitutional ‘laws are illegal, harmful to public safety, tyrannical, and are inevitably enforced against ordinary, non-criminal citizens.”

Consider if a defiant gun owner is found in possession of a “bump stock.” That’s another infringement LaPierre and former chief lobbyist Chris Cox, since accused by the association of “grift,” effectively greenlighted in a joint statement (again removed from the NRA website) when they declared “the National Rifle Association is calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) to immediately review whether these devices comply with federal law.  The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

Gun owners repeating the NRA/LaPierre mantra to “Enforce existing gun laws” are effectively no different that Revolution-era colonists advocating “Enforce existing Intolerable Acts.” It’s enough to make RKBA advocates laboring mightily against overt threats wonder if “controlled opposition” by “gun rights leaders,” establishment Republicans and mythical “pro-gun Democrats” is covertly undermining their efforts.



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