Members, Instructors and Students Need REAL NRA Reform

by Tommy Grant

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As a firearms instructor, I want to share my ideas for the reform the NRA needs as it heads into a trial its leadership will NOT win. The court will order that the organization be rebuilt, but if we don’t make it clear what’s really needed, we won’t get the results we need.

If you agree, be sure to check out a petition I put up here and sign it.

Before I get started, I need to cover a bunch of background information. There’s a lot of bad information out there about the organization’s real problems and what it needs to do. Many people also don’t understand the situation the NRA is in with the trial. Both of those things must be understood to come up with good solutions.

The Original Purpose Of The NRA

During the Civil War, it was calculated that for every hit on a confederate soldier, over 1,000 rounds were fired by union troops. During earlier wars, soldiers at least had an excuse, but more accurate minie balls in far better rifles meant that soldiers were capable of doing a lot better. But, they needed the training.

In 1871, the National Rifle Association was formed to solve that problem. Not only did the organization work to establish marksmanship clubs across the United States, but it also worked with military units and promoted international competition to keep the improvement going globally. In the following decades, the whole shooting world (civilian and military) became safer and more accurate.

The NRA initially backed U.S. gun control measures passed between 1934 and 1968. But, as the 20th century wore on, gun control law after gun control law eventually got to the point where gun owners were fed up with all of the restrictions. So, members pushed the organization to make an effort to fight back against these restrictive laws, working to repeal and cut back on them starting in the 1970s.

The NRA Has Lost Its Way

Starting in the 1990s, the organization lost its way on both the educational and the legislative fronts. 

Today, the NRA is a joke in the gun rights community. Organizations like Gun Owners of America, Second Amendment Foundation, Citizens Defense Leagues, and now the Firearms Policy Coalition have picked up the baton that the NRA dropped. Now, when those other groups score a legislative or court victory, it’s not long before an e-mail from the NRA hits our inboxes telling us all about how they won.

With the abandonment of serious gun rights efforts, surely they’d have been working hard on the training side to improve gun safety, right? Sadly, the training department has also become a joke. Once a dynamic effort, the training department kept having its budget cut until it became increasingly slow to respond to instructor and student needs. Long delays in creating a concealed carry certification is a great example of this.

Training at the NRA is on the edge of collapse. The training department now consists of only two people. Grants to local training efforts and facilities are way down. Instructors are largely going independent, only maintaining certifications as needed for state concealed carry courses. Other organizations, like USCCA, are filling the vacuum the NRA has left, while many states are scrapping concealed carry permit requirements, negating much of the need for certifications in the first place.

What Did They Do With All The Money?

Instead of spending time and money on improving gun owner education or fighting gun control, we’ve found in recent years that the leadership has been robbing and misusing the treasury. Friends and family billed the group for expensive services. The executive vice president spent big on suits, an expensive SUV and travel.

The other problem is that the NRA exists within the increasingly polarized political environment every other organization has to exist within. Governments used to fund the NRA, but when they initially failed to toe the gun control line, that funding evaporated. In turn, the organization had to “pick a side” to survive in the 70s and 80s. Now, in the 21st century, the success of gun rights activism has led to gun ownership rising in all parts of society, and the NRA is having a tough time serving the wider community of gun owners while serving what has become its core constituency.

In sum, the NRA establishment doesn’t appear interested in performing the organization’s original mission or the political mission it picked up along the way, and the problem goes much deeper than just bad spending at the top. 

The NRA Will Be Reformed, But We Need To Push For Good Reform

After decades of mismanagement and the corruption described above, the organization then spent big money on legal fees to protect the people who robbed it. Now, the leader has resigned and the organization is going to trial for wasteful spending practices and possible violations of its non-profit status. New York’s attorney general Letitia James wanted the court to dissolve the NRA, but the judge refused and the NRA is in the midst of a trial.

This is a trial that the organization’s current leadership will not win. The leadership will be removed by the court and an independent monitor will be in charge of putting the organization back together. When put together, it will get some of the money back that was stolen from it, but will be required to act like other nonprofits.

But, as NRA instructors and students from every arena in America, we need to be active in pushing for a good organization to come out of this effort.

What The Reformed NRA Must Do

The most important thing the court’s monitor or special master can do is bring it into compliance with applicable laws, and end the organization’s involvement in politics so it can focus on its original mission of training and education.

This might sound bad for gun rights on the surface, but anyone who takes a serious look at the fight for gun rights in the last decade already knows that the NRA has not been effective at that for years. Instead of soliciting donations for gun rights, the new NRA should instead refer members wanting to oppose gun control to donate money to serious groups like the GOA, SAF and FPC.

What remains should be focused on education, training and grants to organizations that provide education and training. All funds from members and other sources should be used to build a serious training program that:

  • Creates innovative and cutting-edge curriculum and software for youth, adults, law enforcement, and military (including virtual reality, laser training, and remote learning)
  • Builds serious training facilities that cater to the training needs of all kinds of gun owners
  • Provides real continuing education for instructors and coaches, not just collecting a payment every two years.
  • Reaches out to all gun owners, regardless of background
  • Uses industry standard concepts in firearms training, such as Cooper’s Rules and reasonable safe storage training that people owning a gun for defense might actually follow
  • Does not allow gun control groups to dictate any part of the curriculum
  • Does not plan events in “gun free” zones or invite speakers who require the audience to be disarmed
  • Does not invite political candidates of any party to serve as keynote speakers at events

The organization should also have an ombudsman to take complaints at all levels. When anyone faces discrimination or a hostile work or training environment, the organization needs to address those concerns instead of sweeping them under the rug.

Finally, the new NRA should seriously seek to rebuild partnerships with private and governmental organizations at every level to spread good training for people of all ages and backgrounds. This would make the organization a real charity that serves the public good and keep it from being destroyed by litigation in the future.

If you agree with this, or agree with part of it and want to comment about things you think I’m wrong about, be sure to check out my petition here and sign/comment.

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