The National Rifle Association held its first board meetings last week since its high-profile turmoil began this year, during which the group’s leadership apparently succeeded in beating back a group of insurgent members who attended.
Allegations of misconduct and profligate spending by the group’s leadership, and an investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office, loomed large over the meeting in Herndon, Virginia. It inspired a group called Save The Second, made up of a subset of NRA members, to propose changes to the non-profit’s bylaws as part of an effort to reform the scandal plagued gun group. But the board ultimately succeeded in beating the proposal back.
A group of NRA members founded Save The Second — a registered non-profit — in May. Since then, press reports have portrayed it as a relatively viable effort to turn the NRA’s notoriously weak board of directors into a more powerful body. But the group’s experience at last week’s meetings suggest that it has a long way to go.
Rob Pincus, a co-founder of Save the Second, told TPM that he flew to Northern Virginia to attend the meeting, and that he encountered a “hostile” environment upon arrival when security guards tried to have him removed from the event.
Pincus, a former police officer who runs a private shooting program, likened the experience to being arrested.
“Security called me by name, asked me to stand up and talk to them,” Pincus recalled. “The same way a police officer would approach a suspect over a crime is how I was brought over.”
Two other Save The Second members accompanied Pincus to meetings. The group had proposed a series of changes to the by-laws, including instituting an attendance requirement that would direct members of the non-profit’s 76-person board to attend a minimum amount of meetings each year. That proposed change made it onto the board meeting’s agenda.
Observers have noted that the NRA’s board is intentionally large, in order to dilute its power. Some of the NRA members most opposed to its current leadership sit on its board, including former NRA President Oliver North.
At the same time, no real, viable challenge to LaPierre’s control over the NRA has appeared. North’s April coup attempt fizzled, while the experience of the most recent board meetings suggests that LaPierre and his backers continue to maintain their hold on power at the gun group.
Pincus, for his part, framed the proposal to change the bylaws as part of a broader effort to transform the board from a rubber-stamp body into a more active institution.
But, he said, the NRA “deferred” the vote “so they could research the merits of the proposal, so they could research the merits of having board members show up to board meetings.”
Pincus also recounted how NRA security kept attendees “in the corner” during committee meetings, preventing them from “being allowed to approach the chair.”
An NRA spokesman did not return a request for comment.
Pincus wasn’t the only NRA member objecting during the board meeting. Guitarist and right-wing ideologue Ted Nugent reportedly sent the board an angry letter demanding transparency and a clean-up from the group’s leadership.
Even the location of the meeting was a subject of controversy: The NRA had moved the meeting from their initially scheduled location in Alaska amid an outcry from vocal NRA members, including Nashville donor David Dell’Aquila, who had spent months decrying the meeting’s Alaskan setting as exorbitant.
After NRA agreed to move the meeting, former NRA President and lobbyist Marion Hammer released a bizarre letter attacking Dell’Aquila personally, calling him a “dissident.”
Ultimately, the NRA held the meeting at the comparatively modest Washington Dulles Hilton in Virginia.
Dell’Aquila has also called for an independent audit, as well as changes to the gun group’s board structure. None of those items appear to have been discussed.