This winter, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre warned members that liberal regulators were threatening to destroy the organization. “We’re facing an attack that’s unprecedented not just in the history of the NRA but in the entire history of our country,” he wrote. “The Second Amendment cannot survive without the NRA, and the NRA cannot survive without your help right now.” LaPierre is right that the NRA is troubled; in recent years, it has run annual deficits of as much as $40 million, report The Trace and The New Yorker. It is not unusual for nonprofits to ask prospective donors to help forestall disaster. What is unusual is the extent to which such warnings have become the NRA’s central activity. Even as it has reduced spending on gun education, safety, and training to less than 10 percent of its budget, it has substantially increased its spending on messaging. The NRA is now mainly a media company, promoting a lifestyle built around loving guns and hating anyone who might take them away.
On NRATV, the organization’s programming network, host Grant Stinchfield appears in a “Socialist Tears” T-shirt, taking a sledgehammer to a television set cycling through liberal news shows. The platform’s Twitter account circulates videos of spokesperson Dana Loesch, a former Breitbart News editor who has said that mainstream journalists are “the rat bastards of the earth” and deserve to be “curb-stomped.” A lawyer and activist called Colion Noir, whose real name is Collins Idehen, Jr., also has a large following. Loesch and Noir have become the NRA’s public faces. They are paid by Ackerman McQueen, a public-relations firm based in Oklahoma. A small group of NRA executives, contractors, and vendors has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements.