The National Rifle Association is used to battling forces that criticize its fiery and unbending efforts to protect gun rights. But as the group gathers for its annual convention Friday in Indianapolis, the NRA may be facing its toughest foe in decades: its own members, the Associated Press reports.
NRA insiders and longtime observers describe an organization at war with itself over a central question: Has it strayed too far from its original mission of gun safety and outdoor shooting sports and become too political?
It is rare for the NRA to betray any hint of internal turmoil. But it erupted very publicly recently when the NRA sued its longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, accusing it of refusing to hand over financial records to account for its billings.
In 2017 alone, the NRA paid the firm $40 million. Ackerman McQueen has been by the NRA’s side for two decades and has crafted its aggressive messaging, including the “From my cold dead hands” line uttered by actor Charlton Heston in 2000 as he vowed to resist any effort to take away his guns. The line became a rallying cry for gun owners around the country.
The fault lines within the NRA’s ranks also come amid increasing uncertainty that the organization can stay afloat financially. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s CEO and executive vice president, stoked those worries by pleading with donors to help the NRA elide financial ruin at the hands of malicious liberal regulators, according to The Trace and the New York Times.
Running crippling annual deficits over recent years, the NRA has largely choked off funding to programs such as gun awareness and safety training, opting instead to divert focus to political messaging activities such as their NRATV programming.
Ackerman McQueen, the public-relations firm hired by the NRA, also pays the salaries of Dana Loesch and Colion Noir, two right-wing, Breitbart-affiliated provocateurs that the NRA continually cycles through its social media posts.
President Trump aand Vice President Pence are each expected to address the convention Friday.