Wayne LaPierre, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Rifle Association, has resigned. Speculation has already begun as to who will fill the position vacated by LaPierre. But the NRA should not rush to fill LaPierre’s designer shoes. In my opinion, the Board should consider only those candidates who satisfy the following seven qualifications.
Qualification No. 1: Actions Speak Louder Than Words; The Ideal Candidate Must Have a Demonstrated Commitment to the Second Amendment
There are two distinct roles at the NRA. First, there’s the “Charlton Heston” role, which is the public relations role. Such a role requires a high-profile, media-savvy individual who can enhance the appeal of our Second Amendment rights to the public.
Then, there is the “Wayne LaPierre” or CEO role. The CEO sets the corporate mission, works with the Board of Directors, anticipates and defends against attacks on the organization, determines how and where the money is spent, and so on. Here, the NRA requires not a celebrity, but a worker bee who can dedicate an extraordinary amount of time to the organization.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen, the Second Amendment has been in the spotlight. Every week, legal decisions addressing the constitutionality of various gun control regulations are being issued by the lower federal and state courts. In the blue states, so-called “sensitive place” or government-mandated gun-free zone legislation is being passed in a blatant attempt to circumvent Bruen alongside bans on semi-automatic rifles and so-called “high-capacity magazines.” Add to this agenda the November 2024 presidential election and the necessity for the NRA and its affiliates to help ensure Second Amendment supporters turn out to vote.
And let’s not forget the challenges posed by President Biden’s ATF as it attempts to restrict our Second Amendment rights through executive fiat. This effort is supported by the nationwide anti-gun campaign being waged by the industrial media complex, and the lawsuit against the NRA in New York. These efforts are just the tip of the iceberg. Each of these events calls for a response or “defense” from the NRA. But that’s only one side of the coin. I haven’t even touched upon the work that the NRA needs to do on “offense” to build back its brand, retain and grow the membership, and preserve and advance our fundamental right to bear arms.
For these reasons, people applying for the position vacated by LaPierre must have a demonstrated commitment to the Second Amendment and be willing to devote the time and energy required to get the organization back on track. Note to potential applicants: this is not a “work from home” position.
Qualification No. 2: The Ideal Candidate Must Commit to Advancing the Growth of Second Amendment Scholarship
Before the 1980s, the anti-gunners had a monopoly on Second Amendment scholarship. That changed when historians such as Supreme Court litigator Stephen Halbrook and Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm burst onto the scene and began to publish law review articles and books about the history and meaning of the Second Amendment. Their efforts have had a tremendous impact and were relied upon by the Supreme Court in the District of Columbia v. Heller decision.
Today, organizations funded by billionaires devote massive resources to finding any historical or social science-based approach to undercutting and discrediting the Second Amendment. Candidates vying for LaPierre’s position must appreciate the importance of investing in and advancing constitutional scholarship and possess a key understanding of what scholarship is needed. This is where the NRA’s litigation counsel comes into play. Good lawyers are necessary not just for winning cases but also for their ability to identify holes in the scholarship or to anticipate areas where the courts might need additional guidance.
The NRA’s new CEO must understand the importance of retaining high-quality, mission-oriented attorneys to defend and advance our Second Amendment rights and be committed to advancing the scholarship in this area.
Qualification No. 3: The Ideal Candidate Must Have a Plan for Advancing and Expanding the NRA’s Lobbying Efforts
While the courts are one recourse for Second Amendment advocates, lobbying is another. The NRA and its affiliates (NRA-ILA) have a long history of lobbying on behalf of the Second Amendment, and this effort needs a CEO who can live up to that legacy. This means the NRA needs to have “boots on the ground” in every state as well as on Capitol Hill. There are still states out there that, with just a few dedicated lawmakers, could be added to the growing list of permitless carry states. Additionally, it has been a long time since Congress passed a bill that protected our Second Amendment rights against the assault of blue states. Lobbying is critically essential in accomplishing these goals, and the NRA’s new CEO needs to be committed to advancing and expanding the NRA’s lobbying efforts.
Qualification No. 4: The Ideal Candidate Must Have a Plan for Promoting Gun Culture in the United States
The Second Amendment needs a good public relations agent. LaPierre’s replacement will have to grapple with the poor way the Second Amendment is viewed by some Americans today—views arising largely from those who have been propagandized to death by teacher-union driven public school systems. To do that, he or she must build an effective public relations team. While one aspect of this job is defeating the myths that surround guns (especially the “assault weapon” myth), a good public relations program will seek to promote our uniquely American gun culture. And when I say gun culture, I don’t mean only hunting, but sport shooting and self-defense as well. It is often observed that law and politics are downstream from culture. In other words, what is popular in our culture eventually manifests itself in political and legal outcomes. Building up a positive culture of gun ownership and usage will, therefore, make it more difficult for politicians and judges to strip citizens of their Second Amendment rights.
The NRA’s new CEO should understand that any effective public relations effort will require a significant amount of education and must also understand the concept of force multiplication. By that, I mean that the information that the NRA conveys must be delivered in such a way that Steve can relay that information to Jane, who can relay that information to John, who can relay that information to Sue. To accomplish this goal, the new CEO of the NRA must understand the outsized role that the individuals on YouTube and bloggers play in the modern Second Amendment space. The new CEO must encourage force multiplication so that all of those who already have an interest in gun culture and American history can spread that information and interest to others. When the Second Amendment movement can go from a niche group of well-educated supporters to a much broader coalition of folks who can articulate the reasons why a particular court got it wrong or why bump stocks don’t convert semi-automatic weapons into machine guns, then the NRA will have achieved an important goal.
This is particularly true when much of the anti-gun movement today seems to benefit from the spreading of misinformation or a lack of information about guns and constitutional rights among Americans.
Qualification No. 5: The Ideal Candidate Must Recognize the Importance of Our Youth and Have a Plan For Educating Them About Firearms
The vast majority of establishment educators are either anti-gun, unfamiliar with firearms, or both. While public schools may be a lost cause in that respect, the new CEO of the NRA must understand the importance of educating our youth (including those in metropolitan areas) about firearms and the Second Amendment as a constitutional right.
Here, the focus should be on charter schools, the home and microschooling movement, and after-school activities. Many of these schools are more innovative than their traditional public counterparts and are willing to employ learning platforms and content created by individuals not beholden to traditional curriculum companies. The NRA should design engaging and informative curriculum that innovative schools could deploy at little to no cost to themselves. The youth represent an important future voting block that the NRA needs to start cultivating now, and they also greatly influence culture through social media or otherwise. (Inspiration See: National Sporting Clays Association)
Qualification No. 6: The Ideal Candidate Must Have a Plan To Get-Out-The-Vote
While the left has a well-oiled get-out-the-vote machine, the Second Amendment movement seems to lack this today. While the NRA worked hard to nominate and elect President Donald Trump in 2016 (thank you to President Trump for Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett), its efforts seemed to have been non-existent or lacking during the 2020 presidential cycle. It is critical that the new CEO of the NRA and its affiliates have a plan to turn out Second Amendment supporters across the country. This could include laws that automatically register people to vote when they get a concealed carry license. The NRA, perhaps through a PAC or other appropriate affiliate, is one of the few organizations with the breadth to accomplish such a task.
Qualification No.7: The Ideal Candidate Must Be An “A Person” and Ensure Legal Compliance in all Aspects of the Organization
Have you heard the saying that “A people hire A people, and B people hire C people”? We want the new CEO of the NRA to be an “A” person who will hire and learn from grade “A” lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. A grade “A” team is essential to ensure compliance with all non-profit, campaign finance, corporate, and other laws concerning the NRA and its affiliates’ operations in all respects. The new head of the NRA should want to seek out and surround himself or herself with the best and brightest. Integrity, transparency, and compliance should be the ironclad rule in all respects.
The NRA is an important player in the Second Amendment movement, and we should all be cheering for it to experience a classic American comeback. The selection of the NRA’s next CEO will largely determine if that outcome is forthcoming.
Read Related: Charles Cotton Must Never Be Allowed to Head the NRA!
About Mark W Smith
Constitutional attorney and bestselling author Mark W. Smith, host of the Four Boxes Diner Second Amendment channel on Youtube, is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. His Second Amendment scholarship has been cited by many attorneys and judges, including by attorneys in legal briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in NYSRPA v. Bruen and in U.S. v. Rahimi.
His most recent book is DISARMED: What the Ukraine War Teaches Americans about the Right to Bear Arms.