The Current

Second Amendment supporters should be 'deeply concerned' about NRA infighting, says conservative pundit

The NRA was keeping up appearances at its annual convention this past weekend, but behind closed doors, chaos engulfs the organization. What could the internal conflict mean for the future of the group — and its role in American politics?

National Rifle Association sued its longtime PR firm accusing it of refusing to hand over financial records

The National Rifle Association's annual meeting has been overshadowed by scandal and infighting. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

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Conservative pundit Charlie Sykes says that even ardent Second Amendment supporters should pay attention to internal turmoil in the National Rifle Association stemming from questions about its financial management.

"The NRA had a choice: it could have basically stepped back and said, 'Okay, well we need to be more transparent we need to account for this money. Maybe we need to clean house here a little bit,'" Sykes, author of How the Right Lost its Mind, told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"Instead, what they decided to do was circle the wagons [and] send out the shills to say 'There's nothing to look at here.'"

The NRA recently filed a lawsuit against 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 US.

The very public battle has since revealed potentially damaging information about where the money came from and who it was funnelled to, all of which is currently under investigation by the New York state attorney general.

U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by National Rifle Association political strategist Chris Cox, left, and Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the NRA, in Indianapolis on April 26. Trump called the inquiry into the NRA's finances 'illegal.' (Brian Woolston/Reuters)

The NRA has reportedly also been fighting internal backlash over its increasingly partisan tone and legal threats from government regulators.

Despite the growing divide, Wayne LaPierre, the public face of the gun lobbying group for decades, was re-appointed Monday as the gun lobby's CEO.

Oliver North resigned from his position as NRA president Saturday, saying he was being forced out after raising questions insider dealings including $200,000 US in wardrobe expenses for LaPierre.

All of this is greatly exaggerated and I think a lot of the claims that have been made … are not quite accurate.- John Lott, president of Crime Prevention Research Centre

John Lott, president of Crime Prevention Research Centre in Pennsylvania, argues that the controversy isn't much of a controversy at all, and that people need to take the current news coverage of the story with a grain of salt.

"All of this is greatly exaggerated and I think a lot of the claims that have been made … are not quite accurate. [The NRA] have lost money for two years but in large part that's due to other actions that New York State has taken," Lott explained, saying the state of New York "forced" insurance companies to drop their coverage of NRA-related programs.

Lott, who is also the author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, blamed "exaggerated" media coverage for painting the inner conflict lawsuit in a salacious light, and that the lawsuit and public disagreements are par for the course in an organization run by such "strong personalities" as North and LaPierre.

Sykes instead urged Americans — gun lobbyists and gun-control advocates alike — to take the allegations at hand seriously.

"The NRA has taken the issue of rational gun regulation out of the policy realm and they've they've made it the centre of these culture wars," he explained.

"If you are a genuine supporter of the Second Amendment, I think you ought to be deeply concerned about what's going on with the NRA and their refusal to be transparent, their refusal to clean house and the refusal to take responsibility for these internal issues."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation. 

With files from the Associated Press and CBC News. Produced by John Chipman, Howard Goldenthal and Julianne Hazlewood.


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