Why I let my NRA membership expire

R.J. Winans responds to the negativity revolving around the vice president of the National Rifle Association.


R.J. Winans presents his National Rifle Association membership card, which he let expire at the end of last year. | Melanie Kim/THE CHIMES

Robert James Winans, Writer

R.J. Winans presents his National Rifle Association membership card, which he let expire at the end of last year. | Melanie Kim/THE CHIMES


I was a proud, card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association until I let my membership expire at the end of 2013.

Over the last decade, we have been reminded of the terror firearms become in the hands of the wrong person. These tragedies heighten our indignation toward groups like the NRA because they are the foremost advocates of the Second Amendment. The NRA and its executive vice president Wayne LaPierre’s response to this animosity has been heartless, unclear and detrimental to the organization.

Why I left the NRA

The reason I let my membership expire — a difficult decision to make — was because LaPierre’s tenure as face of the NRA had become too harmful.

“This guy doesn’t have what the human resources gurus call ‘people skills,’” is how retired gun lobbyist Richard Feldman described LaPierre. While I am not fond of Feldman, his observation of LaPierre summarizes my biggest issue with him and his leadership of the NRA: He does not know how to relate in a non-combative manner.

The NRA and its PR problem

The NRA has a public relations problem. LaPierre has managed to drive the organization into an endless schoolyard-yelling match with leading gun control advocates and, really, all of America.

If it was not learned at recess, it will not ever be learned: Yelling does not get you anywhere, especially when you are at the helm of one of the most hated groups in America.

It seems when LaPierre is put on the defensive — which has been the case of late — he flails hopelessly and creates a negative perception of an otherwise thriving, helpful organization.

NRA does more than create problems

Many do not realize it, but the NRA has more impact on gun safety laws and education than any other organization.

“In civilian training, the NRA continues to be the leader in firearms education,” according to the NRA website, which adds that 55,000 instructors educate more than 750,000 gun owners each year. I bet you have never heard that statistic, a testament to LaPierre’s shortcomings.

The NRA does a lot of good, but they are perceived, thanks to LaPierre, as disconnected from the average American. LaPierre often calls President Obama, leading Democrats and other gun control advocates “enemies of the Second Amendment.” However, the only enemy I see is LaPierre.

The NRA needs to be better represented

If you want your position on guns to be understood and accepted, you cannot vilify everyone with an opposing view. You must work with them, compromise and be approachable, even likeable. LaPierre is none of these.

If the NRA spent more time showing the good they do in educating America about gun safety and combating gun violence, they would be better received. Unfortunately, this is not how LaPierre has run the NRA.

I agree, in principle, with all the NRA does in educating America. However, I disagree with the NRA LaPierre has created in the American psyche by his words and actions.

Until LaPierre is gone and they begin focusing on what makes the NRA the NRA I love, my membership will remain suspended.



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