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NRA’s New EVP: It’s Time for Members to Come Home

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It’s been a busy few weeks for Doug Hamlin. This time last month Hamlin was serving as the NRA’s director of publications, overseeing upcoming issues of American Rifleman and America’s 1st Freedom. Now he’s in charge of the day-to-day operations of the entire organization after his election as executive vice president during the NRA board meetings in late May; engaged in herculean task of turning around the association after years of declining memberships and loss of revenue. . 

Hamlin was the choice of the slate of reform-minded board members, and in his first email to staff he talked about the need to restore the trust of members after the damning disclosures of misspending on the part of Wayne LaPierre and other top executives. It’s a sign of that newfound transparency and accountability that Hamlin agreed to sit down with Bearing Arms Cam & Co for an interview with no pre-conditions. For the last few years of Wayne LaPierre’s tenure the EVP was hardly ever seen outside of tightly-controlled settings like the Annual Meetings or a CPAC speech, so it’s refreshing to see that Hamlin isn’t afraid of the media or unwilling to speak to them. 

There’s at least one sign that Hamlin and the reformers on the board are already having an impact. Hamlin shared with Bearing Arms that membership revenue exceeded goals “for the first time in years” last month. 

We had a ten-day window from May 20th to June 1st, and during that time, not saying that [the board election] was the reason for it, but I’m not gonna dissuade that either. 

Hamlin went on to say that he believes the NRA “hit bottom” before the board elections, but now the process of restoring that trust and faith of the members is well underway. I asked Hamlin how members can know that if they write the NRA a check, it’s going to be put to good use; not expensive suits, private plane rides, or enriching outside legal counsel. 

It’s going to take some time to prove it, but I’m here to tell you I’m a very conservative business operator. I’ve been responsible for profit and loss in various businesses for well over 30 years now. I’ve ran the publication division in a tight-fisted way. We did very well as a standalone entity within the National Rifle Association, and I’m going to take those best practices and roll them out across the NRA. And I’m meeting with all of the division directors, the executive directors. They’ve heard that from me face to face, and with Bob Mensinger as our compliance officer and David Medrano, who’s our auditor now; and they don’t report to me, they have access to anything and everything we do in the building, we will not tolerate malfeasance. It’s over. It’s not going to happen. 

Those are critically important steps, not only to build trust among the membership base, but also for the New York judge who could appoint an outside monitor to oversee the NRA’s operations after the organization’s civil trial next month. The NRA needs to be able to point to concrete steps its taken to address the lack of oversight on top executives, and the positions of compliance officer and auditor are two examples the NRA can show the judge to demonstrate the changes that are underway. 

The NRA faces another challenge going forward; one shared by almost all Second Amendment organizations, frankly. Most gun owners are politically conservative, but the right to keep and bear arms exists for everyone across the political spectrum. I asked Hamlin if he viewed the NRA as an organization open to gun owners of all stripes, or a conservative organization that defends the Second Amendment for all. 

We are a very diverse organization, and we want to welcome every constituency, every law-abiding gun owner into the family. And we want those that we’ve lost to come back to the family. 

Hamlin notes that a surprisingly large number of NRA members are Democrats, and says he’d like to engage in outreach to gun owners across the political spectrum. He also relayed hearing a judge in Alabama describe how her dad taught her to use a 1911 pistol when she was growing up, just in case she needed to help defend her family against KKK nightriders, and how her personal story affected him. 

The sad truth is that while the right to keep and bear arms is a right of we the people, it’s also a right that’s primarily defended by just one political party these days. We didn’t spend a lot of time discussing it, but I was pleased to see that Hamlin seems to understand the importance of identifying and supporting Second Amendment defenders who can challenge the prevailing narratives from within the left itself. Gun control groups are engaged in extensive efforts to empower pro-gun control Republicans, and I firmly believe Second Amendment groups need to be doing the same when it comes to Democrats. 

I can’t feign neutrality here. I’m rooting for Hamlin and the reformers to succeed in their mission of restoring the NRA to its former position of strength. I believe the 2A community is far better off with a functional and competent NRA that engages in both political activism and training and education, and the election of the reformers as well as the board’s decision to name Hamlin EVP are important steps in that direction. I’m looking forward to having Hamlin back on the show after the NRA’s civil trial in New York wraps up, and I encourage you to check out the entire conversation with Hamlin in the video window below. 

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