In Act of Heresy, N.R.A.'s Former No. 2 Calls for Gun Control

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  flynavy1  •  3 weeks ago  •  16 comments

By:    Danny Hakim and Maggie Haberman 6 hrs ago (MSN)

In Act of Heresy, N.R.A.'s Former No. 2 Calls for Gun Control
The National Rifle Association's former second-in-command is breaking with the group's orthodoxy and calling for universal background checks and so-called red flag laws in a new book assailing the organization as more focused on money and internal intrigue than the Second Amendment, while thwarting constructive dialogue on gun violence. The former executive, Joshua L. Powell, who was fired by the N.R.A. in January, reinforces the kind of...

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In Act of Heresy, N.R.A.'s Former No. 2 Calls for Gun Control

The National Rifle Association's former second-in-command is breaking with the group's orthodoxy and calling for universal background checks and so-called red flag laws in a new book assailing the organization as more focused on money and internal intrigue than the Second Amendment, while thwarting constructive dialogue on gun violence.

© Michael A. McCoy for The New York Times Joshua Powell was chief of staff for the National Rifle Association's executive director, Wayne LaPierre. In his new book, Mr. Powell calls for universal background checks.

The former executive, Joshua L. Powell, who was fired by the N.R.A. in January, reinforces the kind of criticism made of the organization by gun control groups and state regulators, but it is the first critical look at its recent history by such a high-ranking insider.

He describes the N.R.A.'s longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, as a woefully inept manager, but also a skilled lobbyist with a deft touch at directing President Trump to support the group's objectives, and who repeatedly reeled in the president's flirtations with even modest gun control measures.

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The book, "Inside the N.R.A.: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America," is to be published next week, the latest public calamity for an organization that has faced years of headlines detailing allegations of corruption, infighting and even its infiltration by a Russian agent.

The attorney general of New York, Letitia James, is also seeking to dissolve the group, in a lawsuit filed last month that names both Mr. LaPierre and Mr. Powell among four individual defendants from whom it is seeking millions of dollars in restitution.

Much of the book centers on Mr. LaPierre, who Mr. Powell says "couldn't run an organization on a fiscally sound basis to save his life," and who filled the N.R.A.'s coffers by catering to "the extreme fringe." So pervasive were the organization's troubles, Mr. Powell says, that Mr. LaPierre confided in him about quitting last year, and asking Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, or Jason Chaffetz, a former House member, to replace him.

© Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the N.R.A., with President Trump at the White House. A new book says Mr. LaPierre told the president "the membership would go wild" if he moved forward with background check legislation after shootings in 2019.

Mr. Powell's book has drawn scathing reactions from the N.R.A. Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman, said that Mr. LaPierre spoke to many people about succession planning "if, and when, he ever left the N.R.A." and that Mr. Powell "knows full well that the most serious 'financial issues' the N.R.A. confronted were the abuses of now terminated employees and vendors who abused the trust placed in them." (In his book, Mr. Powell calls Mr. Arulanandam "the guy who became my best friend at the N.R.A.")

Documents reviewed by The New York Times showed that weeks before Mr. Powell was fired, he was accused of improperly charging roughly $58,000 in personal expenses to the organization, a nonprofit, including airfare for himself or his family to Palm Beach, Fla., San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas, among a number of other destinations — accusations that echo those made by the attorney general against Mr. LaPierre.

Mr. Powell subsequently agreed to repay about $40,000 to the organization, though the N.R.A. has not cashed his check as its review of his expenses continues.

A statement issued through Mr. Powell's lawyer called the matter "a nonissue."

"Josh's business expenses were approved by the N.R.A. and reimbursed in the ordinary course for more than three years," the statement said. "Expenses only became a controversy once he began to point out some of the problems in the organization. Josh hoped to just put it to rest — and so he wrote a check for more than $40,000."

During his more than three-year tenure, Mr. Powell served at various periods as Mr. LaPierre's top deputy, and chief of staff, and likens himself to Ned Stark, a well-meaning and ultimately ill-fated counselor to a king in the television show "Game of Thrones."

A hunter since childhood and former Chicago options and derivatives trader, Mr. Powell says that the N.R.A. has fundamentally lost its way, abandoning "its roots as an organization focused on gun safety and education." That has led it to limit its own long-term membership growth, he argues, by turning its back on the majority of gun owners who support background checks.

After the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the N.R.A. rebuffed new gun control measures and instead promoted a "School Shield" program in which it would help review and recommend school safety countermeasures like arming security guards. Mr. Powell writes that he worked to boost the program after discovering it was little more than empty rhetoric — in the four years after Sandy Hook, the N.R.A. assessed the safety of only three schools.

"Wayne was out there selling the program to our members, raising money off it, claiming we were protecting kids' schools," he writes. "It was another example of the wizard behind the curtain — lots of inflamed rhetoric and fireworks and noise, but very little effective action on countering gun violence."

Joel Friedman, an N.R.A. board member, said School Shield "began very slowly because it needed to be proven," and called Mr. Powell's book "a 180-degree flop."

Despite the N.R.A.'s problems, its influence remains. Mr. Powell describes the organization's officials repeatedly persuading Mr. Trump and his administration to stand down from efforts to impose gun control measures.

After the 2018 massacre of high school students in Parkland, Fla., Mr. Trump "seemed to support imposing some of the toughest new restrictions on guns in decades," Mr. Powell writes. But the president quickly folded after a meeting with Mr. LaPierre and Chris Cox, who was then the N.R.A.'s top lobbyist.

"He was reminded who had helped elect him," Mr. Powell writes. "After the meeting, the president did a one-eighty, completely changing his tune."

There was a similar reversal by the president after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in the summer of 2019. Mr. Powell helped prepare Mr. LaPierre for a call with Mr. Trump, during which Mr. LaPierre told the president "the membership would go wild" if he moved forward with background check legislation.

"That happened in the Bush years, and our people just didn't come out in the same way," Mr. LaPierre told the president, who once again backed down.

Yet in Mr. Powell's telling, there was no expansive political machine that helped candidates like Mr. Trump. "As Wayne said to me on many occasions, 'Josh, come on, you know it's all smoke and mirrors. The Wizard of Oz. Just pull back the green curtain.'"

Mr. Powell's critics see his turn as a tell-all book writer as self-serving. In the weeks before he was fired, he was seeking to restructure his contract and receive $1.7 million as a consultant. "My loyalty to the Association is without question," he wrote to Mr. LaPierre at the time, according to documents reviewed by The Times.

He uses his book to address accusations of nepotism as well as an allegation against him of discrimination based on gender and an allegation of sexual harassment.

And while he was at the N.R.A., Mr. Powell took no action to reset the group's hard-line course, a choice he discusses in the book.

"I was part of a message machine that helped to perpetuate the problem and exacerbate the extremism of the gun debate, something I wouldn't fully appreciate for a long time," he writes. "I would become lost. And my experience would ultimately convince me that the N.R.A. itself had lost its mission, and lost its way too."

He estimates that a third of member dues are now being consumed by legal fees, and describes a culture where big spending was routine. Early in his three-year tenure, Mr. Powell writes, he was admonished for checking into a Sheraton hotel. "We all stay at the Ritz," other executives told him. "Move your room."

And he likened being hired as a senior N.R.A. executive to "Ray Liotta walking into the Copacabana in the movie Goodfellas."

It is Mr. Powell's comments on gun control — speaking as a former senior official at a group dedicated to opposing such change — that are the most striking. He is unconvinced that universal background checks would be effective, but he says "the N.R.A. is not in step with the majority of gun owners" on the issue and should take it off the table.

He also expresses support for red flag laws allowing law enforcement authorities to confiscate a gun owner's weapons after warnings from relatives or friends — "as long as there is a process" that "involves both medical doctors and psychiatrists, and some sort of bipartisan oversight."

Instead of considering such measures, the group, he writes, has been transformed into "an organization of 'No,' in response to any effort to quell gun violence," and that also repeatedly blocked federal studies of gun violence, fearing their findings.

"The N.R.A. fueled a toxic debate," Mr. Powell writes, "by appealing to the paranoia and darkest side of our members, in a way that has torn at the very fabric of America."

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FLYNAVY1
1  seeder  FLYNAVY1    3 weeks ago

I can see Powell being dropped off of many a Trump supporter's Christmas Card list this year.....

The guy is just confirming what we all knew, and some wouldn't admit.  Just another day....

 
 
 
igknorantzrulz
1.1  igknorantzrulz  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1    3 weeks ago

The guy is just confirming what we all knew, and some wouldn't admit.  Just another day....

The 'Right' seems to do this often, on a range of things, that is now, off the charts.

 
 
 
r.t..b...
1.2  r.t..b...  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1    3 weeks ago
The guy is just confirming what we all knew, and some wouldn't admit.  Just another day....

...just another disgruntled employee according to the forthcoming defenders.

Any responsible gun owner should take no issue with comprehensive background checks and the responsible implementation of red-flag regulations. Expect the nebulous and intellectually lazy slippery-slope arguments, also sure to be quickly and tiredly proffered sans any willingness to enter dialogue or even acknowledge the issue at hand.

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
1.2.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  r.t..b... @1.2    3 weeks ago

You have to think that inside, that a number of NRA members have to be feeling that they were "chumped" when they found out where so much of their donations ended up as grift for the executive of this....... ahem.......not for profit.

The NRA use to do good work around gun safety.  But once it entered politics, just like religious organizations, they jettisoned their principles in order to line their pockets.

 
 
 
Ozzwald
1.2.2  Ozzwald  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1.2.1    3 weeks ago
The NRA use to do good work around gun safety.

NRA used to be pro gun control.

When the NRA Supported Gun Control

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
1.2.3  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Ozzwald @1.2.2    3 weeks ago

Nice link... Thanks

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
2  Bob Nelson    3 weeks ago

Where did he find a conscience? 

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
2.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Bob Nelson @2    3 weeks ago

On the page where it is printed..... "Written by...!"

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
3  seeder  FLYNAVY1    3 weeks ago

Found this story to augment this seed.

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/nra-insider-speaks-gun-owners-horrified/story?id=72797290

He accused LaPierre of cynically manipulating the public dialogue on guns for fundraising purposes and “stoking a toxic debate” for the purposes of “keeping those donation dollars coming.”

“I think the biggest transgression of the NRA under Wayne was that he turned the NRA into an organization of ‘No,’ in response to any effort to quell gun violence. He helped to create and fuel the toxicity of the gun debate over the years, until it became outright explosive,” Powell writes. “Wayne in essence bowed to the most militant and extreme faction of the NRA’s five million members. Whenever the organization fell short in its funding drives, Wayne would ‘pour gasoline on the fire’ to ignite donations. And that strategy worked, time and again.”

And he condemned the hypocrisy that he said funded LaPierre’s lifestyle.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
3.1  Bob Nelson  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @3    3 weeks ago
... cynically manipulating the public dialogue on guns for fundraising purposes.. 

Oh! 

 
 
 
Sparty On
4  Sparty On    3 weeks ago

So Navy, do you support not allowing your fellow Veterans with PTSD to own firearms?

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
4.1  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Sparty On @4    3 weeks ago

That's a tough one Sparty.  Most if not all veterans have trained with firearms of all nature.  They of all people should know and maintain the high levels of gun safety, more so than most civilians.

Then comes the influence of PTSD and all of the different aspects of that injury.  At what level do veterans with PTSD pose a higher level of danger to themselves and others?  10%..... 50%......70%?  I don't think there is enough data to support a finding.  I do know we've lost 6000 vets a year to suicide since 2008 with death by gunshot being the most prevalent.

Combat vets have always grown an attachment to firearms.  I think taking that "comfort" away from many of them with or without PTSD will push them into higher levels of anxiety and violence.  If the weapons are taken from them, they will find ways to get ahold of a piece when they want to.  There is no way to stop it.

So in thinking it through, no, let them keep their firearms unless they are at a point to where they have demonstrated a level of danger to those around them.  Unfortunately that means some are going to pay the ultimate price because someone was misdiagnosed.  Many that haven't served are going to see it too black and white.  But to many of them, damaged goods from serving in uniform are disposable.  They never figured on the long term bill that needs to be paid once that soldier puts civilian clothes back on.

If I've gotten a bit wordy here Sparty it is because I want those that have not taken the oath to see this matter as something other than a simple yes/no decision.

Regards.....    

 
 
 
Sparty On
4.1.1  Sparty On  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @4.1    3 weeks ago

The reason i ask is because the bill the House passed in 2019 i think, didn't address it specifically but the required background checks would have stopped anyone adjudicated with a mental illness .... PTSD? ..... from acquiring a firearm.   That's a shitload of Vets, most of whom are coping with their PTSD just fine.   If they weren't you'd be reading about Vets popping left and right, wacking and stacking people wholesale.    

There is good reason to be concerned about Vets losing their gun rights in perpetuity and in my book, that dog don't hunt   Not at all.    That's just one more reason i am very wary of universal background checks.   Personally i'm all for them, with some pretty big ifs:

- If Vets are fairly treated.   Some with PTSD clearly probably shouldn't own a weapon at some time in their lives but people do get better and there needs to be an end clause so that if they do get better, they can own a weapon.   They fought for that right and they damn well should have it in all but the most extreme cases.   Vets are the first ones who should be treated fairly in this regard.

- If there is an end clause for things like PPO's and such.   Same logic as above.   Not all PPO's are righteous forever and they get misused as weapons every day

- If background checks don't get stored in perpetuity somewhere.   It's no one's business what guns people own but especially not the Governments.

Any one of those conditions isn't SPECIFICALLY met in any gun control legislation ..... i'm 100% against that legislation.   And i know i'm far from alone in that sentiment.

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
4.1.2  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Sparty On @4.1.1    3 weeks ago

Thanks for the info.... Something to go learn up and get educated on.  

Again... not cut and dried, and with fewer Americans that have taken time out of their lives to serve..... well, I know you understand, because they won't.

 
 
 
Sparty On
4.1.3  Sparty On  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @4.1.2    3 weeks ago

Yep, definitely not a black and white issue in either direction.

That said, Range day tomorrow ..... i'll send a couple downrange in support of my Navy brethren.

jrSmiley_9_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
4.1.4  seeder  FLYNAVY1  replied to  Sparty On @4.1.3    3 weeks ago

Shoot straight boss...!

 
 
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