August has been a devastating month for the National Rifle Association, as several board members have resigned. It’s also been a devastating month because of the NRA.
NRA board member Richard Childress resigned Monday, marking the fifth resignation of an NRA board member in August. Though not cited in his resignation, Childress had expressed grave concerns about the organization’s financial dealings. Along with former NRA President and formerly convicted felon Oliver North, Childress attempted to raise alarm about the billable hours racked up by the organization’s outside counsel William Brewer.
“The Brewer invoices are draining NRA cash at mindboggling speed,” the pair wrote.
Given the mounting legal troubles the organization finds itself in, it is unclear how much Brewer’s billing is related to an increase in work for the NRA, but the management of association funds prompted a handful of other resignations earlier this month. North resigned over management disagreements with CEO Wayne LaPierre.
Though there may be merit to the concerns of financial mismanagement. The organization shuttered its genuinely weird propaganda arm NRATV earlier this year due to financial considerations at the same time LaPierre allegedly was close to using organization funds to buy himself a mansion. His rationale was to provide himself safety in the wake of the Parkland shootings that left 17 dead.
As August has been rough on the NRA, so too has it been a particularly deadly month for mass shootings.
Using the Stanford definition of a mass shooting as any instance where three or more people have been shot, August has seen 25 mass shootings. El Paso and Dayton were highest profile, with El Paso being one of the deadliest shootings in American history, but shootings also occurred in Kansas City, Missouri; Newport News, Virginia; and Houston, Texas all in one day — Saturday.
Additionally, shootings in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Montgomery, Alabama; Riverside, California; Hickory, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; San Francisco, California; Richmond, Virginia; St. Louis, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; Suitland, Maryland; Brooklyn, New York; Memphis, Tennessee; Grenada, Mississippi; Pomfret, Maryland; and Suffolk, Virginia rose to the Stanford definition of a mass shooting. Additional shootings in Kansas City, Philadelphia and three more instances in Chicago round out August’s shootings to date.
Five shootings per board member resigned.
The connection between the NRA and the violence seen almost daily in the United States is more than just relative relationships to guns.
The NRA helped create the environment where these shootings take place. All the way back in the early 2000s, documents attempting to radicalize and train terrorists in the United States talked about how easy it was to obtain military-grade hardware like the AR-15, commonly used in mass shootings and lauded as “America’s Rifle” by the NRA. Around that time, the documentary Bowling for Columbine explored the NRA’s role in the regulatory framework around firearms in the United States in light of the first major school shooting that set the tone for what became a terrible trend.
In the July debates in Detroit, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg pointed out that the conversation around guns has not meaningfully changed since then. But that might be changing.
In the past, the NRA would respond with crisis communication expertly crafted in partnership with an advertising agency in the wake of a high-profile shooting to try and control the narrative. Thanks in part to the meltdown and internal strife at the organization’s highest levels, though, it was conspicuously quiet after El Paso. Even the NRA’s critics noticed their absence, characterizing the gun group as “distracted” from their stated purpose.
And their approval rating has plummeted recently, adding to their distractions and woes.
Which isn’t to say the NRA’s approach of finding anything but guns to blame for shootings hasn’t been proceeding without their coherent leadership on the issue, the usual refrain of blaming video games or mental illness has come again, but the NRA seemed more concerned with battling the media than their defense of guns against all consequences that has been the hallmark of the organization for the last few decades.
Seeing the void, other gun groups are jockeying to replace the ailing right-wing Goliath as it attempts to prevent exactly one death and one death only: its own.
(Featured image: Bjoertvedt/Wikimedia Commons)
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.