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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Amid discord, NRA members voice support of the group’s leader, Wayne LaPierre

People outside the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston on May 27, 2022. After an opening day characterized by big name speakers, bombastic rhetoric and a mass of protesters just across the street from the convention hall doors, attendees at Saturday’s session of the meeting are likely to find a more subdued set of events.

By Luke Vander Ploeg

Saturday’s session of the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting was marked by controversy both inside and outside the convention hall.

Across the street, chants of “Say their names” and “It’s on your hands” greeted attendees as protesters gathered behind a police barrier for the second day in a row. Outside the convention hall, NRA members lined up to watch the protesters. Police officers on foot and horseback patrolled the road in between.

Levi Klein, 23, was protesting. A lifelong Houston resident, Klein says he grew up with guns. He said his father was a member of the NRA, although he wasn’t sure if he was at the convention that day. “I know how profound and in the culture it is for Texans to own guns,” he said. “Protesting and showing people that we want a change is the only way that we’re going to make enough noise for anything to happen.”

Around midafternoon, about 10 members of the far-right, white nationalist group the Proud Boys arrived and began their own counterprotest. The two groups ended up in verbal confrontation. Police stepped in to keep the two groups apart until the Proud Boys left a short time later.

Inside the convention hall, the annual membership meeting of the group was not without controversy either. The meeting functioned as a forum for NRA leadership to address members and for members to present motions on issues facing the organization to be voted on. During the debate on a motion to commend its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, for his leadership, some members rose to criticize him and the board of directors.

“In the last few years, you have brought questioning and shame down on the NRA,” said one member who got up to speak. He and others cited accusations of mismanagement and misuse of NRA funds that have been leveled against LaPierre in recent years along with what they saw as the organization’s failure to adequately defend Second Amendment rights.

“While I appreciate what Mr. LaPierre has done,” said another member who rose to speak against the resolution, “Mr. LaPierre is not the NRA. I am the NRA. These people are the NRA.” His comments were met with scattered applause.

The carnage at an elementary school Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday and issues surrounding mass shootings were almost entirely absent from Saturday’s discussion, and the members largely supported LaPierre’s leadership in the face of allegations of mismanagement.

“This is something that was started from our political enemies, and some of our internal enemies jumped on this to try to foster their positions,” said another man who rose to talk. “It’s time we pulled together and fought the enemy, not internally.”

The discussion comes as the group continues to battle a lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James The suit, which began in 2020, has accused the NRA of corruption and misspending and originally sought to shutter the institution. A judge in New York State Court recently ruled that the lawsuit cannot force the NRA to disband but that James could still seek a resolution through fines or other penalties.

In the end, the motion to commend LaPierre was passed by a strong majority. NRA board members will vote today on whether to reelect LaPierre for another one-year term as CEO.

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