Behind NRA’s fall, the high cost of betrayal

Behind NRA’s fall, the high cost of betrayal

Mike Chapdelain watched from home as National Rifle Association President Oliver North abruptly resigned at the 2019 convention in Indianapolis. Usually a display of unity, the weekend-long event had become ground zero for an internal power struggle between Mr. North and longtime NRA leader Wayne LaPierre. Mr. North had lost, but, to Mr. Chapdelain, the NRA had as well. A 40-year NRA member and maintenance technician in Green Valley, Arizona, Mr. Chapdelain felt internal alarm bells clamor as he watched the feud unfold. He opened his computer and his research “got pretty ugly real quick.” Mr. Chapdelain found widespread allegations of graft, greed, and impropriety among the NRA’s leadership. But it wasn’t until later reports – detailing how Mr. LaPierre received a lavish pay raise amid the turmoil – that he had finally had enough. A paying NRA member since graduating high school, Mr. Chapdelain canceled his membership. “I felt like I was betrayed pretty good,” he says. “I think a lot of members [feel] like that.” Even amid litigation, investigation, and the threat of dissolution, the NRA’s gravest threat may be estranged members like Mr. Chapdelain. From a small shooting sports group to one of the nation’s most powerful lobbying outfits, the association rose to power through its enormous grassroots base. As the politics of gun control changed, the NRA maintained its influence by representing something beyond the Second Amendment. To many, it became a symbol of freedom – a David forever fighting their political Goliaths. But then […]

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