Shot Show - running for NRA Board

January 31, 2020

by: Frank Tait

Last week I went to my first SHOT show with the goal of meeting NRA voting members and soliciting their support for my candidacy for the NRA Board of Directors.  An old management maxim is that you can learn a lot just by walking around and talking to people.  I walked over 30 miles and talked to about 2,000 NRA members and handed out my card (pictured to the left).  The overall theme coming out of these discussions is that there is a large disconnect between the NRA board and membership.  There are a couple things that stood out from the conversations.  

  1. People were friendly and engaging.  I stopped by anywhere that people were sitting and multiple times a day.  Stationary targets are easier to engage :-)  I estimate that 80% of the people I talked to were supportive of my candidacy; 20% were no longer members of the NRA, mostly due to frustration with how the organization is led, and wasteful spending and incessant fundraising calls. Only 1 person reacted negatively saying he was 100% behind Wayne LaPierre.
  2. For the vast majority of people, this was the first time that they ever met anyone running for the NRA Board of Directors or on the Board of Directors.  I had lots of great conversations about defending our firearm rights and specific challenges with NRA operations, the most consistent challenge mentioned, other than incessant and irritating fundraising calls  was the backlog of scoring for competitive shooting.
  3. Many of those, while voting members, do not vote.  When asked why, they said that they did not know the candidates and had no idea about what these candidates would do running the NRA so without knowing who to vote for, they chose not to vote.  Hopefully I got them to vote for me.
  4. I attended the Expanding the Gun CommUNITY session on Tuesday facilitated by Maj Toure of Black Guns Matter.  Great panel (2nd picture at left)  including Tony Simon, Chris Cheng, Rob Pincus, John HickokKevin Dixie, Aquil BeyAArgo Jay, and several others where I missed their names showing the diversity of those fighting for our rights and reaching the communities that the NRA is not.  Excellent participation from the community in the audience including Rebecca Schmoe, Gina Roberts, and Piper Smith (3rd picture at left). I did not see any NRA representation there.  From the NRA board and committee meetings, Ken Blackwell mentioned that the fastest growing segments of the gun owning population are women and Black and Hispanic males between 21 and 35 - here was a great way to engage.  It was a missed opportunity for the NRA.
  5. I attended the Leveraging your Brand Ambassadors session (4th picture at left) led by Dianna Muller  (who is doing an outstanding job standing up for our rights).  Again I did not see any NRA representation.  For an organization with the image issues the NRA has, I thought this was a great opportunity to understand how to identify and leverage brand ambassadors for the NRA.
  6. It was a great opportunity to meet people.  I had a chance to talk to Alan Gottlieb of Second Amendment Foundation, Pete Brownell, the former NRA director, Larry Potterfield of Midway, Chris Hogdon of Hogdon Powders, Julianna Crowder and Robyn Sandoval of A Girl and a Gun, Robert Gambardella the Interim CEO of USA Shooting, Chris Cheng the new board member for Pink Pistols, Matt Mallory of the Meet the Pressers podcast,  Sarah Joy Albrecht of Hold My Guns (5th picture at left) and even one of my NRA instructor students Tony Gimmellie (last picture at left).
  7. I did NOT get the SHOT crud!  making sure I got 8 hours of sleep each night  and keeping hydrated helped.

It was definitely worth it to get actual member perspective of the NRA,  the NRA leadership and the NRA board.  Membership engagement is a big gap and opportunity for the NRA.