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Insiders at the embattled National Rifle Association say the organization is padding its claims of recent increases in membership and say more members are leaving amid criticisms over strident positions taken by controversial leader Wayne LaPierre.
“In reality, our membership is probably dropping,” says one embittered NRA staffer, who asked not to be identified. “It’s hard to say because our membership department is always playing games with the numbers.”
Capitol Hill Blue has received several hundred emails from persons who identify themselves as “former NRA members” who have left the organization in protests over the group’s hard-core positions following the increase in gun violence in schools.
Another member who quit is Capitol Hill Blue founder and publisher Doug Thompson, who dropped his life membership in the organization and called LaPierre an “out of control egomaniac whose uncompromising positions are damaging the image of law-abiding gun owners in America.”
Thompson joins former Congressman and current MSNBC talk show host Joe Scarborough in condemning LaPierre and current NRA tactics. The Capitol Hill Blue publisher served on Capitol Hill from 1981-1987 as a congressional chief of staff and committee staffer for members of Congress endorsed by NRA, including former Congressman and later interior secretary Manuel Lujan, and worked with a number of NRA lobbyists.
“Unfortunately, NRA — like Congress — is controlled by extremists who answer not to ordinary Americans but to an industry that is more concerned with making money at any cost — even the lives of innocent Americans,” Thompson said.
After leaving Capitol Hill, Thompson served as the senior communications associate for The Eddie Mahe Company, a Washington-based political and business firm which served as a consultant for the American Shooting Sports Council, a gun-industry group headed by former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman and fronted mostly by gun industry giant Glock.
ASSC operated out of Atlanta and, while claiming to be an organization of gun owners, was in fact a front for the industry. ASSC, Feldman once bragged, is “as pro-gun as our customers.”
ASSC, which claimed 17,000 members, later admitted most of its membership list were gun manufacturers, wholesalers and dealers.
“It’ an old trick,” Thompson said. “Set up an organization that claims to be driven by individuals but is in fact controlled by an industry. Like NRA, ASSC served business, not people.”
Scarborough agrees, calling NRA a mouthpiece for a gun industry more concerned with money than safety. While serving in Congress, Scarborough received an A-plus rating from the gun organization.
Scarborough calls a recent op-ed by LaPierre “racially-tinged” and faults claims made by the NRA leader of “widespread violence” in South Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy.
LaPierre said crime was up after the Hurricane hit and also claimed that more guns in the hands of citizens would have prevented what he called a “hellish world” of violence.
In fact, says New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne, crime went down.
“It was hardly hell week,” Browne says. “There were no murders, no shootings, no rape.”
Citizens of the area were even more outspoken.
“He’s a f—-king idiot,” says Steven Feinstein, owner of Wilensky Hardware in Coney Island, when asked about LaPierre’s claims. “His claims were nonsense.”
Capitol Hill Blue has learned that dissension is growing within NRA ranks and, as a result, public appearances by NRA leader LaPierre have been limited while the board deals with the internal dissent and member defections.
A number of current and former NRA employees say claims of a 20 percent increase in membership in recent months are “patently false” and say any increase is offset by a loss of members who are unhappy with the organization.
The trade organization is also spending more than it has taking in, piling up recent losses. A non-exempt tax return filed for 2010 shows the group lost $15 million that year.
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