New NRA President Marion Hammer, who has labeled the group a civil rights organization that appeals to a diverse constituency, told attendees at the 1996 NRA convention: "The media's been all abuzz about the NRA having a woman president. They don't know that the NRA has proudly stood in the forefront of America's tradition of equal rights, civil liberties, and freedom." But a look at the NRA's board of directors finds some of its members at the forefront of less noble American traditions.
The Board Members:
- Ted Nugent
- Leroy Pyle
- Wayne Stump
- Harry Thomas
- T.J. Johnston
- Robert K. Brown
- Manny Fernandez
Ted Nugent (yes, that Ted Nugent) seems to be bringing up the rear with regard to "equal rights." Defending South African apartheid to the Detroit Free Press in 1990, Nugent lamented, "All men are not created equal. The preponderance of South Africa is a different breed of man... They still put bones in their noses, they still walk around naked, they wipe their butts with their hands. These are different people."
As for militias, Nugent has no problem with them. Defending the Michigan Militia, he told the Associated Press, "I shoot with these people... I find them professional, hardworking people."
Leroy Pyle is a proud member of the Illinois Militia, a group he describes as "average Joes concerned about maintaining our nation's heritage." The militia invited Pyle to join after he made a name for himself as systems operator of the Paul Revere Network, a computer bulletin board on gun rights that recently added a "MilitiaConference."
Wayne Stump, a former Arizona state senator who once served on the advisory board of English First (a radical anti-immigrant group), is closely associated with extremist Jack McLamb -- whom even Pyle describes as "a little far out." McLamb is a retired Phoenix police officer whose American Citizens and Lawmen Association tries to convince police officers to align themselves with militias against the federal government.
Harry Thomas, another NRA board member with ties to McLamb, is a former Cincinnati police officer who warned, on a 1994 speaking tour: "'Waco' is a word which, among American patriots, engenders the same anguished feelings of outrage as the word 'Alamo.'... Miss Reno, I have this to say to you: If you send your jackbooted, baby-burning bushwhackers to confiscate my guns, pack them a lunch. It will be a damned long day. The Branch Davidians were amateurs. I'm a professional."
T.J. Johnston founded California's Orange County Corps in 1994. Johnston told The Nation that the corps had 1,000 armed members divided into 28 local units, including a quick response team "armed and ready to meet any challenge at a moment's notice." For example, Johnston says, "We're not going to have any repeat of the 1992 L.A. riots."
Robert K. Brown publishes Soldier of Fortune,, the leading source for covert listening devices, militia materials, Nazi memorabilia, and mail-order brides. In 1988, two families of murder victims sued Soldier of Fortune, claiming the killers were hired through ads in the magazine. In both cases juries ordered the magazine to pay multimillion dollar settlements, but in one case the ruling was overturned on appeal. In 1993, the magazine settled with the other family, rather than contest the jury's $4.3 million verdict. More recently, Brown has been promoting "The Resister," the newsletter of the secretive Special Forces Underground, which represents "the white Christian militia mentality," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Manny Fernandez, who pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a machine gun in 1983, is a founder of Californians Against Corruption. In 1994, CAC lobbied for a recall vote of California State Sen. David Roberti, a longtime gun control advocate. The vote failed, but still cost taxpayers $500,000. Fernandez was ousted from CAC when he declared publicly that the recall effort had been the gun lobby's revenge for Roberti's sponsorship of a 1989 California law restricting assault weapons. In October, the California Fair Political Practices Commission found CAC guilty of 404 violations of campaign laws, including concealing contributions from the NRA and other gun groups and failing to file proper records. The commission fined CAC a record $808,000.