American Rifleman - July 2019 - 84

INSIDE NRA | PROGRAMS & SERVICES

Cincinnati '77:

By NRA Staff

Birthplace Of The Modern NRA

Photos by NRA

C

incinnati, May 1977. The
National Rifle Association had
come to town with its Annual
Meetings and Exhibits, America's
largest gathering and celebration for
gun owners and shooters. But there
would be a marked difference from
previous Annual Meetings, because
at this event, a leadership battle
would take place in the convention
hall. Over the course of the weekend,
and especially in one all-night session,
NRA members would change the
course of their organization's-and
their nation's-history.
The NRA was at a crossroads.
The showdown occurred one year
after the founding of NRA's Institute
for Legislative Action, formed to
secure gun owners' civil rights first
and foremost. Opposing factions
had very different ideas about
NRA's goals and operations. Should
the Association focus on shooting
competition and environmentalism
to gain media approval, or should
it prioritize political advocacy for
gun-owners' rights in the face of a
rising tide of anti-gun fervor? The
leadership of the time proposed to
move the Association's headquarters
from the Washington, D.C. area to
Colorado, much to the chagrin of
most members.
But approximately 1,100 voting
members who journeyed to
Cincinnati were having none of

1977 NRA Officers (l.-r.): Warren L. Cheek, secretary; Lloyd M. Mustin, president;
Robert J. Kukla, executive director of NRA-ILA; Harlon B. Carter, executive vice
president; William B. Binswanger, treasurer; John B. Layton, first vice president

that. In a marathon Annual Meeting
of Members starting at 7:30 p.m.,
an ad hoc group calling itself the
"Federation for NRA" and influential
members of the NRA's Board of
Directors ousted the "old guard"
executives and installed a new slate
of leaders who vowed to aggressively
defend Second Amendment rights
and be more responsive to the needs
of the members.
Not until the wee hours of the
following morning did former NRA

President Irvine Porter adjourn the
members' meeting. Harlon B. Carter,
who had only recently retired as
the first head of the Institute for
Legislative Action, took the helm as
executive vice president and told
the members: "You, the membership,
are entitled to have an NRA that is
responsive to your wishes. That is
right, that is what you have demanded,
and that's the way it's going to be.
You cannot be denied, my beloved
friends." Pointing to the Board
members, Carter added, "You are the
NRA, not I, not these gentlemen here.
You are all we have."
The crowd went wild, giving Carter
a rousing ovation, confident their
voice would start being heard and
that "the NRA" would live up to the
higher standard of "your NRA," an
Association where members would
assume a more participatory role
in steering the organization thanks
to such measures as nominating
candidates for director by petition
and placing non-directors on the
Nominating Committee.
From the first vote to the last, surprising
solidarity was shown by the Life members
who came to Cincinnati.

84

JULY 2019

AMERICAN RIFLEMAN



American Rifleman - July 2019

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Contents
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American Rifleman - July 2019 - 1
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