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Following a corruption court case, the NRA elects new leaders

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The National Rifle Association is getting new leaders. They take over after a corruption case in which jurors found that the NRA's longtime CEO used millions of the nonprofit's dollars for himself. So who's in charge now? Mike Spies is a senior staff writer for The Trace, a nonprofit that covers gun-related news. Good morning. Thanks for being on the program.

MIKE SPIES: Well, thanks so much for having me.

FADEL: So the NRA board has chosen Doug Hamlin to replace Wayne LaPierre as CEO and executive vice president. And former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr will be the organization's new president. What can you tell us about them?

SPIES: Well, Barr is interesting because he was a former congressman, as you pointed out. And in the early - or in the late '90s, he was actually responsible for bringing the NRA the idea that the gun industry should have liability immunity from lawsuits, which is probably the most significant piece of gun legislation that has passed Congress in the last 30 years, besides the Brady Bill. Having said that, I don't really think that as president he's going to have much of a dramatic effect since the position is largely ceremonial and no one knows who he is.

And Doug Hamlin, who is taking over the extremely high-profile role of executive vice president, is the same issue, right? No one knows who he is. He led publications for a long time. He's theoretically somehow painted as a reform - or was painted as a reform candidate. But he's - there's nothing actually reform about Doug.

FADEL: So you're saying, really, these new leaders aren't much reformers, really. So what do these choices tell us about where the NRA is heading?

SPIES: I think it really suggests that the NRA is lost. It's hard to really say exactly why they went with these particular candidates, except that I suspect it does, at least to the industry, project some measure of stability. And maybe that's the most important thing for the organization right now coming off of the trial and all the things that have continued to go wrong for it. But I also think, you know, choosing, for lack of a better phrase, two old white men does not really point the way forward, especially for, you know - the organization needs, if it's going to sustain itself, young people, needs women, people of color - stuff that it's internally acknowledged. And this certainly doesn't help it...

FADEL: Is it going...

SPIES: ...Achieve those goals.

FADEL: Yeah. Is it going to sustain itself? I mean, the NRA has been dealing with scandals, legal issues. How has it affected its political power?

SPIES: It will continue to exist as a brand the way many things that have been around for a really long time continue to exist as a brand. And I think it will continue to get by on fumes in that regard. But do I think its political influence is in any way meaningful right now or will be again? No, not really.

I mean, I do think obviously Republican leaders find it useful to be able to go to the convention and reach people. You know, there's some value in that. But as far as being able to influence elections and that sort of thing, I mean, I think the issue has become so binary that its purpose is - it just doesn't really have one anymore. I mean, you know, its best days are behind it.

FADEL: That's Mike Spies, senior staff writer for The Trace. Thank you.

SPIES: Thanks so much for having me.

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