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By Closing Its Video Channel, NRA Signals A Return To Core Mission

Videos produced by NRATV, like this one featuring commentator Dana Loesch, received millions of views on YouTube.
Videos produced by NRATV, like this one featuring commentator Dana Loesch, received millions of views on YouTube.

Two of the National Rifle Association’s most potent public tools appear to have been lost.

NRATV, a bombastic online video network that sometimes strayed far from the organization’s core mission of gun rights into modern culture wars, will no longer produce live content.

NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre announced the move Wednesday on the organization’s website, hours after a New York Times report revealed the decision.

Also on Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported the resignation of Chris Cox, the NRA’s longtime chief lobbyist and one of its powerful public faces.

Cox had faced accusations that he backed former NRA president Oliver North in what was ultimately the losing side of an internal power struggle.

The news is the latest in a series of setbacks for the organization, which has for months been embroiled in controversy over its financial problems and ties to Ackerman McQueen, a key public relations firm responsible for NRATV.

LaPierre, who cited concerns about NRATV’s cost and member complaints about the programming’s content, termed the move a “reorganization.”

“Our longtime advertising firm and website vendor failed to deliver upon many contractual obligations,” LaPierre wrote in a statement.

Dueling lawsuits between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen, which employed Dana Loesch and other high-profile NRATV hosts, have alleged financial impropriety on both sides amid concerns about unnecessary spending by top NRA executives.

While some NRATV programming focused on shooting sports or hunting lifestyles, it was often overtly political.

Loesch, for example, drew criticism for a segment about the “Thomas & Friends” animated children’s show that depicted the trains wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods.

News of the NRA’s troubles caused a stir on social media, especially among gun control advocates. But David Yamane, a Wake Forest University sociologist who studies gun culture, suggested that a return to its core mission could ultimately strengthen the organization.

The NRA’s support for President Donald Trump and its “coupling” of the Second Amendment to immigration or LGBT issues turned off many members or prevented others from joining the organization, Yamane said.

Some turned to smaller organizations or state-level groups. But for many there’s no clear alternative to the NRA, he said.

“I think a lot of people who are interested in guns are not necessarily also interested in a right-wing culture war,” he said.

“Some changes are going to have to take place,” Yamane said. But he warned people celebrating the NRA’s troubles to “be careful what you wish for. Because the result of this may not be the death of the NRA, but the strengthening of the NRA.”

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.

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