With gun control at the forefront of debate in Washington, the National Rifle Association is getting a new president, one whom they believe is well-positioned to help the pro-gun lobby thwart the latest push for tougher gun laws.
Birmingham, Ala., attorney Jim Porter will take over the NRA's top post, replacing David Keene, whose two-year term is ending. Porter was formally elected this week and will assume his new role Monday as the NRA's annual conference comes to a close.
Here, a brief primer on the NRA's new top official:
1. NRA leadership runs in Porter's familybr>Porter's father, Irvine Porter, served as the NRA's president from 1959 to 1961, and Porter will become the first son of a former NRA head to also take the gun group's reins.
"I was sort of born into the NRA. Literally, it's my family." Porter told an interviewer in 2009. "It was just a wonderful group. And an absolutely fabulous way for a youngster to grow up"
Early on in his adult life, Porter began following in his father's footsteps. While in law school, he spent a summer working for John Wilson, who was then the NRA's legal counsel, and who represented John Ehrlichman and Bob Haldeman during the Watergate hearings. Porter has held some form of leadership position within the NRA for two decades, chairing various committees and ultimately rising to become Second Vice President and, most recently, First Vice President.
2. Porter may be a behind-the-scenes leader
Though Porter's title would seem to make him the most prominent member of the NRA, he is not expected to become the organization's public face. That role will still belong to Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, whose comments in the wake of the Newtown shooting drew widespread criticism.
3. Porter believes in the "War of Northern Aggression"
Porter raised eyebrows last year for offering a controversial take on the Civil War.
"The NRA was started in 1871 right here in New York state," he said in a speech last June. "It was started by some Yankee generals who didn't like the way my Southern boys had the ability to shoot in what we call the 'War of Northern Aggression.' Now y'all might call it the Civil War, but we call it the 'War of Northern Aggression' down south."
Noting that statement, a New York Daily News editorial called Porter "poisonously nuts" and said he has a "long record of Second Amendment absolutism, conspiracy theory looniness, and racial repulsiveness."
"As it holds sacred an extreme reading of the Second Amendment, does the NRA also subscribe to the Civil War's constitutional progeny, the Thirteenth, abolishing slavery; the Fourteenth, providing equal protection under state laws, and the Fifteenth, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote?" that editorial asks.
4. He believes in White House conspiracy theories
Porter hasn't shied away from harsh criticisms of the Obama administration. He once called Attorney General Eric Holder "rabidly anti-gun, rabidly anti-American," and accused him of trying to brainwash the American people into giving up their guns.
"We ain't smart enough for him to brainwash us," Porter said in a speech last year. "'We just need to brainwash these people and get that gun thinking out of their minds.' That's what [Holder] said."
In that same speech, he also alleged that Holder and administration officials were pushing for a worldwide ban on firearms through the United Nations. While the U.N. was discussing an arms treaty, it would not have made guns illegal, but rather established an international standard for tracking guns brought between countries.
Porter has also called President Obama a socialist, and suggested he may be an illegitimate president.
"I get so sick and tired of all these people with this fake president that we got who wants to say, 'Well, you know he hadn't done anything bad for gun owners,'" he said. "I say, let me tell you something bad he's done. His entire administration is anti-gun, anti-freedom, anti-Second Amendment."
5. The NRA sees his legal background as a plus
The NRA sees Porter as a "perfect match" to lead the group through a year in which it plans to aggressively target gun laws at the sate level.
"As we are likely to win most of the legislative battles in Congress, we will have to move to courts to undo the restrictions placed on gun owners' rights in New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Colorado," Keene, the outgoing president, told the Washington Times. "Jim is perfect to lead that effort because of his ability and experience running a legal team."
Porter is currently a lawyer with the firm his father founded in the 1930s, Porter, Porter & Hassinger, where he often defends gun manufacturers; one of most recent clients was Smith & Wesson Corporation.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- The best places to find love — and lust — according to science
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- Sex can't explain the culture war
- Why GOP reformers are bound to fail
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- This simple hack for slicing cherry tomatoes will astound you
- How the battle for religious freedom became a nonsensical free-for-all
Subscribe to the Week