Meet the NRA's Power Circle Who'll Be Facing Off Against Obama's Proposals

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On the day that President Obama and Vice-President Biden are set to reveal their proposals — including a renewed assault-weapons ban — for gun legislation in front of children who wrote to them about Newtown and the victims' families, a rare, behind-the-scenes look at an National Rifle Association cabal of sorts has emerged, and it implicates a CEO who made money off the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the Connecticut school shooting. Mother Jones has the exclusive on the group — the NRA directors board's nine-member "nominating committee" — and while it may not be as diverse in its representation of the lobby as the newly public list of the entire NRA board, MoJo's Frank Smyth reports that "despite ballots distributed annually to legions of NRA members," the small and powerful committee's members "closely control who can be elected to the NRA board," and seem to be profitting off the very kinds of weapons it's set to do legislative battle over with Congressional Democrats and the Obama administration.

In Smyth's report, there are two people who stand out in particular because of their connection to December's shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Patricia Clark, who lives in Newtown, is the head of the nominating committee. Smyth writes:

Reached by phone on December 29 in nearby Bridgeport, Connecticut, where she works in the health care industry, Clark confirmed her NRA leadership role. When asked if she knew any of the victims or their families in Newtown, she replied, "This is a hard time for me. I am not really interested in giving an interview at this time."

The second key member of the board to emerge from the report is George Kollitides II, the chief executive of Freedom Group. That may sound familiar to you. Here's why: 

George K. Kollitides II, the chief executive of Freedom Group—which made the Bushmaster military-style assault rifle used in the Newtown massacre—was appointed as a member of the current committee, despite his failed attempts to be elected to the NRA board.

Freedom Group came to stand for an early look inside the gun industry immediately following the Newtown shootings, when Cerberus Capital Management divested its holdings in the gun-maker the week after police say Adam Lanza used of its Bushmaster assault rifles to kill 20 schoolchildren. Now the industry is set for what may be a political unearthing, as Obama and Biden take to the White House at 11:55 a.m. to unveil a series of legislative proposals and executive actions that may, depending on a Congressional fight to come, strip gun-makers and sellers of many of their biggest money-making weapons and accessories. According to previews of the announcement in The New York Times and The Washington Post, those proposals are likely to include:

  • Background checks of all gun buyers
  • Restrictions on military-style guns
  • Restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines
  • Mental health and school safety initiatives
  • Federal gun trafficking laws
  • Measures to close the so-called "gun-show loophole"
  • Up to 19 executive actions including federal scientific research and a federal database of gun sales.

For its part, the NRA is not backing down easy. After promising a fight over the White House push for gun-control measures following a meeting last week with Biden, the NRA unveiled a new ad campaign Wednesday morning that is already stirring controversy of its own.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.