WASHINGTON, D.C. — Knox, however, wasn’t going away.
The NRA made a comeback in part because of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The gun-control effort, named for White House press secretary James Brady, who was wounded in the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan, called for a seven-day waiting period on gun purchases and a background check on the purchaser.
“What if there had been a Brady Bill 150 years ago? What if they had to wait seven days to get their rifles to come to the Alamo and fight?” an NRA vice president, Robert Corbin, shouted to loud applause at the annual meeting in 1991 in San Antonio, according to The Post’s account.
The membership once again shoved the NRA to the right, electing dissidents to the board, including the editor of Soldier of Fortune magazine. Among the new board members was a familiar face: Neal Knox.
“What you’re seeing now is the NRA on the way back,” he said at the time.
The organization had a new executive vice president as well, Wayne LaPierre, who knew the organization inside and out from years in the lobbying shop. LaPierre, then 41, had been a Ph.D. student in political science at Boston University with political skills smooth enough to land a job offer after college from Tip O’Neill, the legendary liberal House speaker from Massachusetts.
Instead, LaPierre gravitated toward the lobbying world and, in 1978, was hired by Knox as an NRA lobbyist. He had helped write the gun-friendly 1986 legislation, and he maintained an unwavering stance on the Second Amendment. The NRA flourished under LaPierre’s leadership. As Bill Clinton ascended to the presidency, some 600,000 people joined the NRA, according to LaPierre’s tally. He appointed a Knox ally, Tanya Metaksa, as head of the NRA lobbying unit.
“Wayne was trying to protect his flank, and he needed somebody very hard core,” recalls Richard Feldman, who worked for the NRA in the 1980s and whose book “Ricochet” is a tell-all on gun politics.