WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even staunch NRA members began to get queasy. Former president George H.W. Bush resigned his NRA membership. Former NRA president Richard Riley, who headed the association from 1990 to 1992, told The Post at the time, “We were akin to the Boy Scouts of America . . . and now we’re cast with the Nazis, the skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan.”
LaPierre apologized for having used language that he said was wrongly interpreted as a broad attack on federal agents. And he began to maneuver behind the scenes to keep the NRA from turning into a fringe organization like the John Birch Society. That would mean doing something about Knox, Metaksa and their allies.
At the 1997 annual meeting in Seattle, Knox ran for the office of first vice president, a position that would put him in the line of succession to become president of the NRA. But suddenly he had competition for that job from none other than Charlton Heston. The legendary actor and NRA supporter beat Knox by four votes and went on to become president.
“Needless to say, when you run against Moses, Moses wins,” says Joe Tartaro, the Cincinnati rebel.
Metaksa left ILA the next year, and Knox was off the board at decade’s end. He died in 2005. David Gross, a self-described “Knoxinista,” says Knox and his allies ultimately won the ideological battle even if they personally didn’t survive as NRA leaders.
“You know the old saying, ‘You never want to be first’?” Gross says. “The person with the alleged radical ideas, or the new ideas, they extend themselves, they fail, then somebody comes along, picks up the pieces and then develops the project.”
By 2000, the NRA had become even more closely aligned with the Republican Party and worked strenuously to keep Al Gore from becoming president. At the annual meeting in May of that year, Hollywood legend Heston provided what might be the signature moment in the history of the NRA. He spoke of a looming loss of liberty, of Concord and Lexington, of Pearl Harbor, the “sacred stuff” that “resides in that wooden stock and blued steel.”