In 1991, the National Rifle Association (NRA) board of directors elevated long-time pro-gun activist Wayne LaPierre to the position of executive vice president. LaPierre, director since 1986 of the NRA's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), had gained a reputation for resolute support of gun rights and firm opposition to gun control measures. Although LaPierre appeared to lack some of the aggressive qualities of past presidents, his strong credentials for uncompromising stands on gun control led the nominating committee to submit his name alone to the board of directors. LaPierre promised a continuing fight against new proposals for firearms legislation.
LaPierre began his career with the NRA in 1978 at the age of 28 as a lobbyist in the state and local affairs division of the ILA. By 1986, he was serving as the director of federal affairs. When the NRA board removed G. Ray Arnett as executive vice president, LaPierre rose to the position of executive director of the ILA. Guiding the NRA's fortunes in the political arena, he pushed to have public officials favorable to the organization's agenda elected to office. For instance, in 1988, he informed NRA members that if Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis won the election, the liberal president would use his influence over the Justice and Treasury Departments to ban guns in the United States. In March 1989, when President George Bush's director of the Office of Drug Policy, William Bennett, declared that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) would prohibit the importation of five types of assault weapons, LaPierre quickly met with White House chief of staff John Sununu regarding the proposed action. Blaming the press for the fear of assault weapons, the NRA held that such a ban would prevent law-abiding citizens from using the weapons for legitimate sporting purposes.
In 1988, the Maryland state legislature approved a measure that would limit the ability of citizens to sue gun manufacturers for injuries, but at the same time would prohibit the sale of Saturday night specials in the state. A state panel would have the authority to determine which handguns fit the criteria for a Saturday night special. Pro-gun residents of the state began a petition drive to have the legislation repealed by referendum. LaPierre came to the forefront in the struggle, predicting that Maryland citizens would overrule the state legislature. However, after devoting over $6 million to the fight, the NRA lost the battle when voters opted to retain the ban.
As executive vice president, LaPierre has maintained the NRA's tenacious stand against any measures intended to limit the possession or carrying of firearms. The title of his column in the American Rifleman, "Standing Guard," symbolizes his interpretation of