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NRA Taps Head of Gun Publications to Replace Wayne LaPierre

Doug Hamlin has served as the executive director of NRA Publications, a marketing arm of the gun industry, since 2014

The National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors has elected Doug Hamlin, the executive director of NRA Publications, which produces magazines like American Rifleman and Shooting Illustrated, to become the organization’s executive vice president and CEO. Hamlin will replace the NRA’s longtime leader, Wayne LaPierre, who recently resigned ahead of the New York trial where a jury found the NRA and LaPierre liable for financial misconduct and corruption.

Hamlin’s elevation to the role of NRA executive vice president and CEO raises several questions, including whether Hamlin has the experience to run the floundering organization. The promotion is also further proof that the NRA and gun industry are deeply entwined.

GUN INDUSTRY TIES

Hamlin was named the executive director of NRA Publications in February 2014. At the time, LaPierre said, “I am very pleased to have Doug Hamlin joining our ranks. Doug has a proven track record of executive level publishing, marketing and sales management and, with decades of professional experience in the outdoors industry and in the publication of specialty magazines, he is eminently qualified to lead NRA Publications into the future.”

Before joining the NRA, Hamlin was the publisher of Guns & Ammo magazine from 1991 to 1995, where he “worked closely with firearm and ammunition manufacturers, as well as congressional representatives.”

For decades, gun makers have relied on print publications like American Rifleman and Guns & Ammo, and their online counterparts, to market their wares. As one might expect, the magazines feature gun advertisements alongside product reviews, much like car magazines. But gun reviews are far from objective — and generally do not disclose relationships with advertisers.

As discussed here, gun writers and reviewers often receive free or heavily discounted firearms, ammunition, accessories, and trips to media events, training academies, and hunting excursions. At the same time, gun companies can threaten to pull advertising for unflattering reviews. As one gun writer noted, some gun companies look for “reviews screened by editors who will forsake honesty rather than jeopardize an advertising account.”

Further, the NRA presents annual “Golden Bullseye” awards for guns and related products that meet certain criteria, like being “[i]nnovative in design and function” — but the vast majority of the awards go to advertisers. For example, over 83 percent of the 2024 Golden Bullseye awards (20 out of 24) were given to companies that ran print advertisements in NRA publications within the past year or donated to the organization.

To learn more about the gun industry’s marketing techniques, click here.

The executive team

While Hamlin may have connections with gun makers, it’s unclear what other experience he brings to the table to run the NRA. Ahead of his promotion, a group of anonymous NRA staffers reportedly sent an open letter to the Board of Directors stating that “Doug Hamlin operates entirely in the red and doesn’t know how to run an organization.” And during LaPierre’s tenure, NRA whistleblowers alleged that Hamlin was one of four executives who received “[r]eimbursement of expenses relating to apartments and living expenses beyond HR Policy Manual stipulations and on a permanent basis, with no contract to support the reimbursement request (continue to claim as a relocation expense)” in a 2018 memo that became evidence in the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against the NRA. Nonetheless, during the organization’s failed 2021 bankruptcy proceedings, LaPierre even named Hamlin as a potential successor, saying that he was “sure” that the board would consider Hamlin.

The NRA Board of Directors also elected Bob Barr and Bill Bachenberg as the NRA’s new president and 1st vice president, respectively. Barr, a former Republican congressman, lauded LaPierre as having “dedicated a lifetime” to bettering the NRA and the country, and after the 2020 election, Bachenberg chaired the Trump campaign’s slate of fake electors in Pennsylvania and was subpoenaed by the House January 6th Select Committee. He allegedly provided a $1 million line of credit to fund Donald Trump’s efforts in multiple states to falsely claim fraud in the 2020 election.

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