After serving in the military in World War II and the Korean War, Cooper founded the American Pistol Institute (API), which offered classes for both civilians and law enforcement personnel. Cooper is considered to be a pioneer in the use of handguns. His two-handed firing technique, which was developed at a time when handguns were typically fired with one hand, is now the standard for shooters. Cooper was a prolific author during his lifetime, publishing books on firearms technique, big game hunting, as well as a politicized gun rights newsletter. The term “hoplophobia” (fear of guns) was coined by Cooper in 1962, and continues to be used by pro-gun activists. In 2001, Cooper received a lifetime appointment to the National Rifle Association’s Executive Council. He passed away in 2006 and his memorial ceremony was held the next year at the National Rifle Association Whittington Center in New Mexico. A 2011 retrospective of Cooper published in the National Rifle Association’s American Rifleman magazine declared, “No one has ever done so much for so many as John Dean Cooper.” Shooting Illustrated, another NRA publication, eulogized Cooper as “an American patriot” and “a scholar.”
Walker, an Ohio resident, became Central Ohio Chair of the Buckeye Firearms Association in 2005. She began serving as an NRA Election Volunteer Coordinator for the Ohio 12th Congressional District in 2008. She also previously served as Chairman of the Licking County Friends of the NRA. Walker is an NRA-certified concealed carry instructor and was elected to the NRA Board of Directors in 2011.
Herb Lanford is a former president of Gun Owners of South Carolina, the NRA’s state affiliate in The Palmetto State.
George Kollitides received a B.A. in Economics from Lafayette College in 1991 and an M.B.A. in Finance and Management of Organizations from Columbia Business School in 1998. He previously served as CEO of Freedom Group, Inc., which made the Bushmaster military-style assault rifle used to kill 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. Kollitides has also served as the Chairman and CEO of Remington Outdoor Company. He currently serves as a trustee of the NRA Foundation and Director of the NRA’s Hunting and Wildlife Committee, Presidents Committee on Advancement, and Nominating Committee. He has made several failed attempts to be elected to the NRA Board of Directors. Kollitides is an Industry Relations Director with the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association and a paid Senior Advisor with Remington Outdoor.
Vandermyde graduated from Downers Grove South High School in 1982. He has worked as an NRA lobbyist in Illinois since 1992.
Patricia Clark, a longtime resident of Newtown, Connecticut, lives a couple of miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and 6 adults were shot and killed on December 14, 2012. She has been an NRA board member since 1999. Clark serves as the Chair of the NRA Nominating Committee, Chair of the Air Gun Committee, Vice Chair of NRA’s Smallbore Rifle and Youth Programs Committees and as a member of the Executive Committee, Competition Rules & Programs Committee, and Finance Committee. She is a former Director of the Connecticut State Rifle and Revolver Association.
Richard Childress, born in 1945 in North Carolina, ran moonshine to illegal bars as a young man. Deciding to pursue other endeavors after seeing “a guy getting blown apart” by a shotgun during one of his deliveries, Childress began a career in stock car racing. First entering NASCAR in 1969 as a replacement during a strike, Childress went on to have a successful career as a driver. Shortly before his retirement as a driver in 1983, Childress began adding cars to his one-man independent driving team to form Richard Childress Racing, which is now one of the most successful NASCAR racing teams.
John Sigler served as the president of the National Rifle Association—which he has called “the most mainstream group in American culture today”—from 2007 to 2009. After leaving the NRA, Sigler became chairman of the Republican State Committee of Delaware. He is also a director with the Fifty Caliber Institute, an organization that attempts to downplay the danger posed to the public by civilian access to .50 caliber sniper rifles (a weapon invented by fellow NRA board member Ronnie G. Barrett). While the Fifty Caliber Institute claims that the organization is “helping to make our streets and nation safer,” the gun that the organization promotes has been criticized by many—including members of law enforcement—as a weapon too dangerous for civilian use. John C. Killorin, a former special agent in charge of the Atlanta field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), called the .50 caliber sniper rifle “a devastatingly powerful weapon against which most troops, most law enforcement, no civilians, have any means of defense.” Additionally, in 2005, U.S. Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) and 28 cosponsors introduced legislation that would have placed stricter regulations on .50 caliber sniper rifles by placing them in the same federal regulatory class as machine guns. The 50 Caliber Sniper Rifle Reduction Act found that, “The intended use of these long-range firearms…is the taking of human life and the destruction of materiel, including armored vehicles and such components of the national critical infrastructure as radars and microwave transmission devices, in addition 50 caliber sniper weapons pose a significant threat to civil aviation in that they are capable of destroying or disabling jet aircraft … The virtually unrestricted availability of these firearms and ammunition, given the uses intended in their design and manufacture, present a serious and substantial threat to the national security.” Prior to working for the NRA, Sigler had a career in law enforcement and the United States Navy.
(Clifford) Neal Knox was born in Rush Springs, Oklahoma in 1935, but spent much of his early life in Texas. He attended Abilene Christian College. He spent eight years in the Texas National Guard. In 1966, Knox became the founding editor of Gun Week newspaper. Several years later, he took over as editor of Handloader magazine and oversaw the creation of Rifle magazine. In 1978, Knox moved to Washington, D.C. where he served for four years as executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association. From 1984 to his death, Knox was the chairman of the Firearms Coalition, an organization that he created.
Harlon Carter joined the National Rifle Association at age 16 in 1930. In 1951, he joined the NRA Board of Directors and quickly rose through the ranks of the organization, serving as vice president between 1963 and 1965 and president from 1965 to 1967. After leaving the NRA presidency, Carter was appointed to a lifetime position on the NRA Executive Council. Contemporaneously with his work in NRA leadership, Carter was an employee of U.S. Border Patrol and became the head of that organization in 1950. He also worked as the commissioner of the Southwest Region for the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the 1960s. In 1975, Carter became the leader of the newly created NRA Institute of Legislative Action and is widely considered to be the leader of a movement to turn the National Rifle Association into a right-wing political organization, as opposed to an organization largely focused on hunting as it had been in the past. During the NRA’s annual convention in Cincinnati in 1977, Carter led a coup against the “Old Guard,” hunting-focused NRA leadership and took control of the organization as its executive vice president. This seizure of power is commonly referred to as the “Cincinnati Revolution.” From that point forward, the NRA adopted a hard-line, uncompromising political stance, with a focus on rolling back existing gun laws and promoting an “individual rights” interpretation of the Second Amendment.