Iowan youngest to lead NRA

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May 10th, 2017 by Ric Hanson

An Iowan was recently elected as the youngest president of the board of directors of the National Rifle Association. Forty-eight-year-old Pete Brownell is the C-E-O of the Montezuma-based company Brownells, which makes guns, gun parts and accessories. In an interview with Radio Iowa, Brownell says there is significance to him becoming the youngest to hold the position. “Well, I represent a generation change, the N-R-A has a tendency to be looked at as out of touch. But I can tell you, it’s pretty darn diverse age wise,” Brownell says.

He says beyond that age of members, the organization is getting better at becoming more diverse it “spreads its wings” to represent more ethnic groups and different thoughts. “So I kind of represent that next generation of thought and speed and technology and adoption of the 21st Century,” Brownell explains.

The group has some five million members. Brownell says his focus as president won’t involve the political issues, but will instead stick with the core purpose of the organization “The bulk of the work that the N-R-A does is really in training, education, program development, supporting and promoting hunting and hunting safety,” he says. “So there’s a lot of programs that the N-R-A does.”

Brownell says the political issues often overshadow the other things. “There’s a lot of training and safety that goes into what the N-R-A does…it never gets any publicity out there because the legal issues are what the news, and the legislative issues are what the news covers,” Brownell says, “it doesn’t cover training of youth or hunting safety or conservation efforts that we do. Or youth activities and youth training. I like that stuff, that’s where I am focusing.”

Critics of the N-R-A say they organization pushes more people to own guns, but Brownell says the increase in demand for guns comes from the public, not the organization. “The big one and probably maybe the largest emerging one, is the one for protection,” Brownell explains. “And that’s not just men buying guns, that is women, that’s the L-G-T-B-Q community. Those are the African-American communities out there buying pistols, they’re buying training, they’re looking for ranges to improve their skills.”

He says people the police cannot be everywhere and they want to be able to defend themselves when needed. There’s also been an increase in the number of high school students involved in trap and skeet shooting. Brownell says the N-R-A works with people to train them to properly use their guns, and have programs that work with the police, military. He says another program works with kids.

He says the Eddie Eagle program teaches children who find a gun to ‘stop, don’t touch, run away tell an adult.’ “My kids still know that, and if we had that in every school out there, we might have less problems. So, we are going to be pushing some of those training activities,” Brownell says.

He says he’ll be the voice to explain the training and work the organization does when people are critical of the N-R-A. “The really good programs that everybody needs to at least to consider get overshadowed sometimes, and it’s my job to…raise the bushel basket off those and shed the light on them for everybody to see the benefits of ,” he explains. “You know, that’s how I answer. It’s not about the guns, it about the training and access.”

Brownell is the second Iowan to become the N-R-A president. Former deputy Des Moines Police Chief Kayne Robinson served as the N-R-A president from 2003-2005.”Kayne was right there with Charlton Heston when he was there. So, it was a great time for Kayne to be in a position were it was kind of redefining the N-R-A as well. And I find myself kind of in that same position — not redefining but reinforcing the work the N-R-A has been doing since its origination a 150 plus years ago.”

Brownell was elected president at the group’s annual meeting in Atlanta at the end of April after serving on the board of directors since 2010. Brownells was founding in Montezuma in 1939 by Pete Brownell’s grandfather.

(Radio Iowa)