The head of the NRA, one of the most powerful figures in US gun policy, says he will resign days before the trial.

NEW YORK –

The veteran head of the National Rifle Association said Friday that he will resign, just days before the start of a civil trial over allegations that he treated himself to millions of dollars in private jet flights, yacht trips, African safaris and other extravagant benefits for the powerful weapon. expenses of the human rights organization.

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and chief executive officer, said his departure will be effective Jan. 31. The trial in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit against him, the NRA and three current or former executives is scheduled to begin Monday. LaPierre was in court this week for jury selection and is expected to testify at trial. The NRA said he will continue to fight the lawsuit, which could result in a further restructuring of his leadership and the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee his finances.

“With pride in all we have accomplished, I announce my resignation from the NRA,” LaPierre said in a statement released by the organization, which said he was leaving for health reasons. “I have been a chartered member of this organization for most of my adult life and will never stop supporting the NRA and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom. My passion for our cause burns as deeply as ever.”

James, a Democrat, announced LaPierre’s resignation as an “important victory in our case” and confirmed that the trial will continue as scheduled. His departure “validates our allegations against him, but will not absolve him or the NRA of responsibility,” James said in a statement.

Andrew Arulanandam, a senior NRA lieutenant who served as LaPierre’s spokesman, will assume his duties on an interim basis, the organization said.

LaPierre, 74, has run the NRA’s day-to-day operations since 1991, serving as the face and vehement voice of its gun rights agenda and becoming one of the most influential figures in shaping the NRA’s gun policy. USA. He once warned of “booted government thugs” grabbing guns, hired movie star Charlton Heston to be the organization’s president, and condemned gun control advocates as “opportunists” who “exploit the tragedy for profit.”

In an example of the NRA’s evolution under LaPierre, after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, in 1998, the NRA expressed support for expanding background checks for gun purchases. But after a gunman killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, LaPierre repudiated background checks and called for armed guards at all schools. He blamed video games, lawmakers and the media for the carnage, commenting, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

“The post-Sandy Hook apocalyptic discourse was kind of a talismanic moment where, for him and the NRA, there was no turning back,” said Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York-Cortland and author of some books. on gun policy.

The NRA remains a strong political force, and Republican presidential hopefuls flocked to its annual convention last year. However, in recent years, the organization has been beset by financial problems, dwindling membership and infighting among its 76-member board of directors, along with lingering questions about LaPierre’s leadership and spending.

After reporting a $36 million deficit in 2018, driven largely by improper spending, the NRA cut long-standing programs that for decades had been central to its mission, including training and education, recreational shooting and safety initiatives. application of the law. In 2021, the organization filed for bankruptcy and sought to incorporate in Texas instead of New York, where it was founded in 1871, but a judge rejected the move, saying it was a transparent attempt to circumvent James’ lawsuit.

“(LaPierre) is, more than anyone else, responsible for putting the NRA in the dumpster situation it is in now,” Spitzer said.

Gun control advocates praised LaPierre’s resignation, mocking his oft-repeated talking point in the wake of countless mass shootings over the years.

“Thoughts and prayers for Wayne LaPierre,” said Kris Brown, president of the gun control advocacy group Brady: United Against Gun Violence. “He will need them to be able to sleep at night. Wayne LaPierre spent three decades selling the big lie that more guns make us safer, all at the cost of countless lives. He has blood on his hands and I will win.” “I don’t miss it.”

Another advocacy group, March For Our Lives, said that when it was founded in 2018 after a mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school, the NRA “was an untouchable and seemingly all-powerful political giant.” Months later, the group sent a letter to the New York attorney general’s office raising questions about alleged financial irregularities involving NRA executives, including LaPierre. The letter sparked the investigation that led to James’ lawsuit.

“All it took was a few meddling kids and a lot of determination to take down one of the largest and most powerful lobbying machines in American history,” March for Our Lives said in a statement.

James’ lawsuit alleges that LaPierre and three co-defendants — NRA general counsel John Frazer, retired treasurer and chief financial officer Wilson Phillips, and LaPierre’s former chief of staff Joshua Powell — cost the organization dozens of millions of dollars in questionable spending, including lucrative consulting contracts for former employees and gifts to friends and suppliers.

LaPierre is accused of signing a $17 million contract with the NRA if he left the organization, and of spending NRA money on travel consultants, luxury car services and private flights for himself and his family, including more than 100 million US dollars. $500,000 on eight trips to the Bahamas over a three-year period.

As punishment, James asks that LaPierre and the other defendants be ordered to pay the NRA and be prohibited from holding leadership positions in any nonprofit or charitable organization doing business in New York, which would see them expelled from any participation of the ENR.

LaPierre has defended himself, saying in previous testimony that sailing around the Bahamas on a salesman’s 108-foot (33-meter) yacht was a “safe haven” because he faced threats after the Sandy Hook and Parkland shootings. LaPierre also moved to purchase a $6.5 million “safe house” for himself and his wife in Texas through the NRA after the Parkland shooting, but the deal fell through, according to the lawsuit.

LaPierre admitted to failing to report yacht trips on conflict of interest forms and testified, “It’s one of the mistakes I’ve made.” Some travel-related expenses were reimbursed by the NRA, according to the lawsuit.

Phillip Journey, a former NRA board member who clashed with LaPierre and is expected to testify at the New York trial, said LaPierre’s resignation does not resolve the open issues before the court or fix the lingering rot within of the organization.

“Honestly, scammers are a snake with many heads and this is just one,” said Journey, a Kansas judge who is running to rejoin the NRA board.

Journey also testified in the NRA bankruptcy trial in Texas and said he anticipates there is enough evidence for James to prove his case. “It’s a tragic end to a career that had many high points,” Journey said of LaPierre’s resignation. “It’s something he did himself.”



Bleiberg reported from Dallas, Texas. Whitehurst reported from Washington, D.C.

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