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NRA Chief Wayne LaPierre Resigns Ahead of Civil Trial

The NRA’s leader captured headlines and shifted the conversation away from the gun industry after mass shootings

On Friday, the National Rifle Association’s longtime leader, Wayne LaPierre, 74, told board members that he was stepping down from his position as CEO and executive vice president for “health reasons.” The announcement came just days before a civil trial brought on by New York Attorney General Letitia James against the NRA and LaPierre was slated to begin.

The trial will focus on the NRA’s alleged corruption, financial mismanagement, and self-dealing, as detailed in a complaint James and her office filed in August 2020. LaPierre and other NRA executives allegedly “misappropriated millions of dollars to fund personal benefits, including private jets, expensive meals, and even family trips to the Bahamas.”

In a statement, James said, “While the end of the Wayne LaPierre era is an important victory in our case, our push for accountability continues. LaPierre’s resignation validates our claims against him, but it will not insulate him or the NRA from accountability. All charities in New York state must adhere to the rule of law, and my office will not tolerate gross mismanagement or top executives funneling millions into their own pockets. Our case will move ahead, and we look forward to proving the facts in court.”

Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA’s director of operations — and a longtime LaPierre loyalist — will serve as the organization’s interim CEO and EVP.

Gun Industry Support for the NRA

LaPierre, who joined the NRA as a lobbyist in 1977 before becoming CEO in 1991, helped build the organization into a powerful interest group working to relax gun regulations and prevent stronger laws from being enacted. He is perhaps best known for using extreme rhetoric to rally gun rights supporters — warning that “jack-booted government thugs” would confiscate weapons from law-abiding citizens, for example, and stating that only a “good guy with a gun” could prevent mass shootings.

Though its influence has waned since corruption allegations were first reported in 2019, the NRA still commands significant support from grassroots members, donors, and some of the gun industry’s largest manufacturers.

The NRA has ranked Taurus, a Brazilian gun maker with a U.S. subsidiary in Bainbridge, Georgia, as its top “Industry Ally.” The company includes a free NRA membership with every firearm it sells and is part of the NRA’s “Golden Ring of Freedom” for donating over $1 million to the organization. Taurus also sponsors NRA events and donates guns for Friends of NRA raffles. (Taurus subsidiary Heritage Manufacturing is also ranked sixth on the “Top 10 Industry Allies” list.)

When Taurus presented LaPierre with a giant “check” for 10,000 new NRA members at the 2003 NRA convention, LaPierre said, “No company has done any more than Taurus in working with the NRA to get our membership levels up.”

Ranking second and third on the NRA’s “Top 10 Industry Allies” are gun makers Ruger and Smith & Wesson, respectively. The publicly traded companies joined the NRA’s “Golden Ring of Freedom” in 2009 and 2012, and both recruit new members, sponsor NRA events, and donate firearms for Friends of NRA raffles.

Ruger also pledged to donate $1 to $2 from every firearm sold to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, “the lobbying arm” of the NRA, in 2011 and 2015. The “Million Gun Challenge” and “Two Million Gun Challenge” netted $1.2 and $4 million for the NRA-ILA, respectively. For its part, Smith & Wesson offers discounted NRA memberships and sells discounted gear to NRA members.

Glock, the country’s largest producer and importer of pistols by volume, is ranked fourth on the NRA’s list of “Top 10 Industry Allies” for sponsoring NRA events and helping recruit new members. In 2007, the NRA awarded Glock with an “NRA Member Recruitment Award for recruiting over 10,000 new members to the NRA,” and in 2017, Glock joined the NRA’s “Golden Ring of Freedom” for donating over $1 million to the organization.

Other “Premier NRA Industry Allies” include sporting goods retailer Bass Pro Shops, which has devoted a significant portion of its flagship Springfield, Missouri, location to the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum and in 2016 began sponsoring NASCAR’s “Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race”; online gun retailers Brownells and MidwayUSA; and gun makers Colt, Kahr Arms, and Springfield Armory. The NRA’s list of “allies” goes on to include dozens of other gun makers and sellers.