Wayne LaPierre’s decades-long tenure as the head of the National Rifle Association is coming to an end. Fox News was first to report on LaPierre’s resignation, which is set to take effect at the end of the month, and comes as jury selection is underway in New York in a trial brought by state Attorney General Letitia James accusing him and other NRA leaders of misspending tens of millions of dollars of the organization’s money.
The NRA board is currently meeting in Dallas, and president Charles Cotton announced on Friday that he’d accepted LaPierre’s resignation, with the 74-year-old citing his health as the reason for his retirement. Andrew Arulunundum, who was the longtime director of public affairs for NRA-ILA before he was recently named head of General Operations for the association, will be taking over as interim CEO and executive vice president.
“On behalf of the NRA Board of Directors, I thank Wayne LaPierre for his service. Wayne has done as much to protect Second Amendment freedom as anyone,” Cotton said according to the press release. “Wayne is a towering figure in the fight for constitutional freedom, but one of his other talents is equally important: he built an organization that is bigger than him. Under the direction of Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA will continue to thrive – with a renewed energy in our business operations and grassroots advocacy. Our future is bright and secure.”
Despite the legal and financial woes it has faced, the NRA has remained active in both lobbying and litigation efforts in recent years; including helping to fund the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case. In fact, next Monday the New Mexico Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by the NRA and other groups challenging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s attempt to ban concealed carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.
Still, the organization has been beset by legal and financial troubles over the past few years, including an estimated 52 percent decline in overall revenue since 2016. The organization still brought in more than $200 million in 2022, but membership dues have seen a substantial drop, and legal fees have eaten up tens of millions of dollars since James first announced her lawsuit against the organization and its leadership. The blog NRA in Danger, which has been highly critical of current leadership, reported in November that net assets (assets minus debts) declined from $77 million to $41 million between 2021 and 2022. That’s had a huge impact across the organization, with both General Operations (basically, all of the NRA’s non-political work) and ILA receiving big cuts to their budgets.
In comparison to 2018, the last year before the scandals broke: revenues then were $352 million, expenditures $355 million, net assets $197 million. In five years, NRA’s revenues have fallen by 40% and net assets have fallen by 81%. Over those five years, ILA’s budget has fallen from $32 million to $6.8 million!
LaPierre is still receiving over $1.1 million a year, and Marion Hammer $220,000. Tyler Schropp, head of Advancement got $854,000 (by comparison, the head of ILA got $498,000).
NRA spent $40 million on legal expenses, of which $23 million went to the Brewer law firm. NRA spent only $6.8 million on ILA, in contrast. NRA is spending nearly four times as much on the Brewer law firm as it is on all lobbying/political work combined.
James originally sought to have the NRA dissolved, but the judge overseeing the case has ruled out that possibility while still leaving NRA leadership open to having to pay back any funds a jury determines were inappropriately spent. James was seeking LaPierre’s removal, which is now a moot issue, but she’s also trying to have an “independent” monitor appointed who would oversee the NRA’s finances for an undetermined amount of time going forward, and it’s unclear whether LaPierre’s resignation makes that a less likely possibility. Reporter Danny Hakim of the New York Times reports that LaPierre’s resignation is not part of a deal with James, though there are signs that other defendants, including one-time Director of General Operations Josh Powell, are seeking to reach some type of resolution with the AG before opening statements in the trial take place.
It’s hard for me to write about this with any degree of impartiality given the fifteen years I spent hosting Cam & Co on NRA News and NRATV until the demise of that operation in 2019. I was never an NRA employee, but worked closely with a wide variety of NRA staffers from both the Institute for Legislative Action and General Operations, and I think I’ve been upfront in my belief that a change in leadership has been needed for some time as the organization has laid off large numbers of staffers and scaled back its operations. My honest reaction to today’s news is hope that this truly is the start of a new and brighter chapter of the National Rifle Association’s 153-year history and that a new generation of leaders will emerge to guide the NRA going forward in defense of our right to keep and bear arms. It remains to be seen whether that will happen, but there’s at least an opportunity now to both bring in some new blood and bring back some of the champions of the Second Amendment who’ve departed over the past few years.