(WASHINGTON) — Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, has announced he is resigning from the organization days before the start of a civil corruption trial.
LaPierre, 74, cited health reasons, according to the NRA. The resignation will be effective Jan. 31.
“With pride in all that we have accomplished, I am announcing my resignation from the NRA,” LaPierre said in a statement. “I’ve been a card-carrying member of this organization for most of my adult life, and I will never stop supporting the NRA and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom. My passion for our cause burns as deeply as ever.”
NRA President Charles Cotton said he had accepted LaPierre’s resignation during a board meeting on Friday.
Andrew Arulanandam, head of operations for the NRA, will become interim executive vice president.
New York Attorney General Letitia James accused LaPierre of gross negligence for allegedly diverting millions from the NRA for personal use, including for designer clothes, private planes and luxury goods. The accusations came at the end of three-year investigation into the NRA in August 2020.
“While the end of the Wayne LaPierre era is an important victory in our case, our push for accountability continues,” James said in a statement Friday. “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.”
The civil trial, slated to start Monday, will still go forward.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” James said at the time. “The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”
LaPierre said, at the time, the lawsuit was an “unconstitutional, premeditated attack aiming to dismantle and destroy the NRA — the fiercest defender of America’s freedom at the ballot box for decades.”
In the press release announcing LaPierre’s resignation, the NRA said, “With respect to the NYAG’s allegations, the NRA Board of Directors reports it has undertaken significant efforts to perform a self-evaluation, recommended termination of disgraced “insiders” and vendors who allegedly abused the Association, and accepted reimbursement, with interest, for alleged excess benefit transactions from LaPierre, as reported in public tax filings.”
LaPierre has served as executive vice president of the NRA, the country’s most prominent gun advocacy group, since 1991.
“On behalf of the NRA Board of Directors, I thank Wayne LaPierre for his service,” Cotton said in a statement. “Wayne has done as much to protect Second Amendment freedom as anyone. 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.”
LaPierre has long rankled critics of America’s gun violence problem as the NRA fought to prevent assault weapons bans and tougher background checks.
“The NRA has been in a doom spiral for years, and Wayne LaPierre’s resignation is yet another massive setback for an organization that’s already at rock bottom,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “LaPierre’s legacy will be one of corruption, mismanagement, and the untold destruction gun violence has brought to every American community. The NRA’s declining membership, finances, and political power spell disaster for the organization heading into the 2024 elections.”
“Thoughts and prayers to Wayne LaPierre,” Kris Brown, president of gun control group Brady, said in a statement. “He’s going to need them to be able to sleep at night. Wayne LaPierre spent three decades peddling the Big Lie that more guns make us safer — all at the expense of countless lives.”
He even has drawn condemnation from those within the NRA. Retired Lt. Col. Allen West, then a member of the Board of Directors, said in May 2019 that LaPierre should have resigned prior to that year’s convention in Indianapolis in April.
“It is imperative that the NRA cleans its own house,” West wrote in a blog post. “If we had done so in Indianapolis, much of this could have been rectified.”
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