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Wayne LaPierre resigns from the NRA : NPR

Wayne LaPierre, Chief Executive Officer and executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, delivers a speech at the NRA convention in Indianapolis in April.

Darron Cummings/AP

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Darron Cummings/AP

Wayne LaPierre, CEO and executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, delivers a speech at the NRA convention in Indianapolis in April.

Darron Cummings/AP

The longtime leader of what was once the nation’s most influential gun rights organization is departing his position just a few days before the commencement of a civil trial over allegations of misconduct and maladministration.

Wayne LaPierre resigns as he and other former NRA officials face accusations of misusing millions from the charity to fund lavish lifestyles that included private jets, luxury holidays, and expensive dining. LaPierre has rejected those claims in a New York court.

In a statement Friday, NRA President Charles Cotton stated that LaPierre, who is 74, is stepping down for health reasons. The gun group indicates that it will continue to defend itself in the lawsuit brought by New York State.

LaPierre will vacate his position at the end of the month.

“With pride in all that we have achieved, I am announcing my resignation from the NRA,” LaPierre said in a statement on the NRA’s website.

“I’ve been a card-carrying member of this organization for most of my adult life, and I will never stop backing the NRA and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom. My dedication to our cause burns as deeply as ever.”

In reaction to the news of LaPierre’s imminent departure, New York Attorney General Letitia James labeled the end of the Wayne LaPierre era “a significant triumph” but pledged to continue the legal case against the gun rights lobby.

“LaPierre’s resignation validates our claims against him, but it will not insulate him or the NRA from accountability,” James stated in a release. “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,” she said adding, “Our case will move ahead, and we look forward to proving the facts in court.”

The trial is set to begin on Monday. James’s lawsuit aims to prohibit LaPierre and the other executives from holding leadership positions in any not-for-profit or charitable organization operating in New York.

For more than three decades LaPierre has shaped the NRA’s forceful position against nearly every effort to regulate firearms even in the face of horrific mass shootings at schools and malls that have become painfully routine in the U.S.

He set the tone upon taking control of the NRA leadership in 1991, cautioning that “authoritarian government agents” were coming after the guns of law-abiding Americans under the guise of controlling gun violence. He later criticized those who support gun control measures in the aftermath of mass shootings as “opportunists” who “exploit tragedy for gain.”

LaPierre played the leading role in expanding NRA’s power and influence as a lobbying and political force. He enlisted celebrities including film star Charlton Heston to make powerful, emotional appeals that any effort to limit gun ownership and sales amounted to an unconstitutional infringement of Second Amendment rights.

In 2000, Heston, who at the time was the president of the NRA in a largely ceremonial role, told NRA convention goers that Democrats and other gun control proponents were enemies of freedom. With LaPierre smiling nearby, Heston then raised a replica flintlock long rifle above his head and declared what would become a popular five-word NRA slogan in the LaPierre era: “From my cold, dead hands!”

But in recent years the NRA has been deeply shaken by financial troubles, dwindling membership and ongoing questions about LaPierre’s leadership and spending. The turmoil alienated some longtime rank-and-file members as concerns about the direction of the organization grew.

The group’s financial woes forced it to scale back many popular programs including educational outreach, initiatives with law enforcement and support for shooting sports events.

An NRA effort in 2021 to declare bankruptcy failed. A federal bankruptcy judge dismissed the case, ruling that the gun rights group had not filed it in good faith.

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