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The National Rifle Association has laid off dozens of employees, canceled its national convention and scaled back on fundraising, membership and shooting events just months before the presidential election and during an unprecedented pandemic, as gun advocates are fighting to flex their Second Amendment rights despite restrictions due to COVID-19.
Dozens of employees have been furloughed, others have had their workweek reduced to four days and senior staff members have seen their salaries slashed by 20 percent.
“The cancellation of the annual meeting had a significant financial impact but, beyond that, the health crisis has caused us to postpone countless fundraising and membership events along with competitions, training seminars and other revenue streams — those disruptions are the primary drivers of our decision-making process,” Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the NRA, said. “Like every other business and nonprofit, we are forced to make tough choices in this new economic environment.”
CEO Wayne LaPierre said the cuts and changes were intended to be temporary, but the NRA has long faced challenges due to uphill regulatory battles; marketing setbacks; internal battles about LaPierre’s salary, leadership and spending habits; and public outcries over gun legislation after a string of mass shootings across the country.
Along with this slew of issues, the NRA has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of gun-shop owners who have been forced to close due to the coronavirus, as state lawmakers deemed they did not fall into the bracket of essential businesses.
In Michigan, a group of protesters, many of them armed, stormed the state’s Capitol to condemn the restrictions.
“Defending freedom has never been easy. Over the years, we’ve weathered more tough times than most,” LaPierre said in an email to NRA employees, obtained by The Associated Press. “But, we will rise from this stronger and well positioned to lead the fight to protect our Second Amendment, the First Amendment, and all our constitutional freedoms during the crucial upcoming elections and for years to come.”
Still, the financial troubles looming over other issues within the group raised questions about the influence the NRA could have in President Trump’s reelection attempt.
In 2016, the NRA spent $30 million toward his campaign but was outspent during the midterms by several other gun-control groups.
Save the Second, a group of NRA members seeking changes to the organization, called the recent cutbacks the result of poor choices over many years, not just the coronavirus.
In a recent email to its followers, the group disputed putting blame on the pandemic: “Mr. LaPierre, if your organization was squeaky clean and ethically ran, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.