NEW YORK — Wayne LaPierre, who has led the National Rifle Association for more than 30 years, turning it into a potent political force opposing gun control measures, announced his resignation Friday.
The move by LaPierre, a 74-year-old who was born in upstate New York, came on the eve of a corruption trial he faces in Manhattan. The trial is part of a long-running campaign by state Attorney General Letitia James against the NRA.
“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,” he added.
The NRA said LaPierre, who appeared in court for jury selection this week, cited health reasons in his decision to step down. The later years of his tenure leading the NRA were marred by scandal — with the pro-gun group accused of profligate spending — and frustrations over falling membership.
LaPierre is scheduled to officially exit his post as chief executive on Jan. 31, according to the NRA. Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA’s head of general operations, is slated to replace LaPierre on an interim basis.
In 2021, the NRA, which is a tax-exempt nonprofit, declared bankruptcy and sought to reincorporate in Texas. The bankruptcy claim was later rejected by a federal bankruptcy court in Texas.
James sued the NRA in 2020, seeking the dissolution of the group and accusing it of using NRA funds for lavish personal uses. The attorney general’s case has been narrowed by a judge in the years since.
Still, James, a Brooklyn Democrat, continues to seek penalties against the gun group. Another top goal of the attorney general had been the ouster of LaPierre.
LaPierre’s resignation was not secured through any agreement between him and the attorney general’s office, said Delaney Kempner, a spokeswoman for James. The attorney general said her case would proceed.
“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. “LaPierre’s resignation validates our claims against him, but it will not insulate him or the NRA from accountability.”
She added that all New York charities must follow the law and that she will “not tolerate gross mismanagement or top executives funneling millions into their own pockets.”
The NRA said in a statement Friday that it is “committed to good governance” and that it has worked to remove from its staff any “disgraced” insiders.
The Wall Street Journal first reported LaPierre’s planned exit. The NRA said LaPierre tendered his resignation to its president, Charles Cotton.
The NRA was founded in New York in 1871, and once supported many gun safety regulations, including those targeted at the trafficking of firearms. As late as the 1990s, it spent heavily to support Democratic congressional candidates.
But it tied its mast to the Republican Party in recent decades, tilting away from a more bipartisan posture and becoming a boogeyman in liberals eyes’ under LaPierre’s lightning rod leadership. He has resisted any attempts to link America’s most brutal mass shootings to firearm availability.
After a gunman carrying an AR-15 rifle stormed into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012, LaPierre’s message was firm and clear.
“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he asserted at news conference in late 2012.
Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, a Florida Democrat, said Friday on social media that LaPierre’s NRA has been a driver of the “massacre of children and teens across the country.”
The NRA grades lawmakers on their friendliness toward relaxed gun rules. Now, many Democrats across the U.S. covet an F.
Despite the internal turmoil gripping his group, LaPierre has seen major victories for his cause in recent years. In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court even struck down a century-old concealed handgun law in New York, finding that it violated the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
And Democratic-led efforts to resurrect the nation’s assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, have been rendered a political pipe dream of the left.
Now, the NRA is set to head into an uncertain future, without the man who has helmed it since 1991.
“I hope that many of his acolytes will decide it’s time for them to retire as well,” said Mark Bryant, the director of the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks rates of gun carnage in the U.S. “Watching him leave — that’s maybe a step toward moderation.”
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