Wayne LaPierre, the former head of the National Rifle Association (NRA) took the stand on Friday in a financial misconduct trial that not only places his leadership under scrutiny, but could very well determine the future of the gun rights advocacy group.
The trial is the result of a civil suit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James alleging widespread financial wrongdoing on the part of LaPierre, other members of the organization’s leadership, and the NRA itself. While the attorney general insists that this effort is intended to hold LaPierre and the NRA accountable, other details suggest a motive that is more political in nature.
Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s longtime leader, confirmed under oath in a New York City courtroom Friday that he used the organization’s financial resources on chartered private jets, family trips, black car services and high-end gifts for friends.
LaPierre, 74, other NRA leaders and the organization itself are fending off a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James in 2020 that alleges they violated nonprofit laws and redirected millions of dollars of NRA funds for personal use.
He took the stand Friday morning for the first time, answering most questions with a simple “yes” or “no.” Citing health issues, he has previously said that he intends to resign at the end of the month from the gun rights group, which he has led for more than 30 years as its executive vice president.
LaPierre testified that he had no knowledge of the large sums the NRA was spending on chartered private planes and black car services, though he did not dispute the dollar figures when presented with invoices and receipts.
He confirmed under oath that NRA funds were used to bankroll a flight from the Bahamas to Washington, D.C., in 2017 that cost more than $22,000, for example. He conceded that NRA rules mandate that employees fly coach.
LaPierre and his wife are also believed to have received gifts from a contractor.
Another N.R.A. contractor, Ackerman McQueen, bought Mr. LaPierre’s wife, Susan, a MacBook Pro, an iPad Pro and an iPod, evidence showed. Mr. LaPierre also billed the organization for a number of pricey gifts, including a $1,260 handbag and $860 in candlesticks for the McKenzies. He charged more than $250,000 to a clothing boutique in Beverly Hills, Calif., over several years, and even billed the N.R.A. $800 a year for mosquito treatment in his backyard.
However, New York’s district attorney’s office isn’t merely seeking to punish LaPierre and others involved in the alleged misconduct. In 2020, James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the NRA, alleging that the organization diverted millions from its operations to fund personal endeavors.
If the district attorney simply wished to hold people accountable for mismanaging funds, she could have simply pursued that angle. But the fact that she seeks to use this matter to shut down the NRA is telling – she is not exactly a proponent of gun rights. In December 2023, James’ office released a statement lauding a court ruling keeping the state’s restrictive concealed carry requirements in place.
Today’s decision allows a majority of New York’s concealed carry requirements to stay in effect pending decisions in the lower courts. The concealed carry permit requirements upheld in today’s decision include the requirement to demonstrate good moral character and to disclose household and family members on a permit application. In addition, the decision upholds the ban on concealed carry in all sensitive places with the exception of places of worship. The decision also allows all private property owners, including owners of places of worship, to prohibit firearms on their property, including through the postage of signs. The requirements for an in-person interview, character references, and 16 hours of training are also still in effect.
This appears to be yet another way to push an anti-gun agenda by targeting the most well-known gun rights advocacy group in the country. If the effort succeeds, James could add taking down the NRA onto her resume as she seeks higher office. For someone like her, the opportunity is just too good to pass up.