LaPierre helped supercharge the gunning of America, even as he and the NRA skillfully blamed America’s gun problem on everyone but themselves. … Over the course of 30 years, tragedy after tragedy should have brought with it, as it did elsewhere, the most minimal and common-sense of regulations. Instead, Americans now live in a country with more guns than people. Call it Wayne’s world. — Andrew C. McKevitt
Misdirecting tens of millions of donor dollars to fund the lavish lifestyles of chief executive Wayne LaPierre and other top executives, as New York State Attorney General Letitia James alleges, is hardly the worst of the National Rifle Association’s atrocities.
But in suing the NRA for financial corruption, even if she doesn’t win the case, James has stricken the most effective blow in decades against one of the most poisonous influences in recent American history.
Days before James’ lawsuit went to trial in New York City this week, LaPierre resigned from the NRA after more than 30 years.
He leaves a legacy of unspeakable, senseless violence that has claimed the lives of more than a million Americans over the past 30 years.
Under LaPierre’s leadership, the NRA was transformed from a sportsman’s organization dedicated to improving marksmanship to the nation’s most brutally effective industry lobbying group. No organization has done more to drive a stake into the heart of bipartisanship and deepen the cultural divide.
In 1994, when LaPierre’s influence had just begun to permeate Congress, 46 House Republicans and seven Senate Republicans voted for the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which included a 10-year ban on assault weapons.
It’s impossible to imagine a single Congressional Republican making that vote in recent years, when an “A” rating from the NRA was an iron-clad prerequisite for any candidate seeking a legislative or executive office. Even many Democrats were reluctant to antagonize the group by voting for common-sense gun safety measures. The last congressional election in 2022 was the first time in 25 years that not a single Democratic candidate for Congress anywhere in the country received an “A” rating.
Desperate to prove their fealty to LaPierre’s NRA, right-wing politicians distribute Christmas cards featuring their children brandishing weapons of war.
In April 2019, The Trace, in partnership with The New Yorker, published an expose of the NRA’s misuse of assets and reckless spending. In August 2020, AG James sued NRA, LaPierre and other top executives, charging them with “illegal conduct because of their diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.”
According to the lawsuit, LaPierre spent hundreds of thousands of NRA dollars on private plane trips for himself and his family and millions on unwarranted travel consultants.
Ironically, the man who hoodwinked millions of Americans with the myth that carrying a gun would protect them from crime spent millions on private security for himself and his family.
Greed, of course — and not just LaPierre’s — is at the heart of the nation’s gun violence epidemic. Thanks to legislation the NRA pushed through Congress, the gun industry rakes in $9 billion a year and faces no accountability for the tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars that gun violence costs taxpayers.
If AG James’ lawsuit is successful, the NRA will be dissolved. But even if the only outcome is LaPierre’s resignation, she will have done more this year to stem the bloodshed of gun violence than any of LaPierre’s congressional devotees in the past 30 years.
Morial is president/CEO of the National Urban League.