New York, NY – Wayne LaPierre’s upcoming civil trial poses a significant threat to the National Rifle Association (NRA) despite his recent resignation from the organization. LaPierre, who led the NRA as its executive vice president for over 30 years, announced his departure just as jury selection was concluding.
LaPierre, along with two other current and former NRA leaders, as well as the organization itself, are facing a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James in 2020. The lawsuit alleges that they violated nonprofit laws and misused millions of dollars of NRA funds for personal gain.
Over the course of the next six weeks, the jury will hear from approximately 120 witnesses. If the defendants are found liable, they will be required to repay the NRA. Additionally, State Supreme Court Judge Joel Cohen, who will determine monetary damages and remedies, may decide to permanently bar the defendants from serving on the board of any charity in New York and appoint an independent monitor to oversee the NRA’s finances.
Although LaPierre’s resignation has already taken effect, the trial outcome still holds significant implications. Gun safety advocate Shannon Watts believes that the NRA “needs to be taken down at the studs.” The trial could potentially lead to far-reaching consequences, as it may expose the mismanagement of the organization and prompt further reforms.
The lawsuit specifically targets LaPierre, accusing him of diverting millions of dollars from the NRA’s charitable mission for personal expenses such as private jets, expensive meals, and trips to the Bahamas. The attorney general alleges that LaPierre spent over $500,000 of NRA assets on trips to the Bahamas for himself and his family. The other defendants, Wilson “Woody” Phillips and John Frazer, are also accused of violating nonprofit laws and contributing to the NRA’s loss of more than $64 million in three years.
Notably, former NRA president Oliver North and former top lobbyist Chris Cox are among the witnesses for the plaintiffs. Their testimonies could shed light on alleged financial improprieties within the organization.
Membership in the NRA has dwindled in recent years, with a decrease from nearly 6 million to 4.2 million individuals. The organization’s influence in the political sphere has also waned. Additionally, an audit filed as part of the lawsuit showed a $14 million drop in membership dues from 2021 to 2022.
The outcome of this trial could have significant ramifications for the NRA and its future operations. While LaPierre’s resignation is already in effect, the trial may expose the organization’s mismanagement and lead to reforms in the way it operates. The verdict could potentially permanently bar the defendants from serving on any charity board in New York and provide further oversight of the NRA’s finances. The trial represents a pivotal moment in the NRA’s history, allowing a closer examination of its operations and potentially impacting the gun lobby’s future.