NRA kicks off annual meeting as board considers successor to longtime leader Wayne LaPierre


DALLAS — The National Rifle Association is kicking off its annual meeting Friday in downtown Dallas, gathering for the first time in decades without Wayne LaPierre at the helm as board members prepare to elect his replacement.

Though beset by financial troubles and following a trial in which a jury found LaPierre misspent millions of the NRA’s money, the group remains a political force. Upwards of 70,000 people are expected at the three-day event with a scheduled speech by former President Donald Trump, seminars, receptions and acres of guns and gear.

A board of directors meeting on Monday is expected to include elections of LaPierre’s replacement and other officers.

“The immediate question is: Who leads the organization and what direction do they go in the post-Wayne LaPierre NRA?” asked Robert Spitzer, a professor emeritus at the State University of New York-Cortland who has written several books on gun policies.

“They have suffered a series of blows, mostly caused by their own corruption,” Spitzer said.

Trump is set to address members Saturday. At the organization’s Great American Outdoor Show earlier this year, he told those gathered that if he is reelected, “no one will lay a finger on your firearms.”

A New York jury in February found LaPierre wrongly used millions of dollars of the organization’s money to pay for an extravagant lifestyle that included exotic getaways and trips on private planes and superyachts. LaPierre resigned as executive vice president and chief executive officer on the eve of the trial.

The jury said LaPierre must repay almost $4.4 million to the NRA, while the organization’s retired finance chief, Wilson Phillips, owed $2 million. The NRA failed to properly manage its assets, omitted or misrepresented information in its tax filings and violated whistleblower protections under New York law, jurors found.

After reporting a $36 million deficit in 2018 fueled largely by misspending, the NRA cut back on longstanding programs that had been core to its mission, including training and education, recreational shooting and law enforcement initiatives.

The NRA filed for bankruptcy in 2021, but a judge dismissed the case, ruling it was not filed in good faith.

LaPierre had led the NRA’s day-to-day operations since 1991, acting as its face and becoming one of the country’s most influential figures in shaping gun policy. A fiery proponent of gun rights, he once warned of “jack-booted government thugs” seizing guns and condemned gun-control advocates as “opportunists” who “exploit tragedy for gain.”

Andrew Arulanandam, a top NRA lieutenant who served as LaPierre’s spokesperson, has taken on his leadership roles on an interim basis.

Phillip Journey, a newly reelected member of NRA’s board, said he is among those trying to elect new leadership with hopes that the organization will become more transparent.

“I want to reestablish the trust that the membership has lost in the current leadership and I think that we need to make the board understand that they can speak their mind and not be punished,” said Journey, a Kansas judge, adding that the organization is “at a great crossroads.”

As the NRA meeting opens in Dallas, it has been a year since a neo-Nazi opened fire at a mall in the Dallas suburb of Allen, killing eight people before a police officer ended the rampage.

The organization’s annual meeting last year in Indianapolis fell on the second anniversary of the mass shooting at a FedEx facility in the same city that left nine people dead, only days after mass shootings at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, and a bank in Louisville, Kentucky.

At the 2023 meeting, top Republican hopefuls for the 2024 presidential race vowed to defend the Second Amendment at all costs.

In 2022, the NRA held its annual meeting in Texas just days after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde. Those taking the stage that year in Houston denounced the massacre while insisting further restrictions on access to firearms were not the answer.

One week after a gunman killed 26 people, mostly children, in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, LaPierre gave a defiant speech saying more gun laws weren’t the answer and called for armed guards at schools. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.



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