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Wayne LaPierre, the gun rights lobbyist who has led the influential National Rifle Association for more than three decades, will step down from his role as chief executive at the end of the month in the face of a looming corruption trial in New York.
“With pride in all that we have accomplished, I am announcing my resignation from the NRA,” LaPierre, said in a statement on Friday.
“I’ve been a card-carrying member of this organisation 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.”
The NRA said LaPierre, 74, cited health reasons as a reason for his decision, and said Andrew Arulanandam, a longtime NRA executive, would take over as interim chief executive.
But LaPierre, who has been a driving force in loosening gun laws across America for decades, still faces mounting legal troubles as the subject of a lawsuit brought by New York state attorney-general Letitia James. The civil trial is scheduled to start next week.
James alleges top NRA officials siphoned off millions of dollars from the organisation for their own benefit. She is seeking to dissolve the lobbying group, remove LaPierre from his post and compel the officials to pay restitution.
LaPierre is one of four defendants in the civil case and denies any wrongdoing.
James said LaPierre’s resignation “validates our claims against him, but it will not insulate him or the NRA from accountability”. The case would move ahead, she added, “and we look forward to proving the facts in court”.
The NRA has long been a linchpin of the conservative movement in the US, wielding tremendous influence in Washington and across the country, especially among Republican lawmakers. The group has successfully lobbied for the unwinding of gun control laws and for years built up a sizeable war chest to back its favoured political candidates.
But the NRA has also been beset by infighting and legal and financial problems in recent years, including allegations of mismanagement by LaPierre. The NRA filed for bankruptcy in January 2021, but a federal judge dismissed the case later that year.
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