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Sunday, March 10, 2024

For the first time, the NRA can’t buy their way out of this problem.

Good riddance to Wayne LaPierre—and hopefully soon the entire NRA

HUDSON MUNOZ in Common Dreams

By Clay Bennett
After a 30-year reign of terror and corruption, not even the NRA wants anything to do with their long-time leader, Wayne LaPierre.

In their opening arguments of the civil trial in New York—where a jury recently found LaPierre and the NRA liable for corruption—an attorney for the gun lobby said “The NRA is not this man” and called LaPierre’s resignation a “course correction.” 

No wonder they’d want one: The NRA is worse by every measure today than it was three decades ago when LaPierre turned the former sportsmen’s club into a radical political lobbying group. 

He is the architect behind the nation’s gun violence epidemic, leading the NRA’s reckless and profit-driven quest to put guns in the hands of as many Americans as possible that has stained its reputation beyond repair—all while abusing the meaning of the Second Amendment to selfishly line his own pockets. For his efforts, today, the NRA is broke, rudderless, and in serious legal jeopardy.

The NRA has lost over a million members. Membership dues are down by $14 million. And their lobbying influence has been waning since 2015.

Perhaps the only measure on which they’ve been successful is the amount of firepower pumped into our communities. Yearly gun sales are now roughly twice the level they were 15 or 20 years ago, and the tragic toll of gun-related deaths has skyrocketed with it. 

Under LaPierre’s watch, the number of gun suicides and gun murders reached record highs and active shooter incidents became drastically more common across the country-–-about seven times more common than in Canada, and 340 times more common than in the United Kingdom.

During this time, the NRA slowly lost the support of America. As gun violence shattered more and more families, public sentiment turned on them. A majority of U.S. adults now say gun laws should be stricter. 

About a third (32%) of parents with K-12 students say they are very or extremely worried about a shooting ever happening at their children’s school. And six in 10 Americans (61%) say it is too easy to legally obtain a gun in this country.

We’ve watched mass shooting after mass shooting devastate communities across the nation, from Orlando to El Paso to Boulder to Lewiston–each event and each death presenting an opportunity for the NRA to muster an ounce of courage and change the gun culture in this country that they single-handedly controlled. How did they respond instead?

On December 14, 2012, after a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six staff members at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, LaPierre coined his infamous "good guy with a gun” argument. 

A decade later when nineteen children and two adults were killed in the deadliest school shooting in Texas history at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, the NRA held their annual convention across the state in Houston days later defending Americans' right to own a gun.

The NRA is no longer the political powerhouse it once was, but the damage done is irreparable. The notion of a course correction is so far from possible. No reasonable person with any ambition would want to take LaPierre's job and inherit the mess he leaves behind—the personal reputation and professional risk are too high.

We would send our thoughts and prayers to LaPierre—but, this isn’t just about him. The gun violence prevention movement and the survivors of armed violence cannot move on, and neither can he. Every empty seat at the dinner table. Every birthday-turned-anniversary. Every stolen milestone. He will always hold responsibility. The scars of his legacy are irreparable and his damage to the organization makes it unsalvageable.

We wish we could give LaPierre all the credit for the downfall of the NRA—but, proudly, the gun violence prevention movement played a role as well. Guns Down America has fought back against the NRA and LaPierre’s agenda since our inception, from leading the “murder insurance” effort that fined the NRA $7 million to influencing Wells Fargo to break ties with the NRA contributing to the steady decline in relevance and influence.

For the first time, the NRA can’t buy their way out of this problem. So as one last parting gift to the organization in decline, we’ll offer them a free piece of advice: Sell your gun range at HQ in Virginia—maybe you’ll be able to afford your legal fees.

HUDSON MUNOZ is a veteran research and public relations expert who previously led Amalgamated Bank’s effort to establish a merchant category code for gun and ammunition stores. He brings expertise on the intersection of finance and the firearms industry to the movement to end gun violence to Guns Down America as the organization's Executive Director.