NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has turned the U.S. gun rights advocacy group into an aggressive political instrument. But the “death lobbyist,” as he has been labeled, is no longer invulnerable.
There are people in the United States who think of Wayne LaPierre as a hero — a proud patriot protecting the constitutionally guaranteed right of all Americans to own arms. There are also people who see in LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), America’s gun-owner organization, a criminal with blood on his hands — the “death lobbyist,” as he was once called.
According to Letitia James, attorney general of New York, LaPierre is simply a fraud. On Thursday, she filed a suit against him and other NRA operatives. The charges: LaPierre and his accomplices have allegedly been exploiting the organization for years by recklessly spending millions of dollars from membership fees and donations for fantastic salaries, luxury travels and other expenses. The NRA as a whole, according to James, is so corrupt and broken that it should be dissolved.
A chairman embezzling association funds is not unheard of. But LaPierre, 70, is not just a chairman and the NRA is not just an organization. The association with the eagle and the muskets in its crest, founded in 1871 and, by its own account, 5.5 million members strong, is one of the most influential lobby organizations in the United States. This is largely due to LaPierre’s efforts leading the NRA since 1991. He turned a sleepy marksmen’s club, offering safety courses and shooting lessons for gun owners, into an aggressive political instrument, which he uses mercilessly to defend the right to bear arms in the United States.
It’s true: This right is established in the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution and cannot simply be abolished. But the fact that, in the light of almost 40,000 gun deaths per year, it is politically near-impossible to implement legal and sensible restrictions can also be attributed to LaPierre, who stubbornly obstructs every attempt to do so. It was LaPierre who, in December 2012, just a few days after a young man shot and killed 20 grade-schoolers in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, made the recommendation to a nation in shock to arm all teachers in order to protect the children. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said back then. This sentence encapsulates his entire political program; to this day, he holds onto it after each new massacre.
During His Campaign, Trump Made a Pact with the NRA
For decades, his position made LaPierre one of the most influential, as well as feared, men in America. To take on the NRA was risky for a politician. Their endorsement, however, was worth a lot — the organization was able to provide donations and mobilize voters. Donald Trump, among others, has realized that; despite not being a huge fan of guns, during the 2016 election campaign, he made a politically beneficial pact with LaPierre and the NRA. That was one of the reasons why Trump won back then. Since that time, he grandstands as a big friend and defender of the second amendment.
But LaPierre is no longer invulnerable. Nowadays, Democratic candidates tend to be proud when the NRA sees them as an enemy. Conservative circles are voicing criticism as well, as LaPierre has moved the NRA politically further to the right and turned it into some kind of propaganda division for the Republican party’s Trump wing. The organization is no longer just a proponent for the right to bear arms, but has been repeating the whole paranoid, cheesily patriotic and often racist worldview of the Trumpists. On top of that, LaPierre’s debauchery is irritating a lot of members. It is therefore possible that death will have to find a new lobbyist.
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