The NRA Lawsuit Jury Verdict and What It Means

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Wayne LaPierre, former Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association
Wayne LaPierre, former Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association

The results of this week’s civil trial against the NRA comes as no surprise to most members. Especially, life members, who have watched the organization change in the effectiveness of its mission over the last few decades under the leadership of now-former president, Wayne LaPierre. LaPierre resigned his tenured position as Executive Vice President in January of this year.

On Friday, February 23, a New York jury determined that the NRA and LaPierre, collectively (along with retired finance chief, Wilson Phillips) are responsible for $6.6 million in damages and a laundry list of other violations, including:

  • misappropriation of funds
  • violation of state whistleblower policy
  • violation of duties
  • making false statements in regulatory filings

Members have been decrying these actions for decades, noting opulent, public expenditures by leadership. Just as importantly, members are upset that the mismanagement has led to the watering down of the NRAs fundamental mission of gun advocacy, marksmanship, safety, education, and competency. The NRA cut funding to programs over the years as it experienced budgetary shortfalls (it filed for bankruptcy in 2021), and has been conspicuously late to support important Second Amendment lawsuits, often led by smaller, lesser known gun rights organizations.

Although the NRA has primarily been a gun-rights group throughout its 153-year tenure, they have at times supported some anti-gun measures, restrictions and permitting requirements, provoking ire from those in the Second Amendment community. In 2017, they took heavy criticism for taking a position that the ATF should be able to regulate bump stocks, although they stopped short of backing a ban.

It’s almost impossible to go to a Second Amendment event or shooting range without hearing justifiable criticism of the NRA from upset members and gun enthusiasts of every walk of life.

Despite all their perceived wrongdoings, it should be noted that the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against the NRA was most certainly politically motivated. Letitia James brought the lawsuit in 2020, and attempted to take the unprecedented step of ending the NRA forever. Making her bias clear during her 2018 campaign for AG, she called the NRA a “terrorist organization” and “criminal enterprise.”

She made the following statement in a press release: “The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.” In response, Manhattan Judge Joel Cohen dismissed the motion on numerous grounds:

In short, the Complaint does not allege the type of public harm that is the legal linchpin for imposing the “corporate death penalty.” Moreover, dissolving the NRA could impinge, at least indirectly, on the free speech and assembly rights of its millions of members.

The NRA attempted a legal side-step of the lawsuit when it declared bankruptcy in 2021 and attempted reincorporating in Texas but was blocked by a federal bankruptcy judge who ruled it “was not filed in good faith,” in light of the New York investigation and lawsuit.

Back to 2024.

Predictably, nearly every left-leaning media outlet and anti-gun group is celebrating the jury verdict against the NRA, asserting that the dirty laundry and nefarious activities are the death knell of gun rights advocacy and that the findings somehow impugn its 5 million members. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

First, the jury findings have quite literally nothing to do with the law-abiding members who have supported the organization. In fact, members have long advocated for the house-cleaning the lawsuit actions motivated, starting with the stepping down of LaPierre.

But what are we to make of the jury decision in the context of the public eye, and what does the future of the NRA look like going forward?

The very carefully-worded press release issued by the NRA itself in response to the verdict gives us a few clues:

The trial represented a victory for free speech.

The government can’t just kill a civil rights organization it dislikes. Had Attorney General James had her way, the NRA would be done, disenfranchising millions of law-abiding members who lean on the organization to defend their Second Amendment rights.

Thankfully, the government was checked from an overreach that would effectively have been a silencing of free speech. According to the NRA, “…the government was forced to drop half of its whistleblower allegations for lack of evidence, along with a number of conflict-of-interest claims.”

The bad apples are out.

Like any large organization, bad leadership, or even malicious leadership, can undermine the collective, positive efforts and intentions of its members. The NRA subtly acknowledged this in their statement, perhaps too softly for current members:

With respect to other individual defendants, the jury found Mr. LaPierre and Mr. Phillips violated their statutory obligations to discharge the duties of their position in good faith and with care.

The tacit acknowledgment of their failures as leaders is obvious to members, but should never have taken a civil suit to remedy, in the eyes of many..

Failures are being addressed.

Can we look forward to more transparency and accountability under the new leadership? This suit has shown an intense spotlight into the heart of the nation’s largest gun-rights organization and they will now be facing increased scrutiny from law enforcement, anti-gunners and more importantly, members. It seems to have already taken some positive steps in this direction. Even before the trial verdict, the NRA implemented the following reforms, according to a statement they made:

In furtherance of its governance reforms, the NRA terminated a string of vendors, including Ackerman McQueen/Mercury Group, Associated Television, International, Under Wild Skies, and a travel consultancy. It canceled consulting arrangements with certain NRA board members, adopted a new whistleblower policy in 2020, and recently hired a new compliance manager.

Reputation management, especially in a crisis, revolves around the close connection between words and actions. Make your apology, and follow it with actions that underpin your sincerity. Not once, or twice, but consistently, and every time.

The only way the NRA will win back the hearts and minds of members is to about-face and march forward with renewed commitment to its original goal: the protection of Second Amendment rights.

We know that members of the Second Amendment community will be closely watching in the months and years to come. And we know that we have multiple, capable groups that are fighting to protect our Second Amendment rights through lawsuits, advocacy, education and community service. It’s our hope that the NRA will start to work more closely together with these groups to underpin our rights for generations to come. And if it does so, it could see its membership swell to record levels.

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I agree 100% with this article. Surprisingly I don’t know how the NRA shills didn’t ban this link on Reddit.njguns, but they may have. They banned my NRA comments that just presented opinion and some facts. The problem is just not just Wayne’s $2 million salary but 64 million in administrative expenses. The board of directors did NOTHING about this.
The NRA was chartered as a charitable non-profit association and until they start performing like one, I can no longer support them.


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