2022 – NRA members give Leader Lapierre a Reuters vote of confidence despite the fighting

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© Reuters. National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne Laperer speaks at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during the National Rifle Association (NRA) annual conference in Houston, Texas, US on May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

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By Arathi Sumasekhar and Daniel Trotta

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Members of the National Rifle Association overwhelmingly backed its longtime leader Wayne Lapierre with a vote of confidence on Saturday, even as the Defense Gun Association battles allegations that millions of dollars have been misspent.

The NRA holds its annual meeting in Houston, about 450 kilometers east of where Tuesday’s mass shooting occurred when an 18-year-old man armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle killed 19 children and teachers at an elementary school in Texas .

As they mourn the tragedy of Ovaldi, Texas, the group’s leadership, rank and file have remained steadfast in their defense of Second Amendment rights to the rifle.

The vote of confidence came before the NRA board of directors voted Monday on whether to renew LaPierre as executive vice president, which he is expected to win.

Meanwhile, about 100 demonstrators outside the conference hall chanted, “Get the guns under control now.”

“The NRA family mourns the residents of Ovaldi and Texas,” LaPierre, who is also the group’s CEO, said in a statement. “I am grateful for the tremendous support from our members as I join them in advocating to protect our schools, improve mental health services and support the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.”

If LaPierre survives Monday’s vote, as expected, he could still be ousted by New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose lawsuit against the NRA aims to remove him from office.

James filed the lawsuit in 2020, alleging that NRA leaders paid for family trips to the Bahamas, private planes, and expensive meals and clothing, which helped reduce the authority’s balance sheet by $64 million over three years and left the surplus turning into a deficit.

In March, a New York judge rejected James’ request to dissolve the NRA, but said it could pursue other objectives in the lawsuit, including ousting Pierre.

The NRA says it has made a “track correction” by increasing oversight, encouraging whistleblowers, and reimbursing LaPierre for the group’s personal property expenses.

At Saturday’s hearing, a resolution supporting LaPierre’s leadership past, present and future was overwhelmingly supported by a few hundred of the group’s 5 million members who gathered in Houston.

In a show of hands, almost everyone in the room supported LaPierre. Only a few voted against the resolution.

During the discussion, Nejer Innes, a life member of the NRA from Las Vegas, said: “I pray that you (Lapier) remain in this job for as long as humanly possible.

Some of the people who opposed the proposal received intermittent applause and boos.

“For the past several years, I (Pierre) have questioned and shamed the NRA,” said Robert Bryan of Arkansas.

Dwayne Beckham, another lifelong member of the NRA, said he stopped being a shepherd for fear of misuse of his money.

But Steve Irwin of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said he continues to support the NRA because it gives him “my best profit” and has embraced his views on gun rights.