The National Rifle Association has laid off more than 60 employees in recent weeks, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
The move comes as the gun rights group faces acute financial challenges during the economic crunch caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The association recently took a large financial hit when the pandemic forced the NRA to cancel its massive annual meeting. The group often makes millions of dollars off the event, from the fees people pay to attend to the funds raised from the convention. Its cancellation appears to have wiped out that revenue.
A spokesman for the group did not dispute the layoffs when asked for comment.
"On March 22, it was announced and widely reported that the NRA would be implementing a number of permanent and temporary staff reductions along with other cost-cutting measures, just like many other corporations and nonprofits as a result of the extraordinary impacts from the Covid-19 crisis,” said Andrew Arulanandam, who heads the group's public affairs, referencing the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Arulanandam said that, in addition to canceling the annual convention, the coronavirus "has forced us to postpone many fundraising events and special programs." Still, he added, "Our leadership is deeply committed to the long-term viability of the NRA — and the protection of the freedoms for which our members stand, as well as the safety and well-being of our employees, members and community.”
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre told its board of directors last month that layoffs were coming and that it would cut remaining employees’ salaries, according to multiple reports. NPR reported that LaPierre, who made more than $2 million in 2018, would also take an unspecified pay cut.
But the group's financial challenges existed before the lethal pandemic upended the U.S. economy.
The NRA has become embroiled in multiple costly legal battles, including one with Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and another with the group’s former advertising firm. The association's multimillion-dollar legal bills raised concerns among former NRA leaders, though the group’s current leadership has defended the spending. The group has also drawn increasing scrutiny over the past year for other expenses, including tens of thousands of dollars spent on hair and make-up for LaPierre’s wife and six-figure sums spent on the CEO’s travel and wardrobe.
Despite its financial hardships, the gun rights group has been active during the coronavirus outbreak. The group pushed for state governments to classify gun stores as "essential businesses" so they could stay open during statewide stay-at-home orders.
“Americans are flocking to gun stores because they know the only reliable self-defense during a crisis is the #2A [Second Amendment],” the NRA tweeted last month.
The NRA later declared victory when the Department of Homeland Security echoed its recommendations on keeping gun shops open. The group also sued the government of New York for closing gun stores during the pandemic, calling the move “a pointless and arbitrary attack on the constitutional rights of New York citizens and residents.” It also sued to keep Los Angeles gun stores open, but lost in federal district court earlier this week.