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'Sickening': Wildlife conservationists outraged after NRA head Wayne LaPierre shoots elephant in Botswana

Grace Hauck, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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Wildlife conservationists are outraged after video released by the New Yorker and The Trace on Tuesday shows the head of the National Rifle Association and his wife fatally shooting two now-endangered elephants in Botswana in 2013.

The news outlets said they obtained a copy of the video, which was originally filmed for an NRA-sponsored television series but never aired because of public relations concerns.

In the 10-minute video, Wayne LaPierre Jr., executive vice president of the NRA, can be seen shooting and wounding a savanna elephant his guides tracked for him in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The video shows LaPierre failing to kill the animal with three shots at point-blank range as the animal lies immobile on the ground.

In this April 26, 2019, photo NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre attends the National Rifle Association annual convention in Indianapolis.
In this April 26, 2019, photo NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre attends the National Rifle Association annual convention in Indianapolis.

"You want to do it for him?" one of the guides finally says to another before one man fires the final shot.

Afterward, the guides pat LaPierre on the back, saying "well done," "congratulations" and "That was one heck of an elephant hunt."

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Savanna elephants were moved to endangered status this year on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Endangered Species, a global authority on the status of species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, a U.S.-based nonprofit working to protect endangered species.

"Savannah elephants were just declared endangered by international experts, and these intelligent beings certainly shouldn’t be used as paper targets by an inept marksman," Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

"It’s sickening to see LaPierre’s brutal, clumsy slaughter of this beautiful creature. No animal should suffer like this. We’re in the midst of a poaching epidemic, and rich trophy hunters like the NRA chief are blasting away at elephants while the international community calls for stiffer penalties for poachers – what message does that send?"

A savannah elephant in Kruger National Park, South Africa, in October 2016.
A savannah elephant in Kruger National Park, South Africa, in October 2016.

The second half of the video shows guides helping Susan LaPierre to shoot another elephant. As she fires the first shot, the elephant falls to the ground. She fires another into the elephant's stomach before cutting off the elephant's tail and holding it up to the camera.

"Victory," she says, adding, "That’s my elephant tail. Way cool."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a U.S.-based animal rights organization, called on Congress to "watch the video, condemn the murder of animals for their body parts by trophy addicts, and have the courage to reject NRA money."

"Behind the NRA’s macho posturing are scared little men who pay tens of thousands of dollars for someone else to track elephants so that they can shoot them ineptly at close range," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement, adding that the elephant "died horrifically."

The LaPierres' hunting expedition came in the wake of the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when a 20-year-old man fatally shot 20 children and six adults.

In response to the shooting, LaPierre made a speech calling on legislators to put police officers in every school and condemning "the media," violent video games and music videos that portray "murder as a way of life."

"And then they have the nerve to call it 'entertainment,'" LaPierre said in the statement. "But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?"

LaPierre, a New York native, has been chief executive of the NRA since 1991. The organization, which boasts more than 5 million members, has faced financial and leadership turmoil, headlined by a public power struggle between LaPierre and NRA President Oliver North that ended in North's ouster in 2019.

Last year, the New York attorney general, who is seeking to shut down the gun rights organization, accused LaPierre and three other NRA leaders of participating in a fraud scheme that contributed to $64 million in losses and financed lavish lifestyles featuring private jet travel to exclusive resorts. Earlier this year, a New York judge denied the NRA's move to throw out the lawsuit, allowing it to move ahead in state court in Manhattan.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wayne LaPierre National Rifle Association head shot elephant: Video