US National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre has said the outrage following school shootings, where dozens have been killed, put him in such danger that he sought shelter aboard a borrowed 33-metre yacht.
- He fled to The Bahamas for sailing trips following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the 2018 high school massacre in Florida
- The statements emerged in a federal bankruptcy trial linked to a state lawsuit trying to put the NRA out of business
- Mr LaPierre said he did not think using the vessel violated the NRA’s conflict-of-interest policy because the summer sailing trips were for security
The head of the powerful gun rights group said he sailed in The Bahamas with his family as a “security retreat” following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut and the 2018 high school massacre in Florida.
“I was basically under presidential threat without presidential security in terms of the number of threats I was getting,” Mr LaPierre said in a transcript of a court deposition.
The testimony emerged in a federal bankruptcy trial over whether the NRA should be allowed to incorporate in Texas instead of New York, where a state lawsuit is trying to put it out of business.
Mr LaPierre is scheduled to take the witness stand in the case, which is being conducted virtually before a court in Dallas this week.
The NRA declared bankruptcy in January, months after New York Attorney-General Letitia James sued seeking the group’s dissolution over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.
The allegations included that Mr LaPierre repeatedly sailed in The Bahamas on the yacht of Hollywood producer Stanton McKenzie, whose company had done business with the NRA, but did not mention the trips on financial disclosures.
Mr McKenzie is not named in the suit but both it and Mr LaPierre’s deposition include the name of his yacht, Illusions.
In the deposition, Mr LaPierre said he did not pay to use Mr McKenzie’s yacht, which came with a cook, a motor boat and a pair of Sea-Doo jet skis.
He said he did not think using the vessel violated the NRA’s conflict-of-interest policy because the summer sailing trips were for security.
Nonetheless, Mr LaPierre said he stopped using it in 2019 as part of the NRA’s “self-correction”.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012 left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
The February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killed 17 people.
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr LaPierre’s testimony.
Mr McKenzie did not immediately respond to voicemail and email messages to his company seeking comment.
He told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported Mr LaPierre’s use of his yacht last year, that he hadn’t read New York’s lawsuit and couldn’t discuss any litigation.
Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun control group Moms Demand Action, highlighted Mr LaPierre’s testimony on Twitter Monday, mocking his argument that it took “a good guy with a gun” to stop a mass shooting.
The group’s bankruptcy trial began Monday with a lawyer for New York arguing that Mr LaPierre put the NRA into Chapter 11 bankruptcy despite its financial strength to escape accountability for his own spending abuses.
He made the move largely by himself and kept the plan secret from the group’s board, its general counsel and treasurer at the time, New York Assistant Attorney-General Monica Connell told Judge Harlin Hale.
Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state.
Its bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and placed its liabilities in the same range.
NRA lawyer Greg Garman said during opening statements that Mr LaPierre did nothing wrong and made the decision to put the group into bankruptcy to avoid New York authorities having it placed in a receivership.