On the eve of a legal battle in New York, Wayne LaPierre told board members on Friday that he would step down as the longtime chief of the National Rifle Association.
Mr. LaPierre, 74, has led the organization for more than three decades. But his resignation came as he faced his gravest challenge yet, a corruption trial in Manhattan amid a legal showdown with New York’s attorney general, Letitia James. Jury selection has already begun and opening arguments were scheduled for early next week.
The announcement, which is effective on Jan. 31, is not part of a deal with the attorney general’s office. Andrew Arulanandam, Mr. LaPierre’s longtime spokesman, will become the interim chief executive. The development was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
“With pride in all that we have accomplished, I am announcing my resignation from the N.R.A.,” Mr. LaPierre said in a statement. “I’ve been a card-carrying member of this organization for most of my adult life, and I will never stop supporting the N.R.A. and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom. My passion for our cause burns as deeply as ever.”
The announcement took place during a board meeting in Irving, Texas. The N.R.A. said Mr. LaPierre had “cited health reasons” as being behind his decision.
The development will change the shape of the Manhattan trial, since Ms. James was seeking to oust Mr. LaPierre from his position. She is also seeking financial penalties from Mr. LaPierre and three other defendants.
Mr. LaPierre played a leading role in transforming gun culture in America, but the last half decade of his tenure at the N.R.A. was marred by scandals and internal upheaval.
Ms. James began investigating the organization four years ago amid reports of runaway spending practices. Since then, it has been in a tailspin.
Membership has plummeted from nearly six million five years ago to 4.2 million today. Revenue is down 44 percent since 2016, according to internal audits, and legal costs have soared to tens of millions a year.
This is a developing story and will be updated.