National Rifle Association Furloughing All Employees Unable to Work Because of COVID-19 Closures

The National Rifle Association—like most organizations, beleaguered by the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic slowdown—is instituting a second round of payroll reductions, Newsweek has learned.

In a memo obtained by Newsweek that was distributed to all of the organization's employees Thursday afternoon, CEO Wayne LaPierre announced that the organization has had to "make the very painful decision to furlough employees who cannot perform their duties in the short term due to the cancellation or postponement of events, temporary closure of facilities or other disruptions in our operations."

The furloughs will begin on Sunday and will be effective indefinitely. Moreover, LaPierre said that the organization will soon be suspending matching contributions to retirement plans for eligible employees, pending the approval of the executive committee.

Thursday's announcement, on the eve of Good Friday, comes weeks after LaPierre told the NRA's board of directors that the COVID-19 pandemic would force him to implement organization-wide adjustments, including layoffs, salary cuts and reductions in hours.

Those plans, first reported by Newsweek, were recently set into motion, according to a report by Politico, resulting in the termination of over 60 employees.

Wayne LaPierre
Wayne LaPierre, NRA vice president and CEO, attends the NRA annual meeting of members at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits on April 27, 2019, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott Olson/Getty

The NRA's latest cash crunch due to the stalled economy was precipitated by an already flagging balance sheet. Tax filings show that in 2018, the most recent year available, the NRA's net assets declined by nearly $9 million to $16 million, their lowest levels in six years.

"For 149 years, the NRA has withstood countless challenges—both within our country and against our organization as a whole—and we have always emerged stronger and more tightly knit," LaPierre said on Thusday. "This will be no different. Our members and our employees are the heart of what we do and the first-line defenders of our freedom across America. I look forward to the time, hopefully soon, when we are all back together again as one united—and strong—NRA family."

The NRA employed 816 individuals in 2018, according to the group's tax filings. It also relied on a network of around 150,000 volunteers across the country. The NRA's outside counsel, Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors, previously told Newsweek that the initial belt-tightening would apply to "all levels of the organization," which includes LaPierre.

In March, the NRA announced it would have to suspend the annual meeting of members slated to take place in Nashville, Tennessee, in mid-April. The meeting is a sprawling operation with thousands of visitors and vendors from across the country. It would have been the first such gathering since the Shakespearean-style leadership reshuffle at the 2019 annual meeting in Indiana.

"We were ultimately guided by our responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of our NRA members, guests, and surrounding community," the NRA said at the time.

According to Thursday's memo, the organization's intention is to onboard as many furloughed employees as possible after the crisis ends. Individuals subject to the furloughs will not be paid or be able to take leave, though they will remain employees. E-mail access will be suspended, "as will access to NRA facilities." However, health insurance and other non-retirement benefits will remain.

The Trace reported that employees impacted by the initial layoffs included some of the most operationally important, those involved in the NRA's fundraising arm.

"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 non-profits as a result of the extraordinary impacts from the COVID-19 crisis," Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesperson, said in response to a request for comment. "This crisis has caused the cancellation of our annual convention and has forced us to postpone many fundraising events and special programs. 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."