But National Rifle Association declared bankruptcy two days later
WASHINGTON D.C.––U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service director Aurelia Skipwith on January 13, 2021, a week from the end of the Donald Trump presidential administration and probably not much longer from her own replacement, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Rifle Association “to assist in the recruitment, education and retaining” of sport hunters.
“Formalizing an anticipated 10-year partnership,” the Fish & Wildlife Service announcement said, the Memorandum of Understanding includes “a commitment to science-based strategies for wildlife conservation that take into account land boundaries, private property rights and multiple-use requirements of federal and state land management agencies.”
In other words, the National Rifle Association is expected to help teach hunters that their Second Amendment rights do not extend to shooting into, or over, anywhere a bullet might fly, or to shooting cows on Bureau of Land Management property, or lumberjacks on U.S. Forest Service land.
Last of many Trump administration handouts to hunters
“The National Rifle Association also pledges to help enhance hunter safety, marksmanship, and shooting safety,” the Fish & Wildlife Service announcement affirmed.
Skipwith, the first person of African-American ancestry to lead the Fish & Wildlife Service, and one of the only black faces to head a federal agency during the Trump administration, is also longtime consort of trophy hunter and resource extraction industry lobbyist Leo Giacometto.
A former lobbyist herself against Endangered Species Act enforcement, Skipwith on August 18, 2020, the day new U.S. President Joe Biden was nominated to run against Trump, announced that hunting seasons would be opened or expanded on 2.3 million acres scattered among 147 National Wildlife Refuges.
The Trump administration had already opened more National Wildlife Refuges to hunting than the Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton presidential administrations combined.
Fewer hunters now than eat meatless burgers
Pressure from the National Rifle Association and other pro-hunting organizations for more governmental support of hunting comes as hunting participation has dropped for more than 40 years, falling since 2011 at the rate of more than half a million hunters per year.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service counted only 11.5 million hunters in 2016, the lowest number since the agency began surveying the hunting population every five years during the Jimmy Carter presidential administration.
Even more alarming to the hunting industry, including state wildlife agencies whose revenue comes partially from the sale of hunting licenses, more than half of the U.S. hunter population is believe to be now in the 45 to 64 age bracket, where hunters typically “age out” of active participation.
Only about a third of the U.S. hunter population are believed to be in the 18-24 and 25-34 age brackets.
Altogether, only 4.4% of Americans hunt now, far fewer than than 16% who eat meatless burgers.
NRA files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Whether the National Rifle Administration will be any more able to slow the drop in the number of hunters under the Skipwith memorandum than hunting advocacy organizations were before it was drawn up is an open question.
The National Rifle Association, only two days after the memorandum signing ceremony, filed on January 15, 2021 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“The group said it plans to leave New York State, where it was founded in 1871, and reincorporate as a Texas nonprofit in a move it is calling ‘Project Freedom,’” reported CNN Business writer Clare Duffy.
The National Rifle Association bankruptcy and exodus from New York to Texas come after New York state attorney general Letitia James on August 6, 2020 filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the organization as irremediably corrupt.
NRA brass “funneled millions into their own pockets”
James at the same time also individually sued Wayne LaPierre Jr., the National Rifle Association chief executive since 1991; general counsel John Frazer; former chief of staff Josh Powell, who subsequently turned whistle-blower against the NRA; and Wilson Phillips, who had been chief financial officer.
James accused LaPierre, Frazer, Powell, and Phillips of “taking improper actions” that cost the National Rifle association $64 million over three years.
“Over six and a half years,” James charged, “a personal travel consultant for LaPierre was paid $13.5 million, largely on no-bid contracts.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful,” continued James, “that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” operating “as a breeding ground for greed, abuse. and brazen illegality.”
“NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status”
Washington, D.C. attorney general Karl Racine soon filed a similar lawsuit against the National Rifle Association and the NRA charitable foundation.
The National Rifle Association responded by filing a federal lawsuit against James, claiming her prosecution violated the NRA’s First Amendment rights.
Said James of the National Rifle Association bankruptcy filing and plan to move, “The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt.”
“While we review this filing,” James added, “we will not allow the NRA to use this or any other tactic to evade accountability and my office’s oversight.”
NRA spent $50 million to elect Trump in 2016
Summarized CNN writer Duffy, “In 2019, the NRA operated at a $12.2 million deficit,” according to IRS Form 990. “The [Form 990] filing also stated that the NRA became aware of a “significant diversion” of its assets in 2019 and previous years, and that LaPierre paid back nearly $300,000 plus interest in funds for the expense.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Rifle Association spent $139 million on campaigns and lobbying between 2000 and 2019.
This included $50 million spent to elect Donald Trump in 2016.
Under the Trump administration, the Internal Revenue Service rolled back accountability requirements for disclosure of sources of campaign funds. Thus how much the National Rifle Association contributed to the Trump re-election campaign is unknown.