The New Yorker and The Trace obtained footage from 2013 that shows LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive, attempting and failing four times to kill an African elephant in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
The trip was filmed for “Under Wild Skies,” a proposed NRA-sponsored show that was intended to appeal to hunters. The program never aired, and the footage was hidden away due to concerns that it could become a public relations disaster, The New Yorker said.
The video of the trip shows LaPierre struggling to kill the elephant; the first shot just wounds the animal. But even after guides bring LaPierre within point-blank range of the immobilized creature, he shoots the animal three times in the wrong area. Finally, the host of the proposed series takes over and fires the shot that kills the animal.
LaPierre’s wife, Susan LaPierre, didn’t have the same problems as her husband. In the video, after guides track down an elephant, she kills it without apparent difficulty. Then she cuts off the elephant’s tail, held it in the air and yelled, “Victory! That’s my elephant tail. Way cool.”
Although the couple wanted to turn the animals’ legs into stools, they also wanted to avoid bad publicity. According to The New Yorker, the body parts from both elephants were secretly shipped to the U.S. Along the way, one man traveled two hours to Johannesburg, South Africa, to ensure the LaPierre name didn’t appear on shipping crates.
The species of elephant that the LaPierres hunted, the African Savannah Elephant, was recently moved to endangered status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
“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, told HuffPost in a statement.
“It’s sickening to see LaPierre’s brutal, clumsy slaughter of this beautiful creature,” she added. “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? We need to halt all elephant killings or they’ll vanish forever.”
The release of the footage comes at a time when LaPierre and the NRA are facing challenges from both within and outside the organization.
Earlier this month, LaPierre admitted in a deposition that he fled to a private yacht out of fear for his safety following the Sandy Hook and Parkland school shootings in 2012 and 2018.
Last September, Joshua Smith, who served as LaPierre’s chief of staff before being fired, said that the NRA is “rife with fraud and corruption” and that his former boss “couldn’t run an organization on a fiscally sound basis to save his life.”
Last August, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she will seek to dissolve the NRA after discovering the gun group had allegedly engaged in financial misconduct.