The National Rifle Association’s top lobbyist has resigned in another sign of infighting within the powerful US gun lobbying group.
Chris Cox’s departure came on Wednesday, just days after the NRA placed him on administrative leave, claiming he was part of a failed attempt to extort the longtime CEO.
His resignation was confirmed by Andrew Arulanandam, NRA spokesman. No other comment was immediately made about his departure.
Cox was long viewed as the likely successor to CEO Wayne LaPierre, who has been at the helm for decades.
Cox had been the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA’s political and lobbying arm, since 2002.
Its website boasted that Cox has “achieved some of its most significant political and legislative victories”.
He was credited with leading efforts to allow a decade-long ban on “assault weapons” to expire in 2004, an achievement that allowed the gun industry to resume selling what the industry calls “modern sporting rifles” and critics claim are used too often to exact mass carnage.
When he was suspended, Cox said in a statement obtained by The New York Times that allegations he had been part of a group seeking LaPierre’s ouster were “offensive and patently false. For 24 years I have been a loyal and effective leader in this organisation”.
The infighting spilled out during what is normally a pep rally of sorts among gun-rights enthusiasts when Oliver North, then the NRA president, threatened to expose questionable personal and travel expenses unless LaPierre stepped down.
Instead, LaPierre turned the tables on North and accused him of trying to extort him into submission.
In the months since, NRA has taken repeated legal action against Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma-based public relations firm with which it has been embroiled in a legal tangle over expenditures.
NRA accused it of refusing to document its billings and being in cahoots with North.
On Wednesday, NRA officially severed ties with Ackerman McQueen and suspended operation of NRATV, an online station that has stirred controversy for its fiery rhetoric.
In a statement from LaPierre posted on the NRA website, the gun lobbying group said it would no longer be airing live programming on NRATV and would be evaluating the station’s future.
A prominent part of NRA’s public relations is NRATV which features hosts who talk about everything from immigration to gun rights.