Video shows NRA’s Wayne LaPierre shooting but failing to kill an elephant for NRA-sponsored TV show that never aired

In this April 26, 2019, file photo, Nation Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks at the association’s Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

  • A newly released video shows NRA head LaPierre shooting an endangered elephant on a 2013 hunting trip.
  • LaPierre repeatedly fails to kill the animal from close range; his guide eventually makes the kill.
  • LaPierre’s wife, Susan, kills another elephant with ease and is filmed cutting off the animal’s tail.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre has cultivated a careful image as the paragon of gun rights activism in America. But a nearly decade-old video obtained by The Trace and published in partnership with The New Yorker suggests LaPierre’s skill with a rifle may be lacking.

LaPierre and his wife, Susan, traveled to Botswana’s Okavango Delta in 2013, on a mission to boost the NRA’s reputation among hunters, a demographic crucial to the organization’s base. A crew from the NRA-sponsored TV series, “Under Wild Skies,” came along to capture the NRA chief executive’s big game hunting adventures in the African bush, according to The New Yorker.

But the program never aired due to concerns the footage could cause a public relations crisis, the outlet reported.

Now, eight years later, footage from the hunt has been published, displaying LaPierre’s inability to kill the largest land mammal on Earth from close range and highlighting his wife’s apparently superior marksmanship.

The nine-minute video begins with LaPierre walking through the bush, dressed for a safari and accompanied by multiple professional hunting guides as well as Tony Makris, a longtime public relations advisor to LaPierre who is also the host of “Under Wild Skies.”

One of the guides sees an elephant behind a tree. LaPierre readies himself to take a shot as the guide repeatedly tells him to wait. But LaPierre is wearing earplugs and misses the guide’s instructions. He shoots and the animal falls.

“Did we get him?” LaPierre says.

The guide says yes, but as the group moves closer to the fallen African bush elephant, a species declared endangered earlier this year, the guide repositions LaPierre within a few meters to take a final shot at the still-breathing animal.

Then begins a nearly two-minute failed endeavor by LaPierre to kill the motionless animal. LaPierre fires three shots, each time failing to hit his mark and each time being instructed by the guide on how to re-adjust.

“I’m not sure where you’re shooting,” the guide says to LaPierre.

He responds by saying, “Where are you telling me to shoot?”

Eventually, the guide instructs Makris to finish the animal instead. He shoots and kills the elephant with ease.

In the latter half of the footage, LaPierre’s wife, Susan, gets her shot at the same prize.

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An African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is feeding on the vegetation in the Jao concession, Wildlife, Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Susan and her guides approach two elephants in the bush and whisper about how to proceed. The guide instructs Susan to aim between the animal’s eyes. She cocks her rifle and shoots. The bullet goes dead center in the elephant’s head as it drops to the ground.

Another guide congratulates her on appearing to kill the elephant with a single bullet. With the help of a guide, she fires one more bullet into the animal to be sure.

Following the kill, Susan responds by hugging her guides. “You can see how old he is. And lots of wrinkles,” she says, examining the dead elephant.

With her guide’s help, Susan cuts off part of the elephant’s tail, a ritual hunters do to claim the kill in “olden days,” according to the guide.

She holds the bloody tail up for the camera, smiles, and says, “victory!”

The NRA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Even though the LaPierre’s hunting footage never aired, The New Yorker reported that records show the couple still obtained proof of their hunting exploits: Body parts from the two elephants were shipped to the US “in a hidden manner,” at Susan’s written request, according to the outlet.

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What’s inside an elephant trunk

  • Elephant trunks are some of the most impressive noses in the animal kingdom.
  • Trunks are organs called muscular hydrostats and they contain around 40,000 muscles that contract and expand to create intricate movements.  
  • Elephants have a stronger sense of smell than any other animal scientists have studied, and can even sniff out landmines in Africa.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: What if you could use your nose to snorkel, or uproot a small tree, or smell water from several miles away? Well, elephants wouldn’t be that impressed. They do it on the daily, thanks to what’s inside their trunk.

If you were to dissect an elephant trunk, it would actually look more like the inside of your tongue than your nose. Trunks, tongues, and even octopus arms are unique organs called muscular hydrostats. That means they’re made almost entirely of muscle, and an elephant’s trunk has a lot of them, about 40,000, compared to around 650 muscles in the entire human body. Normally, muscles depend on bones and joints to move and exert force.

When we pick up a dumbbell, for example, our bicep pulls on our forearm bones and that causes them to swing up around our elbow joint. But in an elephant trunk, there are no bones to pull and no joints to hinge on. The muscles take on that role instead. This makes trunks incredibly flexible so they can move in all directions. And all those muscles mean they’re powerful enough to lift hundreds of pounds, yet delicate enough to pick up a tortilla chip without even cracking it.

But while trunks may be structured like a tongue and function like an arm, they are, in fact, a nose, and an exceptional one. An animal’s sense of smell is linked to the number of olfactory receptor genes it has. And elephants, well, they have a lot of them, nearly 2,000 – more than any other animal we know of. Bloodhounds, for example, only have about 800 while humans have even fewer. In fact, an elephant’s nose is so good it can actually sniff out bombs. People have reported that African elephants avoid land mines in Angola and in 2015, researchers put it to the test. Elephants were presented with a lineup of buckets filled with different smells, including TNT, the main ingredient in land mines. Out of 97 TNT samples, elephants detected all but one.

Of course, their trunks didn’t evolve as bomb detectors. They use their nose like we use our eyes, to find food and water, to avoid predators, and to map out other elephants nearby. That’s like walking into a family reunion with your eyes closed and knowing exactly where everyone is. But if you can believe it, there are even more tricks up their, trunks. When elephants traverse deep rivers, for example, they curve their trunk into a snorkel, and when bathing, they can use it as a hose, or more like a fire hose. With one suck, a trunk can pull in as much as 10 liters of water.

And the trunk’s impressive abilities haven’t gone unnoticed. In fact, if you stick a mirror in front of an elephant, one of their favorite activities is to open their mouth and check out their trunks. Let’s admit it, if you had a nose like that, you would do the exact same thing.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in January 2019.

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