The NRA has fired the executive whose responsibilities included leading the gun group’s outreach to the hunting, outdoors, and shooting sports communities. Kyle Weaver, a 21-year veteran of the organization, and its third-highest-ranking executive, was relieved of his duties in October, shortly before the general election.

The NRA did not publicly announce Weaver’s dismissal, and according to sources who requested anonymity to avoid reprisal, it came as a surprise to employees. His role, in the four years before he was fired, was to oversee almost everything the NRA did that wasn’t overtly political. Along with outreach to hunting and outdoors communities, he ran the group’s education and training programs, membership recruitment, and Friends of NRA events. His title was executive director of operations.

Weaver’s firing has not been previously reported. The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.

Over the last three decades, the NRA has moved away from its original focus on hunting and gun safety to focus on gun rights, becoming among the most feared lobbying organizations in the United States. In 2016, it spent over $30 million to help elect Donald Trump to the presidency, more than any other outside group.

It’s not clear whether this shift in focus had anything to do with Weaver’s dismissal. He earned a salary of $549,409 in 2014, according to an NRA tax filing.

His replacement, Josh Powell, a former NRA board member, was officially announced to the group’s employees on January 25, according to a companywide email obtained by The Trace. The email, written by the NRA’s executive vice president and CEO, Wayne LaPierre, said the personnel changes “would help the NRA better serve our members and help streamline our operations.” Powell, it said, “will also continue to serve as NRA’s Chief of Staff.” The email did not mention Weaver.

Weaver was well liked within the organization, sources say, and had devoted almost his entire professional career to the NRA. He reported directly to LaPierre.

Weaver, who did not reply to repeated requests for comment, began working for the NRA in 1995, two years after he graduated with a finance degree from Longwood University in Virginia, where he also played baseball. He had been working in “the banking industry,” he said during a 2014 interview he gave to the Big Buck Podcast, a show devoted to hunting. “But I really missed being part of a team.”

An avid outdoorsman from southern Virginia, Weaver said he spotted a newspaper ad for an entry-level position in the NRA’s fundraising division.

“I went, ‘you can work there?’” he said in the interview. “That family, that home, that team environment drew me right in.”

Over the next two decades, he worked his way up through the NRA to become its third-highest-ranking executive, after LaPierre and Chris Cox, the organization’s top lobbyist. One of his primary concerns was reminding people that the NRA’s concerns extended beyond the politics of guns, and reaching people who, like him, share a love of the outdoors.

The National Rifle Association’s four top executives loom over attendees at the 2014 NRA Annual Meeting, with Kyle Weaver pictured third from the left, after Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, respectively. (Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

“I don’t care if you’re a hunter, a shooter, a bowhunter, a fisherman, woman, child, man,” he said in the 2014 interview. “There’s a home for you at the NRA. There’s a program for you. There’s something we have for you. We support what you do.”

In 2015, he wrote an article for the America’s 1st Freedom, an NRA magazine, reaffirming his point of view.

“When it comes to politics, NRA is truly a powerhouse in its effort to protect America’s right to keep and bear arms,” he said. “And that is extremely important. But it’s my goal to make sure that everyone knows we also have something for everyone, even outside the political arena.”

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[Photo: NRA Youtube]