J. Warren Cassidy has resigned as executive vice president of the National Rifle Association of America, effective Feb. 22, NRA board president Richard D. Riley said yesterday.

Cassidy, 60, who has held the position for the past nine years, could not be reached for comment. He told the NRA staff Thursday that he had decided not to run in April for a new term and felt it would be better to step down than stay on as a lame duck.

The 75-member board is to elect a new executive vice president at its April meeting in San Antonio. Gary Anderson, NRA executive director of general operations, will serve as acting executive vice president.

Two weeks ago the board held a lengthy closed-door meeting, but Riley said there was "no vote to push {Cassidy} out, it was not raised before the board of directors."

Cassidy has been under fire recently from firearms "conservatives," including a Cassidy predecessor as executive vice president, Neal Knox. They have campaigned to elect at least 20 members of the board in an effort, Knox said, to reverse the softer tone he contends Cassidy has given to the NRA image by emphasizing, among other things, the recreational aspect of shooting.

Knox speculated that a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by Marsha Beasley, a former collegiate All-American and national collegiate rifle champion, and a drop in NRA membership may have caused dissatisfaction on the board with Cassidy's stewardship and could have been a factor in his resignation.

Riley confirmed the lawsuit was settled out of court last November for "over $200,000," and said the NRA membership had dropped from about 2.9 million to about 2.6 million over the past three years. But, Riley said, "I did not ask him to resign."

Riley said Cassidy would become a paid consultant to the NRA's "planned giving program" in which people leave estates to the NRA.

Staff writer Michael Isikoff contributed to this report.