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New York Attorney General Files Suit Seeking To Dissolve The NRA

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

The attorney general of New York called for the dissolution of the National Rifle Association in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The suit, filed by Attorney General Letitia James, accuses top NRA leaders of using the gun rights group’s funds for personal gain and engaging in a pattern of fraud to conceal their actions.

James’ office has been investigating the organization for more than a year. The investigation found a “a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent,” and that contributed to the loss of millions of dollars, according to a statement by the attorney general’s office.

The NRA is headquartered in Fairfax County, Virginia, but is chartered in New York, giving James jurisdiction. The New York Attorney General’s office brought a case that led to the closing of President Trump’s foundation in 2018.

The suit targets NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre specifically, as well as current and former lieutenants. LaPierre was re-elected as executive vice president and chief executive officer after a bitter internal battle and a controversial vote at the organization’s 2019 convention, which saw the ouster of Oliver North as NRA president.

James’ suit lists dozens of instances of alleged financial wrongdoing, including the use of millions of dollars for personal gifts and travel expenses. It also claims that LaPierre retaliated against those who questioned his practices.

The NRA, and LaPierre, have been dogged by allegations of self-dealing and misspent funds for years. And though gun sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic, the NRA has stumbled financially.

Meanwhile, the NRA released a statement blasting the lawsuit as a “baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment” and seemed to imply they were filing a countersuit.

“It’s a transparent attempt to score political points,” the statement says, “and attack the leading voice in opposition to the leftist agenda.”

The group’s financial troubles are well known and it recently laid off dozens of staffers. James Fishman, a former New York assistant attorney general who wrote a book on the state’s non-profit laws, said he thinks the NRA may feel pressure to settle the case.

“The cost of litigation will be in the millions of dollars for the NRA,” Fishman said. “And I don’t think the NRA at this particular point in time has millions of dollars to spend on it.”

Attorney Doug Varley, an expert in non-profit law, said the lawsuit is an example of oversight of big non-profits shifting from the federal government to state regulators.

“I think this action by the New York attorney general is really a dramatic confirmation that the states are taking regulation very seriously,” he said. “And in particular that they’re investing the resources to take on major institutions, not just the small nonprofits.”

President Donald Trump weighed in on Twitter, tying the lawsuit to his re-election campaign: “Just like Radical Left New York is trying to destroy the NRA, if Biden becomes President your GREAT SECOND AMENDMENT doesn’t have a chance. Your guns will be taken away, immediately and without notice. No police, no guns!”

The NRA reportedly contributed more than $30 million to Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The organization was accused of being a “foreign asset” for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to an 18-month investigation by the Senate Finance Committee’s Democratic staff.

If James’ lawsuit is successful and the NRA is dissolved it wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of the organization. It could reform in a new, perhaps more gun-friendly, state.

is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.

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