Republican AGs Slam New York AG, Back NRA in Bankruptcy Battle

Officials accuse New York of political persecution of gun rights group

NRA headquarters / Getty Images
April 1, 2021

More than a dozen state attorneys general accused New York attorney general Letitia James (D.) of abusing her power in her attempt to shut down the National Rifle Association.

Sixteen Republican attorneys general filed a brief asking a federal bankruptcy court to ignore James's attempt to dismiss the NRA's case. They said James targeted the gun group for prosecution in New York because of its defense of the Second Amendment.

"The statements made by the New York AG are nothing short of startling," the attorneys general said in their Wednesday filing. "The New York AG’s promise to 'take down the NRA' if elected, coupled with her description of the NRA's advocacy as 'poisonous' and 'deadly propaganda,' makes it clear that the NRA's message is the impetus for the New York AG's dissolution request."

The attorneys general said the NRA should be allowed to carry out plans to "leave New York for greener pastures" in Texas because of James's "mission to destroy the NRA and silence its members."

"There is nothing improper about the NRA pursuing reorganization to ensure that it emerges intact from its ongoing battle with its powerful politically motivated opponents," they said. "Seeking to thwart responsible government oversight is one thing; getting out from under the thumb of government officials abusing their office is another."

James did not respond to a request for comment.

The filing comes after the NRA board retroactively approved the group's bankruptcy plan during an emergency meeting in Dallas in March. The NRA has been in settlement talks with James for a week. If they are unable to reach a deal, however, the board's approval and the filing from the attorneys general could bolster the gun group's position in the trial set to begin on Monday.

NRA president Carolyn Meadows called the AGs' filing a "vote of confidence" in the NRA bankruptcy plan and a repudiation of James.

"The NRA is the world's foremost leader in promoting gun safety, firearms education, hunting, shooting sports, and Second Amendment advocacy," she said in a statement. "The Association is committed to good governance in furtherance of those goals and its vision for the future."

James filed suit against the NRA in New York court in August 2020. She accused NRA leaders, including executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, of spending millions of dollars in member money on personal expenses such as luxury suits, private flights, and yacht cruises. She took the unusual and controversial step of seeking to dissolve the organization over the accusations of financial impropriety. The NRA responded by filing a First Amendment countersuit accusing James of political persecution. The gun group then filed for bankruptcy in January in an attempt to remove itself from James's jurisdiction and shield its assets. James accused the group of "seeking an end run around a pending regulatory enforcement action in New York."

The attorneys general opposing James's effort to dismiss the bankruptcy and dissolve the NRA said it would not serve the interests of the millions of NRA members for James, one of their political opponents, to shut the group down and have control over what happens to its assets.

"It's difficult to fathom how New York believes dissolution of the country's oldest civil rights organization and silencing those members' most powerful defender could possibly be in the best interest of the NRA’s members," the attorneys general said. "Dissolving the NRA would leave its members with less of a voice and more vulnerable to New York's efforts to undermine civil liberties. But that's precisely the point."