The National Rifle Association announced Friday it will move to Texas to escape New York's "corrupt political and regulatory environment."
The Second Amendment group, which has been incorporated in New York since 1871, will declare bankruptcy and restructure as a Texas-based nonprofit. The NRA said the move was necessary because of years of disputes between it and Democratic officials in the state that have culminated in lawsuits and an ongoing attempt by Attorney General Letitia James to outright dissolve the organization.
"This strategic plan represents a pathway to opportunity, growth and progress," Wayne LaPierre, NRA CEO and executive vice president, said in a statement.
The restructuring of the largest and most influential Second Amendment advocacy organization in the country to a new state after 150 years could impact the gun debate for generations to come. How strong the group emerges from the bankruptcy and cross-country move will impact how effective it is in pursuing its pro-gun mission.
LaPierre said the NRA is counting on local government officials in Texas being less adversarial than those in New York in order to make the transition as seamless as possible.
"Obviously, an important part of this plan is 'dumping New York,'" he said in the statement. "The NRA is pursuing reincorporating in a state that values the contributions of the NRA, celebrates our law-abiding members, and will join us as a partner in upholding constitutional freedom."
The NRA pointed to repeated public statements from New York governor Andrew Cuomo (D.) and James in which the Democrats painted the NRA as untrustworthy and even criminal. James went so far as to label it a "terrorist organization" on the campaign trail.
The New York attorney general's office has accused LaPierre and NRA executives of misallocating millions in membership dues. James said the reincorporation will not affect the lawsuit.
"The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt," she said in a statement. "While we review this filing, we will not allow the NRA to use this or any other tactic to evade accountability and my office’s oversight."
The NRA has denied wrongdoing and accused James of political bias. Though the move will not end the pending legal case, NRA outside counsel William A. Brewer III said New York officials gave Second Amendment advocates little reason to remain in the state.
"Under this plan, the Association wisely seeks protection from New York officials who it believes have illegally weaponized their powers against the NRA and its members," he said in a statement.
The NRA has also hired Marschall Smith, former general counsel at 3M, to serve as chief restructuring officer. The group has experienced financial strains over the past several years and had to slash expenses in 2019 after membership dues fell and legal bills mounted. While it was able to rebound enough to outspend gun-control groups in the 2020 presidential election and Georgia runoffs, the NRA said part of its restructuring plan would be to "streamline costs and expenses."
The NRA has created a committee to study whether or not it should move its current physical headquarters from Fairfax, Va., in the Washington, D.C., suburbs to a new location in Texas. For the time being, it will continue to operate out of its building in Fairfax.