The attorney general of New York took action Thursday to dissolve the National Rifle Association following an 18-month investigation that found evidence the powerful gun rights group is “fraught with fraud and abuse.”
Attorney General Letitia James claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday that she found financial misconduct in the millions of dollars and that it contributed to a loss of more than $64 million over a three-year period.
The suit alleges that top NRA executives misused charitable funds for personal gain, awarded contracts to friends and family members, and provided contracts to former employees to ensure loyalty.
I have mixed feelings on this announcement.
On one hand, the announcement is brazenly political and is clearly targeted at an organization that NY doesn’t like and who has been (for better or worse) a staunch supporter of President Trump. The NRA has contributed millions of dollars across the country in support of Trump and gun rights, which no doubt really bugs those in NY. The timing of this announcement is clearly meant to kneecap the NRA and Trump leading up to the election and likely distract from various shenanigans in NY. I’m not surprised the NYAG is going after the NRA, especially this close to an election, but still find the whole thing very, very shady, particularly the threat to dissolve the NRA. I would not be shocked to find that Bloomberg, his money, and his influence in NY had something to do with this investigation and its timing.
On the other hand, the NRA has had this coming for a long, long time. There’s been a lot of rot at the top, particularly around Wayne LaPierre, that’s since spread throughout the organization. Those trying to change things from within the system have had a rough go of it, have been fired, asked to resign, etc. Things like WLP’s closeness to Brewer, and Brewer’s wanting to give AckMac the boot and handle all the NRA’s business are highly shady. From what I’ve read, the NRA’s relationship with AckMac had been problematic for a long time, and there’s been a lot of dirty laundry getting aired over the last year.
I can only hope that the NRA takes this as an opportunity to clean house, starting at the top, trim a bit of the fat, and get back to its mission of representing gun owners, supporting and lobbying for gun rights and the shooting sports, supporting ranges throughout the country, offering training and certification, and promoting safety and responsibility. This situation, while obnoxious, can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get their house in order while saving face: the NRA board could boot WLP and his cronies for the alleged fraud, waste, and abuse, thank the NYAG for uncovering such scandalous behavior, and reiterate their dedication to protecting people’s rights and doing so in a proper, above-board way. Alternatively, the NRA could take the path of portraying the NYAG as an outside enemy forcing them to take actions like getting rid of WLP and his allies, while also quietly taking actions internally to reform and prevent such future issues, and thus rally the troops. I’d prefer the former, but would accept the latter, so long as the NRA gets things sorted out.
Although I’ve been an NRA Life Member for nearly two decades, I haven’t always agreed with them (some times even mostly disagreeing with them!), to the point of telling their fundraisers they won’t see an additional contribution from me until WLP and his cronies are gone.
Still, I recognize that the NRA is a large organization that does a lot of undeniably good things, much of it stuff that doesn’t make the papers (like supporting shooting ranges, school teams, competitions, training and certification, promotion of safety, etc.).
Even in the political realm, they’re the 800lb gorilla that the actions of more diffuse, smaller gun-rights groups can’t really replace. The NRA also tends to take a lot of heat in the public eye and keep it away from smaller, more focused groups. Their state-level affiliates like the California Rifle and Pistol Association do yeoman’s work at protecting gun rights, and having the NRA’s national support backing them doesn’t hurt. Even though I don’t always agree with them, they serve a valuable and hard-to-replace role.
If the NYAG ends up dissolving the NRA, that wouldn’t get rid of gun owners and their efforts to protect their rights, but it would be a big setback with wide-ranging political implications.
Having the NRA not recognize that it has a massive opportunity to clean house and refocus would turn such a setback into a catastrophe.