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New York Seeks to Close Gun-Rights Group NRA

New York state Attorney General Letitia James takes a question after announcing that the state is suing the National Rifle Association, during a press conference, Aug. 6, 2020, in New York.
New York Seeks to Close Gun-Rights Group NRA
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New York State’s attorney general started legal action seeking to close the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun-rights group.

Letitia James, the attorney general, brought the action Thursday in a New York state court after an 18-month investigation. She accused the NRA of illegally directing “millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership.” She said the NRA and its longtime leader Wayne LaPierre violated the organization’s own policies in addition to state and federal law.

She said, “which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”

At the same time, the attorney general for Washington, DC, Karl Racine, announced that his office started a separate legal action against the NRA Foundation. He accused the foundation of redirecting its own money to help pay for the spending of NRA leaders.

NRA President Carolyn Meadows said the group was taking its own legal action against the New York attorney general’s office. She said in a statement that the legal action was an “attempt to score political points and attack the leading voice in opposition to the leftist agenda.”

U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that “New York is trying to destroy the NRA.” He added, “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!”

Why did New York take legal action?

The NRA calls itself “a major political force” and a “defender of Second Amendment rights,” the rights to own guns. In 1990, the organization established the NRA Foundation to raise money for gun safety and educational programs. It is a non-profit organization meaning that donations to it can be used to reduce people’s federal taxes.

Talking with reporters, James, a Democrat, denied the action was driven by the NRA’s support for Republican President Donald Trump and other gun-rights candidates.

James had previously taken legal action against Trump’s own foundation. Last year, the Trump Foundation agreed to close and paid $2 million to settle charges that Trump used money from the foundation to help his business and political interests.

The NRA, James said, came to her attention when the organization lost more than $64 million in just three years.

FILE - Nation Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, April 26, 2019.
FILE - Nation Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, April 26, 2019.

Wayne LaPierre, who has been in charge of the NRA’s day-to-day operations since 1991, is accused of spending millions of dollars on himself and his family. The legal action noted that the money was used to pay for his wife’s hair and makeup, car services and private airplanes for traveling, including $500,000 for trips to the Bahamas. LaPierre could also receive $17 million if he were to leave the NRA.

The state said some of the NRA’s spending was kept secret under an agreement with the organization’s former advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen. The advertising company would pay for LaPierre’s and other NRA executives’ expenses and then passed the costs on to the NRA. The attorney general’s office also charges the NRA with giving “no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.”

Karl Racine, the Washington, D.C., attorney general said his office’s investigation showed that the NRA Foundation repeatedly sent money to help the NRA. He said the foundation is required “to use their funds to benefit the public, not to support political campaigns, lobbying, or private interests.”

“We aim to recover donated funds that the NRA Foundation wasted,” Racine said.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do wrote this report for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

charitable – adj. done or designed to help people

agenda –n. the plans or goals of an organization, group or individual

funds –n.(pl.) an amount of money used for a purpose

benefit –v. to help, to be used for