Good News for the NRA — and New York

It turns out that the legal campaign to destroy one of America’s greatest civil rights organizations came a cropper against the rock of a New York jury.

Via Wikimedia Commons
St. George Tucker, who described the Second Amendment as the 'palladium of liberty.' Via Wikimedia Commons

We wouldn’t want the week to go by without a word of congratulations to the National Rifle Association, one of America’s most venerable and distinguished civil rights organizations. The worst of the legal onslaught launched by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James has passed. Despite their best efforts to close the doors of the NRA, a Manhattan jury’s verdict leaves the organization intact.

Someday, no doubt, the historians are going to mark what happened in this case as a politically motivated prosecution designed to dismantle a non-profit organization whose views cut against the liberal orthodoxy prevailing in the Empire State. Why else would General James emphasize the NRA’s role as “the largest and most influential pro-gun organization in the nation” when she filed her suit “seeking to dissolve” the group? 

As it turns out, the evidence failed to support General James’ case that the NRA was irredeemably “fraught with fraud and abuse,” warranting its closure. Yet she’s calling the outcome a win because two former NRA officials — Wayne LaPierre and the chief financial officer, Wilson Phillips — “were liable for financial misconduct.” It’s telling, though, that the fines will be payable not to New York, but back to the NRA itself. 

Mr. LaPierre, the jury found, had “abused his position for his personal benefit,” General James explains, steering “lucrative contracts to friends and relatives,” and “spending millions of organization dollars on lavish travel, private planes, expensive clothing, and more.” The ex-NRA-chief was found to have caused damages to the NRA of $5.4 million. He will be required to repay the group some $4.4 million. Whose win is that?

Such misconduct, however serious, was far from grounds to shut down an organization as vital to American liberty and public policy debate as the NRA. The organization, for its part, contends that the suit was sparked by “political animus.” In 2018, when General James was but a candidate for office, she denounced the NRA as a “terrorist organization” and “criminal enterprise” and vowed to pursue the group in court if she was elected. 

During her candidacy, General James followed the same playbook against President Trump. She described Mr. Trump as “illegitimate,” told primary voters she was “closing in on him,” and recommended that he “should be charged with obstructing justice.” Mr. Trump’s family business, another venerable New York corporation, fared worse than the NRA. The Trump Organization faces a fine of nearly half a billion spondulix and possible oblivion.

The NRA emphasizes the irony that while General James “sued to destroy the NRA and seize its assets,” she found herself in the position of “suing to recover funds for, not from, the Association.” The group stresses that General James “was forced to drop every single claim” that contended the group’s junior employees faced “whistleblower retaliation.” Allegations by General James “concerning insider transactions” fell by the wayside, as well. 

The NRA’s vindication comes not a moment too soon. At a fraught moment for the Second Amendment, the NRA’s energies had been distracted by a political vendetta that threatened to shutter the leading defender of the right to keep and bear arms. The NRA’s voice is needed on a slew of court cases that emerged in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ringing defense in 2022 of the Second Amendment in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

Despite Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion for the court in Bruen expanding gun owners’ rights, liberal states, abetted by left-wing judges, have defiantly passed new regulations that evade the high court. Plus, liability cases aiming to destroy the gun industry are making their way through the courts despite a federal law shielding gunmakers from frivolous lawsuits. So it’s good news that the NRA will be there to defend the “true palladium of liberty.” *

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* This is the phrase used for the Second Amendment by St. George Tucker and, later, by Justice Joseph Story.


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