In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 18, 2020 at 1:20 am

On August 6, New York Attorney General Letitia James gave the National Rifle Association (NRA) an unprecedented broadside. 

“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” James outlined in a news release.

And she assailed the organization’s leadership for creating “a culture of self-dealing mismanagement” benefiting themselves, family, friends and favored vendors.

As a result, the NRA had lost more than $63 million in three years.

James’ office filed the suit on August 6 in New York Supreme Court. In it, she accuses the following NRA leaders of corruption and misuse of funds:

  • CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre;
  • General Counsel and Secretary John Frazer;
  • Former Chief Financial Officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips; and
  • Former Chief of Staff and Executive Director of General Operations Josh Powell. 

Wayne LaPierre

The lawsuit accuses these officials of:

  • Violating multiple laws including false reporting of annual filings with the IRS and New York’s charities bureau
  • Improperly documenting expenses, improper wage and income tax reporting and
  • Excessively paying people for work for which they were not qualified.

The NRA is headquartered in the Northern Virginia suburbs outside Washington, D.C. But it has operated as a New York-registered 501(c)(4) non-profit group since 1871. 

As a charitable organization, the NRA faces strict state and federal rules governing spending. The alleged violation of many of those rules gives James’ office legal jurisdiction for bringing the lawsuit.

The NRA has long been one of the nation’s most powerful special interest groups. It has dominated Republican politics for decades. With a reported five million members across the country, it claims as its mission the defense of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The NRA claims that its mission stems from the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence about “a well regulated Militia….”  They simply want everyone to own a gun—and contribute to the NRA.

The charges now facing the NRA are not the ones for which it truly deserves indictment.

For decades, the NRA has been the death-dealer of choice to criminals and terrorists. In its wake lie the bullet-torn, bloodstained bodies of countless Americans from coast to coast.

According to the non-profit organization, Brady: United Against Gun Violence: 

Every year, 114,328 people are shot. Among those:

  • 37,603 people die from gun violence
  • 13,380 are murdered 
  • 76,725 people survive gunshot injuries 
  • 34,566 are intentionally shot by someone else 
  • 22,926 died from gun suicide 
  • 3,554 survive an attempted gun suicide 
  • 478 are killed unintentionally 
  • 510 are killed by legal intervention 
  • 1,376 are shot by legal intervention
  •  310 die but the intent was unknown 
  • 4,471 are shot but the intent is unknown 
  • 529 women are killed by their husband or male dating partner

Gun Violence is estimated to cost the American economy at least $229 billion every year.

Among the NRA’s “contributions” to this carnage:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.
  • It championed the marketing of Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets capable of piercing the bulletproof vests worn by police officers and targets of assassination.
  • The NRA opposes  removing firearms from violent individuals under active restraining orders for domestic abuse.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.
  • The NRA rammed through a Republican-dominated Congress the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, (PLCAA). It was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005. This has armed the American firearms industry with immunity against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence. 

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • In 2012, the NRA rushed to defend accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ultimately shot him. 
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Anyone–including convicted criminals—can buy the NRA’s “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems. 

The NRA’s leaders—past and present—will never be criminally indicted for the carnage their greed and irresponsibility have unleashed.

But the effort by New York Attorney General Letitia James to dissolve the NRA is at least a welcome step in the right direction.

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