Misleading reports exist about several legal matters involving the NRA. This website presents key documents and facts — to set the record straight and allow the public to judge for itself.
NRA Comments on Reversal of Lower Court Ruling That Dismisses Claims Against Former NYDFS Superintendent Maria Vullo
September 23, 2022 – A panel of three Democratic appointees in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed repeated holdings by the trial judge in the NRA’s First Amendment case against former New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) Superintendent Maria Vullo – and dismissed the claims against Vullo individually.
The case stems from the 2018 “blacklisting campaign” against the NRA, in which, the NRA alleges, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Vullo attempted to coerce banks and other financial institutions from doing business with the NRA. At the time, a host of legal experts and constitutional scholars, including the ACLU, sided with the NRA and recognized the harrowing implications of such actions (see report from the Wall Street Journal).
The ACLU wrote, “If Cuomo can do this to the NRA, then conservative governors could have their financial regulators threaten banks and financial institutions that do business with any other group whose political views the governor opposes. The First Amendment bars state officials from using their regulatory power to penalize groups merely because they promote disapproved ideas.”
Although the NRA’s claims against Cuomo are not encompassed by this ruling, the decision will, the NRA believes, encourage exactly the corrupting effects scholars warned against.
“The Second Circuit’s decision regarding the NRA’s claims against Ms. Vullo misstates the facts, and offends the First Amendment,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to NRA. “The NRA is exploring its options, including certiorari to the Supreme Court, which recently reversed yet another Second Circuit decision by a panel in the Bruen case.”
Brewer added that the Second Circuit’s Vullo opinion “endorses a radical idea: that financial regulators can selectively punish businesses to advance ‘public policy,’ including ‘social issues’ such as gun control. This is a derogation of the First Amendment that should not prevail.”
NRA to Appeal June 2022 Decision Dismissing Counterclaims Against NYAG
June 11, 2022 – The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) has filed notice that it is appealing the June 2022 decision that dismissed counterclaims against New York Attorney General Letitia James for depriving the Association and its members of their fundamental rights to free speech and association.
The NYAG filed a dissolution lawsuit against the NRA in August 2020, following her campaign declarations in 2018 that she would investigate the NRA if she was elected. She had described the NRA as a “criminal enterprise” and “terrorist organization.” The NYAG assumed public office and, exactly as she promised her supporters, launched an investigation in April 2019, and, approximately a year later, filed a well-publicized lawsuit against the NRA – billed by her as the suit to dissolve the NRA. The NRA filed counterclaims in July 2021, and supplemented its filing in April 2022.
In dismissing the counterclaims on June 10, the NRA believes the Hon. Joel M. Cohen misapprehended the controlling law governing its counterclaims. In dismissing the Association’s claims, Justice Cohen adopted the NYAG’s lawsuit as true – without any discovery. Importantly, Justice Cohen seems to invert the protections of the First Amendment and fails to appreciate the extent to which the NYAG’s motivations fueled her campaign against this 150-year-old membership organization.
“There is an extraordinary public record that the NYAG, as a candidate, vowed to target the Association,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to the NRA. “The NRA believes her actions against the Association were premediated – and impermissibly based on the content of the constitutionally protected free speech of the NRA and its members. The evidence reveals there is a direct link between the NYAG’s animus toward the NRA, her investigation, and the resulting harm it has caused. The NRA looks forward to appealing this decision.”
NRA Responds to Dismissal of
Counterclaims Against NYAG
June 10, 2022 – A New York court today dismissed the NRA’s counterclaims against New York Attorney General (NYAG) Letitia James. The NYAG filed a dissolution lawsuit against the NRA in August 2020.
In the opinion, the Hon. Joel M. Cohen recognized that the scope of the NRA’s counterclaims was narrowed as a result of his March 2022 dismissal of the NYAG’s dissolution claims. The NRA previously said that the dismissal vindicates the NRA’s position: The NYAG’s effort to shut down the Association ran afoul of common sense, New York law, and the First Amendment.
Commenting on today’s decision dismissing the counterclaims against the NYAG, NRA counsel William A. Brewer III said, “Naturally, we are disappointed in the opinion. However, we understand the court’s decision that certain counterclaims were rendered moot by the NRA’s recent victory against the NYAG – when the Court struck down her efforts to dissolve the Association. And, as the record reflects, the NRA is committed to good governance and is transparent about its efforts in that regard.”
Brewer continued, “Importantly, this decision does not impact the NRA’s defense of the NYAG’s lawsuit. The NRA believes the NYAG’s pursuit was fueled by her opposition to the Association and its First Amendment activities in support of the Second Amendment. There is an extraordinary public record that the NYAG, as a candidate, vowed to target the Association – chilling evidence of her motivations toward a political adversary. In fact, the NRA believes there is a direct link between the NYAG’s animus toward the NRA and the adverse action taken in the form of her investigation. The NRA will continue fighting for its members and the freedoms in which they believe.”
As a candidate for the NYAG office, James stated:
She would "[u]se the powers of the office to investigate the legitimacy of the NRA as a charitable institution. The NRA is an organ of deadly propaganda masquerading as a charity for public good." July 12, 2018, Tish James for Attorney General Press Release
"The NRA holds [itself] out as a charitable organization, but in fact, [it] really [is] a terrorist organization." October 31, 2018, Ebony
“…we need to again take on the NRA, which holds itself out as a charitable organization. But, in fact, they are not. They are nothing more than a criminal enterprise. We are waiting to take on all of the banks that finance them, their investors." September 6, 2018, Our Time Press
She also tweeted on August 26, 2018, “We need an Attorney General who will focus on: [and names] The @NRA."
With respect to the NRA’s commitment to good governance, a May 2021 decision by a federal judge recognized the NRA.
According to the NRA, during a 12-day hearing in Dallas federal court that occurred over approximately four weeks, the NRA established that it had adopted new policies and accounting controls, displaced many “insiders” who had allegedly abused the Association, and accepted reparations for costs voluntarily determined to be excess benefits. The hearing proceedings focused on the NRA’s compliance efforts, and the organization’s renewed commitment to good governance.
In an opinion, dated May 11, 2021, The Honorable Harlin D. Hale wrote, “In short, the testimony…suggests that the NRA now understands the importance of compliance…the NRA can . . . continue to fulfill its mission, continue to improve its governance and internal controls, contest dissolution in the NYAG Enforcement Action, and pursue the legal steps necessary to leave New York.”
NRA Fights Back Against NYAG's Move to
Appoint an "Independent" Monitor
June 6, 2022 – The NRA today filed a motion to dismiss the New York Attorney General's (NYAG) claim that an "independent" compliance monitor should be appointed to oversee the administration of the NRA. In its filing, the NRA states that the unprecedented request would "burden the First Amendment rights of the NRA and its millions of members."
On March 2, 2022, a New York court struck down attempts by NYAG James to dissolve the NRA – delivering a big win for the NRA. As Business Insider reports, since that loss, the NYAG "has amended her complaint but added no new factual allegations," the NRA filing states.
"Rather, she asserts a new cause of action which seeks the intrusive, unnecessary and unprecedented appointment of an 'independent' compliance monitor to oversee the administration of the NRA, answerable to the NYAG's own office as well as the Court," the filing continues.
"There is no colorable practical need, and no legal basis, for the NYAG to contrive a de facto takeover of the NRA to replace her defunct dissolution claims," it says.
"Rather, the parties should proceed with discovery and trial on the NYAG's previously existing claims, and the new one should be dismissed."
NRA Alleges NYAG's Office "Coordinated and Conspired" with Everytown for Gun Safety
April 12, 2022 – The NRA today filed its amended response to the remaining claims in the New York Attorney General's (NYAG) Verified Amended and Supplemental Complaint against the Association. In its response, the NRA alleges that the NYAG's office "coordinated and conspired with Everytown for Gun Safety, an entity which was founded to serve as a 'counterweight' to the NRA."
The NYAG filed a dissolution lawsuit against the NRA in August 2020. On March 2, 2022, a New York court struck down attempts by NYAG James to dissolve the NRA – delivering a big win for the NRA. The NRA is now defending against the surviving claims in the lawsuit.
The filing notes that, in February 2019, prior to launching her investigation into the NRA, senior representatives of NYAG Letitia James' office met with representatives of Everytown for Gun Safety about the NRA.
The complaint states, "A representative of OAG testified under oath that the purpose of the meeting between the representatives of James’s office and Everytown was for Everytown to advise the NYAG of a complaint about the NRA's 2017 IRS Form 990 filing."
However, the NRA states that "[be]cause Everytown was founded and exists solely to further Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agenda, Everytown is not a credible source of information about the NRA."
Two months after the meeting, NYAG James authorized an investigation of the NRA. The filing states, "James commenced a sweeping, costly, invasive, and concertedly publicized investigation of the NRA concerning types of purported misconduct that have never incited the same hostility for similarly situated, comparator charities."
After the NRA sought records related to the meeting between the NYAG's office and Everytown, both entities moved for a protective order, claiming in part that discovery was stayed and that compliance with the request for documents would be unduly burdensome for Everytown, the filing states.
The NRA further notes that "a representative of the NYAG in sum and substance refused to deny at a deposition that if the NYAG succeeded on her now-dismissed claims to dissolve the NRA, she planned to distribute some or all of the NRA’s assets to Everytown."
NRA Files Answer to NYAG
Complaint and Counterclaims
March 23, 2022 – The NRA today filed its verified answer to the New York Attorney General’s (NYAG) amended and supplemental complaint and counterclaims. The filing responds to the dissolution lawsuit filed by NYAG Letitia James, originally filed on August 6, 2020, and asserts several counterclaims against the NYAG for Violation of the NRA’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and Selective Enforcement of N.Y. Not-for-Profit Corporation law, among other claims.
According to the filing, “As a candidate for the New York State Office of the Attorney General, James promised [in 2018] that, if elected, she would ‘take down the NRA’ by wielding the enforcement powers she hoped to possess if she were elected as NYAG.” The filing explains that, upon being elected, James commenced her investigation into the NRA and later filed a lawsuit that seeks to shut it down. Her actions have drawn criticism from many legal experts and constitutional scholars, including the ACLU.
The filing states, “James’s threatened, and actual, regulatory and civil reprisals are a blatant and malicious retaliation campaign against the NRA and its constituents based on her disagreement with the content of their speech. Such conduct violates clearly established statutory and constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
NRA Prevails Over NYAG:
Court Rules Association Cannot be Dissolved
March 2, 2022 – The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) scored a major legal victory today, as a New York court struck down attempts by the New York Attorney General to dissolve the 150-year-old organization. Following a two-hour hearing on December 10, 2021, the Hon. Joel M. Cohen of the New York State Supreme Court issued an opinion today that vindicates the NRA’s position: the NYAG’s effort to shut down the Association ran afoul of common sense, New York law, and the First Amendment.
“This is a resounding win for the NRA, its 5 million members, and all who believe in this organization,” says NRA President Charles Cotton. “The message is loud and clear: the NRA is strong and secure in its mission to protect constitutional freedom.”
The NRA will defend against the surviving claims in the lawsuit – but today’s ruling declares that the NYAG cannot shut down the Association or seize its assets.
“We applaud the court’s recognition that dissolution is neither appropriate nor justified,” says William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel to the NRA. “We look forward to continuing the defense of the NRA – and proving that it acts in the best interests of its members and the Second Amendment freedoms in which they believe.”
Emphasizing that the NRA is “a prominent advocacy organization that represents the interests of millions of members,” the court said the NYAG failed to meet the “rigorous” standard for state-sponsored dissolution of such a group – and her attempt raised free speech concerns.
In an opinion, dated March 2, 2022, Justice Cohen writes, “The Attorney General’s claims to dissolve the NRA are dismissed.” It adds, “The Complaint does not allege that any financial misconduct benefited the NRA, or that the NRA exists primarily to carry out such activity, or that the NRA is incapable of continuing its legitimate activities on behalf of its millions of members.”
The NRA has argued that it has demonstrated a commitment to good governance, and long believed that the NYAG’s case was part of a political vendetta. NYAG James famously vowed to “target the NRA” and “investigate the legitimacy of the NRA as a charitable organization” while on the campaign trail in July 2018 – before spending even one day in office and without any evidence of wrongdoing. She filed a lawsuit in August 2020 seeking to shut down the Association.
The NRA has successfully proven there was no legal precedent or factual basis for the NYAG’s scorched-earth, politicized approach.
The court observes, “The Attorney General cites no case in which she or her predecessors have sought – much less obtained – dissolution under analogous circumstances.” The opinion also states, “…dissolving the NRA could impinge, at least indirectly, on the free speech and assembly rights of its millions of members. While that alone would not preclude statutory dissolution if circumstances otherwise clearly warranted it, the Court believes it is a relevant factor that counsels against State-imposed dissolution, which should be the last option, not the first.”
In addition to the dissolution claims, the court also dismissed claims by the NYAG for unjust enrichment and violations of the Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act.
Against the backdrop of the NYAG’s lawsuit, the NRA is pursuing its own legal action against James. In a legal filing, dated February 23, 2021, the NRA responded to the August 2020 lawsuit filed by the NYAG. The filing alleges that her case is part of a crusade to silence a powerful political opponent – and its stated purpose to defend the Second Amendment.
According to the NRA’s filing, “James’s threatened, and actual, regulatory and civil reprisals are a blatant and malicious retaliation campaign against the NRA and its constituents based on her disagreement with the content of their speech. This wrongful conduct threatens to destroy the NRA and chill the speech of the NRA, its members, and other constituents, including like-minded groups and their members.”
Brewer adds, “Today’s developments underscore the simple truth that since taking office in 2019, the Attorney General has pushed a contrived narrative about the NRA in her attempt to support a dissolution claim that is improper. This is a victory for not only the NRA, but all who believe in the right to free speech and association.”
“I’ve always said that the dissolution case was part of a political vendetta to take down the NRA,” says NRA Past President Carolyn Meadows. “I want to thank NRA members for helping us confront this abuse of power. They deserve an enormous amount of credit.”
NRA First Vice President Willes K. Lee said, “As an NRA member, this decision gives me great pride. It reaffirms an important belief: the NRA continues to serve as the greatest voice in the fight to protect Second Amendment freedom.”