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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.

 Legal Facts

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NRA to Move for Expedited Relief for Its Members in Light of Fifth Circuit Pistol Brace Ruling

August 2, 2023 – The National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) announced today that it would be expediting its motion for a preliminary injunction to protect its members from the Biden Administration’s unlawful attempt to reclassify braced pistols as “rifles” subject to onerous registration requirements.

The announcement comes a day after the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Mock v. Garland, which finds the controversial “pistol brace rule” recently issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) is probably unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).

In an opinion issued yesterday, the Fifth Circuit agreed with what the NRA has contended from Day 1 – the Biden Administration’s Pistol Brace Rule is unlawful.

The rule seeks to rewrite the National Firearms Act (“NFA”) to make any pistol that has a stabilizing brace attached a “rifle” subject to the stringent registration and transfer requirements of the NFA. But the ATF sought to couch its sweeping rewrite of the law as a mere “interpretation” of the NFA – despite the fact that, over the course of more than a decade, the ATF has repeatedly assured law-abiding gun owners and manufacturers that adding a brace to a pistol does not transform the weapon into a “rifle.”

Thus, the ATF contradicted itself and sought to subject law-abiding gun owners to penalties, fines, and potential prison sentences for the use of an otherwise legal plastic apparatus on some firearms. Even worse, the ATF sought to sidestep a barrage of negative comments for its proposed rule, including the NRA’s comments, by attempting an 11th-hour rewrite of the Pistol Brace Rule to add a poorly conceived six-factor test “considering everything from the weight of the firearm with the stabilizing brace attached to the prevalence of Youtubers’ demonstrating the likely use of the weapon,” in the words of the Fifth Circuit.

While the Fifth Circuit remanded to the district court to determine the proper scope of injunctive relief, the writing is on the wall: the Pistol Brace Rule is illegal and cannot withstand scrutiny. Further, the Fifth Circuit observed that “in certain circumstances, nationwide relief is appropriate and may be necessary for the benefit of all parties” and emphasized the need for a “consistent application of the law.” All that is left is for the lower courts to give effect to the Fifth Circuit’s clear direction.

The NRA initially backed a lawsuit by several state attorneys general in North Dakota, sought to intervene in a Texas legal action challenging the unlawful rule, and, on July 3, 2023, filed its own lawsuit against the ATF, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), ATF Director Dettelbach, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (“Defendants”) seeking a preliminary injunction protecting its members from the pistol brace rule. Now, the NRA will move to ensure that its preliminary injunction motion moves on an expedited schedule, so its members may obtain relief even more quickly in light of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling. It is also appealing the denial of its motion to intervene in the Fifth Circuit – an appeal that is currently proceeding on an expedited schedule.

“The NRA fought this unlawful rule at every level – first as a supporter of a major case and then as a plaintiff at the tip of the spear,” says NRA CEO & EVP Wayne LaPierre. “This ruling sends a powerful message to NRA members and law-abiding gun owners everywhere: freedom will be preserved."

“The NRA will move swiftly to expedite its pending preliminary injunction motion, allowing the NRA and its members to quickly obtain the relief they deserve,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to the NRA. “The Fifth Circuit’s ruling leaves little doubt that the NRA will achieve success on behalf of its members and prevail in protecting them from this unlawful overreach. All the gun rights groups who stood up to this attack on freedom should be commended.”

NRA Files Suit Against ATF and DOJ Over “Pistol Brace Rule,” Defends Members Against Draconian Measure

July 3, 2023 – The National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) today announced it filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”), the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”), ATF Director Steven Dettelbach, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (“Defendants”) in opposition to the unlawful “pistol brace rule.”

 

“The NRA has ramped up its offense on this arbitrary and unconstitutional rule,” says NRA Executive Vice President & CEO Wayne LaPierre. “We are confident in our ability to confront the ATF and DOJ – and preserve freedom for NRA members.”

 

​Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District, Dallas Division, the lawsuit is the NRA’s latest challenge to the rule regarding stabilizing braces. On June 30, 2023, the same court denied the NRA’s motion to intervene in another legal action, while recognizing the NRA was positioned to pursue its own lawsuit – a course it now adopts in support of its millions of law-abiding members.

 

The lawsuit exposes the failings of the new rule – which subjects law-abiding gun owners to penalties, fines, and potential prison sentences for the use of an otherwise legal plastic apparatus on some firearms. The NRA previously submitted comments in opposition to the rule, filed a motion to intervene in another legal action, and supported a lawsuit by several state attorneys general filed in North Dakota.

 

“The NRA is pursuing every possible avenue in defense of its law-abiding members and their constitutional freedoms,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to the NRA. “Our members should be free of the threat of enforcement of this presumptively unlawful rule. We are confident that we will prevail in obtaining the same relief for them that has already been granted to members of other gun rights groups.”

 

As noted in the complaint, the NRA argues the rule is unconstitutional, as the ATF reverses its long-standing position that pistol braces do not transform pistols into rifles subject to onerous registration and taxation requirements under the National Firearms Act.

Previously, the NRA obtained clarification of multiple aspects of ATF’s proposed rule, including: 1) that braces removed from firearms do not necessarily have to be destroyed or altered in a way that prevents them from being reattached to a firearm; and 2) that imported pistols with stabilizing braces do not necessarily need to be destroyed or surrendered.

The NRA will go to court to obtain preliminary, and ultimately permanent, injunctive relief restraining Defendants from enforcing the “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces’” (the “Final Rule”) against law-abiding NRA members. First announced in January 2023, the Final Rule was set to go into effect June 1, 2023. Gun rights groups and the State of Texas are among those who have been granted preliminary injunctive relief from the Final Rule – and now the NRA seeks recognition of the irreparable harm its members also face from the Final Rule.

In opposition to the Final Rule, NRA President Charles Cotton has said, “The NRA will continue to defend its members and their constitutional freedoms – fighting this rule and President Biden’s anti-Second Amendment agenda in every forum available.”

The NRA represents millions of members across the nation in preserving the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, including hundreds of thousands of members in Texas. The NRA has approximately 350,000 members in Texas – the #1 state for NRA members.

As explained in the NRA’s Complaint, many of its members are being irreparably harmed by the Final Rule because they are forced to modify their firearms, destroy them, register them, or surrender them to the federal government under threat of criminal prosecution. Pistol stabilizing braces allow users to strap their gun to their forearm or place them on their shoulders for more stability. Millions of these devices are used by gun owners across the nation – particularly disabled veterans who need braces to safely use a pistol.

In late May, the court entered orders enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Final Rule against another gun-rights group and its members. However, the scope of the injunctive relief granted applies only to those plaintiffs.

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The NRA backs and supports another lawsuit challenging ATF’s unlawful rule. The lawsuit, filed February 9, 2023, is captioned Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc., v. Merrick Garland and was filed in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota. Plaintiffs include: SB Tactical, B&T USA, Wounded Warrior Richard Cicero, and a coalition of 25 states led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley.

Read the complaint. 

NRA Files Papers in Legal Challenge to ATF “Pistol Brace Rule,” Defend Members Against ‘Arbitrary Attack’

June 6, 2023 – The National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) today announced it is intervening in a pending case to protect its members from the “pistol brace rule” promulgated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”).

The NRA seeks to intervene in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, to obtain injunctive relief stopping the ATF from enforcing its unconstitutional rule – which reverses its long-standing position that pistol braces do not transform pistols into rifles subject to onerous registration and taxation requirements under the National Firearms Act. Defendants include, among others, the ATF, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Steven M. Dettelbach, in his official capacity as director of ATF (“Defendants”).

The filings are the latest steps taken by the NRA to challenge the new rule – which subjects law-abiding gun owners to penalties, fines, and potential prison sentences for the use of a legal plastic apparatus on some firearms.

Previously, the NRA obtained clarification of multiple aspects of ATF’s proposed rule, including 1) that braces removed from firearms do not necessarily have to be destroyed or altered in a way that prevents them from being reattached to a firearm; and 2) that imported pistols with stabilizing braces do not necessarily need to be destroyed or surrendered.

Now, the NRA is going to court to obtain preliminary, and ultimately permanent, injunctive relief restraining Defendants from enforcing the “Factoring Criteria for Firearms with Attached ‘Stabilizing Braces’” (the “Final Rule”) against law-abiding NRA members. First announced in January 2023, the Final Rule was set to go into effect June 1, 2023. Gun rights groups and the State of Texas are among those who have been granted preliminary injunctive relief from the Final Rule – and now the NRA seeks recognition of the irreparable harm its members also face from the draconian measure.

“The NRA has consistently opposed this arbitrary attack on law-abiding gun owners on multiple fronts,” says NRA Executive Vice President & CEO Wayne LaPierre. “The NRA is a leader in the largest and most aggressive legal challenge to this action, and now aims to intervene in the Texas lawsuit. We are pursuing relief to protect our members – and bring a halt to this attack on their freedom.”

NRA President Charles Cotton says, “President Biden and his rogue regulators are on notice: the NRA will continue to defend its members and their constitutional freedoms – fighting this rule and the anti-Second Amendment agenda in every forum available.”

The NRA represents millions of members across the nation in preserving the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, including hundreds of thousands of members in Texas. The NRA has approximately 350,000 members in Texas – the #1 state for NRA members.

As explained in the NRA’s Complaint in Intervention, many of its members are being irreparably harmed by the Final Rule, because they are forced to modify their firearms, destroy them, register them, or surrender them to the federal government under threat of criminal prosecution. Pistol stabilizing braces allow users to strap their gun to their forearm or place them on their shoulders for more stability. Millions of these devices are used by gun owners across the nation—particularly disabled veterans who need braces to safely use a pistol.

In late May, the court entered orders enjoining Defendants from enforcing the Final Rule against another gun-rights group and its members. However, the scope of the injunctive relief granted applies only to plaintiffs.

“The courts have already recognized other gun-promotion groups should be afforded protection from this rule,” Cotton says. “The NRA now seeks to intervene – to extend the protections to the Association. The NRA is the leading provider of gun-safety and marksmanship education in the nation, so there is compelling need for the relief being sought for its members.”

In addition to this latest effort, NRA is backing and supporting a lawsuit challenging ATF’s unlawful rule. The lawsuit filed February 9th is captioned Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition, Inc., v. Merrick Garland and was filed in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota. Plaintiffs include: SB Tactical, B&T USA, Wounded Warrior Richard Cicero, and a coalition of 25 states led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley.

Read the brief in support of motion to intervene.
 

Read the complaint.

Texas and Indiana Attorneys General, Goldwater Institute, Others File Amicus Briefs in Support of NRA

May 24, 2023 – Four more amicus briefs have been filed in support of the NRA’s cert petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The NRA seeks the court’s review of a Second Circuit decision that dismissed its claims against Maria Vullo, the former head of the New York State Department of Financial Services, for her role in a “blacklisting campaign” against the Association.
 
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Indiana Attorney General Todd E. Rokita; the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Barry M. Goldwater Institute; the Competitive Enterprise Institute; and a consortium of 16 organizations, including Gun Owners of America and Citizens United, are the latest to submit briefs. Financial and business law scholars Brian Knight of George Mason University and George Mocsary of the University of Wyoming College of Law; the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE); and 18 State Attorneys General previously submitted amicus briefs. 
 
Vullo, at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, took aim at the NRA and conspired to use DFS's regulatory power to financially blacklist the NRA – coercing banks and insurers to cut ties with the Association, in order to suppress its pro-Second Amendment speech. The NRA argues that Vullo’s actions were meant to silence the NRA – using “guidance letters,” backroom threats, and other measures to cause financial institutions to “drop” the Association.
 
The NRA's First Amendment claims withstood multiple motions to dismiss. But in 2022, after Vullo appealed the trial court's ruling, the Second Circuit struck down the NRA's claims – ruling, among other things, that in an era of “enhanced corporate social responsibility,” it was reasonable for New York's financial regulator to warn banks and insurance companies against servicing pro-gun groups based on the “social backlash” against those groups’ advocacy. The court also ruled that Vullo’s guidance was not a directive to the institutions she regulated but rather a mere expression of her political preferences.
 
Many State Attorneys General, legal experts, and constitutional scholars disagree with that decision and are making their voices heard to support the NRA. 
 
Texas AG Paxton and Indiana AG Rokita write in their brief, “Allowing government regulatory bodies to leverage their power over third parties to intrude on the speech and associational interests of any private entity harms the ability of States like Texas [and Indiana] to maintain vibrant, growing economies. The actions taken by DFS and its superintendent in this case tend to minimize economic freedom by making businesses hesitant to interact with certain groups and individuals for fear of regulatory retaliation.” They join 18 state attorneys general who filed an amicus brief in April declaring, “The Second Circuit’s decision gives government officials license to financially cripple their political opponents, or otherwise stifle their protected speech – whether those rivals advocate for school choice, abortion rights, religious liberty, environmental protections, or any other politically salient issue...This Court should grant the petition and reverse.”
 
In its brief, the Goldwater Institute urged the Supreme Court to grant cert because “the ubiquitous and largely unchecked powers of government regulators gives them vast power to restrict speech, unless this Court says otherwise.” In a column, “Goldwater to Supreme Court:  Government Can’t Punish Political Opponents for Free Speech,” Goldwater Institute Staff Attorney John Thorpe writes, “The Goldwater Institute filed an amicus brief in support of the NRA, asking the Supreme Court to step in and declare that government officials can’t punish individuals or groups for their free speech by bullying others into cutting ties with them. In its brief, Goldwater pointed out that millions of Americans are subject to the same kind of ‘informal censorship’ that happened here. That’s because they, like the NRA’s former business partners, live and work under complex regulatory regimes where bureaucrats can easily use investigations, licensing decisions, and other forms of red tape as weapons against those whose beliefs and ideologies they disapprove of.” Read the commentary here.
 
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) declared in its brief, “Abuse of government powers can lead to coercion and censorship. We provide this amicus to demonstrate an alarming phenomenon: the increasing and almost routine incidence of such abuse and such consequences.” Noting that the NRA was among the few groups subject to government bullying that was “not intimidated from going to court to pursue their rights,” CEI stated: “the very pervasiveness of the kind of government action highlighted in the petition – and the detrimental effects of such actions, both on large numbers of people and on established constitutional norms – should encourage this Court to clarify, in this area, what the government may or must not do.”

 

The brief filed by Gun Owners of America, Citizens United, and 14 other groups stated: “If New York is allowed to prevent gun advocacy groups from functioning, what is to prevent Texas and other pro-life states from imposing the same agenda against Planned Parenthood? There must be only one rule for advocacy groups in the nation, and that is – regulators may not abuse their government powers to silence their political opponents.” These groups noted that “[t]he Second Circuit opinion evidenced hostility to rights protected by the Second Amendment” and that New York’s rationale for its actions – that dealing with the NRA created a “reputational risk” for businesses and consumer boycotts – is similar to arguments used to justify segregation in the 1960s that were subsequently rejected by the Supreme Court.

FIRE Files Amicus Brief in Support of NRA Cert Petition to U.S. Supreme Court

April 5, 2023 – The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) today filed an amicus brief in support of the NRA’s certiorari petition to the Supreme Court. FIRE is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization
dedicated to defending the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought.

The brief states: “Given its decades of experience defending freedom of expression, FIRE is keenly aware that public officials too often misuse their power through threats and other informal mechanisms of coercion to stifle controversial speakers and impose ideological conformity. FIRE submits this brief to urge this Court to reverse the alarming decision of the Second Circuit, which held that petitioner had failed to state a viable claim despite detailed allegations that a powerful New York state official threatened action against regulated entities that associated with petitioner because she opposed  petitioner’s political advocacy.”

Read the amicus brief here. 

18 State Attorneys General File Brief
in Support of NRA

April 5, 2023 – Eighteen Republican Attorneys General today filed an amicus brief in support of the NRA’s certiorari petition to the Supreme Court. On February 7, 2023, the NRA petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a much criticized opinion issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in NRA v. Maria Vullo.

 

A copy of their amicus brief is available here.

 

The brief is important validation of the NRA’s position and its advocacy. The support of 18 state Attorneys General highlighting the danger of the Second Circuit’s opinion is a powerful signal to the Supreme Court justices that the NRA’s case is worthy of its consideration.

 

The former Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), Maria Vullo, at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, took aim at the NRA and conspired to use DFS's regulatory power to financially blacklist the NRA – coercing banks and insurers to cut ties with the Association, in order to suppress its pro-Second Amendment speech. The NRA argues that Vullo’s actions were meant to silence the NRA – using “guidance letters” and other measures to cause financial institutions to “drop” the Association.

 

The NRA's First Amendment claims withstood multiple motions to dismiss. But in 2022, after Vullo appealed the trial court's ruling, the Second Circuit struck down the NRA's claims – ruling, among other things, that in an era of “enhanced corporate social responsibility,” it was reasonable for New York's financial regulator to warn banks and insurance companies against servicing pro-gun groups based on the “social backlash” against those groups’ advocacy. The court also ruled that Vullo’s guidance was not a directive to the institutions she regulated but rather a mere expression of her political preferences.

 

The AGs write: “The Second Circuit’s decision gives government officials license to financially cripple their political opponents, or otherwise stifle their protected speech—whether those rivals advocate for school choice, abortion rights, religious liberty, environmental protections, or any other politically salient issue. As the ACLU argues, the decision gives ‘[p]ublic officials … a readymade playbook for abusing their regulatory power to harm disfavored advocacy groups without triggering judicial scrutiny.’”

 

They continue, “If the Second Circuit’s decision is left standing, it’s not difficult to imagine government officials employing similar tactics to stifle disfavored speakers. Whether the method of choice is to target financial institutions that advocacy groups depend on to engage in fulsome political advocacy—whether related to school choice, abortion, religious liberty, or environmental issues—or simply to target private organizations that host events for such groups, the path forward is clearly marked.”

 

The authors note that DFS clearly communicated to regulated institutions that “business relationships with the NRA were off limits.”

 

Finally, the AG’s write there are many cases that stand in contrast to the conduct allowed here. The AGs write that those cases recognize that “government officials’ reliance on subtle threats of coercive government action can stifle disfavored speakers. And if this Court doesn’t intervene to shut down that path, ‘where would such official bullying end … ?’”

Financial and Business Law Scholars Back NRA in Cert Petition to U.S. Supreme Court,
File Amicus Brief Seeking Review of “Blacklisting Campaign” Case

March 21, 2023 – Financial and business law scholars, Brian Knight of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center and George Mocsary of the University of Wyoming College of Law, filed an amicus brief today in support of the NRA’s certiorari petition to the Supreme Court. On  February 7, 2023, the NRA petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a controversial judgment issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in NRA v. Maria Vullo.

 

As the former Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), Vullo, at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, wielded DFS's regulatory power to financially blacklist the NRA – coercing banks and insurers to cut ties with the Association, in order to suppress its pro-Second Amendment speech. The NRA argues that Vullo’s actions were meant to silence the NRA – using “guidance letters” and other measures to cause financial institutions to “drop” the Association.

 

The NRA's First Amendment claims withstood multiple motions to dismiss. But in 2022, after Vullo appealed the trial court's ruling on qualified immunity, the Second Circuit struck down the NRA's claims – ruling, among other things, that in an era of “enhanced corporate social responsibility,” it was reasonable for New York's financial regulator to warn banks against servicing pro-gun groups based on the “social backlash” against those groups’ advocacy. The court also ruled that Vullo’s guidance was not a directive to the institutions she regulated but rather a mere expression of her political preferences.

 

Knight and Mocsary write that the trial court erred in “finding the lack of explicitly binding language or threats from [DFS] in its guidance letter meant that no reasonable regulated firm would consider itself bound by those letters. The reality of banking and insurance regulations is that firms frequently feel that they risk sanction if they do not comply with nominally non-binding guidance.” The authors write that the trial court misunderstood the relationship between regulators and financial institutions. Those institutions have historically faced formal and informal penalties for “failure to conform” to such guidance as issued by Vullo.

 

The authors observe that the regulatory framework makes it difficult for financial institutions to challenge regulators. The head of the DFS wields incredible power and the “nature of banking and insurance regulations, scholarship, and previous, closely analogous examples of regulated charities” demonstrates financial institutions would feel under pressure by a regulatory body – where it made an express threats against them or not.

 

The authors call the abuse of financial regulatory power a matter of “great significance” for our nation. They warn that Vullo’s actions are “emblematic of a growing effort by financial regulators to use their awesome powers to effect social change, even at the expense of protected constitutional rights.”

 

They call on the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review and then reverse the decision of the Second Circuit, in order to curtail regulators potentially “abusing their unique positions of power” to nullify cherished constitutional rights such as the right to freedom of speech embodied in the First Amendment.

 

READ THE AMICUS BRIEF.

NRA Appeals June 2022 Decision Dismissing Counterclaims Against NYAG

March 14, 2023 – The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) has appealed the New York Supreme Court’s June 10, 2022, decision dismissing its First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause counterclaims against New York Attorney General Letitia James.

 

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 a campaign against the NRA 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.

 

The NRA alleged that James’s campaign to shut down the NRA was motivated by a desire to silence its pro-Second Amendment advocacy. On June 10, 2022, the New York Supreme Court dismissed the counterclaims without allowing discovery. Citing cases arising in the criminal context, the Court contended that the NRA was required to show that the NYAG had no probable cause to investigate it to state a claim under the First Amendment.

 

In its appeal, filed in the Appellate Division, First Department, the NRA states that the "lower court’s opinion practically draws a roadmap for how officials can abuse state power to destroy the ability for non-profits to advocate for positions disfavored by the government. An official can run for office with the stated aim of taking adverse action to a silence a disfavored speaker." 

 

The appeal continues, "Under the lower court’s decision, so long as the targeted entity has committed any technical infraction whatsoever, it would have no redress for the blatant violation of its First Amendment rights. This would mark a decisive and dangerous break with both federal and New York law."

READ THE FILING.

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