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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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IN THE NEWS

NRA Secures Landmark Legal Victory; Supreme Court Unanimously Rules for NRA in First Amendment Case Against Former New York Regulator

 

May 30, 2024 – The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) scored a historic legal victory today in one of the most closely followed First Amendment cases in the nation.
 

In a stinging rebuke of New York’s “blacklisting campaign” against the NRA, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for the NRA in its case against former New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo. The decision remands the NRA’s case to the lower court – reviving the NRA’s claims that Vullo, at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, violated the NRA’s First Amendment rights when she urged banks and insurers to cut ties with the NRA in 2018.
 

“This victory is a win for the NRA in the fight to protect freedom,” says NRA President Bob Barr. “This is a historic moment for the NRA in its stand against governmental overreach. Let this be clear: the voice of the NRA membership is as loud and influential as ever. Regulators are now on notice: this is a win for not only the NRA, but every organization who might otherwise suffer from an abuse of government power.”
 

The case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 18, 2024. The case is one of the most high-profile First Amendment cases in recent memory, with dozens of legal experts and constitutional scholars, including the ACLU, siding with the NRA.
 

“This is a moment of truth,” says NRA EVP & CEO Doug Hamlin. “The decision underscores the importance of this principled fight. When it comes to defending our members and their freedoms, the NRA will never back down.”
 

The opinion of the court, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, states, “Six decades ago, this Court held that a government entity’s ‘threat of invoking legal sanctions and other means of coercion’ against a third party ‘to achieve the suppression’ of disfavored speech violates the First Amendment… Today, the Court reaffirms what it said then: Government officials cannot attempt to coerce private parties in order to punish or suppress views that the government disfavors. Petitioner National Rifle Association (NRA) plausibly alleges that respondent Maria Vullo did just that.”
 

“This is a landmark victory for the NRA and all who care about our First Amendment freedom,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to the NRA. “The opinion confirms what the NRA has known all along: New York government officials abused the power of their office to silence a political enemy. This is a victory for the NRA’s millions of members and the freedoms that define America.”
 

In the opinion, Justice Sotomayor writes that Vullo was “free to criticize the NRA” but “could not wield her power, however, to threaten enforcement actions against DFS-regulated entities in order to punish or suppress the NRA’s gun-promotion advocacy.”
 

Justice Sotomayor continues, “One can reasonably infer from the complaint that Vullo coerced DFS-regulated entities to cut their ties with the NRA in order to stifle the NRA’s gun-promotion advocacy and advance her views on gun control.”
 

The History of the Case
 

In a May 2018 lawsuit, the NRA alleged that Vullo, at the urging of Governor Cuomo, took aim at the NRA and conspired to use DFS’ regulatory power to “financially blacklist” the NRA – coercing banks and insurers to cut ties with the Association 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. The court ruled 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 supposed “social backlash” against those groups’ advocacy. The court also ruled that Vullo’s guidance – written on her official letterhead and invoking her regulatory powers – was not a directive to the institutions she regulated, but rather a mere expression of her political preferences.
 

On February 7, 2023, the NRA petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking review of the Second Circuit decision. On November 3, 2023, the Court granted review of the case.
 

Twenty-two amicus briefs representing more than 190 individuals and organizations were filed in support of the NRA’s position, including a filing by several of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars. The amicus briefs also included a joint filing by dozens of congressional Republicans and filings by 25 state attorneys general. The support came from across the political spectrum.
 

On Monday, March 18, 2024, the Court heard oral arguments in the case. ACLU National Legal Director and NRA counsel David Cole argued that Vullo and other New York officials abused their authority in violation of the First Amendment, telling the justices: “There's no question on this record that they encouraged people to punish the NRA.” Cole said, “It was a campaign by the state’s highest political officials to use their power to coerce a boycott of a political advocacy organization because they disagreed with its advocacy.”
 

Eugene Volokh joined Brewer and the ACLU in representing the NRA, along with Brewer partners Sarah B. Rogers and Noah Peters.

NRA Scores Legal Victory in Dispute with

DC Attorney General

 

April 17, 2024 – The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) today announced a legal victory in a high-profile governance matter brought by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (DCAG). 
 
Filed by the DCAG on August 6, 2020, in obvious coordination with a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General in New York, the suit alleged that the NRA misused tens of millions of dollars of NRA Foundation funds. In response, the NRA challenged the claims as politically motivated and stated that it acted appropriately at all times. On April 16, 2024, the NRA and NRA Foundation entered into a consent order, whereby the DCAG dismisses all claims against the NRA. The order contains no adverse finding against the NRA and no allegations regarding the use of funds of the NRA Foundation. There are no fines or penalties whatsoever against the NRA. 
 
Discovery proved that all funds received from the NRA Foundation were applied exclusively in furtherance of its charitable programs and that there was no misuse of Foundation monies.
 
“This is further proof of the NRA’s commitment to good governance,” says NRA President Charles Cotton. “The NRA confronted this political attack – and emerges from this lawsuit strong, secure, and vindicated. The NRA and NRA Foundation are fully committed to pursuing their world-class firearms education, training, and safety programs.”  
 
The NRA Foundation supports a wide range of public programs focused on firearms safety and training, law enforcement education, hunter safety, and youth. Its Eddie Eagle GunSafe program has taught gun safety to more than 32 million children.
 
The NRA will continue to administer the NRA Foundation's programs. The order in no way limits the NRA Foundation’s ability to amend its articles, bylaws, or other organizational documents. 
 
“This outcome is a resounding win for the NRA and for the NRA Foundation, too. Both remain positioned to meet their respective goals and mission,” says William A. Brewer III, counsel to the NRA. “The result should bring an abrupt end to allegations against NRA board leadership. The resolution also supports the NRA Foundation as it pursues the highest of ethical and organizational standards – so donors can give with confidence, as always.” 
 
With respect to the genesis of the lawsuit, Brewer said: “As even the most casual observers agree, this was a politically-motivated action – filed in coordination with the NYAG. The NRA is committed to protecting itself from adverse actions by government officials using their power to attack the NRA for its Second Amendment advocacy.” 
 
While the consent order resolves the DCAG’s claims against the NRA and NRA Foundation, it has no bearing on the NRA’s other legal matters, including its pursuit of government officials who combined to destroy the NRA.
 
The NRA participated in oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 18, 2024, in support of its lawsuit against a former New York state financial regulator. The case has earned the support of legal experts and constitutional scholars, including the ACLU.
 
“The NRA remains confident in its position and standing as America’s greatest defender of Second Amendment freedom,” Cotton says. “The momentum continues to build for the Association and its millions of members.”  

READ THE CONSENT ORDER.

 

NRA Responds to DCAG Media Statements:

“Distorted and Untruthful”

 

April 17, 2024 – The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) responded today to Washington, DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb, following a consent order between the DCAG, NRA and NRA Foundation.

 

“There are two words to describe the statements from Attorney General Schwalb in response to today’s announcement in connection with the settlement agreement among the parties:  distorted and untruthful,” says NRA counsel William A. Brewer III. “The statements falsely say the DCAG lawsuit filed in August 2020 caused the NRA to repay loans to the NRA Foundation. The commitment to repay the final loan in question came in January 2020. The DCAG ‘spins’ today’s settlement in avoidance of the facts:  the DCAG long ago abandoned any claims of wrongdoing against the NRA. Even by DC standards, this is rank political gamesmanship – an after-the-fact justification for a failed lawsuit by these officials.”

 

FACT: The DCAG’s statement that the NRA used NRA Foundation funds for an “unchecked piggy bank” is contradicted by the public record, the settlement agreement, and the DCAG’s own experts. See Plaintiff’s Response to NRA’s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts dated July 7, 2023, at p. 14 (admitting that it is “[u]ndisputed” that “[n]either of the District’s experts opined that the NRA did anything wrong or illegal.”).

 

FACT:  The settlement contains NO findings or admissions the NRA Foundation misused funds, or that its monies did not support its charitable programs.

 

FACT:  The NRA utilized NRA Foundation grants and loan for proper purposes and acted appropriately at all times. The District never even alleged – much less proved – that the NRA ever violated the Nonprofit Corporations Act.

 

FACT:  The NRA executed an agreement to repay the NRA Foundation for a final fair-market loan in January 2020 – months before the DCAG filed its lawsuit.

 

FACT: Although the District in its lawsuit sought extraordinary remedies, such as a constructive trust, long-term monitorship, and substantial revisions to its Bylaws, the District abandoned these remedies because the facts did not support them.

 

FACT:  In the face of these facts, the DCAG settled its lawsuit – abandoning all claims against the NRA and NRA Foundation.

 

NRA Scores Legal Victory Against ATF; “Pistol Brace Rule” Enjoined From Going Into Effect Against NRA Members

 

March 29, 2024 – The National Rifle Association of America (“NRA”) announced a major legal victory today, as a Texas court enjoined the “pistol brace rule” from taking effect against its members. The legal win is the most expansive ruling of its kind to date – protecting millions of NRA members across the nation.

 

The NRA filed suit in the Northern District of Texas on July 3, 2023 against the ATF, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Steven M. Dettelbach, in his official capacity as director of ATF (“Defendants”), seeking to enjoin the ATF’s unconstitutional rule, which would have reversed 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.

 

Today, U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay agreed with the NRA that it has “associational standing” to pursue this case because it is a traditional membership organization whose members rely on the NRA to protect their gun rights. In other words, the NRA is the voice of its members. Further, Judge Lindsay applied the Fifth Circuit’s earlier holding in Mock v. Garland that the ATF failed to go through an appropriate notice-and-comment period before issuing its “pistol brace rule,” making major revisions to the rule without acknowledging the hundreds of thousands of negative comments from the NRA and its members across the nation, thus rendering it likely unlawful.

 

“This is a major victory for the NRA, its members, and all who believe in Second Amendment freedom,” says NRA President Charles Cotton. “From day one, we vowed to fight back against President Biden and his rogue regulators – and to defeat this unlawful measure.”

 

The legal win protects millions of NRA members across the nation who seek to use a pistol brace to safely use a firearm, including many lawful gun owners with disabilities. The ATF’s unconstitutional rule would have reversed 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.

 

READ MORE

 

NRA Defends Freedom in Supreme Court Argument

 

The NRA’s commitment to freedom was on full display again this week. 

On Monday, March 18, the Court heard oral arguments in the NRA v. Maria T. Vullo case – one of the nation’s most important First Amendment matters. Vullo is the former financial regulator in New York who tried to “financially blacklist” the NRA in 2018.

The NRA argues that Vullo, at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, took aim at the NRA and used the regulatory power of the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to financially blacklist the NRA – coercing banks and insurers to avoid 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.

In response, on May 11, 2018, the NRA filed suit to enjoin the campaign and for money damages. After winning in the trial court, the NRA's case was dismissed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. Thereafter, the Association took its case to the highest court in the land. The NRA is joined by the ACLU, legal experts, constitutional scholars, and 25 states in opposing Vullo’s actions.

ACLU National Legal Director and NRA counsel David Cole argued on Monday that Vullo and other New York officials abused their authority in violation of the First Amendment, telling the justices: “There's no question on this record that they encouraged people to punish the NRA." Cole said, “It was a campaign by the state’s highest political officials to use their power to coerce a boycott of a political advocacy organization because they disagreed with its advocacy.”

The U.S. Department of Justice also sided with the NRA, as Assistant to the Solicitor General Ephraim McDowell argued that the court should find that New York officials violated the NRA’s First Amendment rights.

Twenty-two amicus briefs representing more than 190 individuals and organizations were filed in support of the NRA’s position, including a filing by several of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars. The amicus briefs also include a joint filing by dozens of congressional Republicans and filings by 25 state attorneys general. The support came from across the political spectrum. 

“This is the moment of truth for the NRA and its millions of members," says NRA interim EVP & CEO Andrew Arulanandam. "We were honored to be before the Supreme Court – protecting our First Amendment rights to defend Second Amendment freedom. We will never shrink from the fight to defend the values and freedoms of America."

NRA counsel William A. Brewer III said, “This case is important to the NRA and all advocacy organizations who rely upon the protections of the First Amendment. Every advocacy group will benefit if the Court reminds government officials that they cannot use intimidation tactics, backdoor censorship, or regulatory blacklisting to silence those with whom they disagree.”

George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley has said NRA v. Vullo “could prove to be one of the most important free speech cases of the decade.”

A ruling is expected this June.

The Stage is Set: A Moment of Truth


March 17, 2024 – Arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court are set for Monday, March 18, in the NRA v. Maria T. Vullo case. The NRA received support from across the political spectrum – as legal experts, constitutional scholars, and advocacy groups eye one of the most important First Amendment cases in history.  

“This case is important to the NRA and all advocacy organizations who rely upon the protections of the First Amendment,” says NRA counsel William A. Brewer III. “Many groups will benefit when the Court reminds government officials that they cannot use intimidation tactics, backdoor censorship, or regulatory blacklisting to silence those with whom they disagree.”

Brewer adds, "Clearly, the NRA suffered financially as a result of the 'blacklisting campaign' undertaken by Vullo at the behest of Governor Cuomo. The NRA will pursue monetary damages – for the damage it sustained.”

"This is the moment of truth for the NRA and its millions of members," says NRA interim EVP & CEO Andrew Arulanandam. "We are honored to be before the Supreme Court – protecting our First Amendment rights to defend the Second Amendment freedom. We will never shrink from the fight to defend the values and freedoms of America."

Background

On November 3, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert review of a Second Circuit decision, dated September 2, 2022, that dismissed the NRA’s claims against Vullo, the former head of the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), for her role in a 2018 “blacklisting campaign” against the Association.

 

The NRA argues that Vullo, at the behest of former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, took aim at the NRA and used 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. The Supreme Court has granted cert review of that decision.

Support & Validation

The NRA is receiving a wave of support. Twenty-two amicus briefs representing more than 190 individuals and organizations were filed in support of the NRA’s position, including a filing by several of the nation’s foremost First Amendment scholars. The amicus briefs also include a joint filing by dozens of congressional Republicans and filings by 25 state attorneys general. 

The NRA is represented by Brewer, the ACLU, and First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh.
 

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