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Republican attorneys general back NRA in fight against New York effort to dissolve gun rights group

The New York suit seeks the removal of Wayne LaPierre from his leadership post at the National Rifle Assocation.
The New York suit seeks the removal of Wayne LaPierre from his leadership post at the National Rifle Assocation. (J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post)

The ongoing legal battle between the National Rifle Association and New York’s attorney general escalated Tuesday when 16 Republican attorneys general backed the gun rights group in seeking to block a New York effort to dissolve the tax-exempt organization.

In August, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a lawsuit that also called for the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years, saying he and others used the group to finance a luxury lifestyle.

James’s Republican counterparts Tuesday filed an amicus brief in federal district court in Albany challenging the state’s legal efforts.

“The New York Attorney General cannot be allowed to wield the power of her office to discriminate against the NRA simply because she does not like its members’ political views, advocacy or defense of a constitutional right,” the GOP attorneys general said in the brief, which was led by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

“I stand committed to protecting the Constitution — particularly Arkansans’ right to bear arms,” Rutledge said in a statement Tuesday. “That is why I oppose the New York Attorney General’s political stunt and am proud to lead these 16 States in supporting the NRA’s lawsuit against New York.”

James said Tuesday the GOP brief would have no impact on her efforts to shut down the gun rights organization. “The NRA has been a breeding ground of fraud, abuse, and brazen illegality. Simply put, the rot runs deep, which is why our lawsuit to dissolve the organization will continue undeterred,” she said in a statement.

When James filed the New York lawsuit last summer, she said the NRA had been undermined for years by a freewheeling atmosphere in which top officials repeatedly took advantage of their positions for personal financial gain.

“The corruption was so broad, they have basically destroyed all the assets of the NRA,” James said at the time. “Enough was enough. . . . No one is above the law, not even the NRA.”

Her lawsuit calls for the dissolution of the organization, which was first chartered in New York. It cited as precedent New York’s previous action against the Trump Foundation, which led President Trump to shut down the charity in 2018 amid allegations he used it for his personal benefit.

New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA in suit accusing gun rights group of wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing

The NRA immediately countersued, saying James was trying to enhance her political career at the expense of the group’s First Amendment rights. It asked the courts to reject James’s initiative and require New York state to pay legal costs.

James has sought to dismiss that countersuit, a motion opposed by the 16 GOP attorneys general.

“The New York AG’s action threatens the civil rights of 5 million members” of the NRA, they said in the 17-page brief. “The U.S. Constitution forbids her from taking these actions.”

The brief was also signed by attorneys general from Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and Ohio.

Meanwhile, litigation is continuing in a separate lawsuit filed last summer by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) against the NRA Foundation and the NRA for misusing charitable funds to support allegedly wasteful spending.

Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.