The National Rifle Association announced Friday it plans to move to Texas, fleeing ongoing litigation brought against it by the New York State attorney general, who has sought to dissolve the organization for violating its nonprofit status.
The NRA was chartered in New York state in 1871, but has long had most of its employees based in the Washington area.
Last summer, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a lawsuit that called for the removal of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he had held for four decades, saying he and other officials used the nonprofit group to finance a luxurious lifestyle. LaPierre kicked back at James in making the announcement of the planned move.
“Obviously, an important part of this plan is ‘dumping New York,’’’ LaPierre said in a prepared statement. “The NRA is pursuing reincorporating in a state that values the contributions of the NRA, celebrates our law-abiding members, and will join us as a partner in upholding constitutional freedom.”
The NRA laid out a plan that involves some restructuring, including declaring bankruptcy in Texas, though the organization said Friday it is at the strongest financial position in its history.
“Chapter 11 proceedings are routinely utilized by businesses, nonprofits and organizations of all kinds to streamline legal and financial affairs,” the gun rights group said in announcing the move. The tactic produced derision from longtime critics.
“Let’s be clear about what’s happening here,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The NRA — which is losing power and hemorrhaging money — is now filing for bankruptcy in an attempt to escape legal culpability for years of financial mismanagement and illegal self-dealing. This desperate maneuver is a de facto admission of guilt.”
The NRA’s Texas-based lawyer, William A. Brewer III, described it differently.
“Under this plan, the Association wisely seeks protection from New York officials who it believes have illegally weaponized their powers against the NRA and its members,” Brewer said.
The Friday news release from the gun rights group tersely addressed the future of the organization’s headquarters in Fairfax.
“The Association will analyze whether a move of its headquarters, now located in Fairfax, Virginia, is in the best interests of its members. In the meantime, the NRA’s general business operations will remain in Fairfax,” the organization said.
“The NRA has no immediate plans to move its headquarters, but we have formed a committee that is exploring all of our strategic options,” NRA First Vice President Charles Cotton said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post.
James issued a response to the NRA plans late Friday. “While we review this filing, we will not allow the NRA to use this or any other tactic to evade accountability and my office’s oversight,” James said, making note of the fact that the gun rights group had filed for bankruptcy as part of the move.
“The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt,” she said.
Beth Reinhard contributed to this article.