Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Fight Gun Violence, on two new lawsuits seeking to dissolve the NRA
America’s largest gun lobby is facing two major lawsuits: Last week, New York attorney general Letitia James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association, claiming it diverted roughly $64 million in charitable donations over the years. D.C.’s attorney general filed a similar lawsuit on the same day.
Robyn Thomas, the executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Fight Gun Violence, weighs in on the origins of the lawsuits and what they might mean for the NRA’s future.
Katie Couric: What prompted the recent action against the NRA by the New York and D.C. Attorneys General?
Robyn Thomas: The NRA lawsuits filed by the New York and Washington, D.C. Attorneys General were the culmination of a more than year-long investigation into a widespread pattern of corrupt, fraudulent conduct.
They are a coordinated response to a breathtaking pattern of illegal conduct by the NRA’s leaders. The lawsuits detail repeated examples of NRA’s leaders looting organizational assets to pay for international travel on private jets and luxury yachts, and self-dealing with board members who were supposed to be looking out for the organization’s interests instead of lining their own pockets. With clear evidence of shocking mismanagement, corruption, and theft, the Attorneys General were compelled to file these lawsuits against the NRA and NRA Foundation.
How significant is it?
This is a moment of unprecedented challenge for the NRA. The New York lawsuit seeks 18 separate forms of relief — including permanently barring several current or former NRA officials from ever being associated with New York charities or seeking charity donations in New York. But the most serious of these for the NRA are those seeking to dissolve it in its entirety. It’s worth noting that in a recent high-profile case involving another charity that broke the law in this way — the Trump Foundation — the New York Attorney General put the foundation out of business and made Donald Trump pay restitution of millions of dollars. Only time will tell whether the NRA will suffer the same fate, but the Attorney General has made a very compelling case that it should.
What does it mean for the future of the NRA?
The NRA will fight this litigation tooth and nail and could drag it out for years. What’s certain is that, in the near-term, the organization is hobbled — hemorrhaging money, spending millions of dollars in legal fees, and losing the confidence of its members with its reputation in tatters. This will dramatically reduce its ability to play a role in the final stages of the 2020 election, and will leave at most a weakened NRA when a new Congress convenes in Washington in 2021. There is a very real possibility the NRA will be dissolved entirely once this action runs its course, but even if some version of the organization survives, it will be a shadow of its former self.
What does this mean for NRA members?
NRA members should be outraged. An organization that was created to represent their interests clearly devolved into one that cared far more about making its executives incredibly rich men. The NRA has long been out of step with most gun owners, shifting to extremist and deadly views, dramatically moving away from its roots of being stewards for responsible gun ownership.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
This originally appeared on Medium.