- The Magazine
“Dissolving the corrupt, dangerous, and extremist NRA organization will end an illegal scheme led by the NRA leadership to enrich themselves and push an agenda that leads to the deaths of nearly 40,000 Americans each year,” said Jason Lindsay, CEO of the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, in an exclusive statement to Metro Weekly. “I believe this would end a corrupt, criminal enterprise and improve the public safety of our country.”
Lindsay was responding to actions taken on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association. James called for the gun advocacy’s dissolution over allegations that its leaders had for years mismanaged money, using organizational funds to enrich themselves and bankroll lavish lifestyles.
The lawsuit claims that NRA executives violated numerous state and federal laws through various alleged tax violations, including false reporting of annual filings to the state and the Internal Revenue Service. James’ office has claimed executives engaged in “improper expense documentation, improper wage reporting, improper income tax withholding” and failed to make required excise tax reporting and payment, among other issues. The Attorney General has claimed those improper actions drained the NRA of nearly $64 million over a three-year period.
The lawsuit was quickly countered by a federal lawsuit, brought by the NRA against James’ office, claiming her actions were politically motivated and violated the NRA’ First Amendment rights. At the same time, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a similar lawsuit, accusing the NRA of misspending millions of dollars of its charitable foundation’s funds.
Lindsay, a combat veteran and gun owner, said that, if the NRA were to disband, Second Amendment supporters who were effectively fleeced by the NRA and want representation would be within their rights to “start fresh with a new organization that follows the law and has a leadership structure that focuses on the mission, not getting personally rich.”
Formed in the wake of the June 2016 mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that claimed 49 people’s lives — with most victims being LGBTQ people of color — the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence is one of several LGBTQ-specific organizations that have aligned themselves with gun reform groups to better regulate firearms.
Among the proposals that gun reform advocates have pushed for are background checks, so-called “red flag” laws that crackdown on gun ownership among people who are mentally unstable or likely to commit unprovoked violent acts, and other restrictions on the type and number of firearms that can be purchased at a single time, as well as the amount of ammunition.
James’ announcement that she was seeking dissolution of the NRA was the equivalent of a political grenade, with those on the Right claiming the attorney general was trying to silence political opponents in an election-year surprise. They vowed there would be a backlash, not only against her, but against other Democrats and gun reform advocates at the polls in November.
Trump campaign advisor Jenna Ellis — who has become famous in her own right for statements disparaging the LGBTQ community — tweeted: “Anyone really think the Democrat NY AG’s suit against @NRA isn’t a politically motivated attack against the millions of Americans across the country who value our Second Amendment? Unfortunate they are incorporated in NY rather than a #2A friendly state.”
Anyone really think the Democrat NY AG’s suit against @NRA isn’t a politically motivated attack against the millions of Americans across the country who value our Second Amendment?
Unfortunate they are incorporated in NY rather than a #2A friendly state.
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) August 6, 2020
President Trump followed with his own tweet, writing: “Just like Radical Left New York is trying to destroy the NRA, if Biden becomes President your GREAT SECOND AMENDMENT doesn’t have a chance. Your guns will be taken away, immediately and without notice. No police, no guns!”
Just like Radical Left New York is trying to destroy the NRA, if Biden becomes President your GREAT SECOND AMENDMENT doesn’t have a chance. Your guns will be taken away, immediately and without notice. No police, no guns!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 6, 2020
Lindsay, however, says those lobbing partisan attacks on James are intentionally and wrongly conflating the NRA with the right to bear arms.
“This is not an attack on the Second Amendment,” he told Metro Weekly. “The Second Amendment is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States, not a single nonprofit political organization. This litigation in no way impacts a person’s right to bear arms. It targets an organization that is a corrupt and dangerous nonprofit that includes promoting the Second Amendment as part of its mission, but is currently illegally using fund to make leaders rich, stealing funds from dues-paying members who are focused on the mission.”
Citing the allegations in James’ lawsuit, Lindsay accused NRA executives of stealing millions from members to pay for “multimillion-dollar salaries, golden parachutes for departing employees, private jets for personal vacations, lavish designer clothing and other luxury items that personally benefit the top leadership.”
He added: “Over the years, the NRA has abandoned its mission of promoting safe gun use and training, and instead focused their efforts on lobbying and campaigning and lining the pockets of Republicans in Washington, to ensure no gun reform legislation is passed. Meanwhile, top leadership abuses funds to benefit themselves and skirt the laws that govern nonprofits.”
John Becker, an organizer with the D.C. chapter of Gays Against Guns, also weighed in, saying the organization was “excited” by James’ lawsuit.
“The facts [James] laid out yesterday after an exhaustive 18-month investigation further confirm what we already know: not only does the NRA have the blood of tens of thousands of dead Americans on its hands, it is also a massively corrupt criminal enterprise that is, in her words, ‘fraught with fraud and abuse,'” Becker told Metro Weekly in an email.
“As it turns out, the same people who look the other way when schoolchildren are murdered in cold blood have no problem lying to and stealing money from their donors and lavishing themselves and their cronies with posh vacations, private jets, and expensive gifts. They are morally and financially bankrupt, and hopefully AG James’s action will drive the final nail in their coffin and close their doors for good. America will be better off when the NRA can sashay away.”
The Human Rights Campaign also weighed in on James’ lawsuit.
“From the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub to countless transgender and gender non-conforming people killed by firearms over the last decade, the LGBTQ community is under attack and needs commonsense gun safety reform now,” HRC Press Secretary Elliott Kozuch said in a statement. “These allegations against the NRA must be investigated with the utmost thoroughness — and we must ask ourselves why the NRA continues to promote a deadly agenda and why so many of our elected officials support the extremist views of the NRA over the views of a majority of Americans.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!