Gays Against Guns Hails AG’s Move Against NRA

New York State Attorney General Letitia James at a 2017 Gays Against Guns rally.
Donna Aceto

Gays Against Guns (GAG) responded with exuberant enthusiasm to New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ announcement that she has filed suit to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA).

“Gay Against Guns is thrilled by the action the NY Attorney General Tish James has taken!,” GAG said in an emailed response provided by Jay W. Walker. “For too long the NRA has abused its bogus ‘non-profit’ status putting the interests of weapons manufacturers above American lives. Tish James has never just talked the talk. She has always walked the walk on behalf of all New Yorkers. She has been a strong warrior in the Gun Violence Prevention movement since before GAG formed in 2016, after the Pulse massacre in Orlando. Since then, she has been a valued supporter of our work: attending early meetings and making herself available for our direct actions. As we say in GAG, Tish James is one Fierce Kween. Thank you, Madam Attorney General!”

GAG, a New York activist group formed in the immediate aftermath of the June 2016 Orlando, Florida, mass murder by a lone gunman, has staged dozens of vivid protests aimed at the NRA, gun and ammunition manufacturers, major investors in those companies, and elected officials — in New York State, Washington, and elsewhere — who take money from the gun group.

New York activists praise Letitia James for suing to dissolve the mammoth gun “charity”

Attorney General James on August 6 announcing the NRA lawsuit.Donna Aceto

In her suit, announced August 6, James alleged that the NRA, a nonprofit charitable organization registered in New York State in 1871, and key leaders of the group broke the law in their management of its funds to the tune of $64 million in three years’ time through a “culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligence.”

“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” the attorney general said in a written statement. “The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”

The NRA, widely seen as among the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington and nationwide, has consistently battled against any sensible gun legislation. According to OpenSecrets.org, in the current election cycle the group has made nearly $1.4 million in candidate contributions and spent more than $3.2 million in lobbying.

Gays Against Guns projected the number of 2019 gun deaths in America on the outside of the Newseum in Washington last December.Donna Aceto

The suit names Wayne LaPierre, who has served as the NRA’s CEO and executive vice president for more than 30 years; Wilson “Woody” Phillips, the group’s former treasurer; Joshua Powell, LaPierre’s former chief of staff; John Frazer, the general counsel; and Ackerman McQueen, the group’s former PR firm.

The attorney general charged that LaPierre has spent millions in NRA funds for private vacation travel and gifts for friends, secured a post-employment contract for himself valued at $17 million without board approval, and steered millions in contracts to former employees and board members.

Phillips is charged with arranging contracts for a girlfriend and for himself totaling nearly $3 million and failing in his fiduciary obligations to the organization. James alleged that Powell engaged in a variety of actions that misappropriated NRA funds. Frazer is charged with failing to provide the group with appropriate legal oversight and certifying false annual statements. James charged that Ackerman McQueen, over a period of decades, covered non-contractual expenses for LaPierre and other executives and passed those expenditures, without providing details, on to the organization. The PR firm, the suit alleged, was paid more than $70 million to cover fees and “out-of-pocket expenditures” in 2017 and 2018.

Gays Against Guns protesting in the US Capitol last December.Donna Aceto

James, who began her investigation of the NRA in February 2019, filed her suit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

In one of its most colorful recent protests, GAG traveled to Washington last December to protest the Republican Senate’s refusal to take up two background check measures passed earlier by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which polls show are supported by 90 percent of Americans. Several dozen members of GAG projected the names and number of Americans killed in gun violence in 2019 onto the side of the Newseum, hung banners in the US Capitol describing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as “Massacre Mitch,” and posted signs outside McConnell’s DC home, including one that read “Sold to the NRA.”

A GAG poster put in the window of Senator Mitch McConnell’s DC home last December.Donna Aceto

In addition to GAG, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and its youth arm, Youth Over Guns, also hailed James’ legal action.

“It is time to dissolve and disband the NRA for its corruption and greed as this so-called ‘non-profit’ continues to endanger American lives,” said Rebecca Fischer, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.’ executive director. “The NRA’s nefarious conduct has had an outsized influence on American politics while seeking only to make their executives and the gun industry richer. We applaud Attorney General James for her thorough investigation and for seeking legal action. New York’s leaders remain far ahead of the gun lobby and will ensure that the crumbling NRA is held accountable.”

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