NRA Wayne LaPierre

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Alex Yablon is a former writer at Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitprop generation station, The Trace. In the Slate piece quote below, he indulges in a little wish-fulfilment fantasizing about what a post-NRA gun rights landscape might look like if the New York AG succeeds in taking the gun rights giant down.

Even the ACLU concedes that full dissolution of the NRA would be wrong and highly unlikely. And Yablon concludes that any successor organization to rise from the NRA’s ashes would likely be far more doctrinaire in its support of the Second Amendment than the NRA ever was.

If [New York Attorney General Letitia] James succeeds [in dissolving the National Rifle Association], the court will direct her to find other groups who could take control of the NRA’s infrastructure, which could restart a national gun rights advocacy group. She would be bound by law to solely consider whether successor groups share the NRA’s values and are free from any taint of corruption. “The groups would have to be absolutely squeaky clean, but they could have really aggressive Second Amendment politics,” [New York Council of Nonprofits attorney Michael] West said.

Though the NRA has defined the national gun rights movement for decades, it is by no means the only player on the scene. Rivals have grown in prominence in recent years. And many of the lesser-known groups are in fact much more extreme in their pro-gun stances, and closer to the far-right fringe.

Take Gun Owners of America, a smaller but still very influential group that bills itself as “the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington,” in implicit rebuke to the more mainstream NRA. GOA arguably tanked the post–Sandy Hook Manchin-Toomey gun reform bill that the NRA was initially prepared to accept. Its former executive director, Larry Pratt, isn’t shy about cozying up to militias and white power groups. Yet there’s no evidence the group is involved in any financial shenanigans, so GOA could credibly claim to be an inheritor to the NRA.

Or look to the states, where most gun policy is actually made: Though the NRA is the only group with the muscle to regularly shape federal gun policy, independent local groups frequently take a larger role in state policy fights. “Even before the NRA’s recent troubles, it was state groups that filed lawsuits challenging gun laws, even without the support of the NRA,” said Robert Spitzer, a political scientist at SUNY Cortland who studies the gun rights movement. As the NRA has been sidelined by the investigation and other financial crises, Spitzer noted that “many of these state groups have picked up the slack.” State gun groups can turn out huge numbers of supporters. For instance, when Democrats retook Virginia’s Legislature after the most recent elections and promised to vote on a slate of gun control measures, it was the Virginia Citizens Defense League—not the NRA, which stayed away—that organized a massive rally outside the state capitol, which attracted scores of militias and other armed far-right extremists, some from out of state. The effort successfully stopped Democratic majorities from passing an assault weapons ban.

Longtime NRA power brokers untouched by the scandal could also simply start new groups. Chris Cox was the NRA’s former top lobbyist and was seen for years as Wayne LaPierre’s likely successor. He was forced to resign in June 2019 after LaPierre accused him of using the allegations of corruption to push out the elder leader. “Cox is someone who could be well positioned to create a more reputable, reliable gun rights organization,” said West. Cox could incorporate a new nonprofit, presumably in a solidly red state with friendlier oversight. He’d already have the relationships with Republican legislators that a new gun rights group would need.


– Alex Yablon in Get Ready for a Feeding Frenzy Over the NRA’s Corpse

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