Neither Cam nor I are attorneys. We’re a couple of guys who are better versed on certain laws than most other people, but we’re not legal experts. While we offer opinions, we can’t really offer legal advice, nor do we generally try to do so.
With the NRA lawsuit, our opinions have been enough. While many don’t like the NRA, it hasn’t been difficult to see the problems with New York Attorney General Letitia James’s effort to destroy an entity she once described as a “terrorist organization.” Even a blind man can see that this is politically motivated.
Over at the Lawfare blog, where they have actual legal experts, they have opinions on this lawsuit as well.
The NRA is one of the most controversial and polarizing organizations in U.S. politics and is particularly reviled by the left. I personally can’t stand it, and I don’t agree with either its policies or its legal interpretation of the Second Amendment.
But that said, it’s a mistake to celebrate the lawsuit, even given the cartoonish level of corruption alleged in the complaint. While there’s a strong case for removing the NRA’s leadership and fundamentally reforming the organization itself, James’s attempt to dissolve the NRA in its entirety is a violation of key democratic and rule-of-law norms and should be troubling to people who value these norms no matter one’s place on the political spectrum.
There are two distinct norms that the lawsuit threatens. The first is that the state should preserve, to the extent possible, the free exchange of ideas and an open political arena. That doesn’t, of course, mean that the NRA, or any other political group, isabove the law simply because it’s engaged in politics. But it does mean that a lawsuit threatening to destroy any major political group should be held to a high standard. In particular, the government should bend over backwards, even while it enforces the law, to preserve the institution if at all possible. If the allegations in the complaint are true (and they have been supported by years of investigative reporting), James is absolutely right to hold the NRA and its leadership accountable. But the priority should bereform, not dissolution. To seek dissolution, especially out of the gate, is to ignore the millions of Americans for whom the NRA is a vital avenue for political participation.
Of course, reform should be the goal if it’s really about protecting members and donors. James doesn’t actually care about them. She sees this as an opportunity to strike at a political enemy, someone who has served as a roadblock for her party’s agenda.
I don’t know if the alleged corruption is true or not. Yeah, I’ve seen the media reports, but since the media despises the NRA as much as James, I remain skeptical. If those reports are accurate, then appropriate steps need to be taken to deal with the individuals responsible. Yet the NRA itself would be the victim of such corruption, should it actually exist.
It’s the “we had to destroy the village in order to save the village” approach…and it’s troubling.
How James thought this approach was a good idea is beyond me. Even people who aren’t fans of the NRA are calling this precisely what it is: a political hit job. James is serving as hatchet-woman in a new phase in New York’s jihad against the organization.
It’s going to come back and bite her at some point. I just can’t wait to see it.