NRA Claims Financial Difficulties In Lawsuit
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This summer, when the National Rifle Association held its convention in Dallas, the group's leaders sounded confident, even triumphant. Here's NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox.
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CHRIS COX: This is the first time in the history of the National Rifle Association, 147 years, that we've welcomed both the vice president and the president to our annual meetings.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You would think that means that they're in good shape. But this past week, a lawsuit came to light that seems to indicate otherwise. The NRA's attorneys claim that the group is in financial peril and could be forced to shut down some or all of its operations. North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann covers the NRA and gun culture in America. And he joins us now to sort this out. Hey, Brian.
BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the headline in Rolling Stone magazine, in particular, is pretty attention-grabbing. It says the NRA has warned it soon may be unable to exist. Is this really an existential moment for the NRA?
MANN: Well, in a word, no. I mean, people at the NRA tell me that no one there is afraid their paychecks are going to start bouncing anytime soon. What the NRA's attorneys do argue here is that a growing number of insurance companies and other financial institutions have severed ties or voiced concerns about working with them. They say their NRA TV division, in particular, which broadcasts conservative and pro-gun stories over cable and the web, is really vulnerable.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now, the NRA claims insurers, in particular, are backing away for a reason. And they point the finger at New York's Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has organized a boycott against them. So explain their case.
MANN: Yeah. So the NRA says Cuomo and regulators at one of his state agencies began pressuring financial institutions back in April, urging anyone who operates here in New York state to stop doing business with the NRA and its affiliates. In an email to NPR, the NRA said this boycott is working. The NRA claims they've been effectively blacklisted here. And now they're asking a federal court to step in and put a stop to it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, but isn't that democracy in action? I mean, Governor Cuomo has long been an outspoken opponent of the NRA. He said he'd like to put the organization out of business. So what's he saying about this lawsuit?
MANN: Yeah. So what Cuomo says is that New York is going to file to have this suit dismissed. He calls it frivolous and, again, has accused the NRA of having a dangerous gun-peddling agenda. But Cuomo also acknowledges that he did direct one of his agencies - this is a quote - "to urge companies to weigh reputational risks of business ties to the NRA." So the NRA's attorneys say that pressure has not pushed the group to the brink right now. But they say Cuomo is effectively using the power of his state bureaucracy to silence them.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So just to clarify, is this action that they're taking in New York state something that is just particular to New York state? Or is this affecting their national operation?
MANN: So if a governor were doing this in any other state, it might be limited to that one state. But New York is a major banking and insurance hub. So if companies that operate here back away from the NRA, it would have national implications affecting the organization's activities all across the country.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And we should say that there's been a lot of blowback to this claim that they're somehow going to go on business on social media. I've seen some of the Parkland students basically wondering if this is all a public relations stunt.
MANN: Well - and it is true that the NRA does often portray itself as a victim, especially when in fights against people like a Democratic governor like Andrew Cuomo. And people at the NRA do say that if they can't find insurance, if they can't find banks willing to do business with them, it will affect the long-term health of one of the country's strongest, biggest advocacy groups.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Brian Mann, who reports for North Country Public Radio and NPR. Thank you so much, Brian.
MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.