Thursday, September 24, 2020

Cuomo Prevails in NRA Suit Over Pandemic Closure of New York Gun Shops

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A federal judge threw out a National Rifle Association lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for refusing to label gun shops as essential businesses allowed to stay open during the coronavirus lockdown he ordered in March.

U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino in Albany, New York, ruled Friday that the NRA didn’t have legal standing to sue the state on behalf of its members. The judge also denied the organization’s request to once again amend its complaint to try to show it had been injured by Cuomo’s actions because its staff had to answer phone calls about the closure of gun shops in the state.

“The proposed second amended complaint is completely devoid of any allegation detailing how the general support that was purportedly provided by Plaintiff, which consisted of fielding phone calls and providing advice to its members, was inconsistent with Plaintiff’s ordinary operations of advocating its members’ rights,” wrote D’Agostino, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

The setback for the NRA comes days after New York Attorney General Letitia James sued to dissolve the nonprofit, which is chartered in the state. James accused the NRA and four current and former top officials of rampant financial misconduct that allegedly violated state rules governing the management of charities.

The NRA sued Cuomo in April, claiming the governor’s March 20 executive order shuttering many businesses in the state violated citizens’ constitutional rights and left them defenseless while prisoners were being released early as a result of the crisis. The order deemed grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies and restaurants that do take-out as essential and allowed them to remain open.

At the time, New York was the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. Non-essential retail businesses began reopening in the state in late May though remain subject to social distancing and face-mask requirements.

“Although we respectfully disagree that the NRA lacked standing to pursue this case — then or now — we were pleased the action brought attention to an abuse of power against gun retailers,” William Brewer III, outside counsel to the group, said Friday. “The NRA will always fight for confirmation that gun stores are ‘essential’ — and will not shrink from defending the constitutional freedoms of its members.”

In an emailed statement about D’Agostino’s ruling, James’ office said: “No business or organization gets to choose which laws to follow, including the NRA.”



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