Newsletter: The NRA Trial Comes to an End

I’m back in Manhattan this week to cover the end of the NRA’s corruption trial from the courtroom. This trip comes shortly after I traveled to Pennsylvania to cover former President Donald Trump’s speech to NRA members.

My on-the-ground reporting from both events is available for free right here in this email, brought to you with a sober and serious perspective you can’t find in any other publication about guns. The only reason I’m able to do this work at all is because of Reload Members who pay their dues. It would not be possible otherwise.

So, thank you, Reload Members, for the support you provide to make this kind of reporting a reality! And, if you’re not a member yet, please consider becoming one today to help ensure I can keep doing these kinds of trips.

Of course, while what’s happening with the NRA is a huge story, it’s not the only one.

Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman reviews why New Mexico’s “assault weapons” ban rebrand failed. The ongoing fights over credit card merchant category codes and surplus ammo sales to civilians heated up this week as well. And Jake explains why the Supreme Court is almost certain to weigh in on the “ghost gun” ban soon.

Plus, non-profit law professor James Fishman joins the podcast to share his view of where the NRA trial will end up.

An NRA logo on the podium at the 2024 Great American Outdoor Show
An NRA logo on the podium at the 2024 Great American Outdoor Show / Stephen Gutowski

Jury Set to Decide NRA’s Fate
By Stephen Gutowski

Manhattan, New York — A jury will have to decide whether the NRA and its leaders were caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

At least, that’s how Monica Connell of the New York Attorney General’s Office put it in her closing remarks on Thursday. She accused the NRA, former CEO Wayne LaPierre, former Treasurer Woody Phillips, and current General Counsel John Frazer of either diverting tens of millions in NRA funds for lavish personal expenses or sweetheart deals for friends, covering up those expenses and arrangements, or failing to practice due diligence in preventing them from happening. She framed their defense as little more than ineffective excuse-making.

“They’re going to try to get you to think about anything except what happened to those cookies,” Connell said in the afternoon. “They’re going to point the finger at other people. They’re going to blame anyone else but themselves.”

The defendants had spent the morning trying to poke holes in Connell’s case and decrying the motivations of her boss, Attorney General Letitia James. Throughout that time they cast doubt on the credibility of witnesses the AG relied on, including current and former NRA insiders, and claimed adequate reforms had been instituted to rectify past mistakes. They also argued the case was primarily the result of a political vendetta James had made clear ever since she labeled the NRA a “terrorist group” while running for office in 2018.

Click here to read the rest.

AR-15s on display at SHOT Show 2024 in Las Vegas
AR-15s on display at SHOT Show 2024 in Las Vegas / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: First Attempt to Repackage an ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Falls Flat [Member Exclusive]
By Jake Fogleman

New Mexico’s political leadership opted to take the lead in testing the political waters with a rebranded “assault weapon” ban this session. The results don’t bode well for the strategy moving forward.

As the state’s 30-day legislative session gaveled to a close for the year Thursday, it became clear that the vast majority of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D.) ambitious gun-control agenda was doomed to fail. Five of the seven major gun-control policies she prioritized heading into the session ultimately died in the legislature, including her marquis proposal for a revamped ban on AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons based on novel federal legislation.

Following the defeat of a traditional “assault weapon” ban bill in the state’s 2023 legislative session, Lujan Grisham vowed to continue searching for ways to get a ban across the goal line in future sessions. That’s when a member of her state’s US Senate delegation provided a new source of inspiration.

If you’re a Reload Member, click here to read more. If not, buy a membership today for exclusive access to this and hundreds of other pieces!

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the 2024 NRA Great American Outdoor Show
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the 2024 NRA Great American Outdoor Show / Stephen Gutowski

Trump Makes Promises to NRA Faithful
By Stephen Gutowski

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — Former President Donald Trump made a series of gun policy promises in a speech to NRA members that ranged from raucous to repetitious.

Speaking before a crowd of thousands that nearly filled up the New Holland Arena at the Great American Outdoor Show, though there wasn’t a vast overflow crowd as he claimed, Trump recounted his record on gun policy–most of it accurate. He also previewed what he planned to do on gun policy with another term in office. Most of those plans revolved around undoing President Joe Biden’s efforts to institute new gun restrictions.

“Every single Biden attack on gun owners and manufacturers will be terminated my very first week back in office,” Trump told the crowd to cheers.

Click here to read more.

A credit card sits on a laptop
A credit card sits on a laptop / Photo by on Unsplash

Report: Visa, Mastercard, and American Express Plan to Implement Gun Store Code in California
By Jake Fogleman

Three of the country’s largest credit card processors have quietly resumed work on implementing a special merchant code for gun stores.

Credit card networks Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are currently working to comply with a new California law requiring payment processors to implement a specialized Merchant Category Code (MCC) for transactions at gun and ammunition retailers, CBS News reported Monday. Golden State lawmakers passed the requirement, which takes effect in May of 2025, with the hopes of prompting financial companies to track and ultimately flag “suspicious” purchases for law enforcement.

Click here to continue reading.

A 200-round box of 5.56 caliber ammunition on sale at a gun store in Virginia for $150 in January 2022
A 200-round box of 5.56 caliber ammunition on sale at a gun store in Virginia for $150 in January 2022 / Stephen Gutowski

Republicans Urge Army to Continue Sale of Surplus AR-15 Ammo
By Jake Fogleman

Prohibiting the commercial sale of excess military ammunition would be detrimental to America’s combat readiness.

That’s what over 100 Republican US Senators and Representatives said in a letter to Army Secretary Christine E. Wormuth last Wednesday. The letter urged her to disregard calls from Democratic politicians and gun-control advocates to end the sale of ammunition from the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant to civilians. It warned that a failure to do so could risk future military ammunition shortages.

“We write to you today to express our deep and growing concerns with recent requests to halt the commercial sale of certain ammunition manufactured at the government-owned Lake City Army Ammunition Plant as permitted by the Department of Defense contract,” the letter reads. “We strongly advise you against acting on these ill-advised requests, as it will fundamentally harm military readiness.”

Click here to read the rest.

Podcast: Non-Profit Law Professor James Fishman on the NRA’s Corruption Trial
By Stephen Gutowski

This week, we’re looking ahead to the end of the NRA’s corruption trial that’s set to arrive on Friday.

To better understand exactly what’s at stake in the case, I’ve brought on an expert in not just non-profit law but New York non-profit law. Pace University Law Professor James Fishman, who has written extensively on the subject, joins the show to give us some expert insight into the facts of the case and the potential outcomes. He provides an overview of what to expect once the case ends.

Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I discuss the Hawaiian Supreme Court ruling putting the “Spirit of Aloha” above gun rights.

You can find the show on your favorite podcasting app or by clicking here. Video of the episode is available on our YouTube channel.

The Supreme Court of the United States on November 7th, 2023
The Supreme Court of the United States on November 7th, 2023 / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: SCOTUS Has to Speak on ATF ‘Ghost Gun’ Case [Member Exclusive]
By Jake Fogleman

The Biden Administration wants the High Court to weigh in on another gun-related case. The Court will almost certainly do so.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) petitioned the Supreme Court to hear VanDerStok v. Garland. The agency’s request followed a November 2023 Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that found the ATF’s ban on unfinished gun parts and kits “unlawful.” The DOJ disagreed with that outcome and requested that the nine justices reverse the Fifth Circuit.

Unlike the vast majority of cert petitions, this one stands an unusually high chance of being granted in some form or fashion for several reasons. First and foremost is who filed the request in this case.

If you’re a Reload Member, click here to read more. If not, buy a membership today for exclusive access to this piece and hundreds of others!

Outside The Reload

Democrats Push for State Gun Limits After Electoral Win, Mass Shooting | Wall Street Journal | By Jon Kamp and Scott Calvert

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Law Barring Drug Users From Having Guns | Cowboy State Daily | By Clair McFarland

Federal Appeals Court Revives Challenge to Georgia Ban on Young Adult Gun Carry | Bloomberg Law | By Mike Vilensky

Gun rights group asks Supreme Court to overturn Illinois assault weapon ban | Chicago Sun-Times | By Andy Grimm

Times Square shooting suspect faces no added charges for being in a ‘gun-free zone’ | Gothamist | By Samantha Max

Gun makers to ask US Supreme Court to bar Mexico’s lawsuit | Reuters | By Nate Raymond

This small New York village made guns for 200 years. What happens when Remington leaves? | AP News | By Michael Hill

Texas neighbors said they tried to sound the alarm about Houston church shooter for months | NBC News | By Suzanne Gamboa

Maine’s yellow flag law has been invoked nearly once a day since Lewiston mass shooting | Portland Press Herald | By Joe Lawler

That’s it for this week in guns.

If you want to hear expert analysis of these stories and more, make sure you grab a Reload membership to get our exclusive analysis newsletter every Sunday!

I’ll see you all next week.

Stephen Gutowski
The Reload

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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