U.S. judge dismisses NRA lawsuit challenging gun shop closures in New York state

A general view shows the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters, in Fairfax

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday dismissed the National Rifle Association’s lawsuit challenging New York’s decision to close gun stores in the state in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision came eight days after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the gun rights group, accusing senior leaders of corruption including the improper diversion of millions of dollars.

U.S. District Judge Mae D’Agostino said the NRA lacked standing to challenge on behalf of its members a March 20 executive order by Governor Andrew Cuomo requiring gun stores to close in the state because they were “non-essential” businesses.

D’Agostino, who sits in the state capital, Albany, also refused to let the NRA amend its complaint, saying it would be futile because there was no evidence its ability to conduct day-to-day advocacy for its members had been impaired.

Since the lawsuit was filed on April 2, gun stores and other retailers have gradually been allowed to reopen in New York, as the number and rate of new COVID-19 infections declined.

“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, a lawyer for the NRA, said in a statement.

The case was one of many brought across the country by gun rights advocates who said store closures and other restrictions on the firearms industry violated the Second Amendment and other provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

In response to James’s lawsuit, which it branded a “baseless, premeditated attack,” the NRA countered with its own lawsuit claiming that the attorney general’s case was politically motivated and violated its First Amendment rights.

The case is National Rifle Association of America v Cuomo et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, No. 20-00385.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)