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A New York judge ruled Friday that a lawsuit from state Attorney General Letitia James against the National Rifle Association could move forward, rejecting the gun rights group’s claims that the case was brought due to political motives.
The ruling by Judge Joel Cohen comes after last month’s mass shootings in New York and Texas, prompting renewed criticisms of U.S. gun laws and the NRA.
James filed a lawsuit accusing some top NRA executives of financial improprieties and looked to dissolve the organization.
Cohen blocked the attorney general’s effort to shut down the NRA in March, but allowed the lawsuit against the group’s executives to continue, with the potential for fines or other penalties if the lawsuit is successful.
In a court filing last year, the NRA accused James of launching a “blatant and malicious retaliation campaign” over its views on gun rights and hoped to stop the lawsuit. Cohen rejected the group’s claims.
“The narrative that the attorney general’s investigation into these undeniably serious matters was nothing more than a politically motivated — and unconstitutional — witch hunt is simply not supported by the record,” Cohen wrote in his opinion.
He added that the investigation was in response to reports of misconduct and “uncovered additional evidence.”
James said in a statement that the judge’s ruling confirms the lawsuit’s “legitimacy and viability.”
“Our fight for transparency and accountability will continue,” she said.
NRA lawyer William A. Brewer III said the organization was disappointed in the ruling but that it would continue fighting the lawsuit.
“The NRA believes the NYAG’s pursuit was fueled by her opposition to the association and its First Amendment activities in support of the Second Amendment,” he said in a statement.
Congress is facing pressure to pass gun control legislation following the recent mass shootings in New York and Texas. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have engaged in discussions about a proposal to alter current federal gun laws, although no agreement has been reached.
The House has passed bills to raise the age limit to buy semiautomatic weapons to 21 and to create federal “red flag” laws, allowing gun confiscation from people deemed at risk of harming themselves or others. Measures of this kind have typically failed in the Senate.
The NRA has long said that mass shootings should not force Americans to give up their guns, arguing instead that law-abiding citizens ought to have firearms to defend themselves and others from threats.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.