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NRA-Backed Group Spent $1.5 Million To Stack Court Hearing Major Guns Case

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"NRA-Backed Group Spent $1.5 Million To Stack Court Hearing Major Guns Case"

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A Mississippi judge on Friday blocked a new gun law which allows anyone in the state to openly carry a gun without a permit. Prosecutors and law enforcement officers had asked the judge to block the law, citing concerns that “convicted felons and mentally unstable individuals will be allowed to carry weapons, and that the law will increase crime.” Sheriffs said that “they fear people could become trigger-happy and hurt civilians or law enforcement officers.” A state court judge blocked the law, scheduled to go into effect on Monday, because it was too vague. The judge scheduled a hearing on his temporary injunction for July 8th, but that was apparently not soon enough for Mississippi gun lovers.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood asked the state supreme court on Monday to lift the injunction, and the court promptly ordered briefs from both parties. The future of this law is now in the hands of a court which has been shaped by more than a million dollars in spending by a secretive group that is funded by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The Law Enforcement Alliance of America was founded with NRA funding in 1991, when Congress was debating the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Police groups had come out strongly in favor of the bill, so the NRA founded the alliance to oppose it.

The Alliance refuses to disclose its donors. “The NRA’s tax documents, however, reveal that it gave at least $2 million to the alliance between 2004 and 2010. Previous reports indicate that the NRA donated $500,000 annually to the organization from 1995 to 2004, which would total more than $6 million,” according to a February 2013 report from the Center for American Progress (CAP). The Alliance publicly opposes gun violence prevention measures such as background checks and keeping guns away from people on the federal government’s “Terrorist Watchlist.”

Although it is difficult to determine exactly how much money the Alliance has spent on political ads, it appears to have spent more money on judicial races in Mississippi than any other group, doling out nearly $1.5 million to elect three current justices, according to a January 2013 CAP issue brief and reports from Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice. This is the court that is now charged with ruling on a law which will allow anyone to openly tote a gun in Mississippi.

As the CAP report noted, the court recently issued a ruling that no doubt pleased its NRA-funded benefactors:

A Wal-Mart store was sued when an employee knowingly sold ammunition to a straw purchaser who bought the bullets for his underage friend. The bullets were then used in a murder, and the victim’s family sued the store. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in September 2012 that the murder was not a foreseeable cause of the illegal sale. The ruling was joined by Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Randy “Bubba” Pierce, a “tough on crime” judge elected to the court in 2008 after the Law Enforcement Alliance of America spent $660,000 on his behalf…. The Alliance spent more on television ads in this race “than all the other candidates and independent groups put together.”

The ads accused incumbent Justice Oliver Diaz of “voting for” a rapist and a “baby killer” in two criminal cases. A state committee ruled that the ads violated state ethics rules because they were false. In an interview with CAP, Justice Diaz said the Alliance’s influence in Mississippi is “massive” due to the amount of money it spends on attack ads.

Billy Corriher is Associate Director of Research for Legal Progress.

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