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April 6, 2014

NRA gun rights quest takes it to court

(Continued)

NORMAN —

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the group has always involved itself in furthering gun rights in court, but that legal challenges have increased since 2008.

NRA has been involved in “hundreds of cases” and spends “tens of millions” of dollars out of its $300 million annual budget on legal issues, Arulanandam said.

Among the cases is a lawsuit to repeal a Connecticut law that went into effect Monday, requiring a state license to buy rifles. Another is a challenge to New Jersey’s concealed-weapons law, which is similar to California’s.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear two NRA-backed cases. One sought to overturn a federal law barring licensed gun dealers from selling handguns to anyone under 21; the other was a Texas law barring people under 21 from carrying concealed weapons.

The NRA employs about two dozen in-house lawyers and hires many more outside lawyers — including former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement — to do battle in courtrooms across the country. It not only takes on weighty constitutional issues seeking to broaden the reach of the Second Amendment but also helps people who find themselves in trouble with the law because they own guns.

The NRA provided financial assistance and legal counsel to Christopher Haga, a gun collector who owns an auto shop in the Central Valley town of Parlier.

In 2011, Haga allowed federal firearms agents to search his house after they were tipped he had some of the 26 AK-74 assault rifles recently stolen from Fort Irwin, Calif. Haga’s lawyer Mark Coleman said his client had no connection to the theft and consented to the search after agents assured him they only were interested in stolen guns. After finding none, the investigators left — but they told Fresno police Haga had types of assault rifles prohibited by California law.

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