March For Our Lives Celebrates NRA's Bankruptcy: 'We'll Be Following Them Wherever They Go — Until They Don't Exist'
The Parkland-inspired group is now focusing on "holding the Biden administration accountable" for implementing policies that curb gun violence.
The gun control advocacy organization that was founded by student survivors of the Parkland shooting has wounded its primary target: the National Rifle Association.
Earlier this month, the NRA announced it would declare bankruptcy as part of a plan to leave New York state and incorporate in Texas instead. The gun rights’ group’s financial woes, and pending move, follow a lawsuit from the New York state attorney general that might not have happened if it weren’t for March For Our Lives.
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The group — named for the massive march in D.C. held just weeks after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — sent a Nov. 2018 letter to Attorney General Letitia James accusing the NRA of violating its nonprofit status by enriching officers’ family members and friends.
Nearly two years later, James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the NRA, accusing the group of “illegal conduct because of their diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family.”
The NRA has explained its move to Texas as an effort to “dump” New York because of its “corrupt political and regulatory environment.” The group also claims it is “in its strongest financial position in years” despite the bankruptcy filing.
Asked for a comment on March For Our Lives’ assertion that the group has helped weaken the NRA, a spokesman provided a press release that included the following statement from CEO Wayne LaPierre: “The NRA is pursuing reincorporating in a state that values the contributions of the NRA, celebrates our law-abiding members, and will join us as a partner in upholding constitutional freedom.”
WLRN recently spoke with Bella D'Alacio, a junior at George Mason University who works for March For Our Lives tracking state and federal legislation that deals with gun violence. D’Alacio, 20, is from Pembroke Pines.
The following is an excerpt of that conversation, edited for length and clarity.
WLRN: Tell me how you got involved with March For Our Lives.
D’ALACIO: I got involved with March For Our Lives right when the shooting happened in Parkland. I used to live in Parkland for a few years of my life, and it really took a toll on me, because I had gone to elementary school with those kids. If I look back in a yearbook, some of those kids are dead — and that was just so shocking to me and just so heartbreaking. In Broward County especially, it just felt like a piece of our community had just gone through a huge tragedy. And we all took to the streets. We all felt the reality of what happened.
I remember walking out of West Broward [High School] my senior year … and just feeling this energy. I've never felt that in my life. All the students, we all just gathered in the courtyard, and I wasn't sure if we were going to actually walk out. But when everyone just started chanting, “We want change,” and just went through the doors, like, wow. I got chills, and something changed in me. And I realized, in that moment, the power of young people. We're not just what people think — like, we’re just on social media all the time and have stupid teenage drama. We're real people who go through real things. And to see that we were able to band together in that moment of darkness was so inspiring to me.
From day one, the leaders of March For Our Lives have explicitly targeted the NRA. On its website, March For Our Lives calls the NRA “the root … [of] the corruption in our political system that allows nearly 40,000 Americans to die from gun violence every year.” Connect the dots for me there. How is the NRA responsible for all that?
What the NRA does is that they donate a lot of money to these politicians. And so these politicians are financially responsible to the NRA when they make these decisions. And, essentially, this is blood money. You know, students are dying. People are dying all over the country, because their representative is taking so much money from the NRA that they cannot vote yes on life saving gun legislation.
March For Our Lives did some digging into the NRA’s finances and wrote a letter to the New York State Attorney General in late 2018 asking for an investigation.
The NRA is supposed to be a nonprofit organization that helps responsible gun owners learn how to use their guns, to practice gun ownership responsibly, and so on and so forth. But the NRA has become a corrupt organization. They have taken a lot of profit for themselves.
So, in part as a result of your complaint, last August, the New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the NRA, seeking to dissolve it. I wonder what that was like for you and your colleagues at March For Our Lives, to see your work have such a tangible result?
Wow! It was just such a big victory — that young people can overpower these powerful and wealthy men who are causing so many people to die. It just felt like there was a glimmer of hope for the future.
Now the NRA is declaring bankruptcy as part of a plan to leave New York state and incorporate in Texas instead.
When the NRA was in Fairfax, Virginia, our chapter was constantly out there, protesting or leaving art activations and things like that. We will be keeping up that same energy for Texas, as well.
We do have a lot of chapters in Texas, and they have a strong presence. So we'll be following them wherever they go — until they don't exist.
Who is next, or what is next?
Right now, we are really focusing on holding the Biden administration accountable for what they've promised us. You know, Gen Z and BIPOC [Black and indigenous people of color] Americans have really delivered this win for the Biden-Harris administration. We're going to make sure that Biden works on his promise to give justice to BIPOC Americans and create equitable programs and systems in our communities that will help people thrive and mitigate the chance of dying from gun violence.
Obviously the organization is now national, but, as you mentioned, it grew out of Parkland. It grew out of South Florida. Do you feel like the work is still connected to South Florida?
Personally, I moved out of South Florida, so it kind of felt like I was moving with March For Our Lives. But Florida’s one of our strongest chapters. And it's so interesting to look back at high schools in the area where I grew up and see that they now have March For Our Lives chapters. There's a legacy. We started in Florida, and it's still going on there. People still realize the gravity of it.
It was such a traumatic experience on this community. And parents and siblings and friends were left behind. And there were children who were freshmen at the time when the shooting happened, so they're not even out of high school yet.
It's just so cool to see that March For Our Lives didn't just end with Parkland, or that it didn't just go nationwide and then Parkland forgot about it. Our Florida chapter is still so strong, has done so much great work.