In a move more in line with the Chinese Communist Party than the governing body of a major American city, the authoritarians on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Sept. 3rd unanimously passed a resolution designating the National Rifle Association of America a “domestic terrorist organization.”
According to the resolution, “[t]he National Rifle Association musters its considerable wealth and organizational strength to… incite gun owners to acts of violence.” The resolution also contended that “[t]he National Rifle Association through its advocacy has armed those individuals who would and have committed acts of terrorism.”
In addition to this ugly political rhetoric, the resolution directed the city and county of San Francisco to “take every reasonable step to assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors and contractors have with” NRA and to “take every reasonable step to limit those entities who do business with the City and County of San Francisco from doing business with” NRA. Encouraging others to embrace their totalitarian approach, the resolution concluded with a call for “all other jurisdictions, including other cities, states, and the federal government, to adopt similar positions.”
The Board of Supervisors’ claim is ludicrous. The NRA is the oldest civil-rights organization comprised of 5 million members—some of whom live in San Francisco—who are dedicated to preserving the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
To carry out our mission, the NRA organizes members and other gun-rights supporters to vote and to otherwise engage in the democratic process. This democratic engagement takes many forms and includes educating voters on issues important to gun owners, assisting people in registering to vote, and encouraging and organizing gun-rights supporters to share their views with policymakers over the phone, by email or traditional correspondence, or in person at public meetings and hearings. The American Civil Liberties Union has pointed to the NRA as a model for its political activities.
Not to mention, the NRA’s bylaws explicitly state:
“No individual who is a member of, and no organization composed in whole or in part of individuals who are members of, any organization or group having as its purpose or one of its purposes the overthrow by force and violence of the Government of the United States or any of its political subdivisions shall be eligible for membership.”
While those who engage in actual terrorist activity are explicitly excluded from membership, many members have put everything on the line in America’s fight against terrorists both foreign and domestic. Nothing I say on this point can put it as strongly as NRA Director of Education and Training and former Navy SEAL Eric Frohardt did in his response to San Francisco:
“The city of San Francisco declaring the NRA a ‘terrorist organization’ is offensive. Not only to the millions of NRA members, but to those of us who fought actual terrorists. I served my country for nearly 12 years. During that time, I deployed to hot spots around the globe fighting real terrorists. I’ve seen terrorists up close, I know what terrorism is. NRA is not a terrorist organization. Myself and many like me have risked our lives hundreds, maybe thousands, of times in defense of this great nation to fight real terrorists.”
San Francisco’s disgusting resolution was put forward by District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani. According to the Board of Supervisors’ website, Stefani is a former prosecutor and a “leader and spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America,” a subsidiary of billionaire gun-control financier Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.
It’s rare to encounter an individual who seemingly made it through high school civics, an undergraduate curriculum, Constitutional law and bar preparation without acquiring a working knowledge of the Bill of Rights. Stefani might be surprised to learn that here in the United States our right to free speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, the First Amendment protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In other words, the political activities that NRA and its members engage in.
Federal, state and local governments are prohibited from restricting or engaging in conduct meant to chill the exercise of First Amendment rights. Federal courts have made clear that the First Amendment protection is most acute in matters involving political speech and viewpoint discrimination.
Individuals of whatever political persuasion cannot be allowed to use the powers of government to suppress their political opponents. Concerns over such misuses of government authority are exactly why we have the First Amendment. That is why, on Sept. 9, the NRA filed a federal lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco and the Board of Supervisors.
Thanks to the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, local officials cannot use the force of government to rid themselves of their political opponents.
The NRA’s lawsuit pointed out that the Board of Supervisors is “intent on targeting the NRA for its advocacy, chilling the NRA’s and its members’ rights of free speech and association under the First Amendment, all with an eye to silence the NRA from the debate on Second Amendment rights.” Elaborating, the suit made clear that, “the Resolution intentionally violates the First Amendment…,” as “Defendants’ conduct would chill a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to speak against gun control, or from associating expressively or commercially with the NRA.” The complaint went on to explain that it is the Board of Supervisors’ goal to establish an “implicit censorship regime” targeted at those who do not subscribe to the Board’s anti-gun viewpoints.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides Americans with a civil remedy for the deprivation of their constitutional rights. The statute states:
“Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress…”
The lawsuit made clear that the NRA is entitled to an injunction preventing the defendants from continuing their current course of conduct, actual damages, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Disturbing tactics like those employed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are unfortunately becoming the new norm for those who wish to defeat the NRA and America’s more than 100 million gun owners. With their gun-control policies repeatedly rejected in the marketplace of ideas that is the American political system, anti-gun extremists have resorted to direct attacks on the NRA in an attempt to disrupt our ability to mobilize and coordinate American gun owners.
Whether it’s other cities like Los Angeles trying to directly limit those who associate with the NRA through business relationships, megabanks trying to deny the NRA banking services, or Wall Street investors pressuring major corporations to end any tie to gun owners or the firearm industry–their intent is the same: to eliminate the Second Amendment.
They know they cannot achieve this end through the normal political process because ideas like individual freedom, personal protection and self-reliance do and always will resonate with the American people. They want to extinguish this viewpoint—not through vigorous public debate—but through back-channel attacks against our right to keep and bear arms.
They want us to believe that our support for the individual right to self-defense somehow means we hold an out-of-touch or even dangerous viewpoint. But it’s the same viewpoint as held by those who founded our great nation, and the same viewpoint that has led American patriots to make the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields across the planet in order to protect our sacred freedom. This viewpoint is not out-of-touch with American values; it is at the core of what makes America the greatest nation on earth.
That’s why we cannot, must not and will not let these attacks stand.
The NRA’s fight is of vital importance to gun owners. However, the principles at stake in this case are paramount to the Constitution as a whole. Well-meaning Americans across the political spectrum must understand the importance of free and open political discourse and denounce the type of intolerance exhibited in San Francisco. America must never allow radical political enclaves to weaponize government to curtail the fundamental and political rights of law-abiding Americans.