President’s Column | The Ongoing Battles For Freedom

by
posted on May 20, 2024
Charles L. Cotton

I am writing this article not long after leaving the United States Supreme Court. I attended oral arguments on the NRA’s critical First Amendment case, National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo, currently pending before the Court. In all likelihood, by the time you read this, SCOTUS will have published its opinion in the case. Though I don’t have room in one column to discuss the case’s facts and procedural history, in short, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) Superintendent Maria Vullo launched a campaign to weaponize the power of a New York state regulatory agency to deny NRA’s access to banking services and insurance coverage. Defendant Vullo asked the federal court judge to dismiss the NRA’s case against her, but the judge denied her request. Shockingly, the U.S. Appeals Court of the Second Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and let Vullo get away with a blatant and largely unprecedented attack on the First Amendment. The Second Circuit’s opinion is one of the most absurd opinions I have read in almost 40 years as a trial attorney. (For more information on this case, go to nralegalfacts.org.)

It is no exaggeration to say that the NRA v. Vullo case is the most important First Amendment case since NAACP v. Alabama in 1958 and Bantam Books v. Sullivan in 1963. If that sounds like hyperbole, consider this eye-opening fact: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined with the NRA and even had its best First Amendment attorney argue the case before SCOTUS! The natural reaction most folks have is “those are some strange bedfellows!” At first blush it certainly appears so, but not when you consider the facts and the potential impact of the Second Circuit Court’s decision. If the state of New York can do this to the NRA, then there’s nothing stopping any other state from thumbing its nose at the First Amendment and going after any advocacy organization.

Over decades, I have written some or all of the numberous “pro-gun” bills in Texas that were passed into law. I’ve done likewise with bills that improved Texas laws concerning self-defense. As one would imagine, these are topics that generated a great deal of emotion on both sides of the issue and both sides of the political aisle. I fondly recall a time when I would lock horns with an opponent and fight over a particular bill or bills. At lunch time, we’d go to The Capital Grille, grab a bite to eat and talk about our families, plans for the summer and anything else that came to mind. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. No longer can people merely be opponents on an issue; now they must be mortal enemies who cannot even be civil to one another. It should not be so, but this is the world in which we now live. How we got here is a topic for another column, another time and even another organization/magazine. But for now, the ACLU and the NRA shook hands and merged their strength and power to preserve a constitutional provision that, like the Second Amendment, is foundational to continued American freedom.

I fully expect SCOTUS to overturn the Second Circuit in Vullo. When it does, the NRA will pursue its First Amendment claims against all people and agencies that thought they could get away with weaponizing the power of their offices. But, there is another battle looming that will impact the Constitution. In November of this year, Americans will elect a president, all members of the U.S. House of Representatives and a number of U.S. Senators. Currently, there is a majority on the Supreme Court that truly values the Founding Fathers’ intent expressed in the Constitution. This balance could change with a heart attack, car wreck or, Lord forbid, a successful attempt by the radical Left to pack the court. At this point (April 2024) it certainly appears the presidential race will once again pit Donald Trump against Joe Biden, and the fate of SCOTUS, and thus the country, hangs in the balance. You must get involved! Talk to your friends and family members about the crossroads America will face in November. While the presidential race is critical, so, too, are House and Senate races that will determine who controls those bodies. Look at what’s going on in so many states, including unprecedented attempts to keep a presidential candidate off of the ballot! If a person/position will be on your ballot, take the time to learn as much as possible about each candidate. The NRA’s Voter Guide will be a valuable resource—use it!

The NRA not only needs you to vote and help get others to the polls, it needs your financial support as well. Please give as generously as possible to the NRA and to ILA so we can again celebrate as we did in November 2016.

Winning the Vullo case will be a tremendous victory for the NRA and, more importantly, for the First Amendment. Let’s couple that with sweeping victories in the 2024 federal, state and local elections.

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