U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Even when it appears to be in a weakened condition, history has repeatedly demonstrated that kicking the National Rifle Association when it is down can bring the organization fighting back from behind circled wagons and hitting hard.
Thus, when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (BOS) recently voted unanimously to declare the NRA a “domestic terrorist organization,” the association struck back, filing a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Arguments made in their complaint raise strong points that could carry the day, along with the fact that President Donald Trump has been quietly filling federal court vacancies—including those in the liberal Ninth Circuit—with conservative judges. This week, the president’s court appointments hit a new record, according to the Washington Times. The Senate confirmed his 150th nominee, a fact that has alarmed liberal groups. Seven of those appointments have been to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Add to that, the NRA is getting some interesting support from a surprising corner: the press. Not that this will matter in any court other than the court of public opinion, but columnists writing for the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post both have accused the Board of Supervisors of grossly overstepping its authority.
The court complaint pulls no punches. For example, on Page 10, the lawsuit notes, “The Resolution was authored by Supervisor Catherine Stefani, whose public presence centers around anti-Second Amendment advocacy. Such advocacy is Stefani’s constitutional right—but just as the Constitution entitles her to criticize and debate the NRA, it forbids her from wielding the powers of her office to suppress or retaliate against the NRA’s exercise of its First Amendment rights.”
In a footnote on that page, NRA attorneys added, “Stefani’s website describes her as ‘a City Hall veteran, gun violence prevention activist and former prosecutor,’ and notes that she serves as a ‘spokesperson’ for multiple anti-gun advocacy groups whose raison d'être is to oppose the NRA. See https://sfbos.org/supervisor-stefani-district-2. Stefani appears to maintain an active Twitter feed, which rarely discusses the broader welfare of the City of San Francisco but contains copious invective against the NRA and gun owners.”
On the next page, the lawsuit asserts;
“The Resolution then ‘declare[s] the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist organization.’ The Resolution also commits San Francisco’s government to make a list of the vendors and contractors to the government who have relationships with the NRA, and further to deny business to those vendors and contractors unless they cease their relationships with the NRA.”
This argument is important, as explained on Page 14 of the complaint, which states emphatically:
“While it might be an acceptable exercise of the government’s power to condemn the NRA, or even lob undignified invective at millions of law-abiding gun owners, the government cannot apply its powers in a targeted, adverse manner against those with whom it disagrees—and the government certainly cannot do so in order to stifle or punish disfavored speech. Such conduct unambiguously violates the First Amendment, especially where, as here, it is not tied to any compelling, significant or legitimate government interest.”
Even a liberal federal court judge will have to consider this allegation seriously, and liberal courts—which may or may not be keen on the Second Amendment—are traditionally big on First Amendment issues.
The 23-page lawsuit is an interesting read, and it also alleges on Page 14;
“The Resolution intentionally violates the First Amendment speech and association rights of the NRA and its members. 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; these ongoing constitutional violations constitute irreparable injuries.”
It gets worse for the BOS in the next paragraph, as NRA attorneys assert, “Defendants’ actions further attempt to improperly compel speech of the NRA’s members and supporters by requiring them to disclose relationships with the NRA so that the government can coerce them to cease their relationships with the NRA or lose all government contracts.”
The proverbial “smoking gun” appears to be in the final three paragraphs of the actual resolution, where it is:
“FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City and County of San Francisco should take every reasonable step to assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors and contractors have with this domestic terrorist organization; and, be it
“FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City and County of San Francisco should take every reasonable step to limit those entities who do business with the City and County of San Francisco from doing business with this domestic terrorist organization; and be it
“FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City and County of San Francisco should encourage all other jurisdictions, including other cities, states, and the federal government, to adopt similar positions.”
Ammoland News earlier provided the entire text of the San Francisco resolution. Adoption of that resolution brought stunning reactions from the Washington Post’s Harry Olsen and the L.A. Times’ senior editorial writer Michael McGough. While neither scribe seems too fond of NRA, they are definitely partial to the First Amendment, and significantly the complaint specifically refers to both commentaries, on Page 12. This technically puts both articles on the proverbial playing field.
McGough told his readers, “it’s not the business of a county board of supervisors to designate terror organizations.” He further wrote that the resolution “is particularly inappropriate because it is couched in language that could leave the impression that its declaration about a national issue actually has legal force.”
The WaPo’s Olsen was just as prickly, observing, “Liberals often wonder where conservatives get the notion that they are hated and despised…Wonder no more: Just look at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ resolution labeling the National Rifle Association a ‘domestic terrorist organization.’”
The lawsuit also mentions Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, who wrote in The Hill, “The resolution is the very definition of demagoguery.” The complaint erroneously attributes an Olsen quote to Turley, which the professor corrected while acknowledging, “NRA correctly attributes my view that the resolution is an attack on first amendment rights of free speech and association.”
The NRA may be nobody’s favorite bunch where San Francisco politicians are concerned, but the 5-million-member association is still entitled to the same protections as any other group, which is what the Bill of Rights is really all about. All ten amendments in the Bill of Rights were written as restraints on government, a fact about which the Board of Supervisors may soon be reminded.
About Dave Workman