Should The ACLU Defend The NRA?

The decision by the ACLU to defend the NRA against an attack by Andy Cuomo raises a significant issue that needs to be considered and understood by everyone involved in the debate about guns. What I am referring to is the brief filed by the ACLU supporting the NRA’s lawsuit against Andy who sent a notice to banks and other financial institutions telling them to avoid doing business with the NRA, a strategy which the NRA claims is not only  a financial disaster for America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ but is also a violation of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.

Republican National Convention              One quick word about the relationship between Andrew Cuomo and the gun industry which I have yet to see mentioned in any media coverage of this case. In fact, it was Cuomo who, as Secretary of HEW under Clinton, cobbled together the infamous deal that would have allowed Smith & Wesson to avoid any and all tort claims, in return for adopting a code covering the behavior of its dealers which would have basically ended the company’s ability to make and sell guns. So, Cuomo is not only a real bête noir for Gun-nut Nation, he’s basically at the top of the list. Is there any chance that Andy may have been motivated to pursue this gambit because he was feeling some electoral pressure from Cynthia Nixon, an actress and activist who was putting together a primary challenge from the Left?

Evidently there has been a significant amount of turmoil within the ACLU of its decision to give the NRA a helping hand. Which is hardly a new situation within the ACLU, given its long history of defending the free speech of various right-wing groups, including the American Nazi movement which had ACLU representation when it went to court in 1977 to secure a permit to march through Skokie, a Chicago suburb whose residents included a substantial number of Jews.

In the current confrontation between Cuomo and the NRA, the organization and its ACLU defenders are basically saying that if a public official can use his authority to intimidate and/or punish the gun-rights group for their offensive speech, then what would stop another public official from using the same bully pulpit to go after a group like Black Lives Matter, or any group with which the official disagreed? The argument is a little specious, if only because BLM isn’t out there selling insurance and other financial products to its members, nor does it rake in two hundred million bucks every year from membership dues. But the 1st Amendment protection does not and cannot be applied only to groups who are vulnerable because of their small checkbook balances; the ‘rights’ stand by themselves regardless of whose ox gets gored.

On the other hand, our friends down in Fairfax at NRA headquarters have a rather interesting approach to the question of how they promote and affirm their support of free speech. Because they aren’t just defending someone’s right to get up and shoot his or her mouth off about the ‘right’ to own and use a gun. The NRA also defends and strives to promote the idea that gun owners can also show up at public events openly carrying their guns. After all, isn’t this the essence of the NRA’s demand to abolish gun-free zones?

Don’t give me any nonsense about how the idiots who stood in front of the 2016 Republican convention with their ARs at the ready were exercising the ‘right’ to free speech. They were reminding the media that a Presidential candidate was about to be nominated whose campaign would receive an unprecedented load of cash from the NRA.

I have no problem with the boys in Fairfax supporting Sleazy Don. I do have a problem with anyone who walks around toting an AR in a public space. That’s not free speech. That’s childish and stupid behavior, neither of which has ever been protected by the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.


5 thoughts on “Should The ACLU Defend The NRA?

  1. Yes. And they should have long ago not for the first amendment but the second which is also a civil right. About your last bit and open carry…. I agree with you on the face of it but where to draw the line. When it’s an hour past dark at 9K feet in the snow and I’m walking back to my truck after hunting all day and decide to walk along the road, I don’t want to be busted for public carry.

  2. Full disclosure. I’ve been a member of the ACLU since I had a grad school stipend and mastodons roamed the earth. I’m tickled pink that the ACLU has weighed in on this.

    The ACLU stood up against No Fly/No Buy on Constitutional grounds when the NRA and many in Congress were willing to wipe their bottoms with due process. ACLU stood with about two dozen mental health organizations in supporting the repeal of the Obama rule that put people on a no-buy list based on their being found to have certain mental disabilities by the Social Security Administration (“The ban on mentally ill people buying guns wasn’t ever based on evidence” –Jeffrey Swanson, WaPost). So this isn’t the first time the ACLU has waded into the political gunfight. The ACLU has been no fan of the Heller ruling, but grudgingly states that due process has to prevail.

    Maybe a better analogy would be if some governor on the Right went after Planned Parenthood, trying to destroy it with economic pressure. Scott Walker was quoted in Huffington as saying he was “…trying to defund Planned Parenthood and make sure they didn’t have any money, not just for abortion, but any money for anything.”

    I’m not a lawyer and admittedly don’t know crap about this decision of the ACLU but if its legal staff thought they had justification for a friend of the court brief, I’ll assume their legal eagles aren’t too stupid. This has caused a bit of a turd-storm in the organization.

    As far as Mike’s closing comment on some forms of public carry, we have had that discussion in New Mexico, where I can strap one on, sling a black rifle over my shoulder, stuff a few spare large capacity magazines in my pockets for grins, and walk into the State Legislature during tense debates about abortion, gun laws, or whatever. I have said in the past that while legal, it does scare the crap out of others, not to mention, it makes gun owners look like consummate assholes, symbolic speech notwithstanding.

    I do wish the Nation’s Oldest Civil Rights Organization replaced some of its board members with people whose cranial precision and accuracy was better even if their 25 yd timed and rapid fire scores were worse.

    • By the way, the ACLU Friend of the Court submission was in response to Cuomo asking for a summary dismissal of the NRA lawsuit. The civil liberties org brief basically says there is too much at stake in the case to dismiss it without further efforts to test the NRAs claim. In a New Republic article, author Matt Ford compares Cuomo’s tactics to Trump’s.


  3. With all the up-to-date and the modern and the latest Supreme definitions of words and terms, if money is speech, why not an AR or an AK or a 1911?

  4. “I do have a problem with anyone who walks around toting an AR in a public space. That’s not free speech. That’s childish and stupid behavior, neither of which has ever been protected by the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.”

    It very much IS protected, your Fascism not withstanding.

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