First Amendment

Lawsuit Argues That San Francisco's Anti-NRA Resolution Violates the First Amendment

Going beyond criticism, the resolution would punish the NRA and its supporters by cutting off contractors with ties to the group.

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Yesterday the National Rifle Association filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the city of San Francisco, arguing that an anti-NRA resolution recently approved by the Board of Supervisors violates the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. By threatening to cut off government contractors with ties to the NRA, the complaint says, the city is retaliating against the organization for its political advocacy and chilling the speech of its supporters.

The resolution, which the supervisors unanimously approved last week, absurdly describes the NRA as a "domestic terrorist organization." Its sponsor, Supervisor Catherine Stefani, is a vehement critic of the NRA who views the organization as the chief obstacle to the gun control laws she favors.

"Such advocacy is Stefani's constitutional right," the NRA says. "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….Far from protected government speech, Defendants' actions constitute a 'threat[] to employ coercive state power' against NRA members and entities doing business with the NRA."

The lawsuit asks for an injunction to prevent enforcement of the resolution, which urges city officials to "assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors and contractors have" with the NRA and "limit those entities who do business with the City and County of San Francisco from doing business with this domestic terrorist organization." Insofar as that edict affects contractors who are sympathetic to the NRA, it violates the principle established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1996 case Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr. "The First Amendment protects independent contractors from the termination of at-will government contracts in retaliation for their exercise of the freedom of speech," the Court said in that decision.

The NRA also argues that the city would be violating the First Amendment by forcing contractors to "publicly disclose affiliations that are disfavored by some, and which have no relation whatsoever to the ability of a vendor or contractor to perform requested services or provide requested goods under a government contract." That sort of inquisition, it says, unconstitutionally compels speech and "would chill a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to speak against gun control, or from associating expressively or commercially with the NRA."

More broadly, the complaint says, the resolution, which is expressly aimed at undermining the NRA's influence, is a form of illegal retaliation for constitutionally protected speech. By forcing contractors to "choose between maintaining their relationships with the NRA and keeping or obtaining government contracts," the complaint says, the city would deprive the organization of services it could otherwise obtain. That is similar to the NRA's argument in its lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) over his attempts to bully state-regulated banks and insurers into shunning the group.

When he allowed the New York lawsuit to proceed last year, Judge Thomas McAvoy of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York observed that the governor seemed to be sending "the message that insurers and financial institutions that do not sever ties with the NRA will be subject to retaliatory action by the state." That message, McAvoy ruled, "provides a sufficient basis to invoke the First Amendment."

Notably, Stefani's main defense against the NRA's constitutional claims seems to be that the supervisors didn't really mean it. "It's a resolution," she told The New York Times. "It's not an ordinance. It's nonbinding." But even the threat of scrutinizing contractors for ties to the NRA can be expected to have a chilling effect, and any attempt to follow through on the aspiration to stop contractors from doing business with the organization would implicate the First Amendment.

People who support gun control and/or hate the NRA may be inclined to applaud the San Francisco resolution. They probably would feel differently about a similar resolution, approved by legislators in a more conservative city, that targeted, say, Black Lives Matter or NARAL Pro-Choice America. Aside from the poisonous tendency to portray one's political opponents as mass murderers, San Francisco's resolution embodies the view that constitutional principles are worth respecting and defending only when they help people you like—in which case they are not principles at all.

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63 responses to “Lawsuit Argues That San Francisco's Anti-NRA Resolution Violates the First Amendment

  1. Leave aside the 1A issues for a moment. Isn’t this slander? Or even libel?

    If it is neither slander, nor libel, what is to stop the same city council from labeling a religious denomination as a ‘domestic terrorist organization’? Non-binding resolution or not, there are limits to what a governmental body can officially state in their capacity, no?

    1. You would think. And if not, then I think there’s a few other organizations that could be labeled “terrorist”. Planned Parenthood, BLM, Antifa (I’d argue Antifa anyway), hell, how about everyone’s a terrorist if they dare to disagree with the local government! It’s not like we have a working constitution anymore

      1. This is exactly why we have to stop, block, suppress and eliminate the guerilla-war “satire” that’s destroying the fabric of our society. Some of us here at NYU have been working towards this goal with prosecutors in Manhattan, and we’ve made some progress, but not enough yet to definitively put an end to this scourge. See the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “parody” case at:

        https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      2. Did not know that ANTIFA, BLM, and Planned Parenthood were the ones conspiring to murder Americans:

        https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/kzmy79/trumps-epa-knows-its-new-coal-rule-could-kill-1400-people-per-year
        Trump’s EPA Knows Its New Coal Rule Could Kill 1,400 People Per Year

    2. Just guessing, but I am thinking the NRA, being “in the news” is, in many ways, not shielded by of defamation laws the way regular, private people are shielded, just as widely-known celebrities are not always shielded by what people may say about them. Also, in some jurisdictions, defamation is not a criminal act. By reading the actual resolution, they implicate that the NRA in opposing legislation, encourages mass shooters, etc. Is that defamation? Well, I like to think so, but I am not exactly a neutral observer, being a former, and probably future member. But, IMO, the suit on first amendment grounds is pretty much a slam-dunk, and much easier to go after. And, if the courts find in the NRA’s favor, well, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have that in your briefcase going into a civil case.

    3. The government typically has sovereign immunity from defamation.

      In this case, you could argue that they were not acting as a government, but as political activists, since their statements were so clearly unconstitutional. However, that would be an uphill fight.

      The NRA doesn’t have that kind of money. They have been short on funds for years now due to overselling lifetime memberships and dwindling interest in the organization by the youth, so they will only fight the simple argument, one that an uneducated layman could win with ease.

    4. Not only that, is it possible that as a member of the NRA I might well be put on a no fly list as a member of a terrorist organization. If a city council can willy nilly assign the status of Terrorist Organization what are the ramifications of this without any hint of due process. The same goes for SPLC they bandy about the country claiming to be the final arbiter of who is a dangerous hate group and who isn’t. Funny most are on the right hand side of the scale.

  2. Good. Sue the city into the ground. Make an example out of this commie bitch

  3. I cut my donations to the NRA decades ago when they bowed down to throw some 2nd Amendment rights under the bus but I might send some money to make a point on this issue.

    I also have a cause of action if I become an NRA member again and can sue the San Francisco City Council myself for Defamation.

  4. “Catherine Stefani,* is a vehement critic of the NRA who views the organization as the chief obstacle to the gun control laws she favors.”

    And that, of course, is why any of them hate the NRA; as well as the damned deplorables who keep getting in the way of utopia….

    Nice looking lady; too bad she’s a fucking authoritarian who has no respect for others rights

    1. She is definitely fuckable as long as you are not bothered by evil.

      1. My first thought was she is bangable but as I read the article I thought with her mouth gagged and in the rear.

      2. Like a night with “Vampirella.” It might be fun, but not worth having all of your blood sucked out and being left a dried husk on the side of the road. Or even [non metaphorically] foregoing any principles or self worth you might have.

        https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi2.wp.com%2Flegacycomics.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2019%2F05%2Fvampirella-2-artgerm-virgin.png%3Ffit%3D600%252C900%26ssl%3D1&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Flegacycomics.com%2Fshop%2Fvampirella-2-artgerm-virgin-variant%2F&docid=Zb0LUEd8WJhwCM&tbnid=izZo_Xw1CReX6M%3A&vet=10ahUKEwj56sOI7MbkAhVRUt8KHQY0Dx8QMwiFASgJMAk..i&w=600&h=900&safe=active&bih=494&biw=968&q=vampirella&ved=0ahUKEwj56sOI7MbkAhVRUt8KHQY0Dx8QMwiFASgJMAk&iact=mrc&uact=8

        1. Vampirella, just might be worth it

      3. A drunken hate bang in an alley among the city’s discarded needles and human poop.

        1. Can we use a cleaner alley in another city?

      4. Bothered By Evil was my nickname at Bible Study

    2. Come on, y’all. Think with the upper head.

  5. Notably, Stefani’s main defense against the NRA’s constitutional claims seems to be that the supervisors didn’t really mean it. “It’s a resolution,” she told The New York Times. “It’s not an ordinance. It’s nonbinding.”

    It must be nice to have the support of San Francisco taxpayers in wasting their money on such bullshit. Let the lawsuits begin.

    1. Does she realize the City Council is not a private club and even resolutions carry a certain legal connotation. Of course she does, that is why she did it.

      1. Yup. Virtue Signalling that carries very expensive consequences.

      2. Resolutions always end up being treated as law if you want to get any business done.

  6. If San Francisco can declare the NRA and its members as “terrorists,” can Trump have the EPA declare the city as a Superfund site due to all the human feces and trash covering the streets?

    1. Oh, PLEASE let him try!

    2. +100

      Exposed human waste producing methane!

    3. I visited SF for the first time last month. And I have to say that I was disappointed in the amount of human feces I encountered. There was hardly any!. Now, it’s likely that I just didn’t see the right parts of the city, but the way people talk about it, I was expecting the whole place to be ankle deep in shit.

      1. I haven’t been to SF since the early 00s but I lived in and have visited several developing countries after growing up in the midwest. When you are used to feces-free streets, any amount of feces in a public place seems horrifying.

      2. I can see the human feces of San Francisco from Georgia. Its piled that high.

        You must have had your vision blinded by the MAGA hat.

  7. The city fathers of SF should be exempt from any law suits brought by any organization.
    They have done a wonderful job of segregating the homeless, the less fortunate and the little people from the enclaves of the rich and shameless.
    Plus, just look what a wonderful job they do cleaning up the feces the kind, considerate and sharing people of SF have left on their streets.
    Besides, suing politicians for their actions only opens the door to making them responsible, and who in their right mind wants that?

  8. “It’s not an ordinance. It’s nonbinding.”

    Translation: Stop raining on our leftist virtue signaling parade.

    1. We’re Democrats, you aren’t suppose to take us seriously.

      1. Funny- isn’t that what everyone says about Trump?

        1. Who’s “everyone”?

    2. If it has no purpose why waste taxpayer money on passing it?

    3. This phrase confused me a little. If it’s nonbinding, the NRA shouldn’t worry about it, right? So what the f*ck are resolutions for then?

  9. Notably, Stefani’s main defense against the NRA’s constitutional claims seems to be that the supervisors didn’t really mean it. “It’s a resolution,” she told The New York Times. “It’s not an ordinance. It’s nonbinding.”

    When your resolution urges city officials to “assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors and contractors have” with the NRA and “limit those entities who do business with the City and County of San Francisco from doing business with this domestic terrorist organization, it seems pretty binding to me.

    Stefani is bananas.

  10. This clinger outrage might deserve respect were it not launched by the folks who defund and hound Planned Parenthood, interfering with health care for women, to flatter childish superstition.

    The backlash against gun nuttery can’t arrive fast enough. Outlawing hunting on public lands would be a good start, but I hope the right to possess a reasonable gun for self-defense in the home survives.

    1. Eat shit and die you worthless piece of shit troll.

      You got off on that, didn’t you, “bladders?”

    2. Rev: Are you seriously implying that people who support the second amendment, are, by and large, “folks who defund and hound Planned Parenthood, interfering with health care for women, to flatter childish superstition?”

      1. See, the world is divided into two groups. Republicans who all believe the same things about everything and Democrats who all agree on everything too. So it logically follows that anyone who is pro-gun rights is also a religious fundamentalist who is rabidly opposed to abortion, birth control and women working outside of the home.

        QED.

        1. Thanks, Zeb, I almost forgot that!

    3. But if we outlaw hunting on public lands, who will keep our pristine national forests and wild areas clear of the trash-spewing, nature-destroying urbanites trying to briefly escape their Calhoun rat experiment living areas?

      1. None of those people make it to the good hunting spots anyway.

    4. Only a brain as feeble as yours would see demanding that a partisan organization not receive taxpayer funding to be the same as demanding that a person lose their livelihood for making a private donation in support of a cause disfavored by the local potentates.

      You are every bit as stupid as you are vile.

    5. Hey, Rev. No one is preventing you from funding Planned Parenthood. Send them a check, just like we do to the NRA.

    6. the folks who defund and hound Planned Parenthood, interfering with health care for women, to flatter childish superstition.

      The NRA does these things? Do you have a link?

  11. Yawn. The NRA was founded to assist the federal government with it’s policy goals. They can never be trusted.

    The news of late concerning their financial status, combined with their long inglorious history of approving any gun control which hurts the undesirables but leaves alone the upper middle class hunters, (who can then be scared into donating more money,) also speaks poorly of the organization. From what I can see, the NRA are corrupt managed opposition fudds who will cuck to gun controllers left and right like they literally always have on demand. Their only purpose is to occupy a space in the American political landscape which should be filled by an organization with actual principles, (I suspect this is at the request of the deep state who are just biding their time,) and milk donations from low information baby boomer compromisers who are deathly afraid that gun control might affect their hunting rifles and whom are perfectly willing to sacrifice the guns I own for self defense to protect their shitty little hobby.

    The only consolation is that the NRA will sell those boomer fudds down the river too, if the government ever comes knocking. If it wouldn’t have come at such a terrible cost to me and mine, I’d love to see the look on those fat smug faces when the final betrayal comes.

  12. And once again, NJ outdoes CA:

    NJ refuses to do business with banks and retailers that resist stricter gun control measures

    They can’t get much stricter than they already are.

    1. Also FTA – “Under the executive order, the state, which purchases an estimated $70 million in firearms and related equipment annually, will refuse to do business with gun manufacturers and retailers that lack policies that deny guns to people with a history of mental illness or domestic abuse”

      Gun manufacturers should remember the blowback on S&W when they made deals like this with California.

      1. Gun manufacturers should stop selling to police and National Guard in certain states like Commifornia.

        Its a short term sales hit but the impact on the targeted state will be felt within a year.

        1. Collusion in restraint of trade. They’d all have to arrive at this decision independently.

          Barrett rifles stopped selling to CA agencies when Clinton was in office. I don’t know how much impact that had.

  13. What I find funny about this is that the NRA is the scapegoat gun controllers point at when there is broad opposition to there latest unconstitutional ploy. Congressman votes the interests of his constituents? No, it must just be bribes from the NRA. Spending political capital attacking a scapegoat shows how delusional the board has become.

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  15. Gun manufacturers and ammo dealers should stop selling ammo and guns in a state like Commifornia so police and National Guard units run out of ammo and replacement weapons.

    The states will cave within a year as residents go out of state for weapons and ammo but state governments start having rebelling agents of the state with no replacement weapons or ammo.

    1. Yeah, that will definitely happen.

      1. Barrett firearms did that to CA when they banned their .50 cal rifle.

  16. The NRA is right on this. But it’s a good illustration that what “protects freedom” are courts, not guns.

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