NRA, Campaign Finance Bills and the Second Amendment
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
President Harry Truman famously observed, "If you want a friend
in Washington, get a dog." Lately, many "friends" have been
misrepresenting actions we've taken on H.R. 5175, a campaign
finance reform bill called the "DISCLOSE Act," so I'd like to set
the record straight.
Here's the most important thing: H.R. 5175 is a dog of a bill,
and not a friendly one. NRA has never supported-and will not
support-any version of this bill.
To understand the entire story, some background is in order. We
were victorious this past January when the U.S. Supreme Court
issued an important ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC.
That decision restored our rights to free political speech that had
been infringed by enactment of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
(BCRA) in 2002.
When BCRA was under debate back then, we aligned with hundreds
of other groups in outright opposition. When the House passed the
bill, we were told it wouldn't pass the Senate.
When the Senate passed the bill, we were told the president
wouldn't sign it. When the president signed it, we were told the
Supreme Court would overturn it. And when the Supreme Court upheld
the law, we were told "tough luck." We had to function under BCRA's
onerous restrictions for seven years, until this Supreme Court
(with a few new members) overturned it in Citizens United.
NRA believes that any restrictions on the political speech of
Americans are unconstitutional. We filed a strong brief in the
Citizens United case, which the Court cited in its opinion.
President Obama made clear that he disagreed with the ruling, so
the "DISCLOSE Act" was introduced in the House and Senate. The
bills would make things even worse than they were before the
Supreme Court ruling, which is why we told Congress that we
strongly opposed them.
We don't believe the restrictions in these bills should apply to
anyone or any organization. But our job is to ensure they don't
apply to NRA and our members. Without NRA, the Second Amendment
will be lost and I will do everything in my power to prevent
Once we announced our opposition, some members of Congress wrote
an amendment to remove NRA from H.R. 5175's draconian speech
restrictions. That amendment was then adopted and the revised bill,
as passed by the House, would no longer silence NRA.
But let's be clear. Any restriction on political speech is
repugnant. Our critics, however, believe we should put the Second
Amendment at risk to fight a First Amendment battle on behalf of
NRA is a single-issue organization made up of millions of
individual members dedicated to protecting the Second Amendment. We
do not represent the interests of other organizations. Nor do all
groups fight all issues together. For example (to pick just one
group that's criticized us on the DISCLOSE issue), we didn't
support the U.S. Chamber of Commerce when it backed amnesty for
tens of millions of illegal aliens, supported the confirmation of
Justice Sonia Sotomayor and fought for passage of President Obama's
economic stimulus bill. And we've been in direct opposition when
the Chamber has attacked laws that protect your right to store guns
in your locked car in publicly accessible parking lots. Those who
argue that we have a duty to protect the Chamber or other groups
have a different idea of "duty" than I do.
There have always been those who spend their time criticizing
NRA rather than making a positive difference for the Second
Amendment. Every move we make is attacked by anti-gun politicians,
the biased media and, of course, all of the gun-ban lobby groups.
And there have always been smaller pro-gun groups whose fundraising
depends on criticizing NRA. While the explosion of blogs and
Internet forums in recent years has allowed more communication
among gun owners, it has also allowed more baseless rumor peddling
and rock throwing to go unchecked. But not one of these critics
comes close to the size, scope and resources of your NRA--and
neither do they hold the ultimate responsibility for defense of the
Second Amendment, as we do.
At press time, it remains to be seen what will happen in the
Senate with this legislation. Anti-gun partisans such as Sens.
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., have
threatened to obstruct its passage precisely because it exempts
NRA. We hope this ill-conceived bill goes no further. But no matter
what happens, rest assured that we will keep fighting to protect
our speech rights, so we can keep fighting to protect our Right to
Keep and Bear Arms.