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Thursday, June 17, 2010

NRA and Disclose Act

I have avoided posting on this topic but there has been so much chatter around the web, some of which has been completely off base, that I feel compelled to address it.

Much of what has been written refers to NRA as "selling out" or having "amnesia." For those not familiar with the issue, the liberals in Congress, egged on by President Obama, are trying to come up with a new law to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign finance rules that was handed down earlier this year. In that case, the court ruled that provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which severely restricted the rights of corporations and nonprofit groups to run political advertising, were unconstitutional.

NRA has been very outspoken before and since its passage that McCain/Feingold was an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment rights of Americans who participate, or wanted to participate in the political arena. Citizens United further chipped away at McCain/Feingold and challenged the liberals ability to control political speech. Obama and his minions could not have this. Enter HR 5175 - Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Election (Disclose) Act. The Disclose Act seeks to roll back the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United by once again restricting companies' and associations' political advertising.

Now, Republicans and a number of conservative bloggers and groups are complaining that the NRA cut a deal that exempts themselves from the bill and throws everyone else under the bus. Liberal groups aren't real happy either - in a way validating that NRA has made the right decision for it's members.

NRA has explained their decision in a an email to members:

The NRA’s opposition to restrictions on political speech includes its May 26, 2010 letter to Members of Congress expressing strong concerns about H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act. As it stood at the time of that letter, the measure would have undermined or obliterated virtually all of the NRA’s right to free political speech and, therefore, jeopardized the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding American.

The most potent defense of the Second Amendment requires the most adamant exercise of the First Amendment. The NRA stands absolutely obligated to its members to ensure maximum access to the First Amendment, in order to protect
and preserve the freedom of the Second Amendment.

The NRA must preserve its ability to speak. It cannot risk a strategy that would deny its rights, for the Second Amendment cannot be defended without them.

I have to admit to having had concerns about not standing up and fighting the bill rather than carving out an exemption. But the more I thought about it, and reminded myself what happened with Obamacare, it is highly likely that Pelosi would have twisted enough arms to pass the bill out of the House. While there is still uncertainty as to the fate in the Senate, I would rather not take my chances that Olympia Snow, John McCain, or some other Republican squish would cave and allow the bill to pass. So, NRA did what it felt was in the best interest of its members and the organization's ability to speak for them.

Finally, probably the best explanation of the NRA's decision in this matter has come not from the NRA, but from a fellow blogger, Sebastian:

One reason I’m not all that sympathetic to conservative groups and Republican hacks complaining that NRA won’t do their fighting for them is that they’ve never really lifted a finger for us when we needed them.

Sebastian points out that this is the most Democratic Congress in years, but they seem to have learned their lesson from 1994 and the Clinton Gun Ban. They have bent over backwards to not tick off the NRA and have actually attached some pro-gun legislation to bills that Obama was not about to veto - thus giving us more wins in the last two years than we had in 14 years of a GOP Congress.

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