Sunday, June 27, 2010

NRA and the 1st Amendment

Democrats face criticism from customary allies - Politics - Capitol Hill -

This story has been around for several weeks, and I've been following it without comment because I wasn't sure where the story was going, nor on my stand on it.

There's a local talk-show radio host, Lars Larson, who expressed his disappointment that the National Rifle Association seems to have 'caved in' as soon as Congress agreed to exempt the NRA from the egregious requirements of non-profits.

Briefly stated, the bill ( the "DISCLOSE" act) was intended to counter a "loop-hole" in compaign contributions which, according to the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCUSA) allowed Corporations the same First Amendment Protections as individual.

Essentially SCUSA ruled at the first of the year that Corporations could 'speak' about campaign issues, and publish these comments, with the same freedom as individuals.

Since Corporations typically have deeper pockets than most individuals, Congress thought their political comment should be restricted, especially in months toward the end of the campaign season.

So they fabricated a new bill which, if enacted into law, would impose incredibly burdensome reporting regulations on political speech. This bill was also directed at non-profits ... who usually (as in the case of the NRA, for example) have their own agenda.

The NRA objected, and since the NRA wields stronger political power than most non-profits (see the failure of Al Gores's 2000 Presidential Bid, where he couldn't win his own home state of Tennessee because of his anti-gun agenda), Congress decided that they could pass the bill if they could just buy off the NRA. Which they did, as well as several other Non-Profits (including the Sierra Club, the AARP, and the Human Society) which 'profited' by special exeptions:

"Regardless of your position about the legislation in general, we think you will agree with us that this special carve-out is undemocratic and dangerous," Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, wrote Tuesday to the leaders of more than 100 member-organizations. She sought signatures on a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressing "profound disappointment and anger about the special treatment provided to those least in need of special treatment."

If anything, the president of the Brady Center to Prevent Handgun Violence was even more barbed about the concession given to the organization that arguably does more than any other to thwart his own group.

The special treatment for the NRA "is exactly why Americans are so turned off by politics and cynical about Congress," Paul Helmke said in a telephone interview. "It makes no sense at all when you say you're concerned about the role that money plays in politics."

The League of Conservation Voters also opposes the measure, according to a spokeswoman. Aron said the Sierra Club does as well, although officials for that organization could not be reached.

The developments left the fate of the legislation in doubt, according to Democratic aides who said the leadership likely would decide on Wednesday whether to go ahead with earlier plans to seek a vote by the end of the week.

The bill calls for new disclosure requirements to accompany campaign advertising by outside groups, which can now spend millions of dollars in often rough-and-tumble political activity without publicly identifying their donors. Democrats agreed Monday to exempt the NRA from its provisions after concluding the gun owners' group had enough allies in the House to bring down the measure.

The NRA issued a statement saying it would neither support nor oppose the measure as long as the exemption was a part of it — effectively a statement of acquiescence in the bill's passage.

So that's the back-story.

Our Mr. Larson was disappointed that the NRA was not willing to fight for the 1st amendment with the same fervor as they had historically fought for the 2nd amendment. And I admit, I was also. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA appeared on the Lars Larson Show to explain their position. I was unable to hear that show, so I don't know what the NRA had to say. Except, although this link may disappear, here is what LaPierre had to say.

LaPierre introduced himself (and the NRA) as historically strong proponents for the 1st Amendment. Larson said "Congress wouldn't have offered the NRA a ... thing ... without knowing they couldn't pass the bill without you?"

LaPierre said the Democrats could have rammed the bill down our (the NRA) throats. "We had to make sure that our gun owners were protected. We think it's unconstitutional, we think the supreme court is going to throw it out. ... this probably isn't going anywhere. .. they didn't give us anything. ... we didn't cut a deal ... but we still think it's unconstitutional. If it had not been for the NRA, this thing would probably have gone through two weeks ago. I represent a gun-rights organization, and I would be derelict of our membership if I didn't object to this thing." And he also said "we're the national RIFLE association! "

And he finally said that the NRA is intended to preserve the SECOND amendment.

(Continue listening to the Lars Larson audio comments, if they're still available, to hear even more critical comments.)

And actually, the recent word is that the bill is in deep, deep trouble simply because of the exemptions!

Not because of the 'large' (over 1 million members, been in operation for over ten years) non-profits were opposed to the bill, but because many other non-profits had been left out of the exemptions (including the US Chamber of Commerce) ... the bill is now in danger of not being passed.

For me, I would wish that the NRA would have continued protesting against this bill. But as LaPierre (not my all-time favorite person) implied in his interview, the business of the NRA is the protection of the Second Amendment. And by extension, it follows that the NRA is conceivably not strictly following it's own charter if it allocates donated funds in an effort to protect the First Amendment.

I don't like it. I've spent my entire life looking upon the NRA as my personal Constitutional Savior.

Well, perhaps not. My father and all of my uncles were Life Members of the NRA. I have not been, and in fact my NRA membership is lapsed. I am not a great fan of the NRA ... as I have said before and often for this sort of reason. The NRA is not a Constitutional Savior. It's all they can do the defend the Second Amendment, and they do little enough of that.

But here, the NRA is clear (if not by the Wayne LaPierre interview, but by the consequences of his "constitutional sell-out"), when the NRA signed on to the exemption it placed the spotlight firmly on the constitutional conflict inherent in this bill.

If the Democratic Congress had not decided to 'buy off' the Large Non-Profits, would this bill have been passed with little or no public comment?

I think so.

Here's a shocking thought for you to contemplate:

Who made the biggest stink about the NRA 'buy off''?

The Brady Bunch.

They had nothing to say about the bill per se, but they were so outraged that the NRA was granted an exception, they truly soured the dish that Congress was so assiduously stirring, to serve to the American people before they dropped us into the oven in their "Hansel and Gretel" Chocolate House.

Politics truly makes strange bed-fellows.

Who would ever believe that the Brady Campaign would support the NRA's true agenda?

The only thing that Wayne LaPierre has to offer to the membership of the NRA as that he is an accomplished politician. I'm not saying he expected exactly this outcome, but he DID say that he thought the bill was 'unconstitutional' and, with the list of exceptions listed, the bill is now a Poster Child for a constitutional battle.

I think the Democrats well be found to have become stuck in the Hunny Pot, and this is the lead-in to a depressing (for them) judicial refusal.

Anything that results in a disappointment for the Dems is a 'win' for America.

And you can take that to the bank.

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