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2019-09-10 22:53:291 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: San Francisco (Image source: Public domain)
The National Rifle Association is trying to flex its muscles. As seemingly the one hurdle that stands in front of getting common-sense gun laws passed, it was labeled a "domestic terrorist organization" in a declaration by San Francisco. Now the NRA is fighting back with a lawsuit.
Much of this was kicked up by a spate of recent mass shootings, including one at the Gilroy garlic festival 80 miles outside of San Francisco and the two shootings within 24 hours in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
It was the double shooting that increased the demand for gun legislation. While Donald Trump publicly expressed a desire for legislation and insisted he would have the support, he didn't have the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and after a phone call from NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre, Trump dropped the idea of gun legislation and insisted the current laws were enough.
The San Francisco board last week passed a resolution that declared the NRA a "domestic terrorist organization." This was because of the belief that LaPierre's organization spreads propaganda with the desire of deceiving the public with regard to gun violence dangers.
This led the NRA to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Monday that accused the board of violating the organization's free speech rights for political reasons. They believe San Francisco wants to blacklist anyone who is associated with the gun lobby.
The lawsuit asks the court to "instruct elected officials that freedom of speech means you cannot silence or punish those with whom you disagree."
"This action is an assault on all advocacy organizations across the country," said the NRA's attorney, William A. Brewer III.
"There can be no place in our society for this manner of behavior by government officials. Fortunately, the NRA, like all U.S. citizens, is protected by the First Amendment."
San Francisco is named in the lawsuit, along with all of the city's eleven supervisors, individually as well as in their official capacities, according to CBS San Francisco. They refer to the designation of being domestic terrorists as a "frivolous insult."
Catherine Stefani, the San Francisco supervisor, said she wrote the resolution after the Gilroy shooting, partly because one of those killed in Gilroy was playing in a bouncy house at the time.
As an attorney who's been involved for years in gun-control organizations, she admitted the thought of someone dying while playing in a bouncy house sickened her.
"I had enough," she admitted to the AP. "They continue to stand in the way of gun violence reform and people are dying because of it."
She also has a bone to pick with the way the leadership of the NRA spends the dues it earns from its millions of members. Gun-rights activists are upset about this as well, feeling that LaPierre as well as others have misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive clothing, travel, housing, and large salaries.
The lawsuit is just a "desperate move by a very desperate organization," she feels. "I truly believe their time is up."
There is more going against the NRA than just this label San Francisco is placing on it. It's being investigated by the attorneys general in New York and Washington D.C. They're looking into whether the gun lobby's non-profit status has been violated.
Democratic congressional leaders encouraged Trump to push the GOP to an agreement to expand background checks and to make it easier to seize firearms from people with questionable mental health.
The spokesperson for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office, John Coté, believes the NRA would rather go to court than work on the "epidemic" of gun violence.
"The American people would be better served if the NRA stopped trying to get weapons of war into our communities and instead actually did something about gun safety," said Coté.
"Common-sense safety measures like universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and restricting high-capacity magazines would be a good start."
LaPierre intends to fight the declaration, expressing in a statement, "This lawsuit comes with a message to those who attack the NRA: We will never stop fighting for our law-abiding members and their constitutional freedoms.
"Some politicians forget that all 5 million of us in the NRA stand for freedom and that we believe it is a cause worth fighting for. We will always confront illegal and discriminatory practices against our organization and the millions of members we serve."
Some feel San Francisco's move is "virtue signaling." An editorial in the Los Angeles Times by Michael McGough said that while the NRA deserves criticism for blocking attempts to end gun violence, it's not accurate to label it a "domestic terrorist organization."
"Police shootings and gun violence understandably inspire strong emotions, and elected officials are no exception," he wrote. "But they need to watch their words, especially when those words are contained in legislation or, in this case, pseudo-legislation."
There are numerous ways right now where the NRA is on the losing end. Delta Airlines last year ended discounts for NRA members, and last week CVS, Walgreens, Albertsons, and even Walmart announced they would be asking their customers to not openly carry firearms into the stores, even in open carry states. Walmart made additional changes as well.
Regardless of San Francisco's resolution, the moves by other companies are probably hurting the NRA much more.
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