The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the fact that the amendments listed in the Bill of Rights can and do protect each other. A recent example is a case where the Second Amendment protectors are being defended by the First Amendment. This case brought a big surprise to many people because the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is defending the National Rifle Association (NRA) against political leaders in New York who are trying to put the organization out of business.
The ACLU argued in federal court last Friday that “New York’s attempts to compel banks and insurance companies to remove the NRA as a customer is a violation of the First Amendment.” This brief by the ACLU supports the NRA in its lawsuit against New York.
Declan McCullagh reports on the case here. Even though the ACLU’s official view is that the Second Amendment protects a “collective right rather than an individual right,” it is helping the NRA in this case. The author calls New York’s actions “strong-arm efforts to compel banks and insurance companies to ditch the NRA as a customer” and says they are “a glaring violation of the First Amendment.
Even though the ACLU brief “never says the group agrees with the NRA’s position on firearms,” it does argue that the First Amendment rights of NRA and its members are being used by regulators to punish those with different political views.
Although public officials are free to express their opinions and may condemn viewpoints or groups they view as inimical to public welfare, they cannot abuse their regulatory authority to retaliate against disfavored advocacy organizations and to impose burdens on those organizations’ ability to conduct lawful business.
I am surprised that the ACLU would defend the NRA. They are, in my point of view, very liberal. At least, it seems to me that ACLU usually defends liberal causes. I now have more respect for the ACLU simply because I learned that they are supporting and defending a conservative organization!
The liberals - in New York and otherwise - do not seem to understand that conservatives can play the same game. Just as liberal politicians in New York are threatening the First Amendment rights of the NRA, conservative politicians in other states could threaten the same rights of liberal organizations. This is not a good game to start on either side of the political situation. I am grateful that the ACLU is standing for First Amendment rights even though they do not necessary agree with the NRA’s stand on the Second Amendment.