ACLU Defends Decision To Represent NRA in SCOTUS Case Amid Furious Backlash: We Understand Gun Violence Is Real Threat

Gun Rights

Michael Hanscom, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The ACLU announced on Saturday its decision to represent the NRA in a major First Amendment case before the United States Supreme Court, and offered defense on social media for doing so after backlash from gun control advocates and even its own New York chapter.

The American Civil Liberties Union shared on X (formerly Twitter) the breaking news on Saturday that it will be representing the National Rifle Association in a First Amendment case at the Supreme Court.

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But before defending those rights in court, the prestigious group first had to defend its decision online, as the angry backlash began immediately. Anti-Second Amendment activist Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action was among the first to react, disdainfully wondering why the ACLU would consider the NRA a legitimate organization.

The ACLU’s New York chapter, NYCLU, was likewise up in arms.

In its defense, the national organization specifically said it does not “support” the NRA’s mission or viewpoints, but that it doesn’t change the fact that the government “can’t punish organizations because they disapprove of their views.

“We understand that gun violence is a real and present threat and that America’s approach to guns causes harm in many communities,” they added. “And yet, while we vigorously oppose the NRA’s viewpoint, we cannot give government officials the power to silence those with whom they disagree.”

In total, five posts on X were sent in a thread after the initial announcement that the group would be taking the NRA on as a client.

In a comment to the New York Times, ACLU national legal director David Cole said “It’s never easy to defend those with whom you disagree.”

“But the A.C.L.U. has long stood for the proposition that we may disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it,” he said.

He added:

“It will be controversial, within and outside the A.C.L.U.,” Mr. Cole said. “But if it was easy, it wouldn’t mean as much.”

He added: “In this hyper-polarized environment, where few are willing to cross the aisle on anything, the fact that the A.C.L.U. is defending the N.R.A. here only underscores the importance of the free speech principle at stake.”

The NRA sent its own message on X Saturday with a graphic element sure to incite additional anger.

“The NRA is proud to stand with the ACLU and others who recognize this important truth: regulatory authority cannot be used to silence political speech,” NRA President Charles Cotton said. “This case is important not only to the Association, but all who openly advocate for the causes and issues in which they believe.”

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