ACLU stands by decision to represent NRA for critical First Amendment case at Supreme Court

Gun Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union is defending its commitment to represent the National Rifle Association in an upcoming Supreme Court case.

What is the case?

Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to decide whether Maria Vullo, the former superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, violated the First Amendment by encouraging banks and insurance companies to reconsider whether they should conduct business with the NRA after the 2018 mass killing in Parkland, Florida.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against the NRA last year, prompting the gun-rights organization to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In its petition, the NRA argued that the appeals court decision gives “state officials free rein to financially blacklist their political opponents — from gun-rights groups to abortion-rights groups to environmentalist groups and beyond.”

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Why is the ACLU defending the NRA?

On Saturday, the ACLU announced that its lawyers would defend the NRA when the Supreme Court hears the case sometime next year.

“The government can’t blacklist an advocacy group because of its viewpoint,” the ACLU said in a statement. “We don’t support the NRA’s mission or its viewpoints on gun rights, and we don’t agree with their goals, strategies, or tactics. But we both know that government officials can’t punish organizations because they disapprove of their views.”

“If the Supreme Court doesn’t intervene, it will create a dangerous playbook for state regulatory agencies across the country to blacklist or punish any viewpoint-based organizations,” the statement added.

In an interview with the New York Times, ACLU national legal director David Cole explained why it is important for the ACLU to defend an organization it disagrees with.

“It’s never easy to defend those with whom you disagree,” he said. “But the ACLU 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.”

Cole said the decision is “controversial” — both inside and outside the ACLU — but added that the easy path is rarely the right one.

“In this hyper-polarized environment, where few are willing to cross the aisle on anything, the fact that the ACLU is defending the NRA here only underscores the importance of the free speech principle at stake,” Cole said.

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