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NRA States Support For Pickering Amendment - Vows Supreme Court Challenge

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Washington, DC -- The National Rifle Association today condemned the secrecy and hypocrisy of the "reform" debate and announced that it will be supporting an amendment offered by Representative Chip Pickering that specifically defends Second Amendment discussion from the free speech restrictions of H.R. 2356, the Shays-Meehan "Campaign Finance Reform" legislation.

"We have attempted to make constructive changes to this flawed bill to protect free speech. Regrettably, neither side has granted us that opportunity. We must now act in the interests of our 4 million members and the 80 million gun owners nationwide. The Pickering Amendment will allow us to exercise our First Amendment rights to protect our Second Amendment freedoms," NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre said.

The NRA has long expressed concern about Shays-Meehan and its companion Senate measure, McCain-Feingold. Of primary concern is the suppression of any individual’s or group’s ability to communicate with their members and the American public, with the threat of criminal prosecution.

This legislation, in its latest of numerous incarnations, continues to contain provisions that would severely limit the ability of individual and like-minded Americans to participate in the legislative and political arenas, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, while the big media conglomerates and politicians are exempted. Why are the First Amendment rights of the media more important than those of American citizens? Where in the Constitution does it allow politicians to subvert the First Amendment?

NRA chief lobbyist, James J. Baker, decried the hypocritical cloak of secrecy surrounding these proceedings and stated that even though the NRA made a determined effort to work with members from both sides of the aisle, neither side gave the Association that opportunity.

"We are amazed as Congress seeks to ‘reform’ the process and seeks more ‘public disclosure’ that the amendments that will be offered were not even made public until the night before votes would take place - less than 24 hours before the votes are cast! This process was dictated by the discharge petition. In view of this, we must act independently to safeguard our constitutional rights."

Baker continued, "Absent any opportunity to offer our alternative -- that would have preserved the First Amendment -- to the core provisions of Shays-Meehan, we are supporting the Pickering Amendment. Regardless of the final disposition of the "Campaign Finance Reform" legislation, we have no choice but to unalterably oppose this sweeping attack on the First Amendment rights of all Americans."

"The First Amendment protects five freedoms; religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. These freedoms are as old as America itself. Shays-Meehan attacks the very heart of the First Amendment. We will fight this infringement right up to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of all Americans. Fairness and free speech cannot be victims of politics, " LaPierre concluded.

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