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House Abandons Free Speech

Friday, February 15, 2002

After more than 15 hours of intense, often rancorous debate, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2356—the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance "Reform" bill—on a vote of 240-189. This legislation now moves back to the U.S. Senate, which passed its own version of "reform" (S. 27) last year. If the Senate accepts H.R. 2356 as is, it will be sent straight to the White House. The two bills are slightly different, however, and if the Senate does not pass the House package, then both bills will likely be sent to a House-Senate Conference Committee to iron out the differences.

One thing both bills do have in common, though, is that they represent a direct attack on the First Amendment! Should either package become law, the voice of NRA and our 4.3 million members would be silenced during critical election periods. Both bills have First Amendment "blackout" provisions that would strictly regulate communication that "refers to" a federal candidate 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. Any such communication would be prohibited unless the funds were to come from a segregated account to which individuals donate for that purpose. Both bills also stipulate that the names of all donors (i.e., NRA members), whose donations are above a certain limit, would be made public—a clear violation of the privacy rights of our members who contribute to NRA’s political efforts.

While NRA opposed the passage of H.R. 2356, our efforts to protect our ability to promote our pro-Second Amendment message also included supporting an amendment offered by U.S. Representative Chip Pickering (R-Miss.). The Pickering Amendment would have protected the free speech of those wishing to communicate for or against issues pertaining to the Second Amendment by defending Second Amendment discussion from the free speech restrictions of H.R. 2356, but it narrowly failed on a 209-219 vote. Please click here to find out how your Representative voted on this NRA-backed amendment, and contact him to thank him if he supported the Pickering Amendment, or to note your displeasure if he did not. If you are not sure who your U.S. Representative is, or to find contact information for any of your federal lawmakers, use our "Write Your Reps" feature.

As for the overall bill (H.R. 2356), to find out how your Representative voted on this anti-First Amendment bill, please click here. And again, be sure to communicate your sentiments accordingly to your Representative based on his vote on this anti-freedom measure.

The Senate now prepares to take up this debate yet again, although a strategy to defeat this onerous proposal has yet to crystallize. Rest assured NRA is monitoring this situation closely, and will call on the pro-gun community to help defeat this proposal if the opportunity arises. In the meantime, please be sure to contact your U.S. Senators to express your opposition to this bill. The "Write Your Reps" feature will assist you in contacting your Senators.

While the final outcome of this legislation is unknown, NRA is committed to its defeat, and if need be, will fight this assault on free speech all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.