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A Sad Day For The Constitution...

Monday, December 15, 2003

So noted NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre when, on December 10, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to uphold the major provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), also known as McCain-Feingold. As we have often reported, the issue that has been of greatest concern to NRA is the law`s prohibition on the running of broadcast ads (termed "electioneering communications") that mention candidates for federal office during the critical 30-day period before a primary election and 60-day period before a general election. This First Amendment "blackout" period is a direct attack on free speech.

The First Amendment declares, in part, that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech." Yet, the high Court`s divided decision opens the door to precisely that—the abridgement of free speech. By allowing Congress to severely restrict issue ads in the crucial days before a primary or general election, the ruling contravenes the basic principle of our First Amendment rights, and grants Congress inordinate authority to regulate the flow of money in politics and political races.

In a powerful dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said, "Who could have imagined that the same court which, within the past four years, has sternly disapproved of restrictions upon such inconsequential forms of expression as virtual child pornography, tobacco advertising, dissemination of illegally intercepted communications, and sexually explicit cable programming would smile with favor upon a law that cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government." Scalia went on to wryly note, "The first instinct of power is the retention of power, and, under a Constitution that requires periodic elections, that is best achieved by the suppression of election-time speech."

Justice Anthony Kennedy called the provision "a new and serious intrusion on speech."

Justice Clarence Thomas noted that, following the Court`s reasoning to its logical conclusion, the next step will be "outright regulation of the press."

The egregious decision also means that the burden of fighting back against the full fury of the anti-gun lobby in the months and weeks leading up to elections will fall squarely on the shoulders of the NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), NRA`s Political Action Committee (PAC). NRA-PVF is funded by contributions from members and pro-gun supporters, and, unlike regular NRA membership dues and contributions to NRA-ILA, is used solely for the purpose of assisting the campaigns of pro-Second Amendment candidates. It is critical that we redouble our NRA-PVF fundraising efforts.

Commenting on the Court`s decision, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, "You`re going to have to put an asterisk by the First Amendment, and a footnote, because for many months of the year it`s no longer in effect." Wayne went on to say, in no uncertain terms, that NRA still has many ways to make its position known in federal elections. "They didn`t say we couldn`t mention the U.S. Congress, or the Senate. And we will run advertising directing the American public to information sources as to where they can find the truth, and the facts, and who`s for them and who`s against them. This is a sad day for the Constitution, but the 4 million members of the NRA will continue to be heard. That I can promise."

In addition to expanding NRA-PVF`s fundraising activities, this, no doubt, will also mean an even greater reliance on the grassroots efforts of our nation`s 65 million gun owners who have answered the call time and again. One clear advantage NRA has over virtually every other group in America is a large, passionate, and active base of grassroots support that is willing to not only vote on Election Day, but actively work on the campaigns of pro-freedom candidates. The engine that drives the NRA machine is our grassroots, and you can rest assured in the months ahead, we will refine, improve, and expand our grassroots operations to meet the challenges that now lay before us. Please keep an eye out on future Grassroots Alerts to find out how you can take on an even more active role in our grassroots activities in this new day and age of campaign restrictions.

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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.