Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Standing Guard: A Win For Free Speech

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

STANDING GUARD

WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA Executive Vice President

A Win For Free Speech

or all of us who have worked so hard to reshape the federal judiciary, proof positive of our success came this summer with a stunning turnaround by the U.S. Supreme Court in support of First Amendment rights.

With two new justices joining the 5-4 majority, the high court struck down as unconstitutional a Federal Election Commission (FEC) pre-election ban on public policy broadcast advertising.

Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. (WRTL), penned by new Chief Justice John Roberts, was a clear victory for freedom. NRA filed an amicus, or "friend of the court," brief in support of WRTL's case. The decision will have a major impact on NRA's ability to reach the American people with our public policy messages about firearm rights. In summing up the court's June 2007 ruling, Roberts wrote ". . . we give the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship."

The decision will have a major impact on NRA's ability to reach the American people with our public policy messages about firearm rights.

This new decision partially reverses the prior court's abominable December 2003 McConnell v. FEC decision. In that case, NRA and a diverse group of grassroots organizations and unions were instrumental in challenging the pre-election broadcast speech bans contained in the so-called Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). That valiant constitutional challenge was led by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

But with the makeup of the court then, that effort was to no avail.

That loss spurred our determination to see court vacancies filled by jurists who believe in the fundamental meaning of the U.S. Constitution. In that, we succeeded. Chief Justice Roberts filled the seat vacated at the death of William Rehnquist and Justice Samuel Alito replaced retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the key jurist swinging the former majority against the First Amendment in McConnell v. FEC.

The banned Wisconsin Right to Life issue ads at the heart of this new decision merely asked voters to contact their senators and demand an end to filibusters of President Bush's nominees for federal courts.

That filibuster effort--led by gun-ban U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.--was intended to kill up-or-down votes on all federal judiciary candidates cut from the same cloth as the new justices who made the difference in this case.

Ironically, the initial FEC ruling against WRTL involved a claim that the target of what it deemed "illegal" ads was U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold--co-author of BCRA--who was running unopposed in a primary election.

In reviewing the WRTL decision, we would have preferred that the court had thrown out as unconstitutional the entire onerous "electioneering communication" section of BCRA. But this ruling goes a long way toward protecting First Amendment rights of grassroots incorporated entities like NRA. In essence, it forbids federal regulators from banning broadcast issue advertising that does not directly exhort voters to either support or oppose candidates for federal office.

Before this decision, federal election law made it a felony to use corporate funds (like your NRA dues) to air a broadcast message that the speech-police at FEC could construe as even remotely referring to a candidate for federal office. That broadcast speech ban applied 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before the general election.

When Congress enacted this oppressive law, the National Rifle Association, as a grassroots corporation, was singled out for censorship. Our highly acclaimed infomercials were labeled "sham ads" and were targeted for broadcast speech bans.

Without this new ruling, NRA's running an educational broadcast alluding to any candidate for federal office anywhere in the nation during the pre-election blackouts could amount to a federal crime. A broadcast expressing NRA's staunch opposition to a gun ban could be seen by FEC enforcers as indirectly urging Americans to vote against a candidate favoring a firearm ban--say, Hillary Clinton.

One remarkable aspect of FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. is that three of the five justices voting for the ruling felt the high court should have gone further and ruled the entire "blackout" broadcast ban unconstitutional.

Writing for Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the effect of BCRA ". . . has been to undermine the traditional and important role of grassroots advocacy in American politics . . . ."

Perhaps suggesting the nature of a future challenge, Scalia said of the U.S. Supreme Court:

". . . It is perhaps our most important constitutional task to assure freedom of political speech. And when a statute creates a regime as unworkable and unconstitutional . . . it is our responsibility to decline enforcement."

Even if it didn't go far enough, this new decision demonstrates the dramatic change in the court and illustrates how urgently important the 2008 elections are. There will be Supreme Court vacancies in the near future.

We must work to assure that a true enemy of the Second Amendment does not take the White House in those coming watershed elections.

At stake is nothing less than who will control future nominations to our entire federal court system from top to bottom.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Campaign Finance Reform
TRENDING NOW
California: City of San Diego Considers Gun Control Ordinance

Friday, July 12, 2019

California: City of San Diego Considers Gun Control Ordinance

San Diego City Attorney, Mara Elliott has asked the City Council to consider a draft ordinance that would require mandatory locked storage of firearms in the home and would propose a conflicting law regarding the reporting of ...

California: Injunction Request to be Filed in Lawsuit Challenging California Ammo Law

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

California: Injunction Request to be Filed in Lawsuit Challenging California Ammo Law

CRPA, with the support of NRA, challenged the ammunition background check law in court months ago with the filing of the Rhode v. Becerra case. The lead plaintiff in the case is Olympic gold medalist shooter ...

Vox Wants to Take Your Guns

News  

Monday, July 8, 2019

Vox Wants to Take Your Guns

A conspiracy relies on secrecy. Some are, perhaps, never uncovered. Others are exposed by the conspirators themselves, who cannot help but share the details whether from arrogance or anxiousness. For years, law-abiding gun owners and ...

New Zealand Experience Further Proves Registration Facilitates Confiscations

News  

Monday, July 8, 2019

New Zealand Experience Further Proves Registration Facilitates Confiscations

Firearms registration facilitates firearms confiscation. This fact has been demonstrated in recent weeks, as the New Zealand authorities have lamented that the country does not have a firearms registry to assist them in their gun confiscation efforts.

Recent Poll Shows Gun Control Not as Popular as Some Would Like to Believe

News  

Monday, July 8, 2019

Recent Poll Shows Gun Control Not as Popular as Some Would Like to Believe

A recent Morning Consult/POLITICO poll, conducted immediately prior to the recent  Democratic debates and gathering responses from 1,991 registered voters, asked about views toward the candidates, issues of potential importance in the election, voting intention, and ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

California: Legislature Breaks for Summer Recess

Sunday, July 14, 2019

California: Legislature Breaks for Summer Recess

The California Legislature has recessed for the summer and will return August 12 from the break. Last week, the following actions were taken by the Senate Public Safety Committee, Senate Natural Resources, and both the Senate ...

Virginia: Defend Freedom, Oppose Gov. Northam in Richmond Tomorrow

News  

Monday, July 8, 2019

Virginia: Defend Freedom, Oppose Gov. Northam in Richmond Tomorrow

Governor Ralph Northam and his gun ban allies are ready to push their extreme anti-gun agenda when the General Assembly convenes its special session tomorrow--July 9th. Your NRA is calling on members and Second Amendment supporters ...

HR 218/Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA)

Gun Laws  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

HR 218/Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA)

LEOSA, as Amended by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (Jan 2, 2013) (Changes have been italicized.) § 926B.

Hawaii: Governor Ige Signs Anti-Gun Legislation

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Hawaii: Governor Ige Signs Anti-Gun Legislation

On July 9th, Governor David Ige signed the final remaining anti-gun bill awaiting his consideration, Senate Bill 600. This comes on the heels of him signing Senate Bill 1466 on June 27th. 

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

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.