We appreciate the concerns some NRA members have raised about our position on H.R. 5175, the “DISCLOSE Act.” Unfortunately, the mainstream media and other critics of NRA’s role in this process have misstated or misunderstood the facts. We’d like to set the record straight.
We have never said we would support any version of this bill. To the contrary, we clearly stated NRA’s strong opposition to the DISCLOSE Act (as introduced) in a letter sent to Members of Congress on May 26 (click here to read the letter).
Through the courts and in Congress, the NRA has consistently and strongly opposed any effort to restrict the rights of our four million members to speak and have their voices heard on behalf of gun owners nationwide. The initial version of H.R. 5175 would effectively have put a gag order on the NRA during elections and threatened our members’ right to privacy and freedom of association, by forcing us to turn our donor lists over to the federal government. We would also have been forced to list our top donors on all election-related television, radio and Internet ads and mailings—even mailings to our own members. We refuse to let this Congress impose those unconstitutional restrictions on our Association.
The introduced version of the bill would also have prohibited political speech by all federal government contractors. The NRA has contracts to provide critical firearm training for our Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The bill would have forced us to choose between training our men and women in uniform and exercising our right to free political speech. We refused to let this Congress force us to make that choice.
We told Congress we opposed the bill. Consequently, congressional leaders announced they would exempt us from its draconian restrictions on political speech. If that happens, we will not be involved in final consideration of this bill in the House. If it doesn’t, we will strongly oppose the bill.
Our position is based on principle and experience. During consideration of the previous campaign finance legislation passed in 2002, congressional leadership repeatedly refused to exempt the NRA from its provisions, promising that our concerns would be fixed somewhere down the line. That didn’t happen; instead, the NRA had to live under those restrictions for seven years and spend millions of dollars on compliance costs and on legal fees to challenge the law. We will not go down that road again when we have an opportunity to protect our ability to speak.
There are those who say the NRA should put the Second Amendment at risk over a First Amendment principle. That’s easy to say—unless you have a sworn duty to protect the Second Amendment above all else, as we do.
The NRA is a non-partisan, single-issue organization made up of millions of individual members dedicated to the protection of the Second Amendment. We do not represent the interests of other organizations. That’s their responsibility. Our responsibility is to protect and defend the interests of our members. And that we do without apology.
Today, the fate of the bill remains in doubt. The House floor debate has repeatedly been postponed. Lawmakers and outside groups who once supported the bill, or took no position—including the Brady Campaign—have now come out against it because of the announcement regarding NRA. The outcome in the Senate is even murkier, as anti-gun Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has announced her strong opposition to the proposed change.
No matter what may happen now, NRA members can be assured that protection of gun owners’ interests will remain NRA’s top priority. Please check in regularly at www.nraila.org for the latest news on this issue.