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August 2012 Standing Guard: "People's Rights Amendment" Threatens Free Speech

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

By Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive Vice President

Remember when President Barack Obama, in his first State of the Union speech, had the gall to publicly attack the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding freedom of speech in its decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission?

Now Obama’s allies on Capitol Hill want to deny the right to political free speech to you, me and groups like the NRA completely and forever—even if they have to amend the U.S. Constitution.

For months I’ve warned you of the grave consequences our freedoms will face if Obama, his administration and its Capitol Hill enablers are re-elected on Nov. 6. If you ever needed proof that they oppose your freedoms and endanger all of the rights you cherish as an American, here’s yet more evidence:

On Capitol Hill, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and dozens of other Democrats, has introduced House Joint Resolution 88, proposing a “People’s Rights Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution.

But the name “People’s Rights Amendment” is false advertising at its most frightening. It would effectively revoke your First Amendment right to freedom of speech when you exercise your freedom of association through organizations like the NRA.

Under the amendment, the rights enshrined in our Constitution would be guaranteed only to so-called “natural persons.” In other words, you’d have rights as an individual. But as soon as you associate with other individuals and pool resources to exercise your rights collectively—as you do through the NRA—you no longer would have those rights.

As the amendment’s text dictates, “People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities. ...” And as its author Rep. McGovern explained, “ ... all corporate entities—for-profit and non-profit alike—are not people with constitutional rights.”

Under the “People’s Rights Amendment,” anyone who tried to exercise his or her constitutional rights collectively with other people would be “subject to such regulation” as Congress deems “reasonable.”

If that sounds to you like a blank check for government censorship, that’s because it is.

In practical terms, the “People’s Rights Amendment” would shut groups like the NRA out of the political process by denying our right to freedom of speech. We wouldn’t be allowed to speak out on your behalf regarding legislation, elections or any other political issue.

You could stand on a street corner giving speeches or distributing leaflets, but if you pool efforts with like-minded people—your rights would cease to exist. You and I know that’s just the opposite of what our nation’s founders intended. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Citizens United case, “The First Amendment protects more than just the individual on a soapbox and the lonely pamphleteer.”

Apparently, the politicians pushing this madness either don’t understand the danger or are willing to accept it for purely partisan political gain. What they ignore at their peril is that the “People’s Rights Amendment” could be used by government to censor or silence anyone—even those promoting the scheme. As they say, “What goes around comes around”—and everyone pays the price.

The New York Times, MSNBC and Time-Warner are all corporations. Would Obama and his allies try to silence them? Or only groups like the NRA that try to stop his anti-gun, anti-freedom agenda? Make no mistake: This is a sinister and profoundly dangerous proposal.

Before you dismiss it as some radical, leftist pipe dream that would never be adopted—or be overturned by the courts if it were—consider this:

At least four states—Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont and Rhode Island—have already passed resolutions calling for this amendment. At this writing, Massachusetts is poised to become the fifth state to endorse it.

That’s why it is critical that you and everyone you know who cares about American freedom go “ALL IN” on Election Day, Nov. 6.

If we don’t stop them by defeating them at the polls, Obama and his freedom-hating allies could, with this dangerous constitutional amendment, destroy the vital checks and balances that keep Americans free and our democracy stable and strong.

As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Citizens United decision, “Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people. … The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus, is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it.”

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