Time for the ACLU to change their name

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has long flirted with not really being about all civil liberties. Once in a while there were Second Amendment related causes that the ACLU got behind, but those days are long gone. Further, any support would have been in conjunction with another right, say that of protected speech. If the hypocritical ways of the ACLU were not fully imagined and realized before, they should be now. Recently the ACLU took aim at the “radical” Supreme Court term that’s wrapped up. They’re admonishing it as the “most conservative in a century.” As they size up and summarize the radical rulings, under the “losses” section, they take aim and fire at the Second Amendment.

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen

The Supreme Court struck down New York’s restriction on concealed carry and eroded the legal basis for gun regulations, ruling that states can regulate guns today only if they can point to similar laws in the 18th and 19th centuries — even though the threat of gun violence today differs markedly from those eras. Justices Kavanaugh and Roberts made clear, however, that in their view, states could impose various prerequisites before granting a public carry permit, including background checks and training requirements, as long as they restrain licensing officials’ discretion. The New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU submitted an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the unregulated carrying of weapons in public undermines the sense of safety required for an open, healthy democracy, and that state and local governments have long imposed strict regulations on the public carrying of guns.

It’s probably about time that the ACLU change their name. They’ve been walking this fine line for years and have now leapt clearly across it. They can’t claim to be for civil liberties if they’re not for all of them. On their history page, they note what they’re champions of and for whom.

The ACLU has evolved in the years since from this small group of idealists into the nation’s premier defender of the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. With more than 1.7 million members, 500 staff attorneys, thousands of volunteer attorneys, and offices throughout the nation, the ACLU of today continues to fight government abuse and to vigorously defend individual freedoms including speech and religion, a woman’s right to choose, the right to due process, citizens’ rights to privacy and much more. The ACLU stands up for these rights even when the cause is unpopular, and sometimes when nobody else will. 

Some of what they’re claiming to support is enshrined in the Constitution and some not so much. The individual reader can be the arbitrator of what the ACLU stands for and whether or not a given topic is protected by the Constitution. Noticeably absent, the Second Amendment is not on their list. But, they laud themselves of being champions of even unpopular causes. Located in New York City, you’d think the ACLU would support the Second Amendment rigorously. Anything gun and firearm related in Manhattan is taboo. We don’t see the ACLU standing up to say “I’m Spartacus” on any firearm related injustices or usurpation of rights.

One of the most noted moments in the ACLU’s history occurred in 1978 when the ACLU defended a Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie, Illinois, where many Holocaust survivors lived. The ACLU persuaded a federal court to strike down three ordinances that placed significant restrictions on the Nazis’ First Amendment right to march and express their views. The decision to take the case was a demonstration of the ACLU’s commitment to the principle that constitutional rights must apply to even the most unpopular groups if they’re going to be preserved for everyone. Many now consider this one of the ACLU’s finest hours.

We don’t see the ACLU standing up for the brutally attacked National Rifle Association. Very much so marginalized by and unpopular to many a New Yorker. They’re not standing up to New York’s Attorney General to act as a stop gap between the organization’s presumed internal conflicts and the litigation designed to further cripple the group. No, not at all.

The ACLU also remains a champion of segments of the population who have traditionally been denied their rights, with much of our work today focused on equality for people of color, women, gay and transgender people, prisoners, immigrants, and people with disabilities.

Gun owners in New York, New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland etc. are all segments of the population who have traditionally been denied their rights. No ACLU support there. Instead, the liberation from undue infringement on only one aspect, of the many, to the Second Amendment, the ACLU is chalking up as a loss.

What about all the minorities and people of color that were targeted because of their race, and ended up with weapons charges? Imprisoned persons for nonviolent offenses. At least the New York Public Defenders had the fortitude to point that fact out in their own friend of the court brief.

If the ACLU were supporters of those they feel are in need of equality, they’d not only fight for them in the courtrooms, but also educate them how to be responsibly armed and be able to provide their own self-defense. They’d team up with groups like the Pink Pistols or National African American Gun Association, to see what they could do for community members that are unaware of their options to protect themselves.

I support the practice of protecting free speech, including unpopular speech, for the same reasons the ACLU notes. The most contentious speech tends to lead to the most infringements of one’s civil liberties. Embracing the precept that everyone’s allowed a fair shake, and rebutting discrimination, again, a good thing. However, to say the organization stands up for the Constitution while not supporting all aspects of it is grossly inauthentic.

The ACLU might be chalking NYSRPA v. Bruen as a loss, and that’s okay. We’ve got their number now with no need to interpret their ideologies. Regardless of their feelings, the Second Amendment is there, and at that, there for them too. I’m certain if the shoe was on the other foot, Second Amendment advocacy and educational groups would rally behind them if they were suffering from some sort of a discrimination or in need of training, on gun related issues. Unfortunately, it appears we can’t say the same for them, and that’s too bad. Groups like the ACLU and NRA should be holding hands.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET