AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File
The city of Los Angeles did something that should alarm the hell out of everyone. It wanted anyone bidding for contracts within the city to be required to disclose any relationship they had with the National Rifle Association. Regardless of any stated reason, it wasn’t hard to see that this was about trying to hurt the NRA.
Unsurprisingly, the NRA lashed back, filing a lawsuit.
The case has already found itself in front of a judge, and the city of Los Angeles is less than pleased with the results.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson on Monday rejected the city’s argument that contractors’ involvement with the NRA — such as offering discounts — isn’t “expressive” within the meaning of the First Amendment.
“That is rejected,” Wilson, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, said at a hearing on the city’s request. “It is expressive, so there is a First Amendment issue.”
The judge is still considering an NRA request for an order blocking the ordinance while it pursues its lawsuit to nullify the measure. He set another hearing for Sept. 9.
The NRA’s lawyer, Sean Brady, told Wilson that the Los Angeles ordinance is aimed at discouraging companies from partnering with the organization by putting their city contracts at risk — even if the law itself has more benign language.
“The government cannot curtail support for an organization because of its speech,” he said. The city wants to subject NRA supporters “to ridicule and boycott,” he said.
Wilson noted several city council members had said during debates on the law, and on Twitter, that they disagreed with the NRA’s mission and its influence.
That could be seen as contradicting the city’s claim that the law is merely intended to increase transparency about contractors doing business with the NRA.
“They don’t like the NRA,” Wilson said. “That ought to be considered.”
Wilson is completely correct. Members of the city council were quite clear about their feelings on the NRA prior to passing this measure. That makes it quite clear that the purpose was to expose businesses that have any ties with the NRA to not just ridicule but also ensure it damages their businesses.
If something like this is allowed to stand, it won’t take long before other cities took up similar measures.
For gun-control activists, that may sound like a good thing. However, it won’t be relegated to hitting the NRA. Instead, it’ll be used against any group being vilified by another. How would most anti-gun advocates feel if Brady or Everytown for Gun Safety were on the block in a generally pro-gun area? What about Planned Parenthood?
It’s important to remember that precedent doesn’t just get set for going after people you dislike. That same precedent can be used to go after your side. More importantly, it will.
What’s happening in Los Angeles is something that no one should be comfortable with, no one at all. Even those who despise the NRA and all it stands for should be uncomfortable with a measure like this because once that genie is out of the bottle, it will take a Supreme Court action to stuff it back in.