The American Civil Liberties Union isn’t exactly a friend to gun owners. It has done all it can to solidify itself anti-gun credentials in recent weeks. It typically does little to nothing to defend the Second Amendment despite that also being a civil liberty, which is one thing, but it also actively seeks to undermine it.
However, I’m going to give the ACLU credit here. You see, the ACLU isn’t quite as ideologically blind as many such left-leaning organizations are, and it’s not afraid to slam a liberal when they’re out of line.
You know, someone like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his attacks against the National Rifle Association.
It’s no secret that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is no fan of the National Rifle Association. A mailer his campaign sent to New York voters this week proclaims, in bold letters: “If the NRA goes bankrupt, I will remember them in my thoughts and prayers.”
There’s nothing wrong with the governor singling out a political adversary for criticism, or even mockery. That’s just politics, and the NRA itself is no stranger to hardball tactics.
But in a lawsuit the NRA filed against Cuomo this spring, the organization contends that he did more than criticize it. The NRA alleges that Cuomo and top members of his administration abused their regulatory authority over financial institutions to threaten New York banks and insurers that associate with the NRA or other “gun promotion” groups, and that those threats have jeopardized the NRA’s access to basic insurance and banking services in New York.
In the ACLU’s view, targeting a nonprofit advocacy group and seeking to deny it financial services because it promotes a lawful activity (the use of guns) violates the First Amendment. Because we believe the governor’s actions, as alleged, threaten the First Amendment rights of all advocacy organizations, the ACLU on Friday filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the NRA’s right to have its day in court.
The state has asked the court to dismiss the case without even permitting discovery into the administration’s actions. Our brief supports the NRA’s right to discovery on its First Amendment claims. To be clear, the ACLU does not oppose reasonable restrictions on guns (you can read more about that here). Our position in this case has nothing to do with our opinions on the NRA’s policies — it’s about the First Amendment rights of all organizations to engage in political advocacy without fear that the state will use its regulatory authority to penalize them for doing so.
Shocking, isn’t it?
Look, I’m not a fan of the ACLU, but in this case, it’s dead on. Cuomo isn’t just lashing out at an adversary with words, he’s using the power of his office to try and destroy them. If this is allowed to continue, it could create a stifling effect on free speech as a whole.
The NRA’s stance on guns doesn’t change the protections advocacy organizations enjoy as a matter of course. If it does, then we create a situation where the government gets to pick the winners and losers in public discourse. If you can’t figure out why this is problematic, you’re probably having difficulty mustering sufficient brainpower to breathe, much less understand politics.
Cuomo, however, has targeted the NRA because he disagrees with its position on firearms, a position shared by millions of Americans. That includes a legion of others who have not opted to join the organization, for the record. He has declared openly that he wants to destroy the largest organization advocating for their positions, all because he disagrees with it.
Here’s the thing Governor Cuomo needs to understand. If the NRA and the ACLU both think you’re out of line, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and think that maybe you’re going too far.