The National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative Action, reported praise for the Supreme Court’s decision last Thursday in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The ruling removes restrictions on NRA’s ability to speak freely at election time.
The late Sen. Paul Wellstone said, during the original debate over this legislation, that it was his intention to silence groups like NRA. While the author of this measure had singled out NRA, this law delivered a clear message to all American citizens: “Keep your mouths shut and stay out of our political debates.”
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, said, “This ruling is a victory for anyone who believes that the First Amendment applies to each and every one of us. The majesty of free speech is that any American can roll out of bed and speak as freely as The New York Times, NBC or politicians. This is a defeat for arrogant elitists who wanted to carve out free speech as a privilege for themselves and deny it to the rest of us; and for those who believed that speech had a dollar value and should be treated and regulated like currency, and not a freedom. Today’s decision reaffirms that the Bill of Rights was written for every American and it will amplify the voice of average citizens who want their voices heard.”
The case originally centered on the Federal Election Commission’s denial of Citizens United’s attempt to broadcast a film about Hillary Clinton through on-demand cable services in January 2008, but had broader implications in protecting the First Amendment rights of organizations like NRA during elections.
NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox, said, “This decision today returns sanity to our political system. The First Amendment does not allow Congress to make laws denying Americans the right to speak out on issues, the right to assemble or organize on public policy issues, or the right to petition our government for redress of grievances.”
Although the NRA sounds to me like they are gloating, somewhat, over their victory — it is a victory that they needed to have.
The National Rifle Association is a promotional or “single-issue” group interested in gun laws — but they are no different than other cause or attitude groups that seek to influence public policy in a particular area. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace, senior advocacy groups like the American Association of Retired People and groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is an animal rights group, all tend to be aligned toward a political ideology and they all seek influence in specific public policy areas.
The voice of these organizations is the voice of their constituents — they need to be heard in the political process to the extent that they are able to advocate for their members.