Wednesday, June 16, 2010

NRA Sells Out Gun Owners

Email from a friend out in the western part of the Territories.
HR 5175 Restriction of Free Speech
You Can't Call A Congressperson An Idiot Act
The NRA is fully prepared to sell out grassroots gun organizations across the nation, including VCDL, to the anti-gun Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives by not fighting a bill that will gag the free speech of those who criticize members of Congress.

The NRA, in a news release included below, has said it will turn a blind eye to H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act, since it exempts the NRA. Bottom line: the NRA has been bought off.

Here is the criteria in the bill for an exemption:
* More than 1 million members
* Has been in existence for more than 10 years
* Has members in all 50 states
* Raises 15 percent or less of their income from corporations

It appears the ONLY gun organization to meet that set of criteria would be the NRA - not GOA or SAF or CCRKBA, much less VCDL.

VCDL rarely criticizes another gun organization, but on this issue we cannot, and must not, hold our tongues.

Let me not mince words - this appears to be an unholy alliance between Nancy Pelosi and the NRA, which would wipe out the NRA's competition.

If you snuggle up with a rattlesnake you are going to get bit. The NRA is playing a fool's game if they think they will survive this unscathed. Nancy Pelosi is not their friend now, nor will she ever be.

For their own self-interest, the NRA is apparently choosing to drive, or at least ride in, the bus that is going to run over the rest of us.

Portion of Press Release from NRA:
On June 14, 2010, Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives pledged that H.R. 5175 would be amended to exempt groups like the NRA, that meet certain criteria, from its onerous restrictions on political speech. As a result, and as long as that remains the case, the NRA will not be involved in final consideration of the House bill.

Guns and Free Speech
16 June 2010
The Wall Street Journal
The National Rifle Association is suffering a sudden onset of amnesia this week, as the gun lobby cuts a deal to exempt itself from the latest Congressional attempt to repeal the First Amendment. NRA members may soon regret the organization's bid to ingratiate itself with Democrats at the expense of its longtime free-speech allies.

The campaign finance bill, sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Chris Van Hollen, is the Democratic response to the Supreme Court's January decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which restored the First Amendment right of corporations, unions and nonprofits to make independent campaign expenditures. At the time, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre called Citizens United "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."

Look who's arrogant and elitist now. Under the Schumer-Van Hollen bill, political speech would be bound up with new restrictions, including special burdens on government contractors and corporations that have a certain level of foreign ownership or received TARP funds. The bill also includes disclosure rules designed to hit corporations, requiring CEOs to appear to "approve this message" the way politicians do, and for groups to identify their donors. Except for the NRA.

Under the NRA carve-out in the House bill, the new rules won't apply to any organizations that have been around for more than 10 years, have more than a million members and receive less than 15% of their funding from corporate donors. That fits the NRA nicely, though as best we can figure, everyone else, from the Sierra Club to Planned Parenthood, fails to qualify. So much for defending the little guy against the fat cats.

This backroom deal came at the behest of Democrats from conservative states, for whom the NRA's scorecard of their legislative record can be a major boost or obstacle to election. Creating a special exception for the NRA, and thereby assuring the Democrats "good grades" on Second Amendment rights, eases the way for the bill to be passed. A failing grade on First Amendment rights is somebody else's problem.

By erecting what amounts to a grandfather clause of First Amendment rights, the bill creates a sort of interest-group incumbency, concentrating the power to speak freely among a handful of large and longstanding groups. Established organizations like the NRA provide important representation for their members, but their lobbying cause is specific and limited.

Left vulnerable by the special treatment are the smaller grassroots outfits that often pop up in response to new and immediate policy challenges. The ability of these groups to count on the full protection of the First Amendment is critical to diverse and responsive political debate.

The NRA may swing a big lobbying stick by virtue of the breadth and voting power of its members, but it draws its legitimacy from the Constitution and it has drawn support on gun rights from those who care about the entire Bill of Rights. Cutting a special deal at the expense of the First Amendment with lawmakers who have decided for now to stop gutting the Second Amendment reveals an NRA that is unprincipled and will be weaker for it in the long run.

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