The Los Angeles City Council misfired with its 14-0 vote last week to require all individuals or companies seeking city contracts “to disclose all contracts with or sponsorship of the National Rifle Association.”
City Attorney Mike Feuer said the city is on “firm legal ground” with the ordinance, which follows two similar measures requiring prospective city contractors to disclose whether they have contracts to work on the border wall, and whether a company made any profits from slavery in the years prior to the passage in 1865 of the Thirteenth Amendment.
But attorneys for the NRA are focused on the First Amendment and its protection of the right to free speech and association. Prior to the vote on the ordinance, NRA lawyers sent a letter to notify the city it would be sued if it adopted this measure, which the organization contends is “an unconstitutional effort to restrict and chill an individual’s right to associate and express their political beliefs.”
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1958 decision in NAACP v. Alabama, the letter stated that the right to freely associate with groups for political reasons and to advance issues of importance is “conduct that is protected by the First Amendment.”
Of course it is. The ordinance complains that the NRA uses millions of dollars in membership dues to fund an “agenda of opposing legislative efforts throughout the country to adopt sensible gun regulations.” But it’s the right of every American to petition the government, whether individually or as members of a group.
The ordinance notes that the NRA collected $163 million in membership dues in 2015, in part because of the member benefits and corporate discounts for services including insurance, travel, privacy and data protection, club memberships and access to an exclusive medical network.
Ahead of the vote, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell stood outside City Hall with activists who favor stricter gun control laws. “Let’s take a look at who we’re doing business with who is doing business with the NRA,” said Margot Bennett, executive director of Women Against Gun Violence.
More than a look, the ordinance is an effort to coerce companies into severing ties with an organization that is engaged in lawful, constitutionally protected activity. Now the city risks a lawsuit, with taxpayers being the ones stuck with the bill. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
(c)2019 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.