The NRA vs. The Second Amendment ?

This month’s American Bar Association Journal has a fairly good article about the District of Columbia gun ban case currently under consideration by the Supreme Court, and the surprising role that the National Rifle Association took in trying to derail the lawsuit in its infancy:

Though the NRA champions individual ownership under the Second Amendment, its critics say the association shares one concern with gun-control advocates: Both fear that a definitive Supreme Court statement against them on the Second Amend­ment would cripple, if not kill, their causes.

“The NRA wants to be the one to define the meaning of the Second Amendment,” says Josh Sugarman, executive director for the anti-gun Violence Policy Center in Washing­ton. Sugarman’s 1992 book, National Rifle Association: Money, Firepower & Fear, is widely regarded as one of the most authoritative histories of the organization.

“They don’t want the Supreme Court to do it, because the [NRA view] is good for [the fundraising] business.”

Discouraging freelance plaintiffs is important to the NRA, whose lawyers worry they tend to file complaints that throw multiple theories against the wall to see what sticks. Such cases can hurt the larger cause, the lawyers say, because they increase the risk of setting unfavorable precedents that may be difficult to undo over time. In California, they call such plaintiffs “orange robers,” says NRA lawyer Michel—a reference to the brightly clad Buddhist monks who torched themselves on Saigon streets during the 1960s in futile demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

And so, when the D.C. case was just beginning, the NRA did everything they could to discourage the Plaintiffs from going forward and, even to this day, it lobbies Congress to repeal the D.C. Gun Ban itself — which would make the case, and any Supreme Court consideration of the Second Amendment implications of the law, entirely moot.

Now that the case is on the verge of being accepted for appeal, though, the NRA is jumping on the bandwagon:

The U.S. Supreme Court had not even decided whether ­to take the case when National Rifle Association lobbyist Wayne LaPierre fired off the distress flare:

“The biggest Second Amendment court battle in history is about to begin—one that will have a huge impact on you, your children and every other American gun owner for generations to come,” LaPierre wrote in an August fundraising letter to the NRA’s 4.3 million members. “And I’m not exaggerating a bit.”

He’s probably right there.

The NRA wants money—lots of it—to make sure the District of Colum­bia’s handgun ban stays buried good and deep. That’s where an appeals court left it after an unprecedented decision early this year that killed it as a violation of the Second Amend­ment’s right to keep and bear arms.


If the tone of LaPierre’s letter didn’t sound urgent enough, he used plenty of underlined boldface type and capital letters to drive home his point. He told the faithful a top-notch brief may cost as much as $1.2 million.

“For gun owners and NRA members, this is the biggest legal battle that we have ever fought, or will ever fight—and its outcome will probably impact every law-abiding American gun owner,” LaPierre wrote in the five-page letter. “It is a battle we simply cannot afford to lose.”

Here’s where LaPierre heads into a wrong turn: It’s not an NRA case. In fact, the gun rights supporters who filed it complain that lawyers working for the NRA, concerned the case could backfire, spent considerable time and money trying to scuttle it. The association finally was dragged kicking and screaming before the Supreme Court after the prospect of review appeared more likely than it has in years.

“They recognized this was a good case and D.C. was the perfect place,” says plaintiffs lawyer Robert A. Levy, a senior fellow at Washington’s libertarian Cato Institute. “That’s what concerned them.”

The Supreme Court will decide on Friday whether to accept the appeal, and we’ll probably know the answer to that question a week or so later, and then the stage for the biggest Second Amendment case in more than 50 years will be set. But don’t thank the NRA for getting it there.

H/T: Tom Palmer

  • Mark Vanderberg

    It is true that the National Rifle Association was not on board with the attorneys that filed the case against the DC gun ban. But while attending the gun rights policy conference in Cincinnati, Ohio last month. The attorneys who filed the case stated that full cooperation with the NRA, along with resources are being made available to the attorneys.

    Part of the reason why the NRA was not wanting to go foreword with the legal route was they were in the process of having the House of Representatives ban. The DC gun law. It was a feeling of the NRA that that would be a more productive route. I think they were wrong, but I think they are happy to see some very good rulings in the DC District Court. I personally just hope that the Supreme Court rules in a very favorable manner. Otherwise we are taking the chance of destroying all the gains we have made in the last 10 years. The Supreme Court is unpredictable, remember there is a swing vote, and we have no idea which way it is going to swing.

    God bless the lawyers who brought the case, and the National Rifle Association for seeing the light and for all the other gun groups out there and grassroots activists who are working hard every day to protect our God-given right to protect ourselves and our family and our country.

  • Stephen Littau


    It appears to me that this is more a matter of strategy on the NRA’s part. If the court rules against the 2nd Amendment, then everyone’s gun rights are at risk.

    I tend to think its worth the gamble though given the current makeup of SCOTUS. If Hillary Clinton or any of these other jokers have a chance to appoint a Supreme Court Justice, all bets are off.

  • Neil Evangelista

    We have only one chance to start the process of restoring our Bill of Rights, and that’s to get Dr. Ron Paul elected as our next president.

  • Carl in Chicago

    Interesting writeup – many people are still struggling with this – how the NRA could have opposed such a seemingly tight and important 2A case.

    But I cannot harshly criticize the NRA…neither for their opposition to this case early on, nor for their current fundraising efforts. To be sure, no matter what sort of decision might be handed down by the Supreme Court, the NRAs importance and role will not cease to exist. They will remain as important tomorrow as they were today, and yesterday. Even a broad affirmation of the lower court decision will NOT stop efforts to regulate firearms and otherwise infringe on the right to keep and bear. Those efforts will never cease.

    If anyone doubts the NRAs support for this case, you owe it to yourselves (and the NRA) to read their amici from Parker, in the DC District Court. It is in my opinion outstanding, and perhaps the best of the amici filed in support of Parker et al.

  • John Clark

    I’m going to let my NRA membership lapse and give my money to someone who is not afraid to wage war on behalf of our civil rights, not negotiate with the liberal jackasses. Alan Gottlieb looks more deserving of support than the NRA.

    The NRA’s relationship with the 2A is getting to be like the big tent Republicans and conservatism.

    NRA concessions are hard to reverse. It is better to leave gun control in place to rankle the general public than to give up our rights. We need blatant and offensive laws like the DC ban to
    target and blow out of the water to regain precedents to attack other less offensive laws. NRA concessions like the mental health bill will be the last cleaned up.

    After we regain our 2A rights the NRA can go back to its original function of marksmanship and safety. We can kick out Planned Parenthood from our public schools and invite in the NRA to make shooting the number sport for young people. The threat of being suspended from shooting class will make most boys toe the line in school. The cops already there in school can teach shooting and make friends with the kids.

    The 2A outlines a natural right and a civic duty, and states that the militia is necessary. The government schools have a constitutional obligation to school young people in their civic duties. After school the range can be open to the public, like in Switzerland, with dirt cheap ammo.

    If the NRA was working for goals like mine, I would stick with them.

  • Tim Kean

    Well, the reality of the situation is the NRA should have fought this many years ago. How many victims of criminal attacks are there in D.C. because they were denied the right to own a weapon to defend themselves?I say we use the legal peaceful means to settle this issue first. The second amendment is written in english and very clearly refers to”the right of the people”. How is that debateable?Should the court rule we do not have an individual right to bear arms then we should exercise our right to bear arms.That is the sole purpose of the amendment,to prevent tyranny and illegal actions of an oppressive goverment.To remain free ,citizens of any nation MUST maintain the means to defend themselves againest ruthless tyranny. How many millions of people have been murdered by “goverments”?Unchecked goverments have killed many more than all the criminals combined.When goverment fails to heed citizens at the ballot box we must maintain the option to resort to the cartridge box.

  • Bruce Hopkins

    In an apparent effort to maintain individuals’ 2nd Amendment rights, a new site opened last week (11-11-07) dedicated to helping people buy or sell firearms from/to people IN THEIR OWN STATE. As it turns out, it’s legal in many states to buy/sell/trade firearms between INDIVIDUALS without having to register the transaction nor to report it to any government agency. There is no charge to post to or browse the site.

    It can be found at