ICYMI | Rutledge Op-Ed: Guns, the NRA and the Second Amendment are under assault from the left
August 24, 2020
Guns, the NRA and the Second Amendment are under assault from the left
By: Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
August 21, 2020
In the midst of a challenging pandemic, many American cities have been under siege. Amid violence and riots, the rule of law has been abandoned by the same elected officials who swore to uphold it. Law-abiding citizens who unwittingly drove through protests have found themselves attacked or left to the mercy of a mob.
The promotion of civil unrest and the systematic destruction of neighborhoods and businesses have been permitted with limited consequences under the guise of the First Amendment’s protection of the right to protest. Yet when the case for protecting the Second Amendment couldn’t be stronger to reasonable Americans, the left is yet again trying to weaken it.
As Americans, our constitutional rights and individual liberties are not just a source of patriotic pride but the lifeblood of our democracy. The founders knew that the right of citizens to bear arms was essential to the preservation of democracy and liberty. The Second Amendment ensures that Americans can protect themselves, their families and their businesses, especially when the government is unwilling or unable to do so. And many Americans are indeed now choosing to exercise their Second Amendment rights; a national indicator for gun sales is at an all-time high.
The left has long attacked the Second Amendment, as they believe it is antiquated and unnecessary, and have assured us they can protect us better than we can protect ourselves. But in a time of crisis, many of them have revealed that they won’t actually use law enforcement and even support defunding the agencies that protect and serve all communities. Now they are attacking a private organization that’s trying to do the same.
Just three months before a presidential election, New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit against the NRA and several members of its leadership, seeking to have the gun rights organization dissolved. This lawsuit, filed in New York state court, is the apex of a longstanding feud between the NRA and the Democratic state attorney general. James attacked the NRA while she was a candidate for attorney general, calling it a “terrorist organization” and a “criminal enterprise.”
James knows that if the NRA were dissolved, it would be a huge personal and political victory, as the Democrats would finally be able to silence the largest Second Amendment and gun safety advocate in the country. The NRA promotes responsible and safe firearm ownership and self-defense, and it encourages favorite pastimes like hunting and recreational shooting. That’s a staple of life for folks like us in Arkansas, and a far cry from James’ nefarious “terrorist organization” and “criminal enterprise” labels.
As state attorneys general, we are tasked with protecting the interests of consumers and holding bad actors accountable. Since the NRA is based in New York, James’ office has the jurisdiction to investigate this organization, like any other charity or nonprofit. But while the lawsuit alleges that NRA leadership misused the organization’s funds for their own personal gain, no NRA executives have been charged with any crimes, though James has threatened criminal charges pending the outcome of her office’s investigation.
Moreover, James doesn’t seem to be too worried about protecting the interests of the “consumer”: those who are NRA members. If successful, the lawsuit could permanently bar the strongest Second Amendment advocate from raising funds for its cause and ultimately dissolve the multimillion member organization. Instead of holding the alleged bad actors accountable, James seems to believe she has found a way to finally rid the left of one of its greatest political adversaries — and, possibly, its least favorite constitutional amendment.
However, like any good defender of freedom, the NRA is fighting back. The same day New York filed its state suit, the NRA filed its own lawsuit in federal court, pointing to then-candidate James’ campaign promise to “take on the NRA” if elected. The NRA claims that James’ lawsuit is nothing more than a politically motivated stunt to deliver on that promise — not a response to any real fraud.
The NRA’s lawsuit is based on the First Amendment and similar New York state law. The NRA argues that it is being targeted for its pro-Second Amendment advocacy and that James’ request to dissolve the NRA is nothing more than an attempt to silence political speech. The NRA is also asking the federal court to stop James from interfering with its free-speech rights and to declare that the NRA is in substantial compliance with New York not-for-profit law.
So, is this lawsuit really about the NRA, or does it represent a bigger agenda of the left? While the suit may be a great political rallying cry for James in New York and other liberal arenas heading into the November election, the rest of us see this lawsuit for what it truly is: a deliberate attack on the Second Amendment and those of us who support it.
I understand the importance and duty of attorneys general to investigate allegations of corruption and fraud, but James’ eagerness to dissolve the entire organization rather than to hold potential bad actors accountable speaks volumes about her real motives. The left has worked tirelessly to rewrite history, but we will not and cannot allow it to try to rewrite the Constitution.