The National Rifle Association (NRA) has filed a lawsuit against San Francisco over the resolution denouncing the organization as a “domestic terrorist organization.” I am cited in the brief, which can be read below. The NRA is correct that I have written in opposition to the resolution of the Board of Supervisors as a direct attack on free speech and “the very definition of demagoguery.” However, the quote that is attributed to me is in error. it was in fact from another column by Henry Olson. It is minor matter since the NRA correctly attributes my view that the resolution is an attack on first amendment rights of free speech and association.
The brief contains the following graph:
“And Jonathan Turley, a public interest law professor at George Washington University, writing in the Hill on September 5, 2019, bluntly stated that the Resolution “sets the power of a government against a set of citizens solely on the basis of their politics. This is called ‘viewpoint discrimination’ in First Amendment law and is unconstitutional.”
That is actually a quote from Olson’s column which ran around the same time as my column in the Hill newspaper with a similar headline. As a litigator, I am sympathetic. It is an easy mistake to make in the fog and frenzy of a filing, particularly with two articles with similar titles. I just wanted to give Olson credit for the specific quote.
As for the filing, the NRA advances three specific claims claiming viewpoint discrimination. The grounds are the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment, and 42 U.S.C. 1983. It is a curious case since the NRA is (correctly) objecting to the measure as an attack on its exercise of free speech. However, the court is likely to be wary of intervening in a case that is so heavily imbued with political opinion on both sides.
Nevertheless, this was an incredibly reckless and abusive act by the Board of Supervisors. It is seeking to sever ties with the NRA and lead an effort among other cities to do so. The resolution is clearly meant to chill speech by labeling the NRA as a terrorist organization and, by extension, all of its five million members.
The effort to end relationship with the NRA on the basis for this resolution does create a material act, not just an opinion, direct against the NRA. The greatest problem is found at the end of the resolution:
RESOLVED, That the City and County of San Francisco intends to declare the National Rifle Association a domestic terrorist organization; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City and County of San Francisco should take every reasonable step to assess the financial and contractual relationships our vendors and contractors have with this domestic terrorist organization; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City and County of San Francisco should take every reasonable step to limit those entities who do business with the City and County of San Francisco from doing business with this domestic terrorist organization; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That the City and County of San Francisco should encourage all other jurisdictions, including other cities, states, and the federal government, to adopt similar positions.
That would entail an intrusion into the associations of vendors as well as the NRA. It raises serious first amendment implications.
It is still a highly difficult case to bring but the Board of Supervisors could not have create a worse record for itself.
Here is the filing: NRA Complaint