The City of Los Angeles said it would defend itself against litigation brought by the National Rifle Association that challenged a recent ordinance.
The NRA sued the city April 24, saying a recently enacted law requiring government contractors to disclose any contractual relationship with the gun rights organization is unconstitutional. The Los Angeles City Council enacted Ordinance No. 186000 in February, citing recent shootings and the gun group’s desire to “block sensible gun safety reform.”
“I support this policy, I’m confident in it, and we’re not going to be bullied by the NRA,” Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said April 24 in a statement by email.
The city will “vigorously defend” the ordinance, Rob Wilcox, director of community engagement and outreach at the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, said in an email the same day.
The NRA says the ordinance was actually created to pressure its supporters to end their relationships with the organization.
“Politicians are free to disagree with the NRA’s pro-freedom, firearm safety, and self-reliance message, but they aren’t free to censor it—as this would do when NRA supporters drop their NRA affiliations for fear of losing work from the City because they get put on this blacklist,” Chuck Michel, lead attorney for the NRA in this case, said in an email. “This is modern day McCarthyism, and my clients are confident no judge will let it stand.”
The city adopted the ordinance Feb. 12 and set an April 1 effective date.
The mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 and the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, as well as hundreds of daily gun injuries are cited in the ordinance as the reason for the rule’s enactment. Los Angeles’ citizens are entitled to know how public money is being spent given the city’s efforts to enact gun safety regulations, the ordinance says.
“The millions of dollars generated from the new and renewed membership dues fund the NRA agenda of opposing legislative efforts throughout the country to adopt sensible gun regulations,” the ordinance says. “The membership dues also finance the NRA’s nationwide effort to repeal existing gun control measures and to diminish local and state government’s ability to adopt sensible gun legislation.”
The organization depends on membership dues and donations to fight California’s “ever-expanding restrictions on the lawful acquisition, ownership, and possession of firearms and ammunition,” according to its complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
“The City’s goal is to diminish NRA’s political contributions, its membership numbers, and ultimately its pro-Second Amendment speech,” the organization says.
The ordinance, as written, requires a prospective city contractor to disclose its relationship with the NRA but doesn’t require the contractor to distance itself from the organization.
But the NRA pointed to statements from city council members it says are proof the underlying purpose of the ordinance is to rid the city of monetary ties to the organization.
“Millions of Americans are members of this lawful group, as are hundreds of thousands of Californians,” representatives for the NRA wrote in a press advisory. “This blacklist law effectively shames and puts a ‘scarlet letter’ on any law-abiding contractor or business that believes in the right to choose to own a firearm” and who
“supports a Constitutional right by forcing them to disclose their affiliation.”
Causes of Action: Violation of civil rights guaranteed by Section 1983, including violation of the First Amendment’s right to the freedom of association and speech; government compelled speech; unlawful retaliation for protected speech; violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.
Relief Sought: Declaratory judgment that Ordinance No. 186000 violates the Constitution, injunctive relief barring the ordinance’s enforcement, monetary damages according to proof, costs, and attorney’s fees.
Attorneys: Michel & Associates P.C. represent the NRA and John Doe, a business owner with multiple city contracts who opposes the new disclosure requirement.
Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg, who serves as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s advisory board.
The case is Nat’l Rifle Assn. of Am. v. City of Los Angeles, C.D. Cal., No. 19-cv-3212, complaint filed 4/24/19.
To read more from The United States Law Week pleaseOR Request Trial
(Adds comment from mayor.)