Judge Blocks LA Law Requiring Contractors to Disclose NRA Ties

LOS ANGELES (CN) – The National Rifle Association’s legal challenge to a Los Angeles ordinance requiring businesses to disclose any links with the advocacy group received a boost Wednesday when a federal judge temporarily blocked the law.

National Rifle Association members listen to speakers during the NRA’s 142 annual Meetings and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston on May 4, 2013. A federal judge on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, blocked enforcement of a Los Angeles law requiring businesses that want city contracts to disclose whether they have ties to the National Rifle Association. (Johnny Hanson/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)

The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance this past February requiring companies that do business with the city to disclose any financial connections to the gun-rights advocacy organization.

The Fairfax, Virginia-based organization responded with a federal lawsuit against the city, arguing the policy silences NRA members and supporters in the city by forcing them to disclose their ties with the organization.

Attorneys for LA moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the ordinance does not restrict First Amendment-protected speech or curtail membership in the NRA.

U.S District Judge Stephen V. Wilson indicated at a hearing in August that he would advance the NRA’s lawsuit amid concern over possible First Amendment violations.

In a 26-page order Wednesday, Wilson doubled down on those concerns, granting the NRA’s request for a preliminary injunction and writing that it’s unclear LA’s ordinance succeeds in its goal of advancing stricter gun laws by reducing pro-gun advocacy.

“It is not within the public interest to subject potential city contractors to a disclosure requirement motivated by political animus and completely unrelated to their ability to perform the job,” Wilson wrote Wednesday. “Weighing the strong interest in protecting plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights against the city’s stated interest, we conclude the public interest is better served by enjoining the ordinance than letting it be enforced.”

Wilson also approved LA’s motion to dismiss Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Clerk Holly Wolcott from the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the city attorney said they will review Wilson’s decision and consult with the City Council on the next steps.

Wilson found, at this stage in proceedings, that LA businesses could lose out on city contracts due to their ties with the pro-gun organization.

“Given the overwhelming animus against the NRA displayed by the city alone, it is plausible that the ordinance would chill a person of ordinary firmness from either submitting bids to the city or engaging in contracts or sponsorship with NRA,” Wilson wrote.

But while Wilson denied LA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, he granted its bid to toss NRA claims that the ordinance has the effect of compelling speech.

“Plaintiffs are required to disclose the contracts or sponsorship which they have freely undertaken with the NRA; they are not required to incorporate anyone else’s message into their own,” Wilson wrote. “This regulation is better analyzed as a disclosure requirement than a traditional compelled-speech claim.”

Wilson also granted the city’s motion to dismiss claims that the ordinance violated the NRA’s equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The NRA applauded the ruling.

“This is an important win for the NRA, our members, and all who believe in America’s constitutional freedoms,” said Andrew Arulanandam, NRA’s managing director of public affairs, in a statement. “In a strong rebuke of the city’s actions, the ordinance is banned from taking effect. Coupled with the NRA’s recent victory against the city of San Francisco, the ruling sends a powerful message to those government officials who would take any actions that are adverse to the NRA because they dislike its political speech.”

More than 300 mass shootings occurred across the nation in 2018, including one at a Western-style bar and grill in the LA suburb of Thousand Oaks which left 12 people dead. That massacre was one impetus for the passage of LA’s ordinance.

The preamble of the ordinance notes Angelenos deserve to know more about the “NRA’s influence,” adding the organization has caused gridlock on Capitol Hill that has kept any gun safety or reform legislation from passing since 1994.

“The city’s residents deserve to know if the city’s public funds are spent on contractors that have contractual or sponsorship ties with the NRA,” the ordinance says. “Public funds provided to such contractors undermines the city’s efforts to legislate and promote gun safety.”

Last month, the NRA dropped its legal challenge to San Francisco’s decision to brand the lobbyist as a terrorist organization.

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