LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge indicated Monday he will likely deny Los Angeles’ bid to toss a lawsuit by the National Rifle Association over an ordinance requiring city contractors to disclose their ties to the organization.
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 sued, claiming LA intends to silence NRA members and its supporters in the city by forcing them to disclose their ties with the group – thereby violating their First Amendment rights.
LA moved to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing the ordinance does not restrict First Amendment-protected speech or curtail membership in the NRA but only requires disclosure of certain conduct not tied to protected expression.
At a hearing Monday, U.S District Judge Stephen V. Wilson told LA’s attorney Benjamin Chapman he will likely deny the bid to dismiss the lawsuit because the NRA has alleged “plausible claims” of First Amendment violations.
But Wilson said he wants a “full blown hearing” on the NRA’s request to preliminarily block the ordinance because LA may be able to argue any curtailing of expression by the ordinance is in the interest of protecting public safety.
“The misuse of guns relates to public safety,” Wilson said in court. “Does the ordinance relate to that compelling state interest or is just a ruse to discourage membership in the NRA or discourage those who think like NRA people?”
Chapman told Wilson the ordinance is a “sunshine law” requiring disclosure from private companies doing business with the city, not unlike other laws that require contractors to disclose whether they engage in slavery or are assisting with construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border.
The NRA said in court papers that speech by the organization and its members would be “chilled” if the court doesn’t step in.
“Contractors faced with the choice of abandoning their NRA affiliation or foregoing a paycheck from one of the largest cities in the country must choose between their livelihood or their political self-expression,” the NRA argued in court papers.
Wilson set a hearing on the NRA’s preliminary injunction request for Sept. 9.
The preamble of the ordinance notes Angelenos should know about the “NRA’s influence,” claiming it has caused gridlock on Capitol Hill keeping 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.”
The NRA says in its complaint that governments can’t prescribe what is orthodox in politics or compel contractors to hold certain views in exchange for doing business with the city.
“Government-compelled speech is presumptively unconstitutional when it burdens speech by demanding that speakers disclose that which they might be reluctant to disclose, thus deterring them from engaging in speech,” the NRA says in its complaint.