NRA Drops Suit Over San Francisco Branding It a ‘Terror Group’

The National Rifle Association dropped its lawsuit challenging San Francisco’s decision to label it a terrorist group on Thursday. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The National Rifle Association dropped its lawsuit challenging San Francisco’s decision to label it a terrorist group Thursday, a move both sides touted as a legal victory.

“We’re pleased the NRA backed down on its frivolous lawsuit,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement Thursday.

The NRA sued San Francisco on Sept. 9, six days after the city’s Board of Supervisors passed a unanimous resolution declaring the NRA a domestic terror organization. The resolution also called for taking steps to “limit those entities who do business with the city and county of San Francisco from doing business with this domestic terrorist organization.”

Before the board passed the resolution on Sept. 3, San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani stated at a city meeting that “the NRA exists to spread disinformation and knowingly puts weapons in the hands of those who would harm and terrorize us by blocking common-sense gun violence prevention legislation.” Stefani sponsored the resolution.

In its lawsuit, the NRA called the resolution an “unconstitutional abridgement” of its First Amendment right to free expression. It sought a court order to block the city from taking any action that would diminish, terminate or interfere with its memberships, sponsorships, contracts and business relationships.

Some legal scholars predicted the NRA could have a strong case if the city were to cut ties with contractors that do business with the NRA.

UC Berkeley law professor Erwin Chemerinsky told Courthouse News in September that could be deemed as punishing people for their associations. 

University of California-Hastings law professor David Levine said he didn’t think the NRA would get far in suing over a “secondary boycott.”

“I don’t think the NRA can do much about it,” Levine said. “I think a better plaintiff would be a vendor saying you can’t do this to us.”

At the end of September, San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a memo clarifying that the resolution was “non-binding” and stating that no department would take steps to assess relationships between city contractors and the NRA or to restrict any contractors based on their work with the NRA.

In a statement Thursday, the NRA’s lawyer, William Brewer III, framed the mayor’s late September memo as a major concession and legal victory.

“As has been widely reported, after the Association challenged the unconstitutional resolution, the City beat a hasty retreat and backed down from its wildly illegal blacklisting scheme,” Brewer said.

But the city’s attorney insisted it was the NRA that backed down. Herrera said the lawsuit was intended to silence legitimate criticism regarding the group’s role in a “gun violence epidemic” gripping the nation.

“If the NRA doesn’t want to be publicly condemned for its actions, it should stop sabotaging common sense gun safety regulations that would protect untold numbers of Americans every year, like universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and restrictions on high-capacity magazines,” Herrera said.

Brewer said the lawsuit put “the censors” on notice, adding the NRA will “always fight to protect the Constitution,” including the First and Second Amendments.

He said the NRA will re-file if the city “tries anything like this in the future.”

This isn’t the first time San Francisco used the power of its purse to boycott entities that promote or enact policies deemed inconsistent with its progressive values. In July, the city expanded a ban on government-sponsored travel to states with anti-LGBT laws to include states that have passed restrictive abortion laws.

The NRA filed its notice of voluntary dismissal in U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s court Thursday afternoon.

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