What If We Sued the NRA Out of Existence?

Remember a few decades ago when the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) came up with the strategy of using civil lawsuits as a weapon against hate groups?   Their premise was that these hate groups wouldn’t have the resources to defend themselves or the money to pay any penalties that were assessed.  So they filed lawsuit after lawsuit against White Citizen Councils and Ku Klux Klan memberships.  And it worked.  They drove these groups out of business.

What if gun-control advocates adopted the same tactic?  What if federal, state and municipal governments, the ACLU, progressive action groups—along with the families of murder victims—all got together and began filing civil lawsuits and criminal charges against the National Rifle Association (NRA), charging it with being an accessory to murder by having prevented the ban on assault rifles?

After all, there can be no doubt the NRA is the prime mover here, that it’s the NRA, more than any other organization, that has opposed gun control.  Opposition to gun-control is its raison d’être.  It would be the job of these gun-control advocates to pin these assault rifle massacres on the folks at the NRA.

Does this tactic sound too farfetched?  Too flimsy?  Too hysterical?  Probably so, because the NRA would doubtless rely on the 14th amendment (due process) and the rights guaranteed by the 2nd amendment.  And because the 2nd amendment is considered sacrosanct, it would be an uphill battle getting the courts to see it their way.

But let’s recall that the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens Councils strenuously defended their rights to free speech and free assembly under the provisions of the 1st amendment.  And the 1st amendment ain’t exactly chopped liver.  Indeed, that 1st amendment umbrella has, historically, covered a multitude of mischief and weirdness.  But even with the pedigree of a 1st amendment defense, the Klan lost and the SPLC prevailed.

Forcing the NRA to spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting for its institutional life and public relations image would be well worth the effort.  A full-court press like this could do some real damage. Granted, the organization is very well-financed and well-insulated, but you have to start somewhere.

And who knows, since the U.S. government can print all the money it likes, maybe the feds could “break” the NRA the way we hear of people “breaking the bank” at Monte Carlo.  Or, if not break it, then at least render it too poor to pay its lobbyists; and without the NRA lobby, the national “gun debate” is moot.  Without the NRA lobby, we would more or less be living in a different country.

One would think that, given our shameful history of mass-murder and the undeniable killing power of such weapons, it would be as easy as pie to ban the sale and possession of assault rifles.  Clearly, no one’s advocating repeal of the 2nd amendment, and no one is suggesting we don’t have the right to own all the shoguns, rifles and pistols we like in order to protect our homes.  All that’s being suggested is that assault rifles be made illegal.

But the NRA is opposed to that suggestion.  They oppose the concept of gun control, period.  Indeed, the NRA takes the position that banning assault rifles would be the first ominous step on a slippery slope, that the next step would be banning handguns, then banning shotguns, then banning hunting rifles.

The NRA likes to pretend that if those powdered-wigged, musket-toting Founding Fathers were given the choice between having school children mowed down by gun fire, or allowing the government to ban machine guns, they would choose the former. That’s how perversely curdled their argument has become.

David Macaray is a playwright and author, whose latest book is How to Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows: Weird Adventures in India: Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims When the Peace Corps was New. Everything you ever wanted to know about India but were afraid to ask. He can be reached at: dmacaray@gmail.com. Read other articles by David.