On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson ordered the City of Los Angeles to pay the National Rifle Association (NRA) close to $150,000 over a 2019 ruling on a city ordinance aimed at negatively affecting some city workers who are members of the NRA.
City Ordinance 186000 specifically requires that any prospective contractor with the city must disclose all contracts or sponsorships with the NRA. The ordinance noted several mass shootings, including the Sandy Hook School shooting in 2012, the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay shooting of 2017, and both the Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks shootings of 2018, and tried to tie them to the NRA by showing how their support for less strict gun laws led to those incidents. The ordinance also noted how many of those cities would later enact greater gun control methods.
It concluded that since Los Angeles enacted ordinances and position in favor of greater gun control, it would make sure city funds wouldn’t go those with ties to the organization and would halt city contractor business with NRA members and supporters.
“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,” read the ordinance. “Public funds to such contractors undermines the City’s efforts to legislate and promote gun safety.”
The NRA immediately sued Los Angeles after the ordinance went into effect in April 2019. While the city, as well as ordinance sponsors Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, had expected to win, the NRA made a hard case for the ordinance being in violation of First Amendment rights, mainly freedom of speech.
Judge Wilson Strikes Down Ordinance
In December, Judge Wilson agreed with the NRA and ruled against Los Angeles, halting the ordinance for good and allowing contractors who are members of the NRA to once again be freely allowed to get contracts with the city.
“The text of the ordinance, the ordinance’s legislative history, and the concurrent public statements made by the ordinance’s primary legislative sponsor evince a strong intent to suppress the speech of the NRA,” Judge Wilson wrote in his ruling. “Even though the Ordinance only forces disclosure of activity that may not be expressive, the clear purpose of the disclosure is to undermine the NRA’s explicitly political speech.”
“The City has no interest in the suppression of political advocacy — regardless of how distasteful it finds the content. The Ordinance is therefore incompatible with the Constitution, and Plaintiffs are likely to be successful on the merits of their First Amendment speech claims.”
Los Angeles stayed quiet after the ruling, neither giving a statement on the ruling nor attempting to pass an altered ruling in 2020.
Free speech advocates, affected contractors, and the NRA had the opposite reaction and celebrated the ruling.
“It was essentially a blacklisting for believing in a constitutional amendment,” Charles Rogers, an NRA supporter and contractor with several cities in Southern California, told the Globe. “I didn’t even attempt anything in Los Angeles last year.
“But it’s my belief and I’m with a group that shares that belief. I shouldn’t be shunned for it. But the city really did do it. Thank God for that lawsuit.”
The NRA also responded: “This is an important win for the NRA, our members, and all who believe in America’s constitutional freedoms. 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.”
A final question over legal fees resolved
However, a question lingered throughout much of 2020 over the matter of the NRA’s legal fees, which came in close to $150,000.
Los Angeles, which is currently going through a fiscal emergency due to COVID-19 closings and the economic downturn, had long avoided paying the NRA, going as far as saying that the NRA had to pay it themselves.
But earlier this week Judge Wilson sided with the NRA again, ordering the city to give the NRA all money owed and finally closing the last remnant of the case for good.
“I know the city is hurting, but it’s good to see a First and Second Amendment victory like this in a big city like LA,” added Rogers. “And that court ordered payment the other day? It will make them think twice about doing something like this in the future.”
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