“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the National Rifle Association?”
No, that’s not a reincarnation of the House Un-American Affairs Committee’s standard inquiry of those appearing before it. (Although give the new Democrat-controlled House of Representatives time…they’ll get there.)
That’s the question, thanks to a new law, that the City of Los Angeles is now asking all contractors who do business with the nation’s second-largest city.
The ordinance, enacted yesterday, states:
Each [contract] Awarding Authority shall require that a Person fully disclose prior to entering into a Contract, all of its and its Subsidiaries’ contracts with or Sponsorships of the NRA.
The disclosure required under this section shall continue throughout the term of the Contract, thereby obligating a Person to update its disclosure each time the Person or its Subsidiary contracts with or enters into a Sponsorship with the NRA.
And it makes clear that it is motivated by the NRA’s political advocacy, as you can see from the recitals at the start of the ordinance (e.g., “the NRA leadership, with the financial support of its dues paying members, continues to lobby against gun safety regulations”).
It’s the latest attempt by anti-gun government entities to “other-ize” guns, gun owners, and the National Rifle Association. A longtime effort that really picked up steam after the Parkland shooting one year ago this week.
There’s only one problem. The Supreme Court has ruled that it’s unconstitutional for government entities to retaliate or discriminate against contractors based on the exercise of their Civil Rights or due to their political affiliations.
And the Court has also made clear that compulsory disclosures of political association is also presumptively unconstitutional, precisely because they deter such association, see Shelton v. Tucker (1960), a case requiring such disclosures of schoolteachers:
Even if there were no disclosure to the general public, the pressure upon a teacher to avoid any ties which might displease those who control his professional destiny would be constant and heavy. Public exposure, bringing with it the possibility of public pressures upon school boards to discharge teachers who belong to unpopular or minority organizations, would simply operate to widen and aggravate the impairment of constitutional liberty.
So, as Reason’s Eugene Volokh notes, the disclosure requirement is a clear violation of First Amendment rights.
Naturally, the same would be true if a city asked companies whether they do business with or sponsor the NAACP, the ACLU, or any other group because of the group’s political advocacy.
Naturally. Except no big city (or any other government entity) would ask those with whom they do business if they’re associated with those groups. Wonder why?