Gun control industry groups and their supporters in politics and the media love to throw around epithets about those of us in the gun rights community. They’re fond of describing law-abiding firearm owners and those who support Second Amendment rights as violent insurrectionists and terrorists.
Earlier this year, the civilian disarmament advocates at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence issued a press release touting the nomination (again) of Democrat Terry McAuliffe for Governor of Virginia. They said the nomination was evidence of “Virginia voters’ commitment to gun violence prevention.”
The release also quoted Lori Haas, CSGV’s Virginia state director, as saying . . .
Now is not the time to go back. Virginia cannot afford to elect Glenn Youngkin and his outdated and harmful stance on gun violence. His willingness to say anything for a vote is deeply troubling, as we’ve already seen him cozying up to those with deep ties to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement, like Senator Amanda Chase and the domestic terror organization, the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Youngkin’s base of support stems from those who promoted the ‘Big Lie,’ stormed the U.S. Capitol and attacked our nation. That is disqualifying. Plain and simple.
It probably didn’t occur to anyone at CSGV HQ to run that inflammatory lie past their attorney. The CSGV later deleted the libelous and defamatory language from the release, but unfortunately for them, the internet is forever.
Now the VCDL has filed suit for libel against the CSGV seeking $450,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.
Here is the VCDL’s press release announcing he lawsuit . . .
Back on June 9, a VA-ALERT item talked about how the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) libeled VCDL and its members by saying VCDL is a “Domestic Terror Organization” in a press release. That press release was published in the media, spreading that defamation.
From the CSGV press release:
“Virginia cannot afford to elect Glenn Youngkin and his outdated and harmful stance on gun violence. His willingness to say anything for a vote is deeply troubling, as we’ve already seen him cozying up to those with deep ties to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement, like Senator Amanda Chase and the domestic terror organization, the Virginia Citizens Defense League.”
Here is the FBI’s definition of a “domestic terror organization”:
Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.
VCDL has never even been accused of being involved with or committing any kind of violence, much less a violent criminal act.
VCDL is suing CSGV for libel and Mr. Joel Kanter, the Chairman of the Board of CSGV, has been served the papers. We await CSGV’s initial response, which is due by September 18. Once we have the response, we will update you again.
Here is a copy of VCDL’s complaint:
V I R G I N I A :
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF FAIRFAX COUNTY
Case No. CL-2021-_____
VIRGINIA CITIZENS DEFENSE LEAGUE, Plaintiff,
THE COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE, Defendant.
Serve: Joel Kanter, Registered Agent
925 H Street, N.W., #1106
Washington, D.C. 20001
COMES NOW Plaintiff, VIRGINIA CITIZENS DEFENSE LEAGUE (“VCDL”), by Counsel, pursuant to VA. R. Sup. Ct. 3:3 and moves this Honorable Court for judgment against Defendant, THE COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE (“CSGV”), based upon causes of action of defamation per se and per quod. In support thereof, Plaintiff sets forth the following:
- SUBJECT MATTER AND IN PERSONAM JURISDICTION AND VENUE
- This Court may exercise subject matter jurisdiction over this action pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 17.1-513.
- CSGV is a District of Columbia 501(c)(4) charitable organization which published a press release specifically directed at Virginia residents in an effort to influence their vote in Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial election, scheduled to be held on 11/2/21.
- CSGV’s press release at issue was “published” in the Commonwealth of Virginia—along with every other geographic location in which someone read the press release—as that term of art is construed in the context of a defamation lawsuit governed by Virginia law.
- CSGV intended its press release to be published in the Commonwealth of Virginia and succeeded in doing so since it is beyond doubt that at least one person in Virginia read that press release.
- Because publication—the last act necessary to complete the intentional tort of defamation—occurred within the Commonwealth, under Virginia law, the tort was thereby committed in Virginia.
- As a consequence, CSGV is subject to this Court’s exercise of in personam jurisdiction over it, pursuant to Virginia’s long-arm statute, VA. CODE ANN. § 8.01-328.1(3).
- Alternatively, to the extent the Court finds that the tortious act(s) were committed in Washington, D.C., CSGV is subject to this Court’s exercise of in personam jurisdiction over it, pursuant to VA. CODE ANN. § 8.01-328.1(4), because it regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct in this Commonwealth.
- Specifically, CSGV has issued press releases concerning various political races in the Commonwealth, including the upcoming 11/2/21 gubernatorial contest.
- CSGV’s press releases include, inter alia, the press release that is the subject of this Complaint, dated 6/8/21 and entitled, “Terry McAuliffe Elected as Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate,” as well as on 4/30/21, in a press release entitled, “Senator Amanda Chase is a Threat to the Safety of Virginians; Unfit to Lead.”
- CSGV transacts “any business” within the Commonwealth of Virginia, by publishing press releases that specifically target Virginia voters in an effort to sway their votes to the candidate(s) CSGV supports, and is therefore subject to the exercise of in personam jurisdiction over it, pursuant to VA. CODE ANN. § 8.01-328.1(1).
- In addition, CSGV may use computer(s) or computer network(s) located within the Commonwealth, and, upon further investigation, if necessary, may be subject to this Court’s exercise of in personam jurisdiction over it, pursuant to VA. CODE ANN. § 8.01-328.1(B).
- Venue is appropriately laid in Fairfax County, Virginia, pursuant to VA. CODE ANN. § 8.01-262(3) and (4).
- The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (“CSGV”) is a 501(c)(4) charitable organization registered under the laws of the District of Columbia, which also serves as its principal place of business, located at 805 15th Street, N.W., Suite 410; Washington, D.C. 20005.
- According to its website, csgv.org/about-us, CSGV, founded in 1974, “is the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention organization and the affiliate organization of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (“EFSGV”).
- CSGV, along with its sister organization, EFSGV, are two parts of a national, non-profit gun control advocacy organization opposed to gun violence. Comprised of 47 member organizations, CSGV supports reduction in American gun violence via education and legislation.
- Virginia Citizens Defense League (“VCDL”) is a Virginia non-stock corporation, with its principal place of business located in Beaverdam, (Hanover County) Virginia.
- VCDL is a non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization, comprised of several thousand individual members, dedicated to advancing the fundamental human right of all Virginians to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 13 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.STATEMENT OF FACTS
- On 6/8/21, CSGV issued a press release on its website, entitled, “McAuliffe’s Experience Addressing Gun Violence Will Be Invaluable in Building a Safer Virginia.” (attached hereto as Exhibit A).
- CSGV’s press release stated, in pertinent part, “Virginia cannot afford to elect Glenn Youngkin [as Virginia’s next governor]. . . as we’ve already seen him cozying up to those with deep ties to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement, like . . . the domestic terror organization, [VCDL].” (Ex. A).
- The statement quoted above is false.
- According to 18 U.S.C. § 2331(5), “Domestic terrorism” is limited to those activities that—
- involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
- appear to be intended—
- to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
- to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
- to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
- VCDL has never advocated, engaged in, supported, funded, or in any other way participated in any activity that could reasonably be construed as “domestic terrorism.”
- Neither VCDL, nor any of its leadership, has ever been indicted, charged, arrested, or accused, by any public authority—whether federal, state, or local, of engaging in activities that could reasonably be construed as “domestic terrorism.”
- VCDL has never been accused of being involved in or committing any criminal act or act of violence.
- In fact, VCDL had the single largest gun right rally in the nation last year and not a single act of violence or any other criminality arose from it.
- VCDL received accolades for leaving Richmond cleaner than it was before its gun rally.
- VCDL has no knowledge or information suggesting, and therefore no belief that any of its members has ever been convicted, indicted, arrested, or accused, by any public authority—whether federal, state, or local, of engaging in activities that could reasonably be construed as “domestic terrorism.”
- VCDL would undoubtedly, and without reservation, condemn any act of domestic or international terrorism by any group or individual.
- Moreover, the statement at issue is false because VCDL does not and has never had “ties[—deep or otherwise]—to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement.”
- CSGV had no reasonable legal or factual bases upon which to accuse VCDL of engaging in, facilitating, supporting, funding, condoning, or in any other way engaging in acts that could reasonably be construed as “domestic terrorism.”
- Nor did CSGV have any basis upon which to claim that VCDL has “. . . ties to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement.”
- While CSGV and VCDL are clearly on opposite sides of the political spectrum regarding their respective views of a citizen’s right to bear arms, that right is protected and safeguarded by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as by Article I, § 13 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- CSGV’s statement that VCDL is a domestic terror organization is defamatory because it tends to diminish the organization’s reputation as a lawful organization formed for the purpose of advocating for the protection of a recognized constitutional right.
- VCDL draws a substantial portion of its membership from U.S. military personnel—both active duty, reserve, and veterans, as well as from various federal and state law enforcement agencies.
- The members described above, as well as others, tend to gravitate toward jobs with the government that require high security clearances.
- CSGV’s statement that VCDL is a domestic terror organization is reasonably certain both to deter prospective members from joining and to influence current members to quit or not to renew their membership, so as not to be affiliated with a group labeled a domestic terror organization, and thereby risk the loss of their security clearances, their jobs, and their own individual reputations.
- As such, it is likely that CSGV’s statement has caused and will continue to cause pecuniary losses to VCDL in futuro.
- Alternatively, if the jury finds that damages have not been adequately established, it would be appropriate to award nominal damages.
- CSGV’s false and defamatory statement concerning VCDL was motivated and prompted by CSGV’s actual malice toward VCDL—that is, hatred, ill-will, grudge, desire for revenge—driven by CSGV’s antagonistic political position vis a vis the gun control issue, about which CSGV and VCDL so vehemently disagree.
- As demonstrated by CSGV’s issuance of a press release containing the defamatory statement, it intended that its defamatory statement of and concerning VCDL be published as far and wide as possible, to inflict maximum damage on VCDL’s and its members’ reputations.COUNT 1DEFAMATION PER QUOD
- Plaintiff hereby incorporates, by reference, all of the foregoing paragraphs, as if fully set forth herein.
- CSGV published a false statement of and concerning VCDL through its 6/8/21 press release, which, CSGV intended to be read by third parties residing in Virginia.
- Upon information and belief, CSGV’s press release was presumably read by at least one third party in Virginia.
- CSGV’s false statements, that VCDL was a domestic terror organization, and maintained “deep ties to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement” portrayed VCDL in a false and detrimental light.
- At the time CSGV made the false and defamatory statement, it knew or should have known that its statement was false because advocating for the protection and safeguarding of constitutionally protected rights could not reasonably be characterized as domestic terror activity.
- At the time CSGV made the statement at issue, it knew or should have known that its false and defamatory press release would almost certainly harm VCDL’s standing and reputation in the community.
- CSGV’s defamatory statement of and concerning VCDL caused the latter impairment of reputation and loss of standing in the community.
- As a direct and proximate result of the statement published by CSGV, VCDL also likely sustained damage to its business in the form of loss of new membership and the resultant loss of revenues, as well as erosion of its then-current membership.
- VCDL has also likely suffered and will continue to suffer from a diminution of its donations from members and those who are sympathetic to VCDL’s cause.
- VCDL is entitled to compensatory damages in the amount of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000), or whatever amount the jury deem appropriate, for the past and future harm to its professional reputation, and for its past and future lost membership and its concomitant loss of revenues, suffered as a direct and proximate result of CSGVs intentionally tortious misconduct.
- Alternatively, even in the absence of adequate proof of economic losses, VCDL is entitled to an award of nominal damages, in recognition of the damage to reputation caused by CSGV’s false and defamatory press release.
- VCDL is also entitled to three hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($350,000), or whatever amount the jury deem appropriate, in exemplary or punitive damages for CSGV’s intentionally tortious misconduct consisting of its publication of a false and defamatory statement of and concerning VCDL, with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of that statement.
- occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States;
E. AD DAMNUM CLAUSE
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff, VIRGINIA CITIZENS DEFENSE LEAGUE, by Counsel, respectfully moves this Honorable Court for the following relief: judgment against Defendant, THE COALITION TO STOP GUN VIOLENCE, in the amount of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) in compensatory damages and three hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($350,000) in exemplary damages. In addition VCDL seeks awards of its court costs expended in addition to post-judgment interest at the statutory rate of 6.000% per annum; and VCDL demands a TRIAL BY JURY.
VIRGINIA CITIZENS DEFENSE LEAGUE
THE LEISER LAW FIRM
By: Phillip B. Leiser, Esq.
1750 Tysons Boulevard, Suite 1500
Tysons Corner, Virginia 22102
TEL: (703) 734-5000 x-701
FAX: (703) 734-6000
VASB # 41032
Counsel for Plaintiff, Virginians Citizens Defense League