The National Rifle Association sued San Francisco on Monday over the city's recent declaration that the gun-rights lobby is a "domestic terrorist organization."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accuses city officials of violating the gun lobby's free speech rights for political reasons and says the city is seeking to blacklist anyone associated with the NRA. It asks the court to step in "to instruct elected officials that freedom of speech means you cannot silence or punish those with whom you disagree."
Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution calling the NRA a "domestic terrorist organization," contending the NRA spreads propaganda that seeks to deceive the public about the dangers of gun violence.
The resolution follows some recent high-profile shootings, including one in Gilroy, California, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco, where a gunman entered a festival with an AK-style long gun, killing three people and injuring 17 before killing himself. Since that shooting on July 28, there have been at least three mass shootings — in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and in the West Texas towns of Odessa and Midland.
"This action is an assault on all advocacy organizations across the country," said William A. Brewer III, the NRA's lawyer. "There can be no place in our society for this manner of behavior by government officials. Fortunately, the NRA, like all U.S. citizens, is protected by the First Amendment."
The NRA has been battling a number of challenges to its operations in recent months, including an investigation by the attorney general in New York, where its charter was formed, and the attorney general in Washington, D.C., where authorities are questioning whether its operations are in violation of its non-profit status. There also have been internal battles over NRA leadership with the group's then-president, Oliver North, and its top lobbyist, Chris Cox, stepping down, giving gun-rights activists pause about the NRA's ability to hold sway in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections.
Amid the political strife, there have been several recent high-profile mass shootings that appear to be giving gun-control advocates momentum to seek restrictions on firearms. Democrat leaders in Congress on Monday urged President Donald Trump, a favorite of the NRA, to push Republicans to agree to expand background checks, and there have been efforts to make it easier to seize firearms at least temporarily from people who are exhibiting mental health issues.
The San Francisco resolution also follows moves by corporate America in recent years to cut ties with the NRA and its membership — from Delta Airlines ceasing discounts for NRA members to last week's moves by Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Albertsons chains all asking customers to not openly carry firearms into their stores.