The ACLU Is Defending the NRA in 1A Gun Case

( – Court cases can make for strange bedfellows, but have any ever been as strange as the current alliance between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)? It’s hard to believe, but the notoriously left-wing human rights group is currently helping the gun advocacy organization in a First Amendment case. How did this happen, and where is it likely to lead?

NRA Faces Debanking

In modern society, it’s almost impossible to get through life without a bank account. If your accounts all get closed, you’re in deep trouble. Cash works fine for a visit to the grocery store, even if many people prefer to pay with a card or app, but paying bills in cash is awkward — and running a national organization is basically impossible.

Unfortunately, leftist activists have realized this, and now they’re weaponizing the financial system against their opponents. “Debanking” is a powerful weapon, and if activists or politicians can pressure banks into withdrawing services from someone the effects can be devastating.

Maria Vullo was New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services — effectively the state’s banking regulator — from 2016 to 2019. While she held that post she tried to pressure banks into cutting off the NRA, telling them to withdraw services from the pro-Second Amendment group “or else.”

The NRA responded with a lawsuit, accusing Vullo of violating their First Amendment rights by attempting to interfere with their ability to speak freely; after all, it’s hard to advertise and share your message online when you don’t have a bank account to pay for anything. The lawsuit ran into trouble when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in a surprising ruling, dismissed it, claiming that a banking regulator threatening banks into cutting off a client wasn’t actionable.

Undeterred, the NRA is now appealing to the Supreme Court — and the ACLU has agreed to work with them. David Cole, its national legal director, says that while the two organizations are ideologically miles apart, free speech is a core issue for the ACLU, whatever kind of speech it is.

Reluctant Allies?

The ACLU certainly isn’t a convert to the Second Amendment cause; it’s making clear that it doesn’t support what the NRA does. On the other hand, it supports its right to do it. Free speech experts say that if Vullo wins the case it will set a dangerous precedent, allowing politicians to shut down groups they disagree with by cutting them off from financial services.

For the ACLU that’s a line they’re not willing to cross. The organization has wavered in its support for free speech in recent years; is its new cooperation with the NRA a sign that even the ACLU thinks the left is getting too extreme?

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