January 18, 2024

Raleigh, NC / Denver, CO – Together, the John Locke Foundation and Independence Institute have filed an amicus brief in the landmark Supreme Court case, National Rifle Association of America (NRA) v. Vullo. This filing represents a unified stance by two leading public policy research organizations dedicated to the preservation of constitutional liberties and the rule of law. 

The Independence Institute, a respected Denver-based think tank, has a rich history of impactful legal scholarship, with its research cited in numerous high court opinions. Similarly, the John Locke Foundation, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, is committed to promoting limited, constitutional government, a principle deeply rooted in the philosophies of its namesake, John Locke. A leader in litigation preserving Americans’ right to keep and bear arms, the Second Amendment Foundation is also a signatory to this amicus brief.

The case of NRA v. Vullo is a pivotal moment in the ongoing battle for civil liberties. It highlights the dangers of governmental overreach and the critical importance of protecting First Amendment rights against egregious forms of governmental intimidation or coercion. 

Our amicus brief highlights the Court’s rejections of the government’s historical attempts to undermine civil liberties – notably the targeted actions against the NAACP in the 1950s. These historical instances, like the current case, showcase the misuse of governmental power to stifle advocacy and suppress lawful organizations through financial and regulatory pressures. 

In recent decades, this tactic has seen a resurgence, with various government officials, including former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo, utilizing their positions to undermine constitutionally protected activities. These efforts have ranged from coordinated lawsuits aimed at firearms manufacturers to IRS targeting of conservative groups, demonstrating a disturbing pattern of using governmental power to silence particular viewpoints or advocacy. 

The case at hand mirrors these past abuses of power. Superintendent Vullo and then-Governor Cuomo’s actions, aimed at crippling the NRA through regulatory and financial means, exemplify a blatant disregard for constitutional protections and the principles of free speech and association. 

“The expressive rights protected by the First Amendment are essential to the operation of our republican system of government and the survival of our free society,” said Jon Guze, Legal Studies Senior Fellow at the John Locke Foundation. “That’s what makes the implications of the Second Circuit’s decision in this case so troubling. If allowed to stand, it would open the floodgates for government officials to use regulatory enforcement and intimidation to silence unwanted advocacy, just as New York attempted to do in this case. And that is why we are asking the Supreme Court to reverse.” 

As organizations deeply committed to the principles of liberty and constitutional governance, the John Locke Foundation and the Independence Institute urge the Supreme Court to recognize and rectify the constitutional violations in this case. The First Amendment’s protections are foundational to a free society, and any attempt to erode these rights under political or ideological pretenses poses a grave threat to all Americans, regardless of their individual beliefs or affiliations. 

“History has shown us time and again the perils of allowing government officials to use their power to silence dissenting voices,” said Dave Kopel, Research Director of the Independence Institute. “The tactics employed against the NRA bear a disturbing resemblance to those used against civil rights organizations in the past. This is not just a Second Amendment issue; it is a First Amendment crisis that demands our utmost attention and action.” 

This case will have a lasting impact and serves as a litmus test for the strength and resilience of our constitutional liberties. An adverse decision could set a dangerous precedent, allowing government officials to suppress any advocacy or organization they deem unfavorable. 

We stand united in our belief that the Supreme Court must uphold the fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution and reject any form of governmental overreach that threatens the liberties of the American people. The outcome of NRA v. Vullo will not only impact the parties involved but will also have far-reaching implications for the future of free speech and association in the United States. 

For inquiries or to schedule an interview, you may contact Brenee Goforth, Media Manager at the John Locke Foundation at [email protected], or Dave Kopel, Research Director at the Independence Institute at [email protected].