Feds Want Political Membership Records

Important Vote Affecting Gun Rights Tomorrow
— House to decide if government can glean gun owners’ names from certain lists

Gun Owners of America E-Mail/FAX Alert
8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, VA 22151
Phone: 703-321-8585 / FAX: 703-321-8408

(Monday, June 26, 2000) — The Hostettler amendment to gut the Smith & Wesson agreement is scheduled to be voted on tonight. Having said that, there is a threat looming on the horizon — a threat that may materialize in the House as early as tomorrow.

The House is expected to begin debating H.R 4717, the Archer-Houghton “Full and Fair Political Activity Disclosure Act of 2000” — a bill that turns out to be neither full nor fair.

H.R. 4717 would force affected organizations (like GOA) to release many, if not all, of the names and addresses of their members to the IRS — a requirement which is blatantly unconstitutional. Many years ago, the state of Alabama had tried to get the names of NAACP members, but its attempts were beaten back by the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama (1958).

Despite this obvious precedent, this bill is now targeting so-called 501(c)(4) lobbying organizations — groups like GOA and NRA-ILA — which cannot receive tax-deductible contributions from the public. In contrast, there are many liberal foundations that are set up as 501(c)(3) organizations — groups like the Million Mom March Foundation which are limited in the amount of direct lobbying that they can do. Even so, these foundations can still spend up to $1 million per year in direct lobbying and conduct voter education campaigns while still receiving tax-deductible contributions.

All this to say: H.R. 4717 applies to 501(c)(4) organizations but not to 501(c)(3) organizations. Thus, this bill regulates GOA and NRA, but not anti-gun organizations such as the Violence Policy Center, the Million Mom March Foundation or HCI’s Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

Unfair? You bet it is. But the bigger issue is the threat this bill poses to the Constitution. This bill, sponsored by retiring Representative Bill Archer (R-TX), will allow Republicans to claim they have “done something” about campaign finance reform. But in doing so, they’re blowing holes in the Constitution. The Supreme Court correctly noted in the NAACP decision that forcing groups to disclose their members’ names to the government would “constitute a[n] effective restraint on freedom of association.”

It goes without saying that an activist who sends a check to GOA to help protect his Second Amendment rights doesn’t want his name being registered with the IRS as a gun owner. And for that reason, GOA will fight this bill “tooth and nail.” And if this bill were to become law, GOA would not comply. We would fight it in court, and exhaust every possible resource, because we are not going to turn over our members’ names to the IRS.

This underscores why it is SO VERY IMPORTANT that we defeat this bill in the Congress! GOA would rather spend its members’ dollars defending 2nd Amendment freedoms, as opposed to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting 1st Amendment battles in court.

ACTION: Please ask your Congressman to OPPOSE H.R. 4717, the Archer-Houghton Political Activity Disclosure Act. Tell them the government has no business keeping tabs on who you’re associating with. Moreover, this kind of legislation is dangerous as far as gun ownership is concerned. The registration of gun owners could very well be the first step towards confiscation in the future.

Tell your Congressman to vote NO on H.R. 4717. Please call him toll-free at 1-888-449-3511.