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When the government doesn’t like what you say

In one fell swoop, some California legislators attempted to diminish both the First and Second Amendments to the U.S. Constitution — and they may have taken their cue from Albany.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution labeling the National Rifle Association a “domestic terrorist organization.” Members of the board also indicated that they intend to dissuade city contractors and vendors from associating with the gun rights group.

Catherine Stefani, who represents District 2 on the board, introduced the resolution. She was prompted to do this following the July 28 mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, about 80 miles southeast of San Francisco.

“The NRA exists to spread disinformation and knowingly puts weapons in the hands of those who would harm and terrorize us by blocking common-sense gun violence prevention legislation, and by advocating for dangerous legislation like stand-your-ground laws, permit-less carry and guns in schools from kindergarten on up through university,” she said, according to a San Francisco Chronicle story published Wednesday. “It is time to rid this country of the NRA and call them out for who they really are: They are a domestic terrorist organization.”

The resolution claims that the NRA “musters its considerable wealth and organizational strength to promote gun ownership and incite gun owners to acts of violence, and … spreads propaganda that misinforms and aims to deceive the public about the dangers of gun violence, and … through its advocacy has armed those individuals who would and have committed acts of terrorism …”

Nowhere does the document explain how the NRA incites gun owners to acts of violence or arms terrorists. But as long as the board members weave a compelling narrative that will make the NRA’s critics swoon, a lack of evidence doesn’t concern them.

Calling the NRA bad names is one thing. But this resolution isn’t really directed at the organization or its members.

Rather, it is communicating a message to private companies that have business dealings with the NRA. If these firms want to remain on the good side of San Francisco’s government, they better cut any ties with this group.

They took this tactic right from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s playbook. Last year, he had state regulators ask financial services companies if dealing with the NRA would harm their reputations.

A couple of insurance firms participated in the NRA Carry Guard. This program offered insurance to help pay legal expenses for civil and criminal cases for specific incidents of self-defense.

The Cuomo administration said this program was illegal because it offered insurance for those who engage in “intentional wrongdoing.” As a result of legal disputes in several states, the NRA discontinued the insurance aspect of the program.

The problem with the Cuomo administration’s claim is that the insurance was designed to cover future actions that were deemed legal. The governor pinned the “intentional wrongdoing” label to acts that haven’t yet been taken. That is for a court of law to decide, not Cuomo.

Two insurance companies no longer participate in this program. The NRA sued Cuomo and other officials for violating their First Amendment rights, and it will prevail. We can’t allow government authorities to coerce a group into silence because they don’t want to hear what the organization has to say.

But this poisonous trend has now spread to San Francisco. Members of the Board of Supervisors said they’ll do what they can to limit city contractors and vendors “from doing business with this domestic terrorist organization.”

Never mind constitutionally protected liberties.

Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor of the Watertown Daily Times.