If you’re a Second Amendment activist, you’ve probably been called plenty of names by fans of gun control. Ammosexual, gun nut, and a member of Y’all Qaeda are a few of my personal favorites. Most of the time gun owners and Second Amendment supporters roll our eyes and shrug off the insults, but after the gun control group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence declared in a press release that the Virginia Citizens Defense League is a “domestic terror organization,” the VCDL decided to fight back; not by lobbing an insult of its own, but by suing CSGV for libel.
In a new lawsuit filed in Fairfax County, Virginia the VCDL alleges that CSGV committed libel with its gratuitous insult hurled at the organization and its thousands of members, and I have to say I think they’ve got a very strong case. From the initial complaint:
- On 6/8/21, CSGV issued a press release on its website, entitled, “McAuliffe’s Experience Addressing Gun Violence Will Be Invaluable in Building a Safer Virginia.” (attached hereto as Exhibit A).
- CSGV’s press release stated, in pertinent part, “Virginia cannot afford to elect Glenn Youngkin [as Virginia’s next governor]. . . as we’ve already seen him cozying up to those with deep ties to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement, like . . . the domestic terror organization, [VCDL].” (Ex. A).
- The statement quoted above is false.
- According to 18 U.S.C. § 2331(5), “Domestic terrorism” is limited to those activities that—
- involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
- appear to be intended—
- to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
- to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
- to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
- VCDL has never advocated, engaged in, supported, funded, or in any other way participated in any activity that could reasonably be construed as “domestic terrorism.”
- Neither VCDL, nor any of its leadership, has ever been indicted, charged, arrested, or accused, by any public authority—whether federal, state, or local, of engaging in activities that could reasonably be construed as “domestic terrorism.”
- VCDL has never been accused of being involved in or committing any criminal act or act of violence.
- In fact, VCDL had the single largest gun right rally in the nation last year and not a single act of violence or any other criminality arose from it.
- VCDL received accolades for leaving Richmond cleaner than it was before its gun rally.
- VCDL has no knowledge or information suggesting, and therefore no belief that any of its members has ever been convicted, indicted, arrested, or accused, by any public authority—whether federal, state, or local, of engaging in activities that could reasonably be construed as “domestic terrorism.”
- VCDL would undoubtedly, and without reservation, condemn any act of domestic or international terrorism by any group or individual.
- Moreover, the statement at issue is false because VCDL does not and has never had “ties[—deep or otherwise]—to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement.”
- CSGV had no reasonable legal or factual bases upon which to accuse VCDL of engaging in, facilitating, supporting, funding, condoning, or in any other way engaging in acts that could reasonably be construed as “domestic terrorism.”
- Nor did CSGV have any basis upon which to claim that VCDL has “. . . ties to those at the forefront of the insurrectionist movement.”
- While CSGV and VCDL are clearly on opposite sides of the political spectrum regarding their respective views of a citizen’s right to bear arms, that right is protected and safeguarded by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as by Article I, § 13 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- CSGV’s statement that VCDL is a domestic terror organization is defamatory because it tends to diminish the organization’s reputation as a lawful organization formed for the purpose of advocating for the protection of a recognized constitutional right.
- VCDL draws a substantial portion of its membership from U.S. military personnel—both active duty, reserve, and veterans, as well as from various federal and state law enforcement agencies.
- The members described above, as well as others, tend to gravitate toward jobs with the government that require high security clearances.
- CSGV’s statement that VCDL is a domestic terror organization is reasonably certain both to deter prospective members from joining and to influence current members to quit or not to renew their membership, so as not to be affiliated with a group labeled a domestic terror organization, and thereby risk the loss of their security clearances, their jobs, and their own individual reputations.
The lawsuit goes on to state that the CSGV’s “false and defamatory statement” was made because of the group’s “actual malice toward VCDL—that is, hatred, ill-will, grudge, desire for revenge—driven by CSGV’s antagonistic political position vis a vis the gun control issue, about which CSGV and VCDL so vehemently disagree.”
The VCDL is asking for at least $450,000 in damages; $100,000 for the “past and future harm to its professional reputation, and for its past and future lost membership and its concomitant loss of revenues, suffered as a direct and proximate result of CSGVs intentionally tortious misconduct” as well as $350,000 for “CSGV’s intentionally tortious misconduct consisting of its publication of a false and defamatory statement of and concerning VCDL, with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of that statement.”
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has until September 18th to respond to VCDL’s complaint, and I can’t wait to see their legal rationale attempting to justify its statement. Gun control groups love to argue that their attempts to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of American citizens are just fine by pointing out that no right is unlimited. In fact, the CSGV itself has promoted that argument, quoting a piece in Forbes that claimed “You cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater because it endangers the general public.”
Actually, you can, especially if there’s an actual fire. What you can’t do is publish a false statement that is damaging to the reputation of an individual or organization, and its hard for me to see how the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence can prove that their statement wasn’t untrue or designed to be damaging to the reputation of the Virginia Citizens Defense League.