By Lisa Graves on March 30, 2012

Trayvon MartinThe "Stand Your Ground" or "Shoot First" law that may protect the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February is the template for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "model bill" that has been pushed in dozens of other states. The bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and was unanimously approved by an ALEC task force co-chaired by Wal-Mart and stocked by other special interests. Additionally, the corporate board members of ALEC, like AT&T, Koch Industries, and Kraft Foods, help facilitate the spread of these laws by financially underwriting its operations. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has compiled this list of resources to help reporters and other citizens expose ALEC and its agenda, as well as the long and close relationship between ALEC and the NRA.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently highlighted CMD's work exposing ALEC in the New York Times, noting that exposing ALEC is a good way to start "taking our country back" from the "corporatization of our political life."

The ALEC/NRA Love Fest

In 2008, ALEC filed an amicus brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case on the same side as the NRA. Later, at the American Conservative Union's CPAC meeting, the NRA's Cam Edwards interviewed Michael Hough, ALEC's "Public Safety and Elections Task Force" director/staffer, to discuss "ALEC's strong relationship with the NRA and explain the support of gun rights and ownership." Hough told listeners that ALEC worked "with our partners, the National Rifle Association" on the brief. He also described the fruitful relationship between ALEC and the NRA on issues like the Shoot First legislation, which ALEC and the NRA call the "Castle Doctrine," stating:

"Some of the things that we were pushing in states was the 'Castle Doctrine,' we worked with the NRA on that. That's one of our model bills we have states introduce and another one was the Emergency Powers legislation, which was enacted in a couple states, including some liberal states that normally don't give us anything. Like California, for example, where now you have on the law there where the governor can't come in and take your guns in an emergency, like we saw in Louisiana and some other states."

* ALEC's legal argument on guns can be found here.

Flowchart about the NRA's Role in the Shoot First Bill

CMD's infographic (PDF) shows some of the connections between the NRA, ALEC, and the effect of the ALEC/NRA Shoot First law.

Snapshot of the NRA's recent role in ALEC

As noted on CMD's SourceWatch site:

The NRA has been a long-time member and long-time funder of ALEC. An NRA representative has served on the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, and its predecessor Crime Committees, for many years.

Tara Mica, National Rifle Association, Private Sector ChairTara Mica, NRA-Institute for Legislative Action State Liaison, was the co-chair of ALEC's Public Safety and Elections Task Force in 2008, 2009, 2010, and parts of 2011. While the NRA was co-chair, that Task Force approved the controversial "voter ID" bill and the Arizona anti-immigrant legislation, SB 1070, as model bills, in addition to other gun laws.

The total amount the NRA has paid in membership dues to ALEC is unknown. In addition to annual fees, the NRA can pay a premium to be featured as a co-sponsor of ALEC meetings. For example, at last year's annual ALEC convention, the NRA was a "Vice-Chairman" level sponsor, which in 2010 equated to providing funding at the $25,000 level. But that is just one snapshot of donations from one part of one year, out of many.

ALEC conventions also often promote shooting events for ALEC legislators and corporate lobbyists that are sponsored by the NRA.

Recent ALEC "Model" Bills on Guns

Background on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" Law

Information on the NRA's role in introducing the Florida "Stand Your Ground" law can be found in CMD's report: "ALEC Ratified NRA-Conceived Law That May Protect Trayvon Martin's Killer." This article includes materials showing the NRA lobbyist standing behind Governor Jeb Bush while he signed the bill and screenshots showing that Wal-Mart was the co-chair of the ALEC Task Force that approved the bill, along with a contemporaneous report from the NRA that the NRA's proposal was well-received and "unanimously" adopted by ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force of public sector and private sector members. ALEC also "scored" the bill, singling it out among numerous "model" bills, when it was introduced and passed, as noted by Common Cause.

Additionally here is a "tick tock" or backgrounder on the trajectory of that bill in Florida and in connection with ALEC.

Here are some additional articles from CMD's PRWatch about ALEC and the model bill:

And, here is a joint letter from several organizations delivered at ALEC headquarters asking for the group to fully disclose its financial relationship with the NRA and to stop pushing these Shoot First bills as models.

Learn More About ALEC

Additionally, national and state reports by Common Cause, People for the American Way, Progress Now, and others are available.

TAKE ACTION!

  • CMD is sending letters to the corporate leadership of ALEC asking that they break up with ALEC, in light of the Trayvon tragedy.
  • The Nation Magazine is taking a similar action, targeting ALEC corporate member AT&T, in particular.

Media Contacts

For additional information on ALEC's role in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law or press interviews, please contact Lisa Graves (editor@prwatch.org) or Law Fellow Brendan Fischer (brendan@prwatch.org) at (608) 260-9713.


Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which includes ALECexposed.org, PRWatch.org, SourceWatch.org, and BanksterUSA.org. She previously served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice where she handled gun policy and was the managing editor of the National Integrated Firearms Violence Reduction Strategy. She served on DOJ's gun policy team under both Attorneys General Janet Reno and John Ashcroft.

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is CMD's Executive Director. She has served as a senior advisor in all three branches of the federal government and other posts.

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