It’s not every day that a pro-Second Amendment group gets a resounding victory at the Supreme Court, with a unanimous opinion authored by a justice who thinks there’s no individual right to keep and bear arms, no less.

And yet, last week, that’s exactly what happened, with the nation’s highest court handing the National Rifle Association a resounding 9-0 win against the state of New York—not over the state’s gun laws, but over its attempts to suppress the NRA’s pro-Second Amendment views.

The NRA had alleged that Maria Vullo, the now-former head of the state’s Department of Financial Services, violated the First Amendment when she coerced several insurers to cut ties with the group over its advocacy against restrictive gun control. While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit dismissed the NRA’s claims, the Supreme Court last week overturned that decision, effectively allowing the organization’s lawsuit against Vullo to continue. 

The court’s opinion is a win for the NRA and for broad free speech protections. But it also underscores an unsettling reality: The war for the Second Amendment often involves battles waged on a First Amendment front.

This is far from the first time that gun control activists have attacked the lawful gun industry and lawful gun owners by threatening their right to speak freely.    

Consider California’s passage of AB 2571 in 2022, which essentially prohibited any person or organization remotely related to the “firearms industry” from “promoting” even the lawful and supervised use of firearms by minors. The law’s reach was so broad that it effectively forbade youth sport shooting groups and youth hunter safety programs from advertising their existence. At the same time, however, the law would not have prevented the publication of messages advocating against those same groups or activities.

The state argued that the law was necessary to keep these “dangerous products” out of the hands of “impulsive, risky, [and] thrill-seeking” young people, who were apparently enticed and lured by attractive advertisements or promotions to illegally purchase firearms and use them for criminal purposes. (Never mind that the state couldn’t provide a single example of a minor being “lured” to unlawfully purchase a gun because he or she saw an advertisement for a youth sport shooting group.)

This was, of course, just a cover for the state’s real goal; namely, stamping out pro-Second Amendment viewpoints and traditions by preventing them from being readily passed down to future generations.

Fortunately, California’s efforts to prohibit truthful speech about lawful activities involving guns went too far for even the 9th Circuit, an appeals court notorious for finding ever new and creative ways to uphold restrictive gun-control laws.

In September, a three-judge panel determined that the law was likely unconstitutional and granted a preliminary injunction that stopped it from being enforced—for now, at least. To this day, California continues actively defending the law during ongoing litigation.

California’s use of advertising regulations as a club with which to coercively eliminate pro-gun viewpoints from public discourse is not unique: Illinois passed a similar statute last year, which is also being challenged in federal court.

It’s also not limited to state governments, either.

In 2010, the Phoenix Public Transit Department rejected a contract selling advertisement space on bus shelters to a company promoting its marksmanship and gun-safety classes. The Arizona Court of Appeals later determined that the city unconstitutionally misapplied its own standards and advertising regulations so that it could quash a disfavored viewpoint about guns.    

More than a decade later, just up the road from Phoenix, the city of Flagstaff, Arizona, finds itself in hot water, legally speaking, over similar attempts to suppress pro-Second Amendment viewpoints, rejecting an advertisement for a firearms training center by claiming that its “representation of shooting sports” violated the city’s policy against displaying “violence or anti-social behavior.”

That’s right. Telling lawful gun owners how they can responsibly exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms is inherently violent and anti-social behavior.

Not all attacks on the free speech of lawful gun owners are so direct and overt. No, sometimes the suppression of pro-Second Amendment voices is quite subtle.

After the Supreme Court struck down New York’s incredibly restrictive framework for issuing public carry permits in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen, the state responded with a new framework that was, in some respects, even more concerning than the previous one. Not only were these new permits spitefully expensive and difficult to obtain, but applicants were required to disclose all of their social media accounts to law enforcement.

Ask yourself how freely you would speak online if the exercise of your Second Amendment rights depended entirely upon the whims of a government official in a historically anti-gun state, that is breathing down your neck as you type? Moreover, because many social media accounts are maintained under pseudonyms, compelling a person to disclose those accounts means that they forfeit their anonymity.

Imagine conditioning the exercise of one constitutional right on the forfeiture of another!

Fortunately, the 2nd Circuit—though unwilling to strike down all aspects of New York’s post-Bruen “spite laws”—recognized the chilling effect of the social media disclosure requirement, so, at least for now, that requirement cannot be enforced.

While we should take comfort in the fact that, thus far, most federal courts have been willing to uphold the First Amendment rights of Second Amendment groups, the fact that such legal intervention is necessary underscores how bad the situation is becoming.

Gun control activists know that the closest thing they have to a winning argument is a silent opposition.

They want your guns so badly that they’ll take your voice, too.