San Francisco just passed a resolution declaring the NRA to be a domestic terrorist organization. Agree or disagree with the NRA, it can hardly be defined as a domestic terrorist organization, at least not as defined under federal law:

(5) the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B) appear to be intended—

(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States;

1) Can a resolution passed by a governing body be defamatory?

2) If it can be defamatory, is there legal recourse for the organization or its members?

  • Reasoning why the NRA should be considered helping terrorists, taken directly from the resolution (emphasis mine): "The United States Department of Justice further includes any individual or member of an organization commits an act that the actor knows, or reasonably should know, affords material support, including communications, funds, weapons, or training to any individual has committed or plans to commit a terrorist act" and "The National Rifle Association through its advocacy has armed those individuals who would and have committed acts of terrorism;" Nov 25, 2019 at 13:46
  • @GeorgPatscheider This question wasn't meant to create a debate about the NRA but to ask about the responsibility a governing body has when expressing a potentially libelous opinion. Can you name a single terrorist for which the NRA provided material support, weapons or training? Or a single individual it has armed? Whatever San Francisco's opinion codified as a resolution says, it doesn't change the definition of a terrorist organization as stated in federal law.
    – Dave D
    Nov 25, 2019 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


The issue at hand is a long-standing gap in the tort of defamation, there are no judicial remedies for when the government speaks about you in a defamatory way.

This is due to a doctrine called sovereign immunity:

Sovereign immunity, or crown immunity, is a legal doctrine by which the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution, strictly speaking in modern texts in its own courts.

Although most states have waived their immunity from tort claims under sovereign immunity, a resolution is a governmental function which under municipal tort immunity prevents states/cities from civil claims such as the tort of defamation.

Immunity of a governmental agency from a tort action.

More information about "municipal tort immunity"

Historical information:

Governments were at one point held to account in the same way as a company would have been until a case known as Bailey v. New York(1842).

  • Gov. Code, § 815(a).
    – user6726
    Sep 6, 2019 at 1:50
  • @user6726 On the other hand, 815(b): "(b) Except as otherwise provided by statute, a public entity is not liable for an injury resulting from an act or omission of an employee of the public entity where the employee is immune from liability." Local governments do not enjoy Sovereign Immunity, but the portion of the answer about municipal tort immunity seems to be relevant. Legislative acts are clearly governmental and not proprietary actions, and therefore covered. Sep 6, 2019 at 3:06
  • @IllusiveBrian thank you for defending my answer but I'm pretty sure he did that because of my first sentence. Sep 6, 2019 at 4:31
  • To clarify my reference to a "gap" is foreshadowing the case that established the doctrine from 1842. Sep 6, 2019 at 4:33
  • 1
    @Viktor I'm unsure where we disagree, we're driving two different roads that arrive at the same location. Sep 6, 2019 at 21:24


The states inherited the right of parliamentary privilege from English law and it is enshrined in the US Constitution under the Speech or Debate Clause (Article I, Section 6, Clause 1):

...shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

This means you cannot take legislators to court for what they do in the House.

There is a strong argument to made that a state that did not give its legislators this protection would not have a republican government as required to be a state.

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