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NRA Board Member Demands Review of CARA Stance

By John G. Lankford

October 19, 2001

National Rifle Association (NRA) Board of Directors member Dr. David Oliver early this month emailed demands for CARA discussions to the association's Institute for Legislative Action.

"I e-mailed Jim Baker and Susan Lamson and said that we had to discuss CARA, either in committee and/or Board meetings," Oliver said.

CARA is the controversial Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 2001, H.R. 701, passed by the House of Representatives' Resources Committee for reporting to the full House with a 29-12 favorable vote in August. The bill would divert $46.5 billion, over 15 years, from federal outer continental shelf oilfield lease payments from general funds to a variety of special designated purposes. Two similar bills, S.1318 and S.1328 were introduced in the Senate August 2, the day the House bill cleared committee, and both of those were referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Baker and Lamson are the leading figures in the association's Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), its lobbying arm.

NRA is to conduct committee meetings, followed by a full Board of Directors meeting, at association headquarters in Washington, D.C. October 31-November 4. The meetings were originally scheduled to begin September 13, but were twice postponed due to terrorist airliner hijackings and attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon September 11.

NRA stands virtually isolated among gun owner groups in supporting CARA. Its author is NRA Board member Rep. Don Young (R-Ak). The stance in support was adopted with little if any consultation with the rest of the Board. When a furor of NRA member questioning and opposition of the association's stance struck board members during August, most had no idea what the controversy, or CARA, were about.

Members and others questioning regional and state NRA representatives were told CARA was a national issue, so they were precluded from commenting.

Since the September 11 attacks, urgent demands on federal revenues have led many to conclude CARA is a dead letter for the foreseeable future. Others, however, have warned against sudden, unpublicized passage in the environment of heavy, rapid, and unquestioned legislation and spending. Although neither the House nor the Senate versions have progressed since early August, opponents are maintaining energetic vigilance, keeping themselves ready to pounce should any signs of movement appear.

An October 18 synopsis article by Sara Foster quotes American Land Rights Organization lobbyist Mike Hardiman, a severe critic of the NRA staff establishment, as saying,

"You have to realize that when it comes to pork-barrel legislation like CARA, the promoters and those ready to belly up for the handouts, never really back away. They are there watching for an opportunity to slip it through, perhaps as part of an appropriations bill. They are watching very carefully for an opening and they never, ever sleep."'s Wes Vernon did a three-part series on CARA in August, including one piece, "House Leaders Oppose CARA Land Grab", on legislative convolutions it has inspired, and Newsmax columnist Diane Alden has been railing against CARA for about two years.

Alden's coverage of Paragon Foundation principal and NRA member Jay Zane Walley's frustrations encountered when he tried to debate CARA with NRA-ILA staff, picked up by and as well as Alden's own touched off a furore in the association's Board of Directors, and that developed into an informal e-mail group discussion including Alden, Walley, Sierra Times and writers and others, informally chaired by Dr. Oliver.

Discussions revealed that the Board had never been briefed about NRA-ILA's sponsorship of CARA, though it had been ongoing since 1999. Finally, Dr. Oliver declared the e-mail rhubarb concluded pending NRA's committee and board meetings, scheduled for mid-September. But the terrorist attack of September 11 forced repeated reschedulings of the meetings.

NRA board Member Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wy, has declared against CARA, and Board member Sen. Larry Craig, R-Ut has been reported to oppose it, though the report has not been confirmed. Gonzo rock musician and board member Ted Nugent has pledged to fight CARA.

Other gun owners' and Second Amendment defender figures and organizations have declared against CARA. Gun Owners of America and NRA's New York state affiliate, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, have done so on hunters'- and shooters'-interests grounds only, steering clear of landowner rights issues, and GOA state affiliate Gun Owners of New Jersey cryptically ("Yup") backed that stance in response to a question from Sierra Times. But organizations in the west, where the keeping and bearing of arms and land ownership and stewardship are more often inextricable, have expressed opposition on both grounds.

Asked whether Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, NRA's affiliate in that state, maintained its opposition to CARA expressed in an earlier website post, ASR&PA Legislative Liaison Landis Aden responded,

"We still oppose CARA, too many problems with it.

"For those of us in the West, it is obvious to us that the 2nd Amendment cannot exist in isolation. Private property rights are one of the keystones of our liberty. Also, here in AZ for example, only about 13% of the land is privately held. Another 15% or so is state land, and the Feds have all the rest. Not good."

"OFF is unequivocally opposed to CARA," said Kevin Starrett, Executive Director of Oregon Firearms Federation. Sarah Thompson, M.D., Executive Director of the Utah Gun Owners' Alliance, said

"UTGOA maintains its opposition to CARA . . . You may certainly include Utah Gun Owners Alliance as a gun rights organization opposed to CARA."

"RMGO is ADAMANTLY opposed to CARA, as we see it as an expansion of the size and scope of government. If the federal government wants to protect public lands, they should sell them: the private sector has a much better record," said Dudley Brown, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners in Colorado.

Early in the 2001 phase of the CARA controversy, G. Ray Arnett, past Executive Vice President and former Board member of NRA, submitted to Congress what has become the opponents' manifesto, a letter opposing CARA both because of perceived injury to sportsmen's and shooters and property owners' interests, pointing up links between the two.

"Like pouring gasoline into an inferno, CARA will pour a guaranteed annual fire hose of cash into a broken system. CARA is bad legislation with serious flaws that can not be made acceptable with minor amendments here and there. At best, this rearranging of the Titanic's deck chairs, so to speak, may result in outwardly making a rotten apple appear to be palatable, but the apple is still rotten," Arnett perorated.

Walley's Paragon Foundation has elicited and brought about the e-distribution to Oliver's NRA board email group, a lawyer's critique of CARA, the most recent of a series of updates, and solicited, so far without success, an invitation for author Fred Kelly Grant to address the NRA Board or committee meetings.

But Jan Morris, Executive Director of the Missouri Hunter Education Instructors' Association, reported that group's board of directors has taken no position. Also declining to take a public position has been Neal Knox, thirty-year leadership figure of the National Rifle Association, and repeated calls for prominent NRA figures such as President Charlton Heston, Executive Vice-president Wayne LaPierre, Jr. and Oliver North to declare their positions have gone unanswered.

Eyeing the upcoming NRA meetings, Dr. Oliver advised,

"The Hunting & Wildlife Conservation Committee meets from 0900 to 1200 hrs on Thurs., 1 Nov. On that committee, among others, are former Congressman Bill Brewster, Ted Nugent and Congressman Donald Young. I am not on that committee, but tomorrow, I am going to call up to NRA HQ and ask for permission to fly on Wed., 31 Oct, so I can attend the meeting.

"Mrs. Lamson is not on that committee (other people besides Board members are on committees), but CARA certainly is on her plate. And - if CARA is going to be discussed in committee, I assume that Hunting and Wildlife will be at least one where that will occur."

Congressman Young, R-Ak, is the author and chief sponsor of CARA. Mrs. (Susan) Lamson is a prominent NRA-ILA official, and testified in favor of CARA in Congressional committee hearings earlier this year.

"The Legislative Policy Committee also meets on Thurs., from 0900 'til whenever (all day, if necessary). Many people are on that committee, including Kayne Robinson - First Vice President - Congressman Bob Barr, former Congressman Bill Brewster, Congresswoman Barbara Cubin, former Congressman Harold Volkmer and Senator Larry Craig. Jim Baker always makes a report to the committee.

"The main full Board meeting is on Sat., 3 Nov. Many times, we finish on Sunday by noon," Dr. Oliver continued. Baker is the NRA-ILA Director.

Earlier, Oliver advised that committee meetings are closed, but Board meetings are customarily open to the well-behaved, listening-but-not-talking public, but not to video or audio recording devices.


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Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. St. George Tucker, in his edition of 'Blackstone's Commentaries,' 1:300 (1803).

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