Am I the NRA?
by L. Neil Smith
This coming August I'll have been a Life member of the National
Rifle Association 22 years. If you're not a member yourself, it may
surprise you to learn that, by the standards of that organization,
born just after the War between the States, this isn't particularly
long. I know people who've been in the NRA twice as long as I have,
and one or two who've been members three times that number of years.
It is long enough, however, to make me wonder, as one does upon
occasion in any long-term relationship, whether, knowing everything
I know today, after 22 years, I'd do it again. Lately, the answer
seems to be -- and I'm sure the NRA will be devastated to learn
this -- that I'd have to think about it.
Knowing everything I know today, I'd want assurances this time
that the NRA is willing and able to perform the task that brought me
to it. I'd been in Junior NRA as a Scout, but the course of my life
had taken me away from shooting (it seems hard to believe now) until
just before that surrealistic year of 1968 when, as a newly-fledged
handgun owner (we'd had an incident in the neighborhood) I recall
sitting in front of the TV watching the assassination of Bobby
Kennedy, knowing the proclivity of liberals to blame everyone but
the perpetrator, and thinking, "Boy, we're gonna get it now."
And so we did.
And so I joined the NRA, although it took me five more years to
get the cash together for Life membership. Since then, we've lost
one fight after another until today, the enfringements we deal
with -- on an unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human
right that was supposed to be absolutely guaranteed -- are beyond
anything most members of the NRA 22 years ago would have believed.
I was one of a few who saw the ugly future ahead, even then.
Four years after I became a Life member, I wrote my
first science fiction novel, full of dire predictions. I also
wrote letters, not just to politicans, but to editors of gun magazines,
even to the NRA's top banana, the guy who looked so much like Nikita
Khrushchev, urging them to stop fighting the Battle of the Second
Amendment as a holding action, a tactic we have seen was bound for
inevitable defeat, and adopt an offensive strategy.
Those editors (with a remarkable exception whose good judgement
I'll repay by NOT associating his name with mine) laughed me off as
an alarmist. I never heard from the bald guy at the NRA. And why
should I? Who was I? Just some nobody, worried over what was about
to happen to his unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and
human rights. For that matter, who am I today? Just a 22-year Life
member wondering whether he'd do it all over again, remember?
As I say, I'd want assurances this time, sort of a prenuptial
agreement, before I slipped the metaphorical ring on my trigger
finger. My 22 years of experience have taught me a few things -- a
dozen of them, roughly -- about defending the Second Amendment. For
the life of me, I don't understand why they haven't taught the same
things to the NRA.
FIRST, I'd want the NRA not to write any more legislation.
It's said the NRA leadership wrote the Gun Control Act of 1968 (before
my time, if you'll recall). I know they wrote the Maryland Handgun Ban
because they were afraid that something worse was in the works. Fear
seems to be their principal motivation, not anger or determination.
Invariably it steers them toward a submissive, repulsive "strategy"
of doing the enemy's work before he can do it himself.
SECOND, I'd want the NRA not to trade away any more rights
it "thinks" are less important for those it "thinks" are more so. The
leadership would find, if they ever asked, that their membership
often disagrees with them. The "cop-killer" bullet fiasco comes to
mind, where we got trivial reforms in a devil's bargain -- letting
them make some bullets illegal -- that serves our enemies so well
today that one particularly repellant and evil Senator has based the
sunset of his career on it.
THIRD, I'd want the NRA to stop supporting government activities
irrelevant, even harmful, to the Second Amendment. Increasingly, gun
owners see that the War on Drugs, to name an example, was meant from
the outset as a calculated assault on the Bill of Rights, especially
on the Second Amendment. It must end if there's to be anything left
of the Constitution in the 21st century. That isn't the NRA's job,
but it should butt out of the debate. Its "Operation Crimestrike",
celebrating patently illegal incursions against individual rights is
nothing more than a sustained, humiliating grovel -- like having to
watch another kind of civil rights advocacy crawl up on the verandah
and whine, "See Massah, what a good boy Ah is?"
FOURTH, in the same context, I'd want the NRA to disconnect
all future discussion of the Second Amendment from the totally unrelated
topic of crime. My rights have nothing whatever to do with anything
anybody else does, right or wrong. If the crime rate were only 1/10
that of today, my rights would be unaffected. Likewise, if the rate
were TEN TIMES what it is, it would have nothing whatever to do with
my individual right to own and carry weapons.
FIFTH, I'd want the NRA to reject all future argument about
the "sporting use" of weapons -- why look like an imbecile, pushing the
AK-47 as a deer rifle, when it meets the Founding Fathers' ACTUAL
criteria so elegantly? -- in favor of frank and frequent public
reference to the original Constitutional purpose for an armed
citizenry, which is to intimidate the government.
SIXTH -- and this may be the most important point I'll make,
so pay attention -- I'd want the NRA to adopt as its principal and
publicly-acknowledged objective the repeal or nullification of every
weapons law, at every level of government in America. The Second
Amendment is explicit about this and requires no esoteric legal
interpretation. Check the dictionary meaning of "enfringe" if you
doubt my word.
SEVENTH, in support of that objective, I'd want the NRA to
print ads, half a page in every issue, in all its periodicals, reminding
members of the duty and power of an American jury to nullify any law
it believes unjust or unconstitutional. Alcohol prohibition died
this way. Gun prohibition could, as well. All it takes is eight
and a third percent of the population, one twelfth, to carry it off.
EIGHTH, I'd want the NRA to establish programs to educate the
police in their absolute obligation (given the Nuremburg trials after
World War II) to enforce only those statutes -- and obey only those
commands -- that are lawful, i.e., constitutional. For many
decades, the NRA has spent a lot of resources in what can only be
described as sucking up disgustingly to the military and the cops;
it's past time we got something out of it. (I'm an ex-reservist, my
brother's a deputy, and we both grew up in the Air Force, so don't
give me a hard time -- this is the truth, and we all know it.)
NINTH, I'd want the NRA to give up the self-defeating notion
that you can keep guns OUT of the hands of the "wrong" folks, while
simultaneously and miraculously keeping them IN the hands of the
"right" folks. Each of us is somebody else's badguy. In the last
century, laws were passed to keep guns from Italians and the Irish.
Earlier this century it was blacks and now it's those who believe in
the Bill of Rights. Get it straight: the latter could never have
happened if the former hadn't been possible. No more background
checks, NRA, no more prior restraint. History, ancient and recent,
clearly shows that if the badguys have guns, the only way to handle
it is to make sure as many goodguys have guns as possible.
TENTH, while we're on the subject of prior restraint, I'd want
the NRA to abandon its strategically idiotic enthusiasm for
government-controlled concealed carry -- illegal under the Second
Amendment -- in favor of uncontrolled and legal "Vermont Carry". If
it won't, I guarantee that in years to come, someone will say: the
NRA wants your name on this piece of paper BEFORE you'll be
allowed to exercise your unalienable individual, Constitutional, civil,
and human rights. The NRA wants your age, address, phone, sex, race,
social security number, photograph, and fingerprints as a cost of
doing what the Framers meant you to do without all that. In short,
it wants to impose the very system of gun and owner registration
we've been fighting more than 60 years!
Huey Long, virtual dictator of Louisiana in the 1930s when
Mussolini was making the trains run on time, was asked by the press,
"Will we ever have fascism in America?" "Yes," Long replied with a
grin, "but we'll call it ANTIfascism." I can guarantee that someone
will say all of this, because if nobody else does, I will. And to
the advocates of licensed carry, I say now: don't you realize how
pathetic you look, lying there with your OWN foot on your neck?
ELEVENTH, I'd want the NRA to make endorsements based on
the candidate's respect for the Second Amendment, regardless of his
affiliation or its estimate of his chances. It's suicidal -- if
only because it denies us leverage we'd otherwise possess over the
Republicans -- to say a third party candidate can't win, and on that
self-fulfilling basis, withhold endorsement that could give him, and
us, a victory. If "NRA" stands for "National Republican Association"
let it be said plainly and stop what amounts to a consumer fraud. If
not, then if a candidate's unwilling to be photographed for public
consumption firing a machine gun, a semiautomatic rifle with a long,
curved magazine, or a pistol with a fat, two-column grip, he can't
be trusted whatever his affiliation, and shouldn't be endorsed.
TWELFTH, I'd want the NRA to reduce its Board of Directors
to no more than 20, so they can lead instead of turning things over to
a tiny, often misguided elite. One director I know told me the NRA is
in trouble precisely because its huge, unwieldy board flounders
helplessly, leaving policy in the hands of a "troika" with its own
agenda. It's time for that to end.
In general, I'd give the NRA the same advice I give everybody
else. Never let anybody keep you from enjoying your rights to the
fullest, not for a day, not for a minute. Never let anybody stand in
your way. Never accept even the most reasonable-sounding excuse for
why you can't have everything you deserve. Never accept compromise.
Worse than thieves, murderers, or cannibals, those who offer
compromise slow you and sap your vitality while pretending to be
your friends. They are not your friends. Compromisers are the
enemies of all humanity, the enemies of life itself. Compromisers
are the enemies of everything important, sacred, and true.
So, would I join the NRA all over again, after 22 years, knowing
everything I know today? I guess I'm still thinking about it.
Give me a reason, NRA.
Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the
author -- provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and
appropriate credit given.
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