NRA Board Member Demands
Review of CARA Stance
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 WorldNetDaily.com 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
Newsmax.com'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.
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 SierraTimes.com
as well as Alden's own AldenChronicles.com
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 KeepAndBearArms.com 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
"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
"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
"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.