Moses, fan mail, and the long con of the NRA

Topeka Capital Journal
June 7, 2000

On the subject of gun control, here is a sampling of the responses your humble servant receives from unruly readers:

“Your statement in today’s paper about government at any level in this country taking away our guns shows what a misguided imbecile you are. You morons of the media went to court to protect urinating on a statue of Jesus as free speech.”

And, “I am not an NRA member. However, I do feel the organization has value in much the same way that our esteemed Reverend Phelps has value to the case against homosexuality…. You and others of your ilk would have laws against urinating in the woods, while allowing a homosexual to adopt a child…. thanks for reminding me to skip your column.”

And, “There was no peace treaty signed in Korea. Technically, the war isn’t over…. Sorry, but you’re as off base here as you are on gun control. Thought grows less painful with practice. Try it.”

And, “You are a moron. Read the Second Amendment, which guarantees our right to own guns.”

Is this any way to treat a man of peace?

After actor Charlton (Moses) Heston was elected to an unprecedented third term as president of the National Rifle Association last week, TV’s “60 minutes” repeated an interview it had done with him. In it, Heston said it was his job to “protect the Second Amendment.” In other interviews and in speeches. Heston often has said the Second Amendment guarantees the freedom to own guns, and is more important than freedom of speech or freedom to worship, or any other freedom. He said it is the freedom that makes the others possible. He often quotes Benjamin Franklin, who said you have a democracy “only as long as you can keep it.”

I prefer to quote Saul Cornell of Ohio State University, who never ran a key up a kite string, but who knows and understands more history than Moses.

Cornell says the Second Amendment never was meant to ban virtually all efforts to regulate firearms. “Indeed,” he says, “the founding fathers viewed regulation is not only legal, but also absolutely necessary, and colonial America enacted all sorts of regulatory legislation governing the storage of arms and gunpowder.” He says of the myth that the right to bear arms always has been an individual right: the reality is that states retained the right to disarm law abiding citizens when the good of the community required it. He said as much as 40 percent of the white male population of Pennsylvania once was deemed to lack the “requisite virtue” to own guns.

Of the myth that the armed citizen militia was essential to the fight for American independence: the reality is that if America had relied on the militia, we’d still be part of the British Empire. The Continental Army won the revolution.

Of the myth that the militia was an agent of revolution: the reality is that the militia was used to put down rebellions by citizens or slaves, not start them.

But the NRA beat goes on. Heston, who says one of the mistakes he made earlier in life, was joining other Hollywood stars in speaking out in favor of gun control, points out now that all dictators started by confiscating guns, and it could happen in America.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre says government agents, whom he called, “jack-booted thugs,” are a real and constant threat. For proof, The NRA uses examples like California outlawing military style rifles and pistols, saying the state signed away, it’s “citizens’ rights to defend themselves against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The saddest part of all this is that NRA members believe the scare stories their leaders spend millions of dollars to broadcast and print. They believe it, despite the fact there never has been a word from gun control proponents about banning weapons designed for hunting or target shooting.

Gun control people have gone after gun designed solely to kill people, mainly so-called assault weapons and handguns, But the NRA makes those efforts out to be the first steps leading to confiscation of all guns, which will lead to confiscation of private property, and the owners being thrown into concentration camps, or sold into slavery.

The NRA can’t very well do anything else. If it ever admitted there is no real threat to ownership of hunting and target guns, and the lawful pursuit of waterfowl, pheasants and Bambi’s uncles, It would be out of business.

As it is, membership is up, there is money for suites, limos and first-class tickets for a board meeting in Bora Bora. And they’ve got Moses.

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