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.

When heat tested whittlers, nuns and nearly naked newsmen

Topeka Capital-Journal
June 22, 1987

Often on the golf course, when four or five men are about to suffocate from heat and humidity, they talk about how they would react if they were forced to go out in that weather for four hours and do something equally as senseless as chasing a golf ball.

The other day, one such group followed that brief discussion by talking about what life was like before air conditioning and what it would be like now, if that marvel of marvels hadn’t been invented. Things would be different, that’s for sure. Continue reading

Ex-Marine recalls the California blackboard jungle.

Topeka Capital-Journal
May 25, 1988.

My brother-in-law, Dr. Warren Linville, was in town last week on a rare visit. He is a native, but presently his shingle reads that he is the Superintendent of schools at Umatilla, Ore., and claims that outside his back door the Columbia River is a mile wide.

I use his “Dr.” title for several reasons: I think he likes it, he worked pretty hard to get it, and, more importantly, He took a bunch of us to the North Star for those famous steaks, and potatoes and gravy, and picked up the check. Continue reading

How about, “Proving journalism is the last refuge of the vaguely talented?”

(Editor’s note: During the 1990s, Snider was identified at the end of his twice-weekly column in a blurb that called him simply “a local retired newsman.”)

Topeka Capital Journal
April 30, 1990

It has been ordained that I be identified at the end of these columns, that there be some line there explaining who I am, in case somebody might be wondering. It is a good idea. You have every right to know who is responsible for what goes on here. Continue reading

One evening with Willie Nelson

Topeka Capital-Journal.
April 23, 1997

Willie Nelson was on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, having a lot of fun with the fact he has finished paying the settlement for the $32 million he owed the IRS in back taxes, interest and penalties. He got into that mess because, for one thing, he was a little naive earlier in his singing career, and this column is here to tell you I don’t know him now, but I knew him then, slightly, and briefly. Continue reading

Generation passes one birthday at a time

Topeka Capital-Journal.
March 21, 1997

Yesterday, March 20, was the first day of spring, and you remembered. It also was my birthday, and you forgot. At least you didn’t send me a present, or even a card, which is nothing new. Even my family, especially my children, make it a point to forget my birthday because they have built up this myth that I never remembered theirs. Continue reading

Fields of dreams and delusions.

Topeka Metro News
March 25, 2005

Devere Nelson, known to his millions of fans worldwide as Dev, used to sit in a little closet-sized control room, or studio, or whatever they called it, at WIBW and recreate baseball games that Topeka’s professional team was playing on the road. Continue reading

The Olympic trials nobody saw.

Topeka Capital-Journal.
Feb. 8, 2002

In the fall of 1979, Vickers Petroleum Corp. of Wichita needed crude oil and decided to use the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY, to help get it. Vickers would entertain some of the world’s top crude oil suppliers in an effort to win friends and influence them to do business with us. Continue reading

You call THIS a snow storm?

Topeka Daily Capital
Feb. 24, 1960

I guess this is as good a time as any to tell my blizzard stories. I’ll warn you in advance. My conclusion will be that, shucks, this little dab of snow we’re having now is nothing. Let me tell you about Wyoming and Texas… Continue reading

Conversations with kids: The artist at work

Topeka Daily Capital
January 17, 1960

The thing about talking to children is that you almost always learn something interesting. If you’re new at it, you may get a shock now and then, but the old timers are virtually shock-proof. They haven’t necessarily heard everything, but they’ve heard enough to expect anything. Continue reading