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.

Another Look at the Second Amendment

Topeka Capital-Journal
Dec. 16, 1992

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution, one of the original 10 known as the Bill of Rights, says: “Right to keep and bear arms. A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

That’s all it says. It became law toward the end of 1791, when an armed and ready militia was necessary, because the security of the newly-created country was shaky. There was a real need for every able-bodied man to be armed and prepared to defend the nation against the British, French, the Indians or whomever.

But that was then, and this is now. The amendment qualifies the right of the people to keep and bear arms by saying armed citizens are needed to make up the militia that protects our security from the possible threats of outsiders.

Now, we don’t need militia, or a citizen Army, and it’s a good thing, because we are exactly 180 degrees away from having well-regulated armed citizens protecting our security.

In terms of physical security, what this country needs more than anything else is protection from the people who have the guns. Continue reading

Handguns Have Gotten out of Hand

Topeka Capital-Journal
Dec. 2, 1992

It would be great if everyone in the country decided the handgun homicides coast to coast last week, like the double slaying in Lawrence, were the last straw. There would be such a demand for gun control that Congress would get the message and do something about it.

Our representatives in Washington would be hammered so hard by constituents they would become more afraid of them than they are of the National Rifle Association now. They would do what they know to be the morally right thing, and they would pass laws making it very difficult to legally buy a handgun.

True, this would work a hardship on a lot of people, from schoolchildren to career criminals. The young thugs would have to settle grudges and impress peers with mere knives or baseball bats, or something like that. But there would be fewer of them killed.

Dedicated gun-carrying criminals might decide to get out of the business if they one day found themselves without a gun and no easy way to get one. Continue reading

FBI Good Guys and the NRA Plague

Topeka Capital-Journal
May 12, 1995

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents once were hailed as heroes, but now they’re often hooted at for their blunders, real and imagined. They also are frequently criticized for their high-handedness in dealing with state and local police agencies. They never are idolized as they once were.

However the truth of the matter is that the FBI still is one of the premier police forces in the world. Their agents do thousands of things right for every one thing they do wrong. Nobody, and no organization, is perfect.

Even if FBI agents were only one-tenth as good as they are, I would vastly prefer to entrust the security of the nation and my personal freedom to them than I would some self-anointed militia.

I’d rather count on state police, county cops or the Podunk Police Department to protect me and my family than I would a bunch of men who dress up in combat gear, take assault weapons into the woods and play like they are preparing for the day they’ll have to take over the country. Continue reading

The NRA’s Disarming Deception

Topeka Capital-Journal – 2001

The National Rifle Association whooped it up at its national convention in Kansas City over the weekend. Members all but danced in the aisles as President Charlton Heston told them they saved the American way of life by helping elect George W. Bush, and executive director Wayne LaPierre, who really runs the NRA, declared threats to the nation’s freedom still exist.

The hootin’ and hollerin’ gun owners have reason to party right now, because everything is going their way. Membership may be at an all-time high, even without counting the dead members. There is only one major anti-gun bill in Congress, and it isn’t expected to pass.

Heston was elected to a fourth one-year term as president. He was presented a mint-condition colonial musket by the gunmen’s group, and he spoke for all of them when he held it aloft and said he would give it up only when it is taken “from my cold, dead hands.”

LaPierre and other speakers ripped the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that would limit political ads by the NRA and similar groups two months before an election, calling it an effort to destroy First Amendment rights to free speech, thus endangering the Second Amendment’s imagined rights to own guns.

All this is so much baloney. Continue reading