N.R.A. (…or...the far Right to Bear Arms)
The National Rifle Association was first chartered after the Civil War in New York State, as a result of the previous war’s length, possibly owing to the inability of the Northern soldiers to shoot accurately. It was estimated that the greater number of shots fired by Northern troops during the war and the lesser amount by Southern forces indicated an inability of the former to hit anything. Of course, in extended retrospect, it may have been the result of an economic necessity. Subsequent emphases by the newly organized not-for-profit N.R.A. organization included marksmanship, hunting, and target shooting for the years leading up to World War II. Even after World War II, the N.R.A. was an organization promoting the appropriate use of firearms for hunting and shooting
Sounds almost rational. That was then…this is now.
Recent History - During the late 1960’s, the more pastoral and idyllic pursuits of the earlier organization to pursue hunting rights and sport shooting had led the N.R.A. to consider moving from Washington DC to Colorado. Not so. Other reactive leadership planned a coup, and a new leader Neal Knox emerged in the late 1970’s confronting a befuddled and diverse membership with the opportunities and challenges to become truly a “gun lobby.”
After that, the paranoiac 1970’s were punctuated by fears of revolution (SDS, Black Panthers), social unrest (Vietnam), federal intervention (Pine Ridge), etc. In fact, the evolution of the N.R.A. to a politically powerful enterprise proved so successful that Mr. Knox remained at the helm for nearly two decades in a stormy relationship, which included his leaving and returning to the N.R.A. on several occasions. In 1997, the election committee dethroned Knox and his associate Harlon Carter to provide ultimate leadership for then executive vice president Wayne La Pierre. From the beginning, LaPierre was clamorous about the N.R.A.’s real power, “the greatest fund raising engine this country has ever seen” (Knox, Neal. Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War: Dispatches from the Front Lines 1966 - 2000. MacFarlane Press. 2009). The N.R.A. we have all come to know was born.
Big Money Talks - If anyone understood the significance of money and its influence, it was Wayne LaPierre, who himself later underwent audits for his questionable fiscal relationships with business groups connected to the N.R.A. Even today, LaPierre is careful to maintain his over $1 million salary (Charity Watch). In 1995, LaPierre, historically infamous for throwing verbal accelerant on fires (see his latest ludicrous speech regarding the appalling tragedy in Newtown), also publicly described the federal agents who went into the Waco, Texas, Branch Davidian camp as “jack-booted government thugs.” The negative reaction was swift. Even the former N.R.A. President Bush I resigned his membership.
In order to avoid the pressures of scrutiny or (worse) investigation on front pages, the organization was quick to appoint a new vice-president and spokesman in the character of one Charlton Heston. They needed a front man. You might remember Heston’s famous speech at the 2000 NRA convention, the former Planet of the Apes star attacking Al Gore and, while brandishing an old flintlock, announcing “From my cold, dead hands.” Enough of the ludicrous, but it worked.
And now. While Wayne LaPierre, especially in his latest incoherent diatribe this last week against every possible influence but the N.R.A., wants us all to believe that he and his organization are not a party to, not responsible for, not complicit in, nor even capable of ameliorating our nation’s recurrent bloodletting in any way, a clear memory proves differently. Quite the opposite, the ground underneath us falls away at even a short-lived list of the events that took the lives of so many innocents in Newtown, Ct; the Sikh Temple members in Oak Creek, WI; the movie-goers in Aurora, CO; the coffee shop in Seattle, WA; the five African Americans in Tulsa, OK; the seven at Oikos College in Oakland, CA; and those killed and injured in Chardon, Ohio; twelve in Carson City, NV; a congresswoman and others in Tucson, AZ; - - - - Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech., Omaha Mall, Littleton, Colorado, etc. and etc. and etc.
Complicit? Here is a short but sobering collection of what Wayne LaPierre and his N.R.A. have been responsible for doing in just the last twenty years:
Opposing an attempt to prevent those on the “no fly” list (possible terrorists) from gaining possession of guns (http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x8343417).
Opposing any gun dealers from reporting to the ATF multiple sales of shotguns or rifles of any type including those who sell to criminals( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/14/AR2010121406045.html).
Spending over $2 million last year on political activity – nearly $30 million since 1998, including significant sums last year to prevent the election of Barack Obama
Blocking the selection of a director to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms regulatory commission of the Federal Government for more than half a decade. Their paid puppets in the Senate use the filibuster rule to prevent any discussion of an appointment, leaving the bureau without any teeth to enforce rules (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/14/AR2010121406045.html ).
Killing any attempt by the ATF to keep, maintain and report gun dealer records from a centralized computerized data- base, to analyze gun sales for trafficking patterns
Reducing the inspections of gun dealers by the ATF to no more than once per year
Exempting ATF’s gun-trace database from the Freedom of Information Act through the Tiahart Amendment. [See Todd Tiahart – Republican Rep. from Kansas] The bill makes the search, pursuit and arrest of individuals involved in purchasing and selling of illegal guns almost impossibly difficult ( http://protectpolice.org/facts ).
Maintaining a bizarre and inappropriate anti-Obama website which demonstrates a paranoia even Karl Rove would avoid. Get there fast, because they are about to dismantle this insane artifact. (http://www.gunbanobama.com/ ) .
Pushing the House Democrats as well as others to “actively avoid” any effort to restore the assault weapons ban for fear of their own re-elections. 65 Democrats indicated to Attorney General Holder they wanted no changes to the Assault Weapon Ban ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/14/AR2010121406045.html).
Finally, I remained unsurprised that the latest executive board member – of all people – Grover Norquist on Sunday, December 23, 2012, ABC’s This Week, attempted to defend LaPierre’s latest invective : “We ought to calm down and not take tragedies like this, crimes like this, and use them for political purposes. President Obama has been president for four years. If he thought some gun control could solve this problem, he should have been pushing it years ago” ( http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/grover-norquist-obama-and-democrats-using-newtown-for-political-purposes/ ). Grover and Wayne’s similar urgings that more guns for protection against a tide of evil doers was the best answer had all the theater of a Dr. Strangelove moment – except for the dead-on seriousness and tragedy we all face.
Tired of it all yet? Had enough of this cyclical self-destruction? Why not call your senator or representative to tell them “I have had enough. Do something. And, by the way, expose those who would undermine the ATF!”
Contact your Federal Legislator!
Disclosure: I hold an F.O.I.D. card. I have hunted in my past. I was a rifle-trained Boy Scout. I believe in the Second Amendment, but that we must limit access to weapons of mass murder, allow for the open research of misuse of weaponry in our country, and create appropriate and careful oversight for access to any weapons.