Betrayal of Trust
How the NRA Bargains Away Our Second Amendment
By Nicki Fellenzer
It is with a heavy heart that I write my column this week. I write it as a columnist for Armed Females of America – a tireless proponent of the principle of “no compromise” when it comes to our freedoms. I write it as a Featured Writer and Newslinks Director for KeepAndBearArms.com – an organization dedicated to the principles of defending our Second Amendment rights fully, completely and without negotiation, concession or conciliation. And I write this column as a member of the National Rifle Association. It is this last membership that makes it so painful to convey this story, but I feel I need to convey it to all of you – whether you are NRA members or not. You need to know the truth about the largest organization of and for gun owners in the country. You need to understand that the biggest doesn’t necessarily mean the best, and that the political clout of an organization that allegedly claims to support and defend gun owners in the United States, doesn’t necessarily work in your favor or to protect your rights.
When I first joined the NRA, I did so because I felt they were the best suited to represent my interests. As the biggest organization dedicated to the rights of gun owners in the United States, I felt they had the most political influence and were in the best position possible to achieve our pro-freedom goals. I thought they served a terrific purpose – to mainstream the views of gun owners. And even though I disagreed with some if their political moves, I felt we all supported the same cause – to ensure the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not infringed – even though we took different roads to that goal.
I was wrong.
The National Rifle Association does do a lot of good. Their training programs, gun owner and children’s education programs are hard to beat. But their Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) and the NRA’s Political Victory Fund (PVF) are nothing but a horde of sycophantic, power-hungry compromisers, who aim to preserve their jobs – not to preserve your freedoms.
The ILA’s website unequivocally states the following: “For 130 years the National Rifle Association of America has stood in opposition to all who step-by-step would reduce the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms to a privilege granted by those who govern. NRA continues to fight against those who would dictate that American citizens should seek police permission to exercise their constitutional rights.”
Let’s examine this particular lie “step-by-step.” A few weeks ago I wrote in my column that the NRA supports unconstitutional gun laws and that it takes credit for victories in battles not its own. I even provided a link to their own website to support this fact. The NRA, after getting irate phone calls and emails from numerous gun owners and members, immediately took action. Did they admit this fact? No. Did they take immediate steps to change that policy? Not that I’ve seen. No. They altered the link on their website so that anyone who tries to access it receives this message. Not to worry, however, you can still access this particular information via the NRA-ILA’s website. All you need to do is access “Fable III: NRA opposes all ‘reasonable’ gun regulations.” And you will see the following:
(As this article was published the NRA removed the above link from their web site. The author had taken a screen shot of the page in order to preserve the truth.) Click Here to view the screen shot. AFA Editor
The truth is, NRA supports many gun laws, including federal and state laws that prohibit the possession of firearms by certain categories of people, such as convicted violent criminals, those prohibiting sales of firearms to juveniles, and those requiring instant criminal records checks on retail firearm purchasers.
NRA has also assisted in writing gun laws. The 1986 federal law prohibiting the manufacture and importation of "armor piercing ammunition" adopted standards NRA helped write. When anti-gun groups accuse NRA of opposing the law, they lie. NRA, joined by the Justice Department and Treasury Department, opposed only earlier legislation because that legislation would have banned an enormous variety of hunting, target shooting and defensive ammunition….
… NRA only opposed a bill that would have banned millions of commonplace handguns, and instead supported an alternative, the Hughes-McCollum bill. That 1988 legislation prohibited the development and production of any firearm that would be undetectable by airport detectors, and enhanced airport security systems to counter terrorism. In the end, the NRA-backed legislation passed Congress with wide bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Reagan.
At the state level, NRA has worked with legislators to write laws requiring computerized "instant" criminal records checks on purchasers of firearms and those who carry firearms for protection in public...
How bizarre that an organization dedicated to the preservation of the right to keep and bear arms which claims that it “has stood in opposition to all who step-by-step would reduce the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms to a privilege granted by those who govern” would not only support unconstitutional gun legislation, but help write it as well.
How strange that an organization that claims to support the rights of all gun owners favors creating an elite class – law enforcement officers – who would be privileged enough to use ammunition suitable for any type of encounter, while you – the ordinary peon and employer of said elite class – are not to be trusted with such “dangerous” bullets.
How odd that an organization which supposedly supports the idea that gun ownership as an inalienable right would support legislation to check if those wishing to practice that right are “fit” to do so – especially since the NRA claims that it “continues to fight against those who would dictate that American citizens should seek police permission to exercise their constitutional rights.”
The NRA supported the National Firearms Act of 1934 which taxes and requires registration of such firearms as machine guns, short-barreled rifles and sawed-off shotguns.
It supported the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, which regulates interstate and foreign commerce in firearms and pistol or revolver ammunition. It supported legislation to amend the Federal Firearms Act in regard to handguns when it was introduced as S.1975 in August, 1963. Among its provisions was the requirement that a purchaser submit a notarized statement to the shipper that he was over 18 and not legally disqualified from possessing a handgun.
In 1965, the NRA continued its support of an expansion of the above legislation to include rifles and shotguns, as well as handguns.
Additionally the NRA supported the regulation of the movement of handguns in interstate and foreign commerce by:
· requiring a sworn statement, containing certain information, from the purchaser to the seller for the receipt of a handgun in interstate commerce;
· providing for notification of local police of prospective sales;
· requiring an additional 7-day waiting period by the seller after receipt of acknowledgement of notification to local police;
· prescribing a minimum age of 21 for obtaining a license to sell firearms and increasing the license fees;
· providing for written notification by manufacturer or dealer to carrier that a firearm is being shipped in interstate commerce, and;
· increasing penalties for violation.
All of these facts have been carefully and meticulously documented by KeepAndBearArms.com Founder and Executive Director Angel Shamaya in an article entitled, NRA Supported the National Firearms Act of 1934. This excellent and thorough essay details the NRA’s long history of supporting gun control laws, as documented and admitted by the NRA itself in a March, 1968 issue of American Rifleman. Those of you who have the issue, may want to give it a read. Those of you who haven’t, can access the entire article on the KeepAndBearArms.com website via the above link.
Never mind that several of the above are stepping stones to registration of gun owners - which NRA has publicly, repeatedly admitted leads to confiscation. In fact, NRA has raised money to ‘fight against gun registration’ out of one side of their mouth while helping create gun and gun owner registration lists out of the other.
Never mind the absurdity of placing a minimum age on a constitutional right – especially when teenagers can enter the military and use firearms in the defense of our country.
Never mind the pure maliciousness of forcing Americans to wait a week to exercise their constitutional rights!
The issue is: why does an organization which purports to be a major force in defending the right to keep and bear arms actually support infringements on said right?
Let me give you a clue: anytime the government or any other powerful entity speaks of permitting or licensing a right, it should be your wake-up call that said entity does not consider it a right, but rather a privilege – to be approved, licensed and controlled by the government. This is what the NRA supports, according to Wayne LaPierre, “We believe that a lawful, properly-permitted citizen who chooses to carry a concealed firearm not only deserves that right, but is a deterrent to crime. We support the right to carry because it has helped cut crime rates in all 31 states that have adopted it ... with almost no abuse of any kind by the lawful citizens who took the courses, submitted to the background checks, passed the tests and became part of a proud citizens movement that's making America a safer place to live.” (emphasis mine)
Seems the NRA wants to have its cake and eat it too. They want to appear moderate and supportive of “common sense” gun control legislation (cautiously avoiding the fact that the laws they have supported thus far have been an unconstitutional and ineffective farce), but at the same time they would have you believe that they stand in opposition to any attempts to gradually erode your constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Which one is it, NRA? This member would certainly like to know!
But my disappointment and disenchantment with the National Rifle Association doesn’t end there. They have repeatedly sold out gun owners by supporting petty tyrants in three-piece suits, who consistently take steps to infringe on our freedoms. In California, the NRA awarded Assemblyman Rod Wright its “Defender of Freedom” Award. This is the same Rod Wright who supported unconstitutional limits on firearms purchases and background checks. This is the same Rod Wright who authored a bill to increase licensing fees from $3 to up to $100. Never mind the absurdity of bilking peaceable citizens of hundreds of dollars for making a constitutionally protected purchase. This champion of “freedom” apparently thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to license and charge Americans for exercising their rights. The NRA’s “Defender of Freedom” in 2001 voted against gun owners 62 percent of the time, according to Gun Owners of California.
During the last election cycle the NRA and anti-gun Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence actually supported some of the same candidates! According to the Kennebec Journal, Deborah Danuski, a Democrat from Lisbon, was endorsed by the anti-handgun group, while also receiving an "A-" from the NRA on its report card of candidates. As a matter of fact, in Maine, both the NRA and Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence supported 18 of the same candidates!
Meanwhile, in Colorado, where the NRA supported Senator Wayne Allard for office, and even boosted his pro-gun lobby contributions to $37,000 since 1990, Allard stated flatly that he would support federal legislation requiring gun registration for private gun sales at gun shows. Is a legislator who wants to expand gun registration someone who stands up for the rights of gun owners?
The latest travesty comes from Virginia, where the NRA Political Victory Fund touted the pro-gun “accomplishments” of Delegate Jack Rollison. This is the same Rollison who in a press release had the unmitigated gall to paint Gun Owners of America and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who have endorsed his opponent Jeff Frederick, as extremists and “milita-esque”[sic] organizations. This is the same Jack Rollison who wants to banyour right to self-defense in any restaurant that happens to sell liquor. And this is the same Jack Rollison who voted correctly on only two out of eight issues important to Virginia gun owners. And by the way, according to KeepAndBearArms.com, Frederick is actually an NRA member, while Rollison is not. But I have no doubt Rollison will run right out and join real quick just to correct that little error.
And if you have any doubt that the NRA supports gun grabbers, don’t take my word for it, read the words of former NRA board member Russ Howard, who resigned from the board in 1997. “In the past 5 years I've become increasingly concerned over NRA's penchant for giving undeserved grades to politicians who trample on the 2nd Amendment.” This is an insider talking, folks. This is a man who knows the goings on inside the NRA’s boardrooms telling you that the NRA has been giving “A” and “A-“ grades to undeserving, freedom-trampling, gun grabbing politicians! And, as you can well see, the trend continues today.
The list of NRA betrayals goes on and on. In 2001, the NRA sold out North Carolina gun owners by allowing a bill to prevent cities from suing gun makers pass committee for a floor vote in the Senate. This bill is not what it appeared to be, according to Grass Roots North Carolina. While it restricted municipal suits against gun makers it also:
· Required peaceable gun owners to register private gun sales with the FBI through the National Instant Check System if they chose to sell a gun at a show.
· Would have allowed shooting competitions and wildlife clubs to be classified as "gun shows" if anyone sold a firearm at the event.
· Required registration of black powder firearms with the FBI via the NICS.
· Punished gun show promoters for illegal sales over which they have no control, offering them only an "affirmative defense" to keep them from being punished with a Class 1 misdemeanor.
According to the GRNC, the NRA sold North Carolinians out because “despite giving Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight (D-Dare, GRNC *) an ‘A’ and an endorsement, he has held their gun litigation bills hostage in the Senate. So they made a deal to include all of the gun show bill which GRNC has defeated for the last 3 years – a bill drafted by lobbyists for NC's Handgun Control affiliate, North Carolinians ‘Against Gun Violence.’ Translated, that means the NRA just got into bed with NCGV!”
The NRA also went on record as supporting CARA – the Conservation and Reinvestment Act – in 2001, a bill that made available billions of dollars to essentially condemn private property. Why? Apparently to appease Alaska Congressman Don Young– an NRA board member.
The NRA supports Project Exile and Project Safe Neighborhoods, which will allow the federal government to prosecute gun crimes – primarily a responsibility of the states. It violates the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution and could conceivably lead to a “mindless zero-tolerance policy toward technical infractions of the gun laws, resulting in long prison sentences for marginal offenders who do not deserve to be in jail,” according to Gene Healy of the CATO Institute. Project Safe Neighborhoods is enthusiastically backed by the NRA, which claims to hold the entire Constitution inviolate. Dozens of gun rights organizations and leading individuals came out, in a Coalition opposed to Project Exile. It tacks on extra jail time to anyone possessing a gun during the commission of a crime, regardless of whether or not the gun was actually used in the crime. It holds “gun” crime as more heinous than, say, a crime in which a woman pours gasoline on another and sets her on fire, rendering a gun more “evil” than a lighter and some gasoline for the purpose of harming another.
Last year the NRA supported a bill that would give away billions of taxpayer dollars to help states update the national database used for background checks on gun buyers. That bill was introduced by rabid anti-gunner Carolyn McCarthy – the same McCarthy who is now trying to shove yet another “assault” weapons ban down our throats – a ban that includes, among many other firearms, the widely-owned Ruger Mini-14 and Mini-30.
And speaking of “assault” weapons, THIS NRA member wants to know why the NRA has been transparently silent on President Bush’s promise to sign McCarthy’s ban into law! I’ve scoured their website top to bottom. I’ve done searches of major news outlets. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out one thing: Why has the NRA said nothing about Bush’s apparent support of this ridiculous “assault” weapons ban? Why, after a campaign of obsequious Bush ass-kissing in the last election, will the NRA say nothing negative about the President’s willingness to sell gun owners down the river?
I find it a bit hypocritical that the NRA is willing to consider revoking its support of the staunchest supporter of the Second Amendment in Congress, Rep. Ron Paul, because he refused to support their pet legislation on constitutional grounds, but they will not say a negative word about President Bush and his clearly political betrayal of gun owners. Ron Paul’s actions weren’t against gun owners. He didn’t do what he did to betray the Second Amendment. He rejected H.R. 1036 on clearly constitutional grounds – because he believed it violated the 10th Amendment. Yeah – another portion of the “inviolate” Constitution the NRA claims to protect. Meanwhile, a clearly political maneuver on the part of Bush in an effort to appear more moderate to clueless, uninformed, misguided anti-gun morons gets a pass from the NRA. Does this give you an indication where the NRA’s loyalties lie? It certainly doesn’t appear to be with the Second Amendment. Instead the NRA’s loyalties lie with the seat of power.
Some have suggested an even more insidious scenario: The NRA is poised to sell out gun owners. That’s why it won’t tell its members that Bush supports the extension of the present “assault” weapons ban. By staunchly opposing the much more sweeping legislation proposed by Carolyn McCarthy, the NRA could claim a victory when the present ban is extended or even made permanent by pointing out that they helped defeat the much more restrictive H.R.2038.
An anonymous Internet post reveals just such a scenario:
“PAY ATTENTION! What NRA DOESN'T SAY is just as important as what they do say. (Maybe MORE important!),” the alert says.
“NRA-ILA is conducting ‘spin control’ by omission. Nowhere …does NRA mention the fact that the so-called ‘assault weapon’ bill WILL sunset in Sept. 2004. The uninformed reader depending on the NRA for the ‘straight story’ on this issue has yet to be told of the sunset feature of Clinton’s gun ban. Neither has he been told of President Bush’s endorsement of the current gun ban. Furthermore, the ILA ‘report’ urges members to call and register opposition to the MORE RESTRICTIVE Feinstein / McCarthy bills. But, NRA-ILA fails to tell members to register opposition to the current gun ban.”
“Friends,” the alert continues, “two NRA Directors have personally contacted me. Both have implied that in secret executive session, the leadership (NRA BoD) has been informed that the situation is ‘under control.’” George Bush made his announcement in support of Bill Clinton’s gun ban just days after the anti-lawsuit bill passed its most daunting obstacle in Congress. Wayne (LaPierre) had placed the lawsuit protection bill as a ‘TOP PRIORITY’ for the NRA. By saying that in public, he placed the NRA's reputation on the line. He painted himself into a corner from which it is easy to see how he could have ‘dealt’ the ‘assault weapon’ ban off to gain protection for the gun industry.”
“My conclusion,” says this writer, “ is that NRA has ALREADY ‘struck a deal’ with George Bush and the Republican Party to use the smoke screen of Feinstein / McCarthy as the ‘windmill’ that NRA will direct its members to tilt at. Then, some Republican will propose a simple ‘extension’ of the current AWB. Wayne will claim ‘ANOTHER GREAT VICTORY’ for the so-called ‘Winning Team’ by passing the ‘compromise’ and ‘defeating’ Feinstein / McCarthy! And in return for selling out the Second Amendment, LaPierre and the gun industry will get their 30 pieces of silver in the form of protection from lawsuits.”
Dennis Jackson, an airline pilot, Second Amendment rights activist and advisor to Armed Females of America agrees. “I’ve been saying this for a long time,” he quips. “What they’re going to do is introduce a more sweeping bill that the NRA will oppose, but in the background they’ve already agreed to extend the existing ban.”
Angel Shamaya of KeepAndBearArms.com has two theories on the long and telling NRA silence on Bush’s support for renewals of the federal gun ban. “First, they may actually have inside information that says the bill will never hit Bush's desk -- and they want to let him and help him curry favor with gun prohibitionists. If that's the case, thinking gun prohibitionists will ever vote for Bush in 2004 is almost as stupid as thinking you're safer when you're defenseless. But maybe their inside information makes them think this is a sound strategy, by some kind of logic that eludes my logical mind.”
”Second,” he continues, “they are re-engaging their political cowardice and don't want to rock the boat by coming out against a president they helped put in office. NRA's managers are in fact political cowards with unfortunate frequency, so this is also likely. Perhaps the NRA Managers' yellow streak is at play here.”
While I won’t speculate about what is in the head of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA’s Board of Directors, I will say that this scenario isn’t as farfetched as I would like it to be. The NRA has been playing politics with our rights for far too long. They have compromised away gun owners’ rights in a transparent attempt to gain power in Washington. They have interfered, manipulated and tried to derail real and legitimate work on behalf of our Second Amendment rights.
For instance, note the NRA’s attempts to combine its lawsuit challenging the D.C. gun ban with another suit brought by the Cato Institute on behalf of five D.C. residents, claiming that the city’s gun ban violates the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Robert Levy, a Georgetown University law professor and constitutional scholar at the Cato Institute, told CNS News recently that his clients are “just perfectly situated to make the best case possible in the jurisdiction that has the worst laws possible.” But it seems the NRA just can’t stand being left out of a superior court case, so in an attempt to hog in on the action, it filed a motion to combine Levy’s suit with its own, far inferior one. The NRA’s suit doesn’t just address the Second Amendment violations in Washington, D.C., but it also claims the D.C. gun ban violates the Fifth Amendment protection against being deprived of property without due process, as well as the provision dealing with "equal protection" under the law. It also claims the ban violates the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and imposes regulations that are not "usual and reasonable" as required elsewhere in D.C. law. These extraneous and unnecessary claims will only serve to muddy the waters of the much more pure Second Amendment suit brought by Levy. It will give the court a way to once again avoid addressing the Second Amendment directly, and if combined with the Cato suit, it could cause it to fail.
CATO attorneys Alan Gura and Robert Levy even go so far as to accuse NRA’s attorney, Stephen Halbrook, of filing cases with a built in “trap door” in an effort to “give the court a basis, if it chose, to avoid a foursquare holding on the Second Amendment.” That’s one of many reasons the CATO attorneys gave the court – while trying to get NRA to stop sabotaging their case:
In a similar attempt to get in on the action, the NRA tried to convince its members to give money to a lawsuit that wasn’t theirs earlier this year. According to Gary Gorski, the lead attorney in Silveira vs. Lockyer, an NRA representative called his home asking him to renew his membership for the next three years to help take Silveira to the Supreme Court. “I asked him the name of the case,” writes Gorski, “and he said Silveira v. Lockyer. I then asked him specifically what the NRA's attorneys were doing on the case, and he said that "they were going to take the case to the Supreme Court" to get the decision overturned. I asked where he was calling from, and he said the NRA in Virginia (The NRA's legal counsel is in VA - 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, Va. 22030.) I then told him who I was, and he was dumfounded. He said it was a pleasure talking to me, and thanked me for all my hard work. I asked to speak to a manager, and he hung up the phone.”
The NRA representative had claimed that the NRA had “legions” of lawyers working to bring Silveira to the Supreme Court. But in fact, Gorski says NRA attorneys Stephen Holbrook and Chuck Michel had earlier asked him to drop the suit, because they claimed he couldn’t win, and because the suit would interfere with other projects the NRA was working on "behind the scenes." Why would they do this? Angel Shamaya has a viable theory. “If the Second Amendment were resolved by the Supreme Court in the way educated civil rights advocates demand that it be resolved, the largest percentage of NRA's "Save the Second Amendment" income would vanish. The fact that NRA has never once taken a Second Amendment case all the way to the Supreme Court speaks volumes -- they've been around since 1871, and they've been raising money on the Second Amendment for several decades.”
In the end, this strategy will serve to alienate numerous gun owners. When my column mentioned the NRA’s sellout of gun owners by their support of unconstitutional gun laws, I was informed that the NRA offices received numerous phone calls and emails demanding an explanation. Additionally, the fact that one of their lead attorneys has tried to kill a current 2A case and another of their lead attorneys is still trying to sabotage yet another current 2A case has inspired more people to resign their memberships from NRA, according to Shamaya.
Here’s the bottom line: Groups like Armed Females of America, KeepAndBearArms.com, Liberty Belles and many other state-level non-NRA organizations exist to preserve and protect your freedoms. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action exists to protect its employees’ jobs. They’ve failed gun owners too many times to think otherwise. “I think the NRA, VPC, Brady, etc. they’re businesses,” says Dennis Jackson. “Without some degree of gun control there’s no need for them to exist.”
Angel Shamaya agrees. “If the NRA was doing its job, our organization would not exist,” he writes. “I could poll 30-odd non-NRA group leaders who'd likely echo a similar statement. NRA's charter calls for them to defend the Second Amendment, but they frequently attack the Second Amendment -- and we've got so much evidence to prove that statement it turns your stomach, when you look at it objectively.”
I’ll tell you the truth. I would rather be doing something else. I love to write. I want to write a novel. I used to do professional stage work while in college – musical theater – and I’d love to get back to it. Angel, Dennis, Carma Lewis of Armed Females of America and many others would love to spend their time doing something other than fighting this frustrating fight. “I'd love nothing more than to completely END the war being waged against our Second Amendment rights.” Shamaya says. “I have other things I'd like to do with my life -- this movement is an ongoing series of headaches, stresses and anxieties I'd be very happy to nullify.”
The Armed Females of America mission statement states unequivocally “A GOD GIVEN RIGHT cannot be legislated; cannot be turned into a privilege by a self-serving government who may then revoke it; cannot be judged or interpreted, and cannot be amended, added to a ballot, or repealed. OUR RIGHTS have no ‘loopholes.’ Any law restricting use, quantity owned or purchased, magazine capacity, configuration, caliber, firing operation, or age limits is unconstitutional.” This is a direct antithesis to the NRA’s actions, its constant pandering to power-hungry politicians, its compromising away of our God-given rights in exchange for political clout and its historical support of unconstitutional and immoral legislation. Enough is enough!
OUR RIGHTS ARE NOT FOR SALE. Our rights are not to be used as bargaining chips in power plays. They are not to be used as bait or manipulation. Our rights are not the NRA’s, President Bush’s or anyone else’s toys. They are inalienable and inviolate, and there will be consequences to those who try to sell our rights out for a few votes.
Listen to Nicki on the Outdoor Talk Network with Jim Slinsky (you will need Windows Media Player)
Nicki is a US Army veteran, who spent nearly four years in Frankfurt, Germany on active duty at the American Forces Network. She is a former radio DJ and news anchor and a Featured Writer and Newslinks Director for Keepandbeararms.com. She is also a contributing editor to the National Rifle Association's newest monthly magazine, Women's Outlook and writes occasionally for the Libertarian Party. She resides in Virginia with her family. We are also proud to have Nicki as regular contributor to Armed Females of America.
Copyright © 2003 by Armed Females of America. All rights reserved. Permission to redistribute
this article for noncommercial purposes is hereby granted, provided that it is reproduced unedited, in
its entirety, appropriate credit given, and the author is credited.
E-Mail This Article