Last time, we were discussing the "take-the-best-available-compromise," defeatist attitude of the nation's largest gun control organization, the National Rifle Association.
Their lighter, leaner competition for gun owner support, Gun Owners of America, prefers a more high-pressure approach, putting the fire to the feet of lawmakers to make sure they know that a vote against gun rights will cost them their next election ... just as Bill Clinton acknowledged that the gun rights vote cost the Democratic Party its control of Congress in 1994.
In a 1968 edition of the NRA's magazine, The American Rifleman, Associate Editor Alan C. Webber responded to then-timely criticism by U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-N.Y., who said "I think it is a terrible indictment of the National Rifle Association that they haven't supported any legislation to ban and control the misuse of rifles and pistols in this country."
To this, Mr. Webber reports NRA Executive Vice President Franklin L. Orth responded with a ringing endorsement of the 1968 Gun Control Act. "The National Rifle Association has been in support of workable, enforceable gun control legislation since its very inception in 1871," Mr. Orth proclaimed. "The duty of Congress is clear. It should act now to pass legislation that will keep undesirables, including criminals, drug addicts and persons adjudged mentally irresponsible or alcoholic, or juveniles, from obtaining firearms through the mails."
One will remember that the way the 1968 law accomplished that, was by banning EVERYONE but an ever-shrinking pool of federally licensed gun dealers from "obtaining firearms through the mails"! Sort of like "getting drunks off the road," by banning cars and trucks!
"The NRA position, as stated by Orth, emphasizes that the NRA has consistently supported gun legislation which it feels would penalize misuse of guns, without harassing law-abiding hunters, target shooters and collectors," concludes editor Webber.
What an interesting list. Do you see "militiamen" in there? I don't. Does the Second Amendment say anything about duck-hunting?
The Brits, who have just finished banning all private ownership of handguns, insist THEY still protect the "rights of law-abiding hunters, target shooters, and collectors," too.
If you have an English country estate, you can still own a richly-engraved, $5,000 bird gun. If you like to target shoot, you may fire pellet guns or even .22s at your registered club ... so long as you leave the weapon locked up there when you go home. And "collectors" are still presumably welcome to own as many guns as they want ... from the flintlock era or earlier.
Gee, that'll put them in great shape the next time the Germans or French come storming the beaches. Which is precisely why OUR Second Amendment talks exclusively about the needs of "the militia."
Meantime, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents holding a panel discussion for an audience of mostly gun store owners at this week's SHOT Outdoor Trades show, here in Las Vegas, declared that the way they interpret the "permanent replacement Brady Bill" due to go into effect in November of 1998 -- the one the NRA favors due to its promised "insta-Check" capability -- will call for a "Brady check" and permanent record of every LONG GUN purchase, as well.
The NRA operates, in effect, as nothing but a public relations outreach arm for the Republican Party, tasked to convince gun rights advocates that the GOP is their only hope.
But Newt Gingrich promised us that if only we would elect a GOP majority to Congress there would be "no more gun control passed" on his watch, didn't he?
Mind you, that's a pretty modest promise, compared to the Libertarian Party platform plank on guns, which calls for ALL existing gun control laws to be immediately REPEALED.
But not only have Mr. Gingrich's Republicans failed to repeal the major federal gun control acts of 1933 and 1968, not only have they failed to repeal the Brady Bill and the Feinstein-Schumer "assault weapons ban" (as they promised), but they actually ENACTED the so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill with the Lautenberg Amendment, which retroactively strips police and many other citizens of their gun rights based on any prior domestic misdemeanor convictions (shouting at your kids).
And then, not satisfied, they went on to pass the "Gun Free School Zone Act" ... TWICE!
Putting him to the test of fire, I asked Larry Pratt of GOA last week whether he would favor allowing a 17-year-old girl to walk into a hardware store, buy and take home a belt-fed .30-caliber machine gun, without signing her name, showing any ID, or applying for any kind of government "permit."
"Well, that's the way it would have been in 1933, before the National Firearms Act, wouldn't it?" he asked.
"Is that a yes?" I asked back.
Mr. Pratt, in front of a sizeable public gathering at the San Remo Hotel and Casino, said "Yes."
And that's why I think we're about to see a changing of the guard when it comes to gun-rights lobbying, from the arthritic and the defeated, to the aggressive, the fearless, and the principled.
Congressman Ron Paul, R-Tex., has called Gun Owners of America "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington." With a fraction of the NRA's manpower, membership or budget, GOA has defeated powerful state legislative committee chairmen (in Ohio) who were foolish enough to support more gun control, and has helped elect congressmen like Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, currently sponsor of HR27, the Citizens Self-Defense Act, which would "protect the right to obtain ... and to use firearms in defense of self, family or home."
Unless they change their stripes with fearsome speed, I fear the NRA and their hog-trough affiliate, the Republican Party as we've known it, are headed for the elephant's graveyard, and soon.
On the other hand, if Gun Owners of America sold stock, I'd be buying.