America's largest gun control organization
by Vin Suprynowicz
On Jan. 16, 1968, in an address to the New York State University law school in Buffalo, Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-N.Y., stated: "I think it is a terrible indictment of the National Rifle Association that they haven't supported any legislation to try and control the misuse of rifles and pistols in this country."
NRA Executive Vice President Franklin L. Orth took great umbrage at this remark in the October 1968 issue of the NRA's magazine, The American Rifleman, terming Sen. Kennedy's accusation "a great smear of a great American organization." Mr. Orth then went on to point out, "The National Rifle Association has been in support of workable, enforceable gun control legislation since its very inception in 1871."
Really? But the NRA has always been portrayed in the mainstream press as a radical anti-gun-control organization. Is it? Has it ever been?
In that 1968 issue of The American Rifleman, associate editor Alan C. Webber picked up the defense of the NRA's gun-control credentials. I quote again from the NRA's own, official organ:
"Item: The late Karl T. Frederick, an NRA president, served for years as special consultant with the Commissioners on Uniform State Laws to frame the Uniform Firearms Act of 1930. ... Salient provisions of the Act require a license to carry a pistol concealed on one's person or in a vehicle; require the purchaser of a pistol to give information about himself which is submitted by the seller to the local police authorities; specify a 48-hour time lapse between application for purchase and delivery."
Remember, I'm not asking whether you think these are good ideas. I'm asking whether the NRA is the pack of wild-eyed, take-no-prisoners, "pure language of the Second Amendment, take my gun from my cold dead fingers" radical extremists which the national press corps would have us believe. In fact, can the NRA rightly be said to be a "gun rights" organization, at all?
"Item," Editor Webber of The American Rifleman continued back in 1968: "The NRA supported the National Firearms Act of 1934 which taxes and requires registration of such firearms as machine guns, sawed-off rifles and sawed-off shotguns. ...
"NRA currently backs several Senate and House bills which, through amendment, would put new teeth into the National and Federal Firearms Acts. ... "
Nor is there much room to believe the NRA has changed its stripes in the past 23 years.
In Utah this year, Utah Gun Owners Alliance lobbyist and M.D. Sarah Thompson had worked to get through "a good bill that would have honored concealed-carry permits from any other state without restriction," notes Dennis Fusaro, who himself was let go from GOA in March for not being cooperative enough with the gun-grabbers at the NRA.
In the final days of the session, however, NRA lobbyist Brian Judy arrived in Salt Lake City and made a deal to accept an amendment that the out-of-state permits would only be honored for 60 days.
"Sarah had the senators pretty well under control and was pushing them with grass-roots pressure, and then Brian Judy goes in the back room and accepts this bad amendment," Fusaro reports.
Says Thompson: "Read their magazine. The NRA helped write the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968. ... Here in Utah they backed our Olympic gun ban" (restricting the right of Utah citizens to carry permitted weapons at Olympic venues while the winter Olympics are in town, so as not to offend the hoplophobic foreigners).
"In the 2000 (Utah) Legislature the NRA backed a midnight gun control bill that vastly expanded the list of people prohibited from owning guns in the state, a retroactive ban on people who were adjudicated years ago. As a result of this I get calls from people who have been hunters for years who now have to go through a background check, who did something wrong as a juvenile 30 or 40 years ago, and they've lost their gun rights."
The test case for whether GOA or the NRA remains a true "gun-rights organization" will be "what's going on with (President) Bush's proposal for Project Safe Neighborhoods," Thompson warns.
Project Safe Neighborhoods is designed to prove the Bush administration is not against "sensible" gun control, she explains, "and the tagline on it is, 'If you use a gun illegally you will do hard time.'
"But you don't have prosecutors saying 'We're not going to prosecute rapists because they're really good people.' That's not the problem. Those laws are already enforced. So the people they're really going after are people who are violating one of the 20,000 unconstitutional gun laws, people who put a flash suppressor on their rifle, or have a high capacity magazine on their firearm, or who drive by the school with a hunting rifle in the back of their truck; it's all the unconstitutional, politically correct gun control laws they're going to be enforcing."
Vin Suprynowicz, the Review-Journal's assistant editorial page editor, is author of "Send in the Waco Killers." His column appears Sunday.