[Author's note – Oct 3, 2015 – There have been approximately 985 mass shootings in American since I first wrote this piece.1 Nothing has changed. I have edited this piece, not in content, but in layout to make it better reflect my feelings and attitude.2]
In 2013, in the United States of America, I am not safe. I am not safe in a mall, or in a theater. My granddaughter is not safe in elementary school or on a school bus. We may be shot. We may be shot at any time, anyplace. Not by an insurgent army, or a radical political group trying to overthrow the government of the United States, nor by any of the threats envisioned by our forefathers who wrote the Constitution. Instead, we may be shot by anyone at anytime.
We have been witness to mass murder by firearms since Charles Whitman killed fourteen people and wounded thirty-two more in Austin, Texas in August 1, 1966. Those early massacres were explained as extraordinary anomalies occurring outside the norm of our daily existence. Whitmans' shootings were blamed on a brain tumor. Today, however, mass murder has become epidemic. In the last six months of 2012, twelve people were shot dead and fifty-eight wounded in a shooting in a theater in Colorado; seven more were killed and two more wounded at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; five more were killed and two more wounded at a sign manufacturer in Minneapolis; and the most horrific of all, twenty of the twenty seven shot dead in Connecticut were children under the age of six. The absolutely defenseless victims were all selected at random. They offended no one.
According to an article in Mother Jones Magazine,
“Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. Twenty-five of these mass shootings have occurred since 2006, and seven of them took place in 2012.” 3
The current controversy over “gun control” is a carefully manufactured and controlled media campaign manipulating mass hysteria and plebeian ignorance to attain several simultaneous results, not the least of which may be the 2016 Presidential election in the United States. It is based on the threat of the loss of freedom, the loss of our precious liberties. There is no other threat that so energizes Americans, and that threat is being exploited by masters at manipulation. The well-run, well-financed campaign by the forces which oppose gun control are in fact the genesis of the current controversy.
The National Rifle Association4 appears to be the definitive obstacle to changes in existing gun laws. The non-profit organization relies entirely on the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to defend its position in the “controversy.” The NRA, a 501(c)(4) membership association with four, 501(c)(3) charitable subsidiaries and an incredibly powerful Section 527 Political Action Committee, capitalizes on the image that they alone protect the rights of American gun owners. The prime marketing image portrayed by the NRA has but one real message: Without the NRA, gun ownership would be illegal in the United States.
The Second Amendment states:
“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.”5
The NRA is not the only supporter of Second Amendment rights. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, assailed by evangelical conservatives for their stand on separation of church and state as various religions attempt to encroach our laws, has jointly assisted the NRA in issues of civil rights.6 The Second Amendment, as controversial today as when it was first presented to Congress in 1789, and when it was adopted in 1791, is not in jeopardy of being repealed. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 20087 that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. In addition, on June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment was incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment thus protecting those rights from infringement by local governments.8 The NRA was a major supporter of the opposition to the laws, particularly the MacDonald vs Chicago Supreme Court case which struck down the restrictions the City of Chicago had placed on the registration of handguns. While that case was different from the NRA vs Chicago lawsuit, it was in fact the de facto argument that owning guns cannot be barred by any state or local government. Chicago had banned the registration of handguns in 1982 in an effort to control the spiraling homicide rate from handguns in the city. The law was declared un-Constitutional by the ruling and Chicago could no longer enforce the handgun ban. The City of Chicago had 506 murders by firearms in 2012.
Our founding fathers could not have envisioned murder evolving into a form of socially accepted entertainment, spilling into our everyday lives as the lines between reality and fantasy evaporate.9 The total immersion of our society through mass media distribution markets, into a daily, almost hourly routine of gruesomely detailed murders and lifelike video games where contestants of all ages kill mercilessly without remorse, would appall the men who created our country.
We are in danger because the definition of militia as known by our founding fathers did not envision the exclusion of the majority of Americans as it does today. The majority of Americans today are not fit to serve in any militia. They are not qualified to bear military weapons of mass destruction. Those military weapons do not belong in untrained hands. The premise that every able-bodied soul could be considered a soldier at a moment's notice has long dissolved into the reality of specialized training and intensive conditioning. Invading armies no longer dress in red tunics and march twelve abreast down dirt roads.
The incredibly talented and honorable men who wrote our Constitution could never have conceived the premise that firearms designed solely for warfare by a specialized, highly trained militia would be considered under the protections of the very Constitution they wrote to protect us. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2008 an individual's right to possess and carry firearms is unconnected with service in a militia10 and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, is protected under the Second Amendment. Failure to understand that separation, that distinction between specialized weapons used by the militia and those protected by the Constitution, by a powerful, well funded private association that prevents enactment of laws to protect me and my family is the real danger. We are in danger because we are powerless to protect ourselves from those who use the Constitution of the United States for their own self-interest.
The Second Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, is firmly entrenched and protected by the Supreme Court. It is not, however, in the NRA's best interest to publicize the Supreme Court's decisions. By doing so they would lose the leverage of the threat of the loss of individual liberties. Local interests such as Fowler Firearms of Ft. Myers, Florida, follows the NRA lead by using the threat of coming gun control in their television commercials that claim potential customers should act now as “firearm laws may be changing.” The hysteria about gun-control is a godsend for gun sales.
The NRA, which was originally formed in 1871 to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis,” has expanded its role in influencing American government since its inception. Does the NRA in fact represent the majority of Americans, or even the majority of its own members? Do the nearly four million NRA members really want .50 caliber sniper rifles, or thirty round clips for their Russian made AK-47 assault rifles? Or do they just want to hunt deer? Do duck hunters really want anyone at any time to buy any gun without background checks or licensing, or do they simply want to hunt as they did with their fathers and grandfathers without government interference? They are led by the NRA directors to believe assault weapon gun control will cover all gun owners and result in an oppressive blanket of legislation that will remove all guns from every home.
There are countless books and articles praising or damning the NRA, from Jack Anderson's 1996 book, “Inside the NRA: Armed and Dangerous,” to J. Neil Schulman's book, “SELF CONTROL, Not Gun Control”. Reviews of these books, as with any polarizing issue in America, warrant either only 1 star, from the opposition, to 5 stars from the proponents. They support one without remorse, and demonize the other without mercy. There is no middle ground. Will there be middle ground in fifty years? Or one hundred? Will the epidemic of rampant manslaughter at the hands of insane, or evil gunmen be curtailed or eliminated?
In a survey of NRA members, conducted by a regular contributor to Fox News, Frank Luntz, the majority of NRA members, some 74 percent, support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun, and 79 percent of NRA members support requiring gun retailers to perform background checks on all employees. The survey was conducted at the request of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns in July, 2012, some six months in advance of the horrific shooting of elementary school children in New Town, Connecticut.
According to the web page for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns:11
“The Luntz findings are in line with previous research showing that Americans are nearly unanimous in their support for closing loopholes that allow dangerous people to buy firearms without a background check. A January 2011 poll conducted for Mayors Against Illegal Guns by the bipartisan polling team of Momentum Analysis and American Viewpoint found that 86 percent of Americans and 81 percent of gun owners support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, no matter where they buy a gun or who they but it from.”
The NRA has in the past so alienated many of its supporters that two U.S. Presidents, both Republican, resigned their lifetime memberships in the organization in protest to their position. In 1969, U.S. President Richard Nixon resigned his "Honorary Life Membership" to the NRA, and in 1995, after NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre sent an advertisement letter that labeled agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), "jack-booted government thugs," former U.S. President George H. W. Bush resigned his life membership to the organization in protest.12
The Board of Governors of the NRA vehemently opposes any gun control legislation. The National Rifle Association is governed by a fairly large board of directors.13 There are 75 active board members as of February, 2013. Many board members are current or former members of Congress, while others are as diverse as actors and musicians. The NRA Board of Governors deeply reflects the conservative Tea Party movement, as reflected by Board of Governors former Congressman Bob Barr and Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, USMC (Ret.) Conservative lobbyist Grover G. Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform, is also a current board member. Of the board members actually involved in the manufacture of firearms, the most highly visible are Ronnie G. Barrett, owner of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, famous for his sniper rifle, and Pete Brownell, manufacturer of high-capacity magazines, the removable part of the gun that holds and supplies the bullets. The overwhelming majority of board members, other than politicians, are in the firearms business through other venues. The Board of Directors choose the president, the leading spokesman for the organization, from among their members. David Keene is the current president. Past presidents have included the highly visible actor, Charlton Heston, and Marion P. Hammer, the NRA's first female president. No member of the NRA is more visible, nor more well known, however, than Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
According to the NRA website,14
“nearly four million members have given to champion Second Amendment rights and support NRA programs. As former Clinton spokesman George Stephanopoulos said, 'Let me make one small vote for the NRA. They're good citizens. They call their Congressmen. They write. They vote. They contribute. And they get what they want over time.'"
The NRA fans the flames of patriotism and outrage to maintain the illusion of their dedication in defending the rights of hunters and sportsmen who own and use firearms. In their strict interpretation of the Second Amendment, no laws may be made to infringe on gun ownership in the United States. Conversely, using the NRA's logic, the Second Amendment must then be repealed to attain gun control.
|Dean and George Mindling - plinking in south Dade County - 1956|
I do not write this article lightly. I have been a gun owner and shooter since I was fourteen years old. I still have the .22 caliber rifle my grandfather used to slaughter hogs. In December. 1960, as a member of Flight 1495, 3703rd Basic Training Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, a basic training squadron that was selected for analytical analysis of small arms weapons, I was a among the first U.S. Military personnel ever trained on the Fairchild-Hiller AR-15, now known as the Colt M-16 Rifle. In the eight years I was active duty, I never scored less than expert in my annual small arms re-certification. The U.S. Government, however, did not teach me to shoot: my father did. One thing is certain: the NRA does not represent me.
My safety, and my family's safety, is in jeopardy, and the National Rifle Association chooses to defend the threat to me, not defend me from it. The safety of my family is paramount to me, and the NRA does nothing to protect us. The NRA pretends to defend my rights, but my rights of gun ownership are not in jeopardy. What is in jeopardy is my basic right as an American, as declared in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I am an American, and I am a gun owner. My inalienable right to life supersedes the Second Amendment. If America must repeal the Second Amendment for the sake of the common good, so be it. That is the law of the land. That is the Constitution of the United States. If the Second Amendment is repealed, it will be because the leadership, the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association, in their own self interests, failed to protect its members and its obligation to America. Their inflexible self interests will, in time, destroy the NRA and cause the repeal of the Second Amendment as well.
George Mindling © 2013 - Port Charlotte, FL