NRA and the lasting consequence of ignorant critics.
Bindu Kalesan has become the latest to parade their ignorance for the members of Medium.
In her June 21 article “NRA and the lasting consequence of greed,” she couldn’t even get her facts about where the NRA was founded correct.
For the record, the National Rifle Association was founded in New York City. Its first shooting range was on Long Island. The headquarters was moved to Washington, D.C. in 1907 and again to Virginia in 1935. The NRA is still chartered in New York, something I am sure the association would love to change but something that the state of New York makes rather difficult.
The NRA’s first real foray into politics came during the 1930s. Karl Frederick, an Olympic gold medalist in pistol competition, testified before Congress, which was considering what ultimately became the National Firearms Act of 1934. While Frederick did not oppose the regulation of machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and silencers and was not a big fan of carrying firearms (after all he was from New York and had grown up with the Sullivan Act), he did complain about New York’s increasingly onerous gun laws.
Incidentally, Frederick never said he supported banning handguns. Not only did Frederick shoot handguns in competition, he collected them and was vice president of the U.S. Revolver Association. So it’s not surprising that he felt New York’s gun laws were a pain in the patoot and he said so.
Fast forward to 1968, when even Charlton Heston was calling for gun control on national television.
Did the NRA support the Gun Control Act of 1968? No. Was the NRA involved in crafting the Gun Control Act of 1968? Yes. Among other things, the NRA was responsible for a national gun registration program being cut, despite Lyndon Johnson’s demands for it. The NRA was much happier with the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986, which prohibits the creation of a national registry of guns or gun owners.
Yes, ever since the Carter Coup, the NRA has vigorously opposed new gun laws and with good reason: they don’t work. If a law doesn’t work, why on earth would you pass it?
In 1971, federal agents raided the home of Ken Ballew. Despite Dr. Kalesan’s assertion, there were no illegal weapons found or recovered. Mr. Ballew was a former Air Force security officer and had some inert grenades, which are considered collectibles and curios, as well as some legally-possessed firearms. Since he reloaded his own ammunition, he did have powder and primers, but there was never any evidence provided that showed any intent on Mr. Ballew’s part to make explosive devices.
The botched raid on Mr. Ballew’s residence did fire up the NRA. So did the raid on Randy Weaver’s home in Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 and the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, the following year.
The NRA played a role in adding the sunset limit on the Assault Weapons Ban. This is a good thing. Why? Because over the span of ten years the AWB did not produce the impact on violence that had been promised. There wasn’t even a reduction in mass shootings. In fact, the average percentage of murders committed with rifles of all types in the years since the Ban expired is about 20% lower than it was in the ten years the ban was in effect.
The “studies” cited by Dr. Kalesan have all been challenged for bias. Hemenway, most notably, cooked the books by limiting the field of participants. For some reason, nobody asks about the wisdom of only basing advocacy research on other advocacy research. It’s using one myth to construct another myth.
As for the surveys cited, the only thing that consistently show is that the Big Lie works. If the lie is big enough, and repeated often enough, people will come to accept it the truth.
In February 2019, Marist conducted a gun control poll commission by NPR and the PBS Newshour. There were about 800 participants. Most of the questions were about various gun control measures and yielded predictable results.
However, the last question on the poll was not only only very telling, it was virtually never mentioned in any of the reports on the study.
Question #25 was: “From what you have read or heard, do you think, compared to 25 years ago, the per capita gun murder rate in the U.S. is higher, lower, or about the same?
59% said the rate had gone up; 23% said it was about the same.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the per capita firearm homicide rate fell nearly 36%.
So 82% of the participants, based on what they had read or heard, believed something that wasn’t true. When people are told things that are not true, we call that lying.
As to the Second Amendment, referring to Jon Vernick and Stephen Teret as authorities ignores more recent jurisprudence. Presser, like Cruikshank, failed to account for the Fourteenth Amendment, which made the protections included in the Bill of Rights binding on the states. In fact, one of the primary reasons for the Fourteenth Amendment was to ensure that newly freed blacks’ gun rights were secured in the face of Jim Crow restrictions enacted by several former Confederate states. It would be absurd to suggest that Congress and the ratifying states wanted to ensure that blacks could form militias.
Vernick and Teret also missed a crucial passage in Chief Justice Roger Taney’s opinion in Dred Scott v. Standford.
It would give to persons of the negro race, who were recognised as citizens in any one State of the Union, the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, singly or in companies, without pass or passport, and without obstruction, to sojourn there as long as they pleased, to go where they pleased at every hour of the day or night without molestation, unless they committed some violation of law for which a white man would be punished; and it would give them the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
Not a right to form militias; the right to keep and carry arms wherever they went. Taney and the majority of the court clearly believed that is what the Second Amendment protected.
In Cruikshank, far, from espousing a collective right, Chief Justice Morrison Waite, writing for the majority, said:
The second and tenth counts are equally defective. The right there specified is that of ‘bearing arms for a lawful purpose.’ This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government, leaving the people to look for their protection against any violation by their fellow-citizens of the rights it recognizes, to what is called, in The City of New York v. Miln, 11 Pet. 139, the ‘powers which relate to merely municipal legislation, or what was, perhaps, more properly called internal police,’ ‘not surrendered or restrained’ by the Constitution of the United States.
The right to possess and carry weapons has never been regarded as one granted by the government. It was regarded as a pre-existing individual right and the federal government was forbidden to deny it.
Waite went on to write:
The fourteenth amendment prohibits a State from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; but this adds nothing to the rights of one citizen as against another. It simply furnishes an additional guaranty against any encroachment by the States upon the fundamental rights which belong to every citizen as a member of society. As was said by Mr. Justice Johnson, in Bank of Columbia v. Okely, 4 Wheat. 244, it secures ‘the individual from the arbitrary exercise of the powers of government, unrestrained by the established principles of private rights and distributive justice.’ These counts in the indictment do not call for the exercise of any of the powers conferred by this provision in the amendment.
In a roundabout way, Waite notes that the Fourteenth Amendment is binding on the states because the right to keep and bear arms is one of the “fundamental” rights of every citizen.
In U.S. v. Miller, Justice James McReynolds never said anything about a collective or individual right. In what he described as a very narrow ruling, he wrote that shotguns with barrels less than eighteen inches long were not in common use in the militia and did not seem to have value in militia service. Miller opined that only possession of weapons suitable for militia use were protected by the Second Amendment. In fact, in every law or precedent cited by McReynolds the presumption or requirement was that citizens would serve with personally owned and maintained weapons.
Incidentally, the Miller ruling could have had an unintended consequence. While short-barreled shotguns were not in common militia use, the same could not be said of machine guns. Both the Browning M1918 Automatic Rifle and the Auto Ordnance (Thompson) M1921 and M1928 submachine guns were not only in common use in the National Guard, they had been in use for more than 15 years.
According to the Miller decision, every able-bodied man at least 18 years old and under the age of 45 should own not an AR-15, but a real, selective-fire M16 or M14 carbine. In other words, a real assault rifle.
You see, the kicker is that the National Guard is not the entire militia. It is what federal law calls the organized militia. The militia of the United States, as it has since 1792, consists of every able-bodied man in the age range mentioned above.
Dr. Kalesan’s use of Vernick and Teret is either the result of monumental ignorance or an attempt at diversion or obfuscation. The 2008 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller makes it clear that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own and carry weapons. This was reinforced in the 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago.
In terms of effect, the Second Amendment can be put quite simply: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The Militia Clause merely provides a reason to protect the right.
And now to Dr. Kalesan’s “bottom line” assertion.
First and foremost, nobody outside of the NRA leadership knows how many members are in the association. So it’s difficult to determine if membership is shrinking and even more difficult to determine why.
To be honest, members aren’t leaving the NRA because of its opposition to gun control laws. The NRA’s problems are the result of member dissatisfaction with the association’s leadership. There has been an internal battle going on of the NRA’s long-term relationship with its PR and advertising firm and certain actions by Wayne LaPierre. There is also the matter of some possibly illegal actions by the state of New York. The NRA’s lawsuit against Governor Cuomo has been green-lighted.
But in the larger picture of the resistance to ill-advised gun control laws, Dr. Kalesan makes the common mistake of envisioning the NRA as the sole gun-rights group of any consequence. There are dozens of gun groups, from the Gun Owners of America with more than two million members, to smaller groups, such as the National African American Gun Association which was formed in 2015 and now has chapters in every state. There are gun groups for women, gun groups for gays, the Second Amendment Foundation, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, and more. The NRA itself has affiliate organizations in all 50 states.
A lot of these groups are actually less tolerant than the NRA. The Gun Owners of America holds that all gun control laws are unconstitutional — not just new ones, all of the existing ones.
Dr. Kalesan’s entire thesis is not only fundamentally flawed, it’s sloppy. It fails to persuade because she failed to do proper research; she failed to learn anything about her topic. It failed because she is not only ignorant, she refuses to be better informed.
No wonder it’s perfect for the gun control echo chamber.