The NRA and Freedom of Speech
or: "Do as I say, not as I do"
By Francis A. Ney, Jr.
Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise.
This weekend I received an interesting piece of mail from the National Rifle Association. They were soliciting information on how well the opinions of NRA members jive with the opinions of NRA leadership. Their intent is to use this poll as proof that the leadership of the NRA is "in touch" with gun owners and RKBA activists. Along with a solicitation for donations, but that's a given.
Of particular note was question 11. I no longer have the poll in front of me, but the gist of the question was support of the NRA in their effort to protect political speech and free-choice contributions of a political nature. This, of course, was in response to various proposals, touted as "election reform" but more suited to wrapping fish and bird poop, as they would not only eliminate Political Action Committees deemed "politically incorrect" but declare similar grass-roots activities equal to PACs and subject to the same elimination.
Question 11 stands out in stark contrast to recent events involving an NRA board member and a private analyst of politics taking place on the computer networks.
Meet Joe Zychik. A man who is fiercely pro-firearm and pro-freedom. A man who supports Harry Browne for President. A man I hesitate to call a libertarian only because I have not seen him admit it from his own hand or mouth: I would not presume to speak for him in this matter. Joe publishes a daily e-zine of news and political commentary with a libertarian bent simply named The Zychik Chronicle.
Meet Leroy Pyle. A man I presume is pro-firearm, due to the fact that he serves as a Director of the NRA. He also runs a private network of computer BBSs called the Paul Revere Network, that ostensibly exists to quickly pass pro-Second-Amendment information to interested computer Bulletin Boards that do not otherwise have connections to the internet. The Zychik Chronicle is passed to BBSs that would not otherwise have it by using PRN.
Or it was until last week. Joe had a few things to say about the NRA's presidential election non-endorsement. A few sarcastic and caustic remarks, intended to garner attention and start discussion on the subject. Leroy could have been big about it, rebutting the opinions stated and presenting another point of view. An official point of view, even. Instead, Leroy Pyle, NRA Director, chose to ban Joe and The Zychik Chronicle from the Paul Revere Network. At the same time, he banned another pro- RKBA organization, Gun Owners of America, for what I understand are similar reasons.
Now understand one thing: I am stating here and now that Leroy Pyle was within his rights to do what he did. Leroy Pyle owns the Paul Revere Network in fee simple. It was his idea and it is his baby. He can do as he pleases with it. That being said, I also believe that the actions of Leroy Pyle were at best unwise, and that his actions are indicative of systemic character faults within the National Rifle Association.
I think it reasonable to say that the NRA is rapidly becoming, if not already become, the ACLU of the firearms rights movement. I do not mean this as a compliment. By their actions, the ACLU as an organization seems to think that the only part of the Bill of Rights in existence are parts of the first amendment, plus the fourth, fifth and eighth, when convenient. Similarly, the NRA collectively appears to think that only the second amendment exists, plus portions of the first and fifth, when convenient. Granted, the NRA is a firearms organization, but the point needs to be made, and NRA leadership needs to realize, that the Second Amendment does not exist in a vacuum. I could write a master's thesis on that subject alone, but I'm getting off the subject.
As an organization, the one thing that the NRA cannot tolerate is dissent from within its own ranks, which include both paid NRA membership and pro-RKBA fellow travellers. I have seen this plenty of times whenever NRA activities or proposals clash with my idea of what is right. From CrimeStrike(tm), to mandatory sentencing, to enhanced penalties, to the War on (some) Drugs, whenever I have played Thomas Aquinas to the NRA's Henry VIII, I have been ignored, ridiculed, or flat out told to get with the program and conform to the NRA standard (whatever that is) by both NRA members and officers. My head has not been placed on the block, as Joe's has, but my day will come.
The NRA is also arrogant to a fault. They alone have the Holy Grail, they believe, and anyone who fails to toe the line they draw are heretics and apostates who harm the holy cause, whatever it is. (I say this because I have serious doubts if RKBA is the NRA's cause anymore) It shows in the sheer gall NRA-ILA had in actively campaigning against a pro-RKBA candidate who happened to be running as a third party candidate. It also shows in the complete lack of cooperation with other, smaller pro-RKBA groups such as JPFO. When they do this, the NRA gives up the one great strength they possess: diversity. Unfortunately, diversity is a poor second to an organization that has discovered the heady high of power and influence, as the NRA leadership has since the 1992 election.
Differing opinions should be a starting point for discussion, not an excuse to gag the holder thereof. Leroy Pyle needs to relearn this, if he ever learned in the first place. When he started PRN, I thought he had.
So what did I do with the poll? I answered it, and sent it in, sans cash. I answered "yes" to question 11, but I also pointed out their hypocrisy, and named names. I wonder if anyone at the NRA will ever read it?
Addendum: The Zychik Chronicle may be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.free-market.com/zychik Free subscriptions via email are available from the author
Frank Ney is a Life Member (Conditional) of the NRA, along with several other RKBA groups. He is a member of the WV Libertarian Party and serves as the WV State Coordinator of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus. He also sponsors an internet web page providing information on the abuses citizens suffer at the hands of certain uncontrolled agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. In his spare time, he runs a horse farm with his fiance and serves as an emergency medical technician for the local rescue squad, science fiction conventions, the Society for Creative Anachronisms and various RKBA events.
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