L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 29, June 1, 1997
By John Taylor
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
There comes a time when you just have to apply the Reagan Rule
(that's Nancy, not Ronald), and "Just Say No". Sometimes, it's the
only way to show someone you love them. Recent events within the
power structure in the NRA (lately referred to by some as the
"Necrotic Republican Apologists") are indicators that such a time has
come for rank-and-file members of the organization.
Regardless of which side a member might have backed in the recent
internecine feud -- or perhaps other members found, as did I, little
to cheer for on either side -- it has become clear that the NRA is
not, and for some time has not been, an organization responsive to,
solicitous of, or even interested in the welfare of its members. This
despite the simple fact that a core of contributing members make
possible all the organization's expenditures, be they lavish,
foolish, or simply ineffective.
The ascendency of (former?) gun rights icon Charlton Heston to
the position of First Vice President (after a brief courtesy stop on
the Board of Directors) demonstrates that even the superficial
attempts to pander to the membership (direct election of the 76th
board member) have been subverted by the need of the organization's
inner circle to maintain complete control of the association's
affairs. This heightened perception of need for tight control may
well have something to do with the appearance that the NRA's
"leadership" is no longer as interested in supporting gun rights as
they are in featherbedding.
There is a school of thought that says, "We have to support the
NRA. They're the biggest gun rights organization on the planet;
they're our only hope; if we fight among ourselves, we'll destroy
ourselves ..." etc., etc., etc. I submit to the membership that (a)
support, as with a wayward child, requires neither coddling nor
covering up for transgressions; (b) they're only a "hope" for us as
long as they're working for us; (c) if we don't get back on track,
we'll destroy ourselves through simple neglect of duty.
The most successful and popular ad campaign in the organization's
history was called, simply, "I'm the NRA". (I've always been
convinced that the campaign was dropped because too many members
began to actually dare to believe it.) It's true -- I'm the NRA, as
are you who contribute time, money, and other support. Without that
constant infusion, the organization will become paralyzed.
And that -- paradoxical as it may seem -- is exactly what I
propose. I propose that every contributing member begin, right this
minute, to cut off the flow of air to this over-fueled monstrosity.
Not to kill it -- not at all -- but merely to bring it to its knees,
gasping, forcing it to say, in tones feeble through lack of
sustenance, "What do you want of me, that I may live on?" At which
time, the battle will be over, and we will have won.
But what do we want? What is the solution to our dilemma? How do
we rein in this beast, bring it to a halt, and set it back on the
right path, restored and re-invigorated? First, I submit that it is
emphatically not by purging the organization of its so-called
The "extremists" in the NRA are that very core that is most
activist, most caught up in the life-or-death struggle that rages on
around the insulated, uninvolved, country-club-minded set that
constitutes the bulk of our membership. It is these "extremists" who
give of their time and money beyond any reasonable expectation. It is
these "extremists" who are there all the time, not just when their
particular ox is in danger of being gored (or perhaps "clintoned").
It is these "extremists" who read about, write about, and even
exclusively "live and breathe" the constant struggle between the
controlling state and the free individual. If we purge ourselves of
these "extremists", we've cut out our own heart and brain, and the
body will soon cease to exist.
Second, we, the membership, must demand that the NRA's leaders
defend our rights unequivocally, aggressively, and resolutely. The
war can be successfully fought only by those with a total commitment
to winning. There is no compromise when it comes to principle. That
assertion bears repeating. There is no compromise when it comes to
Third, we must begin, today, an active campaign to regain the
ground we have lost. It is insufficient to merely oppose further
limitations. We must begin to actively campaign for repeal of all
anti-gun laws, starting with those at the federal level, all of which
are demonstrably unconstitutional.
We must unrelentingly seek, educate, and support, legislators,
NRA officers, board members, and associates who are dedicated to
repeal of NFA '34, GCA '68, import bans, "appearance" bans,
registration laws, permit laws, licensing laws, record-keeping laws,
as well as all "executive orders", "rules and procedures",
"interpretations", and other unauthorized edicts.
We must reject all local and state anti-gun laws as inconsistent
with the supreme law of the land. We must reject any and all anti-gun
court interpretations as unconstitutional. All such restrictions must
be rejected unequivocally, repeatedly, and summarily. We must no
longer tolerate infringement in any form.
If we want to restore our rights to their intended status, we
cannot do so by accepting a "small infringement" instead of a big
one. Our purpose must be clear and unequivocal. If an initiative is
introduced that intends to support us, but falls short of meeting a
simple test of constitutionality, then we must be strong enough to
not support it in any substantive way. We can affirm the intent
without conceding our rights or compromising our position.
If our goal is to re-direct our efforts to meet these goals, we
must have a plan. I submit that the agenda is simple. There are three
things we must do, beginning immediately.
1. Stop contributing to the NRA -- time, money, or any other
resources. As harsh as it seems, this is the only way we have a
chance to get their attention. This will be difficult, and will
require greater sacrifice than it might appear at first. All
direct and indirect contributions (e.g. "round-up", FONRA
dinners, anything that puts money or effort into the coffers)
must cease immediately, and must not be resumed, no matter how
desperate the pleas, until we have regained control of our NRA.
2. Every "fund-raiser" must be returned with a long, detailed
letter setting forth what we want, in detail. Every board member
must be sent letters describing the same. Every officer must be
flooded with requests -- no, demands -- for accountability. Each
member must take it upon himself or herself to spread the word,
preach the gospel, and recruit as many other members as possible
to actively join the cause. It will not be sufficient to merely
3. Our list of demands must be short, precise, and unequivocal;
said demands must be pressed relentlessly until they are met.
Nothing less than total agreement must be accepted.
OK, that's the easy part. If you're still with me -- that is,
still in agreement in principle -- here comes the rough part. We've
established that we as the NRA have to be assertive, active,
dedicated, and focused to succeed. But what specifically are we to
promote as our organizational agenda? What are to be our demands? If
we're against compromise, what are we for? I offer three simple
principles that we must apply uncompromisingly -- three benchmarks
by which we measure every effort.
1. No bill, no matter how sympathetic to our cause, may be
actively supported by members' dues, staff time or efforts, or
other association resources if it compromises, in any way shape
or form, the principles behind the Second Amendment. This means
that we must actively oppose as flagrantly unconstitutional (and
inimical to liberty) any and all taxation, licensing, regulation,
registration, or other restriction of the right to keep and bear
any arms suitable to the individual. This includes any and all
so-called "right-to-carry" legislation other than a simple
affirmation of the right as described above. Yes, including bills
such as those federalizing the regulation of concealed carry, and
state initiatives that relax restrictive carry laws if they
themselves constitute an infringement of the basic right.
2. No legislator may be actively supported by members' dues,
staff time or efforts, or other association resources if he or
she is not an active gun rights advocate. No exceptions,
regardless of how much he or she promises -- the proof, as they
say, is in the pudding. Conversely, true, proven allies
should be supported, regardless of political affiliation, or
some qualitative assessment of "viability". Finally, no
candidate should receive support or a positive "rating" from the
NRA if they have ever actively supported "gun control" in any
form, regardless of their reason for doing so.
3. No NRA initiative that is not directly related to gun rights
may be actively supported by members' dues, staff time or
efforts, or other association resources. This includes all book
tours, anti-crime programs, and any other efforts that are
tangential (at best) to gun rights issues. The funds of the
membership may be used only to support true pro-gun legislation
or the repeal of anti-gun legislation.
We must recognize that there is no future in continuing to
attempt to resist the assaults of the anti-liberty forces, as long as
we are fighting on their turf. We are wasting our effort reacting to
attacks that are launched under conditions that are totally favorable
to our assailants. There is no value in trying to fight our battles
in the media. If we're smart, we'll fight at the grass roots level,
and let the media find us if they can.
Our fight must be inclusive of others who find themselves
targeted by the government and/or the mass media. We need not embrace
all of their principles, but we do need to recognize, acknowledge,
and publicize the misdeeds of our common enemies. We can gain (and
give) much sympathy merely by pointing out that we are individuals,
just like other individuals, who have been targeted for
marginalization and demonization by those who would control us.
We must use the tools available to us -- grass roots networks,
clubs, associations, and other informal gatherings -- to create our
own network of individuals who are irrevocably dedicated to
protecting our rights. One of the most potent weapons we have is the
internet. The measure of the degree of fear that the government and
media have of the internet can be found in their efforts to control
it and marginalize it, respectively.
In summation, we have two tasks at hand. First, we must regain
control of the NRA, and use it, as controlling members, to support
our rights. Second, we must reshape the nature of our gun rights
efforts. We must seize the high ground and hold it against all
assaults. Let the enemy come to us ... and when he does, let him find
John Taylor is the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus Maryland
Now available in hardcover. Sexual Correctness: The Gender-Feminist Attack
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