THE BILL OF RIGHTS: IT’S YOUR BIRTHRIGHT! THE NRA PRESERVES IT! THE ANTIGUN CROWD WOULD STRIP YOU OF IT! WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT IT?
If you were to ask the average American what the NRA is, you would likely receive, in reply, any one or more of several short descriptive phrases depending on the person’s political bent. Among them might include: defender of the Second Amendment; gun lobby; gun “nuts;” protectors of America’s liberties; shills for the gun manufacturers; cowboys; True American Patriots; Republican benefactors. As with any long-standing, financially powerful entity – whether a company, government agency, political organization, religious or educational institution, to name a few – will have its fair share of supporters and detractors. So it is with the NRA. And, as with any large, successful enterprise, myth and misunderstandings exist concerning it. It is our belief that many of the critics of NRA quite literally don’t know what they are talking about; for, when questioned, they appear generally to know nothing about the organization, its methods, or its goals.
So, what is the truth about the NRA and what is myth? Let’s take a look.
NRA AS ORGANIZATION
Among the true statements, we can start with these: The National Rifle Association of America – NRA as it is typically known – is a citizen’s organization, a not-for-profit voluntary association that has been around for quite a while. It had its start in 1871, well over one hundred years ago. The NRA was created by two Union officers, Gen. George Wingate and Col. William C. Church. The officers formed the NRA to improve the marksmanship of American troops and to create a renewable pool of expert marksmen for the training of future citizen-troopers – certainly a worthy endeavor – that had been of observably low quality during the Civil War. Through the intervening years the NRA’s original purpose and goal – to improve marksmanship of union soldiers – expanded well beyond the intent of its framers, to embrace a host of worthy activities and functions, including: training and promoting shooting sports among the youth of America; certifying range and safety officers for police and military training; creating programs for the training of law enforcement and hunters; and instituting programs for the training of civilians in the safe and proper use of firearms. Literally millions of citizens have received training in these programs – all this, apart from the NRA’s creation of specific programs for the training and certification of the police and military. Moreover, the NRA remains a huge educational institution, delivering “Eddie Eagle” safety training to millions of school age children.
NRA AS DEFENDER OF CITIZENS’ RIGHTS
NRA also defends citizens’ rights. NRA, like the NAACP and similar voluntary citizens associations, provides legal defense funds’ services in crucial cases, to correct injustice and to battle overreaches of the law and overreaches by regulatory agencies. NRA has, in the past, teamed up with the NAACP and ACLU to fight discriminatory regulations that barred legally qualified and upstanding citizens from owning guns – regulations that barred gun ownership and possession by those legally qualified citizens who lived in public housing. NRA also conducts annual seminars for practicing attorneys to keep them up to date on firearms laws and to provide litigation techniques for those attorneys who litigate.
MYTHS ABOUT NRA
Myths abound about NRA as an organization, and they are especially prominent among academic and so-called “elite” journalists – those who are connected with large newspapers and with other major news outlets. One salient myth revolves around the idea that NRA is THE “Gun Lobby.” This suggests NRA is a sinister, secretive organization that operates merely as an arm for gun manufacturers. In truth, there is nothing sinister or secretive about it and it isn’t an arm of the gun manufacturers. NRA is, rather, a voluntary citizens’ group focused on firearms rights. It is one of many citizens groups focused on firearms rights. How does it differ from other such groups? NRA is merely the oldest and largest among voluntary citizens’ groups focused on firearms rights. It has currently more than five million members who pay dues to belong to NRA. In contrast, academic experts estimate that all of the American antigun groups combined have no more than about 150,000 members total. Consider, too, NAACP, at its height – during the civil rights era of the 1960s – had no more than one million members. Today NAACP has substantially fewer members. This places things in perspective.
But, is NRA shrinking, retreating or otherwise suffering defeat? This is another myth perpetrated by mainstream media. In fact, during a period of time, from about 1968-1970, as American “elites” attempted to impose top-down severe, European-style gun control laws on the American public, NRA has grown from about one million members to its present status: five million dues paying members. This present growth in membership in NRA is occurring at a time when, curiously, membership in voluntary associations – and volunteerism, generally – has declined. Thus, the growth of NRA is indicative of an unprecedented mass mobilization of well-informed citizens, and yet, “elite” newspapers and other “elite” media sources cheer-lead NRA defeat. How can the disparity between fact and false reporting of fact be reconciled? Well, quantitative scientific content analysis of “elite” newspaper coverage of NRA shows that “elite” media were entirely unaware of this growth. Do these reporters live in a different world from that of the rest of us? They certainly seem to be more interested in reporting what they wish to be true than in reporting what is in fact true.
Interestingly, the more negative coverage NRA has received the more its membership has grown, as confirmed by the dissertation study of one of the authors (NRA and the Media, Arktos, 2013, Brian Anse Patrick). “Elite” media have been and continue to be out of touch with reality when it comes to NRA and American Gun Culture generally. The “elite” media attempts, wrongly, to project a picture of the world it prefers to see rather than describing the world as it is. This is inconsistent with the ethics of journalism and suggests that “elite” media is utilizing propaganda to mold public opinion in a particular direction. In so doing, “elite” media disparages the very concept of “freedom of the press,” as embraced by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It becomes, instead, a tool of control for those who seek to destroy our sacred Bill of Rights.
A corollary to the major myth that NRA is merely an arm of gun manufacturers (the firearms industry) is that the NRA receives all its funding from the firearms industry and, too, that NRA is run by the firearms industry. This myth is fostered by and reinforced by – rather than dispelled by – the “elite” media.
NRA OPERATES TRANSPARENTLY
First, compared with the governance procedures established by other groups, NRA operates much more openly than other organizations and certainly more openly than the antigun groups that so vehemently attack it. And NRA utilizes a democratic process as opposed to an autocratic one. NRA’s numerous life members directly elect its 76-member board of directors. The Board then appoints its executives and functionaries. Contrariwise, antigun groups and some large member organizations, like the AARP, are actually run by small, relatively autocratic cabals. Antigun groups – ever railing against the NRA and insinuating that gun violence in this Country is due to the machinations of the NRA – as if the NRA is or rationally could be responsible for crime and for the criminals and lunatics that cause it – are duplicitous and hypocritical in the extreme. Where antigun groups irrationally call for more and more restrictive gun legislation, NRA calmly reiterates that we ought first to enforce the hundreds of laws we already have on the books. Where antigun groups rail that NRA outspends them, they fail to appreciate that the money NRA has in its coffers comes from the pockets of millions of hard working Americans – and not from secretive PACS or from the checkbooks of a few billionaires who, with the stroke of a pen, handily write checks for millions of dollars to keep these antigun groups afloat – gloating over the tens of millions of dollars they can spend, have spent, have available to spend and will continue to spend to push through ever more restrictive gun laws – until, by sheer weight of numbers – the Second Amendment topples of its own accord – and takes with it – the other nine Amendments as well. Where the NRA has the strength of its conviction – in the form of millions of active members who have a vested interest in preserving their sacred Rights under the Bill of Rights – the antigun groups have empty slogans, slick commercials, and highly paid image makers and media consultants, pressed into the service of Billionaire plutocrats whose real goal is control over the American public – not curbing gun violence. And where the NRA upholds the sanctity of the individual, the antigun groups argue the individual’s needs must ever be subservient to the greater good of the collective will.
So, as the NRA derives its funds directly from membership dues and contributions, the complaints of antigun group executive officers’ complaints – as echoed by the “elite” media – of how unfair it is that NRA outspends the antigun groups – rings hollow. After all, NRA members outnumber members of these antigun groups on an order of more than 25 to 1. NRA has a true mass membership. Yet, all the while the public is fed the myth, through the “elite” media, that NRA’s membership is dwindling. And, this notion of a dwindling NRA membership is merely one more incoherent remark.
Second, while the membership pool of NRA is deep and extensive, those of the antigun groups are shallow and illusory. Consider, for example, the antigun group, One Million Moms for Gun Control. The Group is essentially spectral – merely a website and media simulation, and those who run it are well hidden from public view.
NRA ISN’T A GUN LOBBY
But, is there any truth at all to the notion as bandied about by the antigun crowd and the “elite” media that NRA is a “Gun Lobby?” No. That’s a common misconception; nothing more than a fabrication of antigun groups that is trumpeted by the “elite” media. How is the term ‘Gun Lobby’ as applied to NRA a misconception? Let’s see. We must take a look at meaning of terms. Well, what is a ‘lobbyist?’ The term ‘lobbyist’ refers to someone hired by a business or a cause to persuade legislators to support that business or cause.” Extrapolating from that definition, the term ‘lobby,’ is, then, a collection of lobbyists. The terms, ‘lobby’ and ‘lobbyist,’ are often used as words of disparagement. And, when used in that way – to disparage a person or group – the terminology does not define a group but dehumanizes a target population and makes that target population seem less deserving and sympathetic. So, instead of referring to NRA members as a “citizens association,” which is really what it is, the NRA becomes, instead, a non-human, cold, entity – a “lobby,” – which conveys, then, a host of negative connotations, all used to disparage the organization. Calling NRA a “Gun Lobby” – or “THE Gun Lobby” – is to disparage the NRA. This is a typical propaganda technique. The NRA is decidedly not a “lobby,” according to the conventional definition of the word.
Yes, the NRA does engage in lobbying activities. But, then, so do other organizations, like the NAACP, AARP and, for that matter, the “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence” (formerly, “Handgun Control, Inc.”) and many other groups. But, NRA is not a lobby.
Now, there are gun lobbies, but the NRA isn’t one of them, if as the antigun groups erroneously maintain, the NRA is a lobbying group for the firearms industry. But firearms manufacturers do organize as trade associations and those associations may operate in part as true “gun lobbies.” But those trade associations and their lobbying arms are not NRA. If one insists on referring to NRA as a lobby at all, then it would be fairer and decidedly more accurate to describe NRA as “the American citizen’s Bill of Rights lobby;” for, politically, NRA represents millions of American citizens in support of citizens’ Bill of Rights – and NRA does this often better than the Legislators who are elected to represent Americans. Even so, as we have shown, NRA does much more than lobby, even as such lobbying activities are for American citizens and even as such lobbying efforts are the most worthy of any lobbying an American organization might engage in – the preservation of our liberties, as embodied in the Bill of Rights.
NRA EXERCISES ITS FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS
Now, here’s a secret the editors and bureau chiefs at mainstream news publishers like New York Times and similar news organizations have yet to learn: the main reason NRA is so powerful is because of NRA’s principled application of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to the defense of the Second. NRA advances the case for the individual right, natural law meaning of the Second Amendment by the effective application of the social action schematic established by the First Amendment. Mainstream journalists who attack NRA – who see themselves as enshrined and elevated in the social hierarchy above those who write for weblogs – often using disparaging phrases like, “gossip mongers” and “tellers of tales” when referring to weblog writers – clearly see themselves as distinctly superior to other news writers, believing, apparently, that the word, ‘press,’ as it appears in the First Amendment, only applies to them. These mainstream news journalists don’t seem to note the irony in their remarks. For, it’s the weblogs that, all too often, provide real news; and it’s the mainstream media that fills the print medium and the airwaves with false news – mere propaganda – false news that aims to mold public thought and opinion rather than create a neutral platform upon which the American citizen might exercise his own critical faculties to discern the truth.
And what are the First Amendment guarantees for Americans? The First Amendment guarantees to all Americans the fundamental right to voluntarily associate, free of any system of beliefs established by government; the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans the fundamental right to discuss, promote and publish their ideas; the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans the fundamental right to peacefully petition government officials and representatives for needed change. The Founders of our Republic did not intend for “the press” to function as a propaganda implement – an institution to be operated by a privileged few in order to gain control everyone else. But, this is what the “press” qua “mainstream media” has become – a mechanism of control. This mechanism of control comprises a slew of mass media professionals, employed by plutocrats, who give these “professional journalists” one salient task: brainwash the American citizenry. And these “professional journalists” do so with impunity, in accordance with their masters’ dictates. That is most unfortunate. However, what is fortunate is that a person need not have a license to practice the craft of journalism. In that respect journalism is unlike the professions of law or medicine. And that truly is fortunate.
Today, the twin freedoms: freedom of the press + freedom of speech give the People a voice – a voice that provides the People with a counterweight to the lies perpetrated by those that think “freedom of the press” applies only to an institution – an institution they control, an institution under the sway of a privileged few – a privileged few that seeks, through their control of the “press,” the means to amass ever more power and authority for themselves at the expense of the American citizenry. And, with that power, these privileged few seek to control the lives of the many.
NRA SAFEGUARDS OUR REPUBLIC
The role for voluntary associations such as NRA in the healthy democratic social order is therefore not only important, it is vital to the safeguarding of the Republic as envisioned by the Founders and as etched in stone in that Republic’s Bill of Rights. NRA is above all an informational node. It publishes magazines, hosts websites and webcasts news services that have millions of subscribers. It provides information to lawmakers and policymakers. It dispenses educational information to students, citizens and firearm safety trainers. It targets information and makes it available where it will do the most good. It promotes meetings and democratic discussion, both in its national seminars, but also in it alliances and affiliations with numerous local and State associations. Without this sort of small and local group structure that allows immediate and small group discussion between equals – there is no effective democracy and our Republic falls. The historical roots of American Gun Culture and NRA go together seamlessly. They work so very well because they infuse the very power of democratic ideas, information, reasoned discussion and participation. The American citizenry is empowered to join in as true participants, not merely as passive observers of distant events, staged by “their betters” – the plutocrats in Washington. This makes for a true democratic society. For, it is the American citizenry that sets the agenda – an agenda that serves the American citizenry’s interests. This paradigm is not only to be preferred, it is essential. For, if it is the plutocrats in Washington who set the agenda – then, the agenda envisioned will serve the interests of a few, and those interests do not extend to preserving the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Those interests do not extend to preserving the Bill of Rights at all. Those interests do not extend to maintaining a democratic Republic. Rather, that agenda is focused on negating all rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. When it comes to Informational Democracy, NRA not only better serves the citizenry – as it is the American citizenry that has an essential role in and takes an active part in the functioning of the NRA – the NRA’s interests coincide with and embrace the very preservation of and strengthening of the Second Amendment upon which the other Nine Amendments remain secure. Knowledge is Power. The NRA provides the public with the truth concerning the American citizen’s rights under the U.S. Constitution. So, it stands to reason that the forces that seek to crush the U.S. Constitution would seek to undermine the ability of NRA to proffer truth to the American public.
WHY IS NRA THE FOCUS OF ATTACK?
NRA is a threat to the plutocrats because NRA exposes the plutocrats’ lies and their disruptive goals to the American people. Now the plutocrats who seek to control the American citizenry cannot – at least at this time – directly attack the NRA because an attack against NRA’s principals is an attack against the Bill of Rights. They cannot overtly take umbrage with NRA’s assertion that NRA wishes to protect a sacred cornerstone of the Bill of Rights. So, what do they do? They attack the NRA not-so-obliquely through caustic remarks such as: the NRA only wants to sell guns; the NRA is against sensible gun control laws; the NRA lobbies on behalf of gun manufacturers and not on behalf of Americans; and the NRA isn’t serious about reducing gun violence in America. Implicit in these remarks, and others like them, is the notion that the NRA’s primary purpose and function – its modern day raison d’etre, is political influence and legislative action. If so, why is that?
Now, it’s certainly true the NRA operates in the political arena, albeit that isn’t its only reason for its existence in the 21st Century. But the NRA’s political operation isn’t something its members or officers had originally sought to do or wished to do. Rather, the NRA was reluctantly compelled to enter the political arena by groups that are themselves politically motivated and, in fact, have no reason to exist other than to defeat the Second Amendment and by extension – to defeat the greatest protector of the Second Amendment – the NRA.
THE MYRIAD THREADS OF NRA COME TOGETHER
If there is a central theme running through the myriad marksmanship and training programs offered and sponsored by the NRA, that theme is reflected in this assertion, as presented prominently on the NRA website: “The National Rifle Association is America’s longest-standing civil rights organization. We’re proud defenders of history’s patriots and diligent protectors of the Second Amendment.”
WHENCE THE ANTIGUN GROUPS?
Curiously, the antigun lobbies and PACS, unlike the NRA, which is well over one century old, are of recent vintage. One of the oldest, “The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence,” is only 40 years old, as it proudly trumpets its 40th Anniversary on its website. Another, “The Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence” is scarcely 14 years old. “The Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence” is but one and one-half years old – a baby. And, another group, “the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence” that started in 1973, is 40 years old. Perhaps the most famous – or infamous organization – is “the Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence.” It started in 1974 as the “National Committee to Control Handguns.”
One begins to see a curious theme here. Most of these antigun groups had their start in the 1970s. Was this just happenstance, or was there another hand at work here, mapping out strategies to undermine and destroy the Second Amendment? Furthermore, while these groups all claim that the greater threat to civility in this Country is the “Gun Lobby,” code for the NRA – as that is how these groups prefer to call the NRA, as we’ve seen – one can see as well that it’s the antigun groups themselves that, truly, are nothing more than lobbying arms and politically motivated action committees for the plutocrats. And that’s all they are. These groups, as fronts for cabals of powerful forces both within the Country and outside it, realize that, in order to undercut the Second Amendment, it is necessary to defeat the NRA. So, the NRA, on behalf of millions of Americans, who wish nothing more than to secure their rights under the Bill of Rights – and that means securing all Ten Amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment – was compelled, reluctantly, to enter the political arena – to become a political force – a considerable political force – to be reckoned with in its own right.
MYTH AND TRUTH PLAY OUT
So, on balance, we see truth and myth played out. The NRA’s goals are straightforward and virtuous: to preserve and protect the integrity of the Second Amendment. Contrariwise, the myriad antigun groups, springing up virtually at the same time – during the 1970s – have had and, today, continue to have, one goal: the destruction of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That is their salient aim. That is their reason for being. And, in that singular disingenuous pursuit, they have operated as and they continue to operate as top-down propaganda campaigns, financed by plutocrats and ideologues.
The one force that can and has stopped them is the NRA. These groups know it, and American citizens know it. The question is: who or what is behind these antigun groups? It is obvious that the stated purpose of these political groups – to prevent gun violence – is nothing more than a blind. We already have hundreds of so-called commonsense gun laws: laws banning felons, the violent and the mentally ill from possessing or purchasing guns. We also have background checks. But, the plutocrats, through their antigun front groups, constantly scream for more. Obviously, it isn’t violent crimes with guns that motivate these plutocrats, even if the dupes who do their bidding buy into the lies propagated. Many of the anti-gunners seem to believe in absolute centralized governmental power, and that all rights do spring from and are distributed by government. This idea is an anathema to the founders of the Republic and inconsistent with the principles of Liberty as set in stone in our sacred Bill of Rights. These people believe it anyway. These people obviously have no use for the idea of natural inalienable rights. And the puppet masters who pull their strings want to pull yours as well. They wish to dictate behavior for all Americans. And in that process, they want to destroy your Rights.
WHAT, THEN, MUST WE DO TO CURB THE EROSION OF OUR RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES?
Most Americans understand the nature of this danger lurking in shadows, the nature of the danger hidden in the seemingly benign call for purported “commonsense gun laws” – laws that in their very mode of expression – in their very essence – do nothing but erode the citizen’s basic freedoms, independence, personal autonomy: erode the sanctity and inalienable right of each individual American to be individual.
Americans must fight these false flag groups at every turn. There is power in information and in knowledge, and in a true civil society. The NRA is our best ally in that effort. The NRA is your best ally in that effort. Whether you have a gun in your possession or not is unimportant. And, it’s unimportant whether you care ever to purchase a gun. What is important – what is critical to the existence of our Democratic Republic – is the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights must be preserved – indeed strengthened – at every turn. The Bill of Rights consists of Ten Amendments. The NRA’s efforts preserve and protect all of them – not just the Second Amendment. And, your membership dollars is an investment in the preservation of the Bill of Rights – all ten of them. So, the next time you feel that one week’s worth of café lattes at Starbucks is more important to your personal well-being than the cost of an annual membership in the NRA, recall that thought as you wake up one morning and read in the newspaper that the Bill of Rights has been preempted by Federal Statute, International Pacts and Treaties, and Presidential Executive Orders and Signing Statements. Those café lattes will probably taste a tad bitter.
Keep in mind, by giving NRA a few dollars you’re not doing NRA a favor. NRA is doing you a favor! America’s Bill of Rights is uniquely American. It’s your birthright. Don’t let anyone take your Birthright from you! Support the NRA! Join now![separator type=”medium” style=”normal” align=”left”margin-bottom=”25″ margin_top=”5″] Copyright © 2014 Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) and Brian Anse Patrick, Ph.D., Professor, University of Toledo All Rights Reserved.