Thursday, March 31, 2016

NRA Historically In Favor of Gun Control: What Happened To the Balance of Gun Rights and Gun Control?


The United States of America – a place where gun violence rages. The U.S. firearm homiciderate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population. All good citizens must agree that something needs to be done to preventthis from happening every day – 31 Americans are murdered with guns and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room."

(Richardson, Erin G., and David Hemenway, “Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Firearm Fatality: Comparing the United States With Other High-Income Countries, 2003,” Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. June 2010)
What if I would tell you that the Founding Fathers instituted gun laws so intrusive that the NRA would not endorse them today? Well, not only did the founding generation deny gun ownership to many people like slaves and free blacks, but they also denied guns to law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution.

Adam Winkler, professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law, says, “Historically, the leadership of the NRA was more open-minded about gun control than someone familiar with the modern NRA might imagine. The Second Amendment was not nearly as central to the NRA’s identity for most of the organization’s history.”

Winkler explains ...

“For those men who were allowed to own guns, the Founders had their own version of the 'individual mandate': they required the purchase of guns. A 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and, yes, registered on public rolls."

(Adam Winkler. “The Secret History of Guns.” The Atlantic. September 2011.) 

In his book Gunfight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America, Winkler says history shows that the NRA was more open-minded about gun control than someone familiar with the modern NRA might imagine.

For most of the 20th century, the NRA helped to write most of the federal laws restricting gun use. Journalist Steven Rosenfeld, author of Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting, says in the 1920s and 1930s, the NRA’s leaders helped write and lobby for the first federal gun control laws – the very kinds of laws that the modern NRA labels as “the height of tryanny.”

(Steven Rosenfeld. “The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA.” AlterNet Report.
January 13, 2013.)

State gun control laws were once the norm. Within a generation of the country’s founding, many states passed laws banning any citizen from carrying a concealed gun. A new president in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt, made fighting crime and gun control part of his ‘New Deal.’ The NRA helped him draft the first federal gun controls: 1934’s National Firearms Act and 1938’s Gun Control Act.

The NRA President at the time, Karl T. Frederick, a 1920 Olympic gold-medal winner for marksmanship who became a lawyer, praised the new state gun controls in Congress. “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons,” he testified before the 1938 law was passed. “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

The legal doctrine of gun rights balanced by gun controls held for nearly a half-century.

Rosenfeld recalls one of the most tragic crimes of gun violence in the history of our nation and the NRA response ...

“In November 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President John F. Kennedy with an Italian military surplus rifle that Owsald bought from a mail-order ad in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine. In congressional hearings that soon followed, NRA Executive Vice-President Frankin Orth supported a ban in mail-order sales, saying, 'We do think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.'”

“But no new federal gun control laws came until 1968. The assassinations of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy were the tipping point, coming after several summers of race-related riots in American cities. The nation’s white political elite feared that violence was too prevalent and there were too many people—especially urban Black nationalists—with access to guns. In May 1967, two dozen Black Panther Party members walked into the California Statehouse carrying rifles to protest a gun-control bill, prompting then-Gov. Ronald Reagan to comment, 'There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.'

“The Gun Control Act of 1968 reauthorized and deepened the FDR-era gun control laws. It added a minimum age for gun buyers, required guns have serial numbers and expanded people barred from owning guns from felons to include the mentally ill and drug addicts. Only federally licensed dealers and collectors could ship guns over state lines. People buying certain kinds of bullets had to show I.D. But the most stringent proposals—a national registry of all guns (which some states had in colonial times) and mandatory licenses for all gun carriers—were not in it. The NRA blocked these measures. Orth told America Riflemen magazine that while part of the law 'appears unduly restrictive, the measure as a whole appears to be one that the sportsmen of America can live with.'”

(Steven Rosenfeld. “The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA.” AlterNet Report. 
January 13, 2013.)

But in the mid-1960s, the Black Panthers were better-known than the NRA for expressing that view of the Second Amendment. Rosenfeld says, “White libertarians started to assert that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to guns—like the Black Panthers. But, of course, they were seeking to keep America’s white gun owners fully armed.”

But then …

In 1971, ATF raided a lifetime NRA member’s house who was suspected of having a large illegal arms cache and shot and killed him. This helped ignite a split to widen inside the NRA. Gun dealers thought they were being harassed. Rural states felt they were being unduly punished for urban America’s problems.

As a result ...

In 1975, the NRA created a new lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, under Harlon B. Carter, a tough-minded former chief of the U.S. Border Patrol who shared the libertarian goal of expanding gun owners’ rights. Burdick writes that “by 1976, the political rhetoric had gained momentum and the bicentennial year brought out a new NRA campaign, ‘designed to enroll defenders of the right to keep and bear arms’ in numbers equal to ‘the ranks of the patriots who fought in the American Revolution.’”

And so on and so on.


The gun violence increases and so does the debate over the Second Amendment and what needs to be done to insure proper gun ownership while taking firearms from criminals intent on using them.

I suggest reading an article called“The Right To Bear Arms” by Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States (1969-86) which appeared in Parade Magazine, January 14, 1990. Here is part of the Chief Justice's article:

“In the two centuries since then -- with two world wars and some lesser ones -- it has become clear, sadly, that we have no choice but to maintain a standing national army while still maintaining a "militia" by way of the National Guard, which can be swiftly integrated into the national defense forces. 

“Americans also have a right to defend their homes, and we need not challenge that. Nor does anyone seriously question that the Constitution protects the right of hunters to own and keep sporting guns for hunting game any more than anyone would challenge the right to own and keep fishing rods and other equipment for fishing -- or to own automobiles. To "keep and bear arms" for hunting today is essentially a recreational activity and not an imperative of survival, as it was 200 years ago; 'Saturday night specials' and machine guns are not recreational weapons and surely are as much in need of regulation as motor vehicles. 

“Americans should ask themselves a few questions. The Constitution does not mention automobiles or motorboats, but the right to keep and own an automobile is beyond question; equally beyond question is the power of the state to regulate the purchase or the transfer of such a vehicle and the right to license the vehicle and the driver with reasonable standards. In some places, even a bicycle must be registered, as must some household dogs. 

“If we are to stop this mindless homicidal carnage, is it unreasonable:
  1. to provide that, to acquire a firearm, an application be made reciting age, residence, employment and any prior criminal convictions?
  2. to required that this application lie on the table for 10 days (absent a showing for urgent need) before the license would be issued?
  3. that the transfer of a firearm be made essentially as with that of a motor vehicle?
  4. to have a "ballistic fingerprint" of the firearm made by the manufacturer and filed with the license record so that, if a bullet is found in a victim's body, law enforcement might be helped in finding the culprit?
“These are the kind of questions the American people must answer if we are to preserve the "domestic tranquillity" promised in the Constitution.”

(Click here to read the entire article:

I hear the argument that “nothing will stop criminals from obtaining and using guns in their deadly activities, so no gun control will work.” The main point of this argument is that criminals do not follow laws; therefore, laws restricting gun ownership and types of guns would only hurt those who follow them.
  • This implies that areas with more restrictive gun laws should have more crime given that an armed populace deters criminals.
  • This notion is connected with the idea of “gun-free” zones and that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
True, there is no way to defeat the reality of the argument that “criminals don’t obey laws.” But, clearly, some criminals obey some laws some of the time; this is the nature of incentive explicit in law enforcement. With proper gun control either potential criminals are deterred from crime, or existing criminals are deterred from crime. Society must recognize that change can improve present deplorable conditions.

Gun proponents view “criminals don't obey laws” as an acceptable argument in political debate.
That is a nonsensical paradox. The paradox is as follows:
  1. Law-abiding citizens obey the law
  2. Criminals are lawbreakers, and thus do not obey the law
  3. Laws impose restrictions on the behavior of only those that follow them
  4. Laws, therefore, only hurt law-abiding citizens

     Could not every law be refuted with the lawbreaker’s paradox? For example, laws against rape, murder, and theft are rarely followed by rapists, murderers, and thieves, but the fact that such people exist in society is the reason behind such regulations in the first place.
To think that the minor inconvenience of gun reforms such as background checks, waiting periods, and assault weapon bans is more burdensome than the death of thousands of innocent civilians each year (which such reforms seek to redress) reflects a miscalibrated sense of what matters in the world.

After all, when gun advocates say that they are being ‘hurt’ by gun control, let’s be clear what the actual implication of this statement is: my right to not be bothered in the least by regulation outweighs the right to life for thousands of innocents who die in the absence of said regulation.

Not only can such gun reforms reduce the number of homicides, but there is very little controversy about the tremendous effect they would have at reducing suicides. So, the belief that laws aimed at saving lives 'hurt law-abiding citizens' is completely incompatible with any sane definition of right and wrong.

Even with tighter control of guns, will gun crimes and gun violence continue? Of course they will. Yet, how does a nation that has developed a violent gun mentality refuse to open a meaningful dialogue on this carnage? Those with a Second Amendment “no inch given” philosophy fueled by the NRA that denies all new, proposed gun reform stifle efforts to change the climate of violence in America. Responsibilities go hand in hand with freedoms. What used to be a very responsible group has changed its open-minded understandings to closed-minded fatalism.

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