Today’s follow-up column on firearms by Seattle Times writer Jerry Large got a reaction from one reader that is so far off the mark as to rank right near the top of any list delineating myths, misunderstandings and downright falsehoods about the National Rifle Association.
In the reader comment section, someone signing in as “Thuja500” says this: “I remember well when the NRA saw guns through the prism of race. In the 1960s, when the Black Panthers were sporting guns, the NRA drooled all over itself in favor of the idea of regulating what they called ‘Saturday Night Specials’ that they felt black people had access to. So there certainly is a prism of race involved.”
Attempting to portray the NRA as a racist organization falls flat with even a cursory look at actual history. As noted by writer Jack Lee at PolicyMic in January of last year, “While African Americans were being terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan, where the Klan were sometimes aided by local law enforcement, the NRA setup charters to help train local African American communities to be able protect themselves.”
According to Lee, “The most prominent case” unfolded in 1960 in Monroe, N.C. There, he said, “the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People head Robert Williams also chartered an NRA Rifle Club that successully defended an assault on one of their leader’s homes by the KKK without casualties.”
Likewise, in December 2012, Jack Holt writing at The Gateway Pundit, also corrected the record on NRA’s alleged racism. One stroll through the NRA exhibits last month in Indianapolis would seriously put the hurt on such allegations as the audience was rather diverse and NRA officials and staff could best be described as color blind as they chatted it up with members who clearly represented the proverbial “broad spectrum.” Attempts to portray NRA as an "old white guys' club" are also false, as last month's Indy crowd included thousands of women, many with children in tow, and the kids were loving it.
The embattled proprietor at a Maryland gun shop reacted to alleged death threats and other angry reaction to his brief interest in a new so-called “smart gun” from Armatix. In a video found via The Gun Wire, the gun shop owner intimated that the NRA among others wanted to prohibit a “smart gun” that Armitix is attempting to market.
Actually, the NRA released a statement some weeks ago about “smart gun” technology that said this: “NRA does not oppose new technological developments in firearms; however, we are opposed to government mandates that require the use of expensive, unreliable features, such as rigging a firearm so that it could not fire unless it received an electronic signal from an electronic bracelet worn by the firearm’s lawful owner.”
The statement added, “NRA recognizes that the ‘smart guns’ issue clearly has the potential to mesh with the anti-gunner's agenda, opening the door to a ban on all guns that do not possess the government-required technology (which itself is susceptible to abuse, including the remote tracking and disabling of firearms).”
This column has noted the position of grassroots gun rights activists who contend that until “smart gun” technology is reliable enough to be used by the President’s Secret Service detail, and by street cops, it should not be mandated for use by private citizens. Nobody, including NRA, has said “smart guns” should be banned. What they’ve said is that they should not be required. It would be like having the government mandate ownership of cars built by Ford or Chevrolet, while saying you couldn’t own a Toyota, Mercedes Benz or Subaru.
In today’s Times, Large asserts, “The Constitution was written to create a more effective federal government, but some people worried the government would trample on the rights of states and individuals. The Bill of Rights was intended to mollify them and make ratification of the Constitution possible.”
There might be some interesting arguments on that contention. The Bill of Rights was intended to place limits on government and protect the rights of individuals, many scholars explain. This includes the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Large notes, “Some were particularly concerned that the federal government would form a standing army, and they wanted assurances that state militias would be in a position to fight against such an army if it came to that.”
That is hardly the only reason the Second Amendment was spelled out, but protecting the independence and capabilities of the local militia certainly was among the reasons. Still, the amendment was not about protecting the rights of states to form militias.
Large quotes an attorney who told him in a message, “Don’t blame the framers," he wrote. “For 217 years, the law under the 2nd Amendment was that it only protected possession or use of a firearm by ‘well-regulated militia’ forces. ...” Perhaps that fellow should read a marvelous book titled “Supreme Court Gun Cases” that offers a considerably different perspective.
The NRA may not be everyone’s favorite organization, and the Second Amendment has been misunderstood and deliberately misrepresented by gun prohibitionists for many years. Such folks would never join the NRA, and they live in denial about whose rights the Second Amendment protects.