View Full Version : All Fired Up Washington post return volley after wednesday pro article

June 4, 2000, 09:02 PM
All Fired Up http://www.washingtonpost.com/cgi-bin/gx.cgi/AppLogic+FTContentServer?pagename=wpni/print&articleid=A58626-2000Jun3
By Osha Gray Davidson

Sunday , June 4, 2000 ; B01

I was 10 years old the first time I fired a gun. It was love at first shot.

I loved the heft of the well-made .22-caliber bolt-action rifle. I loved the loud crack of the explosion when I squeezed the trigger, and the puff of smoke from the muzzle. I even grew to love the acrid smell of
the spent gunpowder.

But most of all, I loved that I was able to hit the target dead center nearly every time. I was something of a Wunderkind at Camp Esther K. Newman on the Nebraska prairie in the summer of 1964. Being
the top marksman was an intoxicating experience for a boy who had previously associated sports with a single emotion: humiliation. And then there were the shiny brass medals I earned as I steadily shot
my way up the ranking system: Pro-Marksman, Marksman, Marksman-First Class. Stamped across each medal were three words: National Rifle Association.

Today those words are freighted with political baggage--both self-generated and imposed by outsiders--but back then I barely noticed them. All I knew about the NRA was that it sponsored the camp
shooting program. And, in fact, there wasn't a whole lot more to know about the gun group of that era. It did some lobbying against gun control measures, but by and large the NRA was then primarily a
hunting and sport-shooting organization. In 1968, when Congress was considering banning mail-order gun sales, the NRA's leader, retired Army general Franklin Orth, testified before a House
committee--in favor of the bill. "We do not think any sane American, who calls himself an American," declared the general, "can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the
United States." Orth was referring to long rifles like the Mannlicher-Carcano that Lee Harvey Oswald used to kill John F. Kennedy. As it happens, Oswald bought the weapon through a mail-order ad in the
NRA's American Rifleman magazine.

One wonders what Orth, a model of spit-and-polish military rectitude, would think of today's NRA, whose leaders malign federal law enforcement officers as "jack-booted government thugs," allege that the
president of the United States is "willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda" and oppose virtually all gun control legislation.

My guess? He'd think they're nuts. He'd also raise an eyebrow, I bet, over the NRA's decision to thrust itself squarely into the fall elections by attacking Vice President Gore's presidential run and by
launching a multimillion-dollar stealth campaign in support of George W. Bush and congressional candidates in 20 states.

I come to those conclusions as a former NRA member, and as a journalist who spent a decade researching the group and writing a book about its tumultuous, fascinating and increasingly radical history.

Whatever your opinion of the gun lobby, let's stipulate this fact: In the past 25 years, the group has been extraordinarily effective in preventing the enactment of meaningful gun laws, especially after
hard-core extremists took over the NRA in 1977 and booted out the more moderate hunters and sport shooters in the leadership at the group's annual meeting in Cincinnati. To gauge the NRA's success,
just look at the only gun control legislation pending in Congress. Partisans have been battling for more than a year over a bill that would do . . . what? Require background checks on prospective purchasers
at gun shows. Ye gods! For all the hyperbolic rhetoric, you'd think this wisp of a bill called for the immediate confiscation of all guns--right down to my old .22.

Which is exactly what the NRA tells its members.

The NRA's power comes in large part from convincing its membership of this axiomatic deception: that any gun bill, no matter how mild or reasonable, is the first step down a slippery slope that ends in
total gun confiscation and the establishment of a police state. This NRA-induced paranoia explains the bizarre T-shirt so popular at the the group's annual convention last month in Charlotte. The shirt
features a picture of Adolf Hitler striking the Seig Heil salute, over the caption "All in Favor of Gun Control, Raise Your Right Hand."

Gun control = Nazi tyranny. Not a bad equation for whipping up the troops. Or for recruiting members who'll fork over a minimum of $35 a year to stop National Socialism, er, gun control. That fee is just
the first installment in this crusade. Members are subject to a never-ending barrage of fundraising letters, known as "action alerts," each a variation on the same apocalyptic theme: Without your immediate
help (check, cash or credit card accepted), the barbarians will be goose-stepping through the gates by nightfall!

If you haven't seen these appeals and think I'm exaggerating, here are a few examples:

"[O]ur government creeps toward authoritarian rule. . . . Wake up, America! Little by little, your freedom and safety are being robbed . . . "

"[G]ood people . . . could have their doors kicked in and their property taken by a police state driven by masters of deceit. . . ."

"[T]he time has come for the showdown of the century. Will you fight, or will you fold?"

Most NRA members don't know that for many members of the group's top leadership, the fight isn't really about government tyranny. It's largely about increasing the NRA's revenue stream.

Take the NRA's top staffer, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. He wrote the infamous fundraising letter (mailed a month before one-time NRA member Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P.
Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people) that called Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents "jack-booted government thugs." And he recently claimed that President Clinton
desires a certain number of gun deaths each year. Pretty extreme stuff.

But when LaPierre and I sat down for a one-on-one interview several years ago, I found that in person he is soft-spoken, and, in his hand-tailored suit, wingtips and aviator-style glasses, looks more like the
CEO of a Fortune 500 company than the head of a gun lobby. Even more surprising, LaPierre was far less familiar with guns than I was at Camp Newman. He's the first NRA leader who came to the group
with a love not of firearms, but of politics. A former campaign manager, he was on the board of the American Association of Political Consultants. With LaPierre at the helm, it's clear that the NRA's
metamorphosis from a sportsmen's group to a political lobby is complete. In recent years, the shift in priorities has meant a shift in resources from traditional NRA programs, such as hunting clinics and
assistance in setting up target ranges, to the group's lobbying wing, causing disaffection among its more traditional members.

But the NRA's fear-mongering appears to be paying off. The organization boasts that it raised $10 million in a recent six-week period, money it plans to use to help put Bush in the White House in

The NRA also claims its membership rolls have skyrocketed from 2.6 million members in 1998 to a record of 3.6 million today. I don't doubt that the group has added some members as the debate on gun
control has heated up. But the numbers deserve closer scrutiny. First, what the NRA doesn't mention is that in 1994 it had more than 3.5 million members, and then lost 25 percent of them over the next four
years as gun owners abandoned the group for a variety of reasons, including embarrassment over the NRA's extremist rhetoric, which was publicly scrutinized following the Oklahoma City bombing. So
today's "all-time high" figure, as the NRA calls it, is only a slight improvement over its 1994 figures. And as a proportion of the American population, membership is down.

There are far more serious problems with the figures. Two years ago, David Gross, then an NRA board member, confided to me that a substantial number of the group's 1 million Life Members are, well,
dead--an assertion reported in my book. "There just isn't that much incentive to go find out when someone passes away," Gross explained. "Not when the cost of maintaining [a dead member] is minimal
and when they add to your membership list."

Then there's the fact that not long ago the NRA switched accounting methods, including on its roster anyone who had made an installment payment toward life membership, where previously it had counted
only fully paid members. Only the NRA knows how much the switch boosted its membership. Who else is included in that figure of 3.6 million? I may be--although I haven't been a member for years. Not
long ago, I received an NRA form letter stating that in recognition of my previous commitment to the Second Amendment, the gun group had granted me an honorary membership. The mailing even
included an NRA membership card embossed with my name.

Partial members, former members, dead members: It's all part of the NRA's campaign of smoke and mirrors to make itself appear more formidable in Washington, where appearance often trumps reality.
The NRA leadership must offer a silent prayer of thanks to the gods of journalistic sloth and credulity every time a reporter repeats that figure of 3.6 million members and the words "record high."

But let's forget the problem of membership inflation and, for the sake of argument, just accept the NRA's assertion that things have never been better. With that concession, a far more important question
emerges: Is what's good for the NRA good for gun owners? I don't think so.

It's true that in the short term the NRA's fortunes and the interests of gun owners sometimes do converge. A powerful NRA has managed to shoot down most recent gun control legislation, but some of the
NRA's victories have hurt gun owners--sometimes literally. For example: Thanks to the NRA's efforts, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is prohibited from regulating firearms. Through that
NRA-engineered loophole passed the Ruger Old Model six-shooter, which, because of a design defect, has a history of firing when dropped. The company sold 1.5 million of the guns before it halted
production in 1972. More than 600 people (mostly the guns' owners) have been accidentally shot by this defective handgun, for which--again thanks to the NRA--there exists no recall provisions. That's
because the NRA opposes any laws making gun manufactures accountable to gun owners, citing the familiar "slippery slope" theory. This bias toward manufacturers owes more to the bottom line than it
does to the Second Amendment. Gun makers are well represented on the NRA board and a significant portion of NRA revenue comes from advertisements bought by this industry.

It's in the long term, however, that the NRA's interests and those of the average gun owner diverge most. For decades, polls have indicated that a majority of Americans favor stronger gun control legislation.
But proponents weren't as committed to passing laws as NRA members were to blocking them. As NRA board member Robert Brown (whose day job is publishing Soldier of Fortune, a magazine for
mercenaries) observed: "It doesn't matter what the mainstream is. What is important is, who will vote?"

The NRA is betting that the future will forever mirror the past, with gun control advocates unable to harness mainstream sentiment on Election Day. But this confidence appears more misplaced all the time.
Americans, particularly women, and even more particularly suburban women who vote, have grown increasingly impatient with congressional inaction after a string of schoolyard massacres culminating last
year in 13 dead at Columbine. The NRA spin doctors have tried to downplay the significance of the recent Million Mom March, dubbing the event that brought several hundred thousand people to
Washington calling for more stringent gun control, the Misinformed Mom March.

The wise gun owner, however, will see the march for what it was--a symptom of widespread and growing frustration with the NRA's extremism and unwillingness to compromise on common-sense,
reasonable gun control measures. There have been other signs, including one a year ago in gun-friendly Missouri, where voters rejected a "concealed carry" bill--despite the fact that the NRA had poured
millions into that referendum.

The NRA's response to this groundswell is shrill and predictable: The Second Amendment is under attack! Circle the wagons! Send money! But this tactic merely heightens polarization on this already
divisive issue, a situation that benefits no one--except the NRA. It certainly doesn't help responsible gun owners, who are increasingly perceived as being outside the mainstream, thanks to the gun lobby's
histrionics. When NRA President Charlton Heston hoisted a musket over his head at the group's convention last month and roared "from my cold dead hands!" he merely reinforced the view that all gun
owners are cliche-spouting buffoons, unable or unwilling to discuss rationally how to balance gun rights with responsibilities.

Gun owners should understand that the will of the majority can be bottled up for only so long. And when it breaks through, as it inevitably will, the results might be gun control measures far tougher than
anything advocated today by mainstream groups such as Handgun Control. By constantly fighting a battle against an illusory slippery slope, the NRA is leading gun owners over a very real cliff of
Draconian gun legislation, demanded by a citizenry sick and tired of gun violence, disgusted by the NRA's extremism and no longer in the mood to compromise.

And then, the NRA will gnash its teeth and scream bloody murder, crying, "We told you so!" But, for all the NRA's protestations, the political landscape it will deplore will be of its own making. And gun
owners who didn't speak up and protest the NRA's extremism will share the blame.

Osha Gray Davidson is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Iowa and the author of "Under Fire: The NRA and the Battle for Gun Control" (University of Iowa Press).

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

Jeff Thomas
June 4, 2000, 10:15 PM
Hmmm ... anyone read the man's book?

Well, I think the NRA is a long ways from perfection, but Davidson seems pretty naive. The 'illusory slippery slope'? Has Davidson been paying attention to the proposed and passed legislation in the last few years at the local, state and national levels? Has he taken any notice of the hysteria and misinformation spouted by the anti-self defense movement?

Handgun Control is a 'mainstream group'? Wow.

I'm showing my own naivete here ... something about Davidson doesn't add up. I'd expect this kind of drivel from the Washington Post, but what is the story on this guy? (DC ... do you know?)

Oh, and I will agree with him on one thing. The NRA 'action alerts' constantly warning of the end of civilization as we know it have become pretty tiresome. I'm convinced that I could send those guys a check for $1 million with a request to leave me alone, and I'd get those same darn letters, every month. ;)

Regards from AZ

June 4, 2000, 10:43 PM
No, this guy does not add up. You note the drivel about "reasonable gun control", P.C. New Speak.He doesn't know how to speak about firearms in any other way than he has be mentored. He's not a shooter and never a NRA member, even in the supposed good old days.
He's trying to convince people in Washington that the NRA is a fanatic organization out of touch with real shooters and corrupt to boot, a message crafted in the halls of HCI and Clinton's White House.
He's a slick liar though.
Just like Slick Willie himself, the claim of shooting a 22 when he was at camp back in '64 is supposed to give him credentials as a "real sportsman". This is pure bull and I say he is just as bad a liar as his mentor.

[This message has been edited by Herodotus (edited June 05, 2000).]

June 4, 2000, 11:30 PM
Found the following on him. My impression is that he is a liberal dilettante.
http://www.oshadavidson.com/ :

Osha Gray Davidson writes on a wide range of topics including
coral reefs, the NRA and gun control, race relations, and rural
problems and the farm crisis. His work has appeared in The New
York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New
Republic, The Progressive, Woman's Day, The Miami Herald,
The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Baltimore Sun and many other
publications. He recently started writing screenplays and is
represented by Creative Artists Agency. For books, he is
represented by the Alison Picard Literary Agency and is a member
of the National Writer's Union. Davidson lives in Iowa City, Iowa,
where he is an adjunct associate professor in International Programs, the University of
Amazon.com summary (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN%3D0877456461/goodbooksbadbookA/103-4009713-0510253)

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes" RKBA!

June 5, 2000, 07:11 AM
It would be cool if this guy would come back to Nebraska. We need something to shoot untill deer season opens again.
"Now theres a good liberal...good 'n dead"

June 5, 2000, 08:16 AM
Ho Hum, another anti-gunner claiming to have once been a member of the NRA (back in the good ole days, when we were just sportsmen w/o any regard to preserving our liberties).
Yea right-and Klinton http://www.thefiringline.com/NonCGI/barf.gif really is a duck hunter!:
He says,"[T]he NRA's
metamorphosis from a sportsmen's group to a political lobby is complete"
It seems to me that this role was pretty much forced upon the NRA. I and many others, I am sure, would welcome a return to the days when we didn't need a strong lobby fighting for our liberties. To deny that the goal of the anti-gun groups is to completely disarm the American citizenry is folly, especially when they use Japan, England, and Australia as a model for their gun-free utopia.

"Pathfinders Light the Way!"

[This message has been edited by Allen_Raiford (edited June 05, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by Allen_Raiford (edited June 05, 2000).]

[This message has been edited by Allen_Raiford (edited June 05, 2000).]

June 5, 2000, 02:23 PM
Go ahead and kid yourselves, but there are alot of pro-gunners who feel this way about the NRA.

I think the pro-gun lobby had better figure out what to do with those of us who don't think talking about "jack-booted thugs" and "cold dead hands" represent us.

June 5, 2000, 04:11 PM
Funny thing is, I think the NRA has become LESS extreme.

I mean, take a 1968 NRA member and ban a bunch of guns and throw Brady down his throat - different story!!

They're tolerating a lot more gun control than they used to.

Fact is, the NRA is facing a ban that's going to take away the rest, there really is no more ground to give. Yes, most gun-owners are stupid, "it'll never happen ehre" - "they should stop being so extreme".

Well, they weren't extreme in Australia at all, licenced, registered, confiscated. They made it a lot harder to get a gun to cull the numbers of gun owners.


June 5, 2000, 04:34 PM
Hey, I just saw my first "Pukin smiley face". Very appropriately used too! So the NRA, doesn't speak for everyone, what's new. We're all different and I don't expect any group could please us all. But one important fact I have learned in the past year. As gun owners, we had better all pull togeather on the current issues we face with the gun control issues. Right now the point man is the NRA. If that encourages or repells good, but the point is they're making people think. All gunowners need only to look to our neighbors to see what is down the road and if that doesn't scare you then you best spend some more time reading the sheer number of bills befor Congress and the house at this very moment. I for one don't want to bury my collection like they're doing in Canada right now. I choose to protect my rights. Write the Washington post and tell them what you think. If you're not a member of the NRA let them know but for all of our sakes,for your sake, for the sake of your children and this country,tell them as a gun owner you are against any group that would take away your rights to Keep and Bear Arms!

June 5, 2000, 09:06 PM
DC: Thanks for the bio.
Note that he writes about "the NRA and Gun Control", not about firearms, hunting, shooting sports, the 2nd Amendment, etc.
I also reread his article pretty carefully. Note that he is very careful (though you wouldn't notice in a casual reading) to ever imply that he ever actually owned a firearm. I'll guess that he never did, though I don't know what his definition of "is" is, if you get my drift. He's a fraud.

Jay Baker
June 6, 2000, 12:55 AM
Susan, as you, and " a lot of pro-gun owners" don't like what the NRA is talking about, and as the only reason you still own a gun LEGALLY (if you own one), is because the NRA members fought for your inalienable Rights, just what do you think the NRA should be talking about at this point in time??

If you are a gun owner, is there ANYTHING you (or we) can say, that will placate the gun grabbers?

Are you unable to comprehend what's racing down the railraod tracks at you?? A gigantic locomotive pulling a 150 car train, and you're tied to the tracks, whether you want to comprehand reality or not.

For years, the NRA has talked about Rights, about facts, about the truth, while the communistnazis and their useful idiots vomited out The Big Lie.

The Marxist Socialist mainstream media have deliberately and incessantly demonized the NRA members specifically and gunowners in general for 40 years, with the one goal of eventually "exterminating the vermin." Anyone who isn't aware of their plans for The Great Final Solution, just doesn't pay any attention to what they say.

Sen. Diane Frankenstein stated on "60 Minutes" several years ago, when she banned semi-auto guns, "If I could have got the votes, I'd have banned them all. Turn them in Mr. And Mrs. America, or we'll come and get them!" Maybe that, and thousands of statements exactly like that by her comrades in Congress, the White (Red) House, and the media, are meaningless to you, but they certainly enlighten me.

I've been fighting these communistnazis and their useful idiots and bliss ninnies since late 1963, since they said it was my (collectively) fault that JFK was killed, because I (collectively) owned a gun. I've seen them incessantly pass law after law after law after law after law after law after law, ad nauseum, always taking more of our Second Amendment Right. I know exactly what they intend to do, as they make no secret of it, whatsoever.

Anyone who owns a gun(s) and is not a member of the NRA, is nothing more than a liability. I've been carrying "liabilities" on my back for many, many years, and the freeloading whiners are getting very damned heavy.

If you do not think that "jack booted thugs" is appropriate, then you ought to take a look at what they did at Waco. That was NOTHING more than a gun confiscation case, okayed by the two most powerful people n the U.S.; King Klinton and Reischfuhrer SS Reno.

Some day, when they order you to do so, ou go ahead and turn your's in and hope, pray, beg Big Brother and Big Nanny not to punish you for owning a "baby killing" evil gun.

From my cold, dead hands, too! J.B.

Brett Bellmore
June 6, 2000, 06:03 AM
Jeff Thomas: If Knox is to be believed, the reason we get all those fund raising letters is money laundering; The NRA lets out all these lucrative mass mailing contracts, and then the mass mailers turn around and donate a fraction of the contract money to LaPierre and his crew for their campaigns. Supposedly that's what's funding the "do not vote for" advertisements we've all seen in NRA publications.

I'd blow it off as paranoia, if it weren't for the fact that LaPierre and his cronies,

A. Won't respond to the charges, or even acknowlege that they've been made.

B. Oppose auditing the mass mailing budget.

C. Oppose prohibiting campaign donations from NRA contractors.

In fact, I understand LaPierre and his cronies have even been violating rules of order at the NRA conventions, shutting down the meetings before member initiated resolutions are to be addressed, just to keep those issues from being raised. Hard to confirm this, though, when the last person who tried to tape one of those meetings got taken down with a sleeper hold!

This said, I take it as a given that if the NRA hadn't gotten political, by now it would probably be illegal to own PICTURES of guns! Personally, I just wish they'd stop running the NRA like a police state; Even Pravda admitted that there were dissidents, but when was the last time you saw anything in the Rifleman to even suggest that not everybody in the NRA loves Wayne LaPierre and his policies?

Sic semper tyrannis!

Covert Mission
June 6, 2000, 07:29 PM
Brett: interesting items indeed. I don't like the stranglehold Wayne & Co seem to have on the organization, tho i am far from a scholar on the history of the NRA.

I sincerely doubt that the NRA represents its mainstream majority with "JBT" rhetoric, and I let my membership lapse for a while. when all the hysteria after Columbine flared up I rejoined, and joined the GOA, SAF, and CCRKBA too. Even though I disagree with some tactics, there's no one else with that kind of clout who is going to fight for us.

I can't agree with all that the NRA protests, but I don't know what to do about it. Like our polkitical parties, they don't do a good job a representing the majority. Why protest a law making an INSTANT background check mandatory for all gun transactions (with no records kept)? I'm used to a 10 day wait in CA, so an instant check is a BIG improvement. I think we have to face reality: most Americans want simple, common sense impediments to keep guns from improper hands, and I do too. I have a 400lb gun safe, and wouldn't sleep at night if i didn't have them so securely stored. Why can't we agree on things like this? I don't want my kid going to someone's home where the guns are unsafely stored, and I think everyone should have a gun, properly stored, in the home.

I agree that the slippery slope is real, and that anti-gunners are generally NOT to be trusted. But when sensible gun laws are suggested by gun owners, why ignore them?

Jay Baker
June 7, 2000, 12:31 AM
Covertission , we already have 22,000 +/- "common sense," "sensible" gun control laws on the books now: Federal State and Local.

Just how many more "sensible" gun control laws do you want to add to those, as you and other "sensible" gun owners want?? A thousand? Two thousand?

Do you know the meaning of the word "compromise"?? It means, two parties come together and mutually agree to give up something to each other.

The Marxist Socialist Gun Grabbers (MSGG) and Constituion haters have for many, many years, come to gunowners and the NRA and said, "You have to give up all your guns to us."

We say, "No, you can't have 'em all."

MSGG- "You rotten, baby murdering killers are greedy, selfish, insensitive, non-compasionate. You must compromise. We'll take part of your Rights and guns"

We/NRA- "Oh, well we don't want to be greedy, selfish, insensitive, and we do want to be SENSIBLE, so we'll give you part of our Rights, and some of our guns."

MSGG- "Good, that's a done deal."

We/NRA- "By the way, uh, what are YOU going to give up in this compromise??"

MSGG- "Give up? Uhh, well, what we're giving up is our demand to confiscate ALL your guns at this moment in time. See you in a few days when we demand ore compromises, hahahahah"

So I am asking you, sir, given that you said you don't trust the MSGGs, and all these laws are "slippery slope" infringements on our Second Amen. Right, just what "sensible" anti-gun laws do you and your sensible gun owning buddies want passed.... this time???

By the way, from living 35 years in L.A., and fighting those MSGGs for all those years, and LOSING (other than Prop 15), I know exactly what's gone on there, and how today, you are just a "sensible" compromise or two from having your guns banned. And no, the cops won't wear "jack boots," but they will wear highly polished combat boots and wear masks over their faces and will point MP5 sub guns at you, when they come to take whatever guns you have.

It is not a game. They are deadly serious. The MSGG NEVER, EVER DISENGAGE!

Compromise if you wish. I'm through with compromises. J.B.

[This message has been edited by Jay Baker (edited June 07, 2000).]

Brett Bellmore
June 7, 2000, 05:58 AM
Covert: Why oppose a law mandating an INSTANT background check for all gun transactions, with no records kept?

Surely that's a rhetorical question; The Brady law is supposed to have given us that already, or hadn't you noticed? In practice "instant" checks aren't instant, and in practice, records which are supposed to be destroyed get retained. That's why we oppose it; Because we don't want gun registration, (Which is what the Brady law turned into.) extended to ALL gun purchases!

Sic semper tyrannis!