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Continuing the Debate on NRA's Gun Prohibitionism

Tactical PR Failed:
Continuing the Debate on NRA's Gun Prohibitionism

by Angel Shamaya 

April 11, 2002

Jim March's rebuttal to recent criticisms of some of the National Rifle Association's "tactical PR" was friendly, considerate, respectful and gentle. That's my friend Jim March -- I doubt the man has a mean bone in his whole body.

But kindness and civility doesn't make a fellow right. And we definitely see things differently.

Thank goodness someone finally wants to publicly debate a few NRA issues.

Part 1 - The Video

Jim March said:

"IF the NRA had openly called for resistance to bad laws, it would have been banned from the airwaves."

I'm not sure where that belief comes from; Martin Luther King, Jr. announced a Civil Disobedience Campaign in July of 1962 -- after being arrested and sentenced to 45 days hard labor in prison for standing on righteous principle. His call was broadcast all over the country, so much so that it brought heat down on him from the Justice Department. Result: people sympathetic to his cause were fired into action, and his campaign to end racial intolerance moved forward, ultimately to succeed.

Just the opposite is true: If the NRA "openly called for resistance" to gun bans -- instead of calling for their zero tolerance enforcement and helping people scurry to comply -- every newspaper, radio program, television reporter and gun owner in America would hear about it, and talk about it, within 24 hours. Their membership would surge forward, too; people'd say, "Someone over at NRA-HQ finally sprouted some courage," and they'd write them a check for the coming court battles and for showing some politically-incorrect spine -- and so would I.

But I never said NRA should "openly call for resistance to bad laws"; I said that they should not call for compliance with gun bans, that they shouldn't be spending members' monies saying any honest gun owner would turn in banned guns, and that I find their "from my cold dead hands"/"any honest gunowner would turn them in to the police" dichotomy to be forked-tongue confusing and absolutely hypocritical. BIG difference.

And I honestly do not expect the NRA to call for disobedience to gun bans (for many reasons). But I sure do expect them not to side with the gun banners or help the gun banners by shaming gun owners into turning in their militia rifles. NRA can at least stay neutral on whether or not people choose to comply. That much I do expect, and so should you. And if you don't think they did that -- shamed gunowners into turning in their guns -- you aren't paying attention, nor do you understand human psychology very well. According to Jim March, the NRA's video "got massive play" in the most populous state in America -- the bellweather state for gun prohibition. Every gun owner who watched the televised message heard that any honest gun owner would turn in banned guns to the police -- from the lips of a group many people sadly believe to be Gun Rights Gods. Translation: if you don't turn your banned guns in to the police, you're not honest, and being dishonest is bad, so be a good little serf and run on down to the nice policeman and give him your militia rifle.

Jim March said:

"Chuck Michel's role in the specific turn-in mentioned was to make sure Bill Doss was in position to counter-sue, and/or do a successful defense in court."

And now that the California Supreme Court and the Governor and the Attorney General have all made it clear -- in their dishonest, historically-bankrupt opinions -- that there is no individual right to keep and bear arms in the state, where is the NRA's retraction? Or correction? The video was made over two years ago, but they are still featuring it on their website it to this day. With the multiple millions of dollars NRA is raking in, they can change that statement, output a new internet video and not even realize the loss of revenue.

Other than marketing and membership drives, what good came from Bill Doss' gun being escorted to the police by NRA attorney Chuck Michel? Jim March says:

"Finally, 'our side' got something else out of the Doss case: an obvious victim."

Now we all know that California's anti-RKBA laws are really bad -- extra atrocious? News Flash: California's gun laws were illegal and grossly overbearing long before Bill Doss moved in -- and they've only gotten worse. And NRA says to enforce imprisonment for exercising the basic rights they allegedly defend. If escorting a banned gun in to the police was supposed to change things in the state, where are the results? Since their video aired in California, gun restrictions have only increased.

Look at any court docket -- any one in many areas of the state of California and throughout the nation, on any given week -- and you'll find a victim of illegal, NRA-endorsed gun law enforcement. "An" obvious victim? There were thousands of obvious victims before Bill Doss moved to California. Are we to believe Bill Doss was the first one that the NRA found out about? Or shall we be honest and say he was a good fundraising poster boy? (I have nothing against fundraising and wish we knew how to do it as we have several more projects we could be doing -- I just don't like seeing gun owners pay the NRA to create and broadcast expensive videos saying any honest gun owners will turn in banned guns to the police. It's a "proper use of money intended for liberty" issue. Put 4 Million members under GOA and the non-NRA state groups and NRA will become irrelevant in the legislatures -- so they can go back to being shooting sports advocates, which they do exceedingly well, while patriots carry the water that is obviously far too heavy for them.)

Jim March said:

"They already knew Doss had the gun, 'refusing to turn it in' would have just landed him far more jail time and NO chance of a defense or counter-attack."

That's fine for Doss -- he can turn in all of his guns if it pleases him. But NRA saying ANY honest gun owner would turn banned guns in to the police is an entirely different matter.

Then Jim said:

"Do we WANT victims such as Doss? No! But when we get 'em, it's critical to make sure we publicize it in exactly the fashion the NRA did in that video."

Publicizing gunowner persecution is extremely valuable. It helps wake more people up to the "zero tolerance" abuse of rights and activates a few more sleepyheads. But saying any honest gun owner would turn banned guns in to the police is not quite the same as "publicizing" the abuse of one gunowner. Going back to the black civil rights movement, a quick search through history books shows you civil rights organizations reporting the persecution of blacks with resounding PR success as a result. But you won't find any true black civil rights organization telling black people that if they are honest they'll sit on the back of the bus like good little slaves -- that would've been absurd and even traitorous to their cause. And Dr. King certainly wouldn't have told his people to obey evil laws; he told them just the opposite, in his letter from the Birmingham jail.

Jim March said, "per Angel, the message wasn’t 'pure' enough," but that's not it -- the message was not TRUE. Honesty of the highest caliber is not dependent on the edicts of the State; it's dependent on the dictates of your own moral compass. There is nothing dishonest about disobeying an evil law, but there is something completely unAmerican about telling millions of gunowners -- "any honest gunowner" -- to turn a banned gun in to the police. Hash their widely-televised video statements any way you please; that is what they said.

If Bill Doss' self-honesty pressed him to turn in a gun -- his buck stopped to the empowerment of the police state -- that's his prerogative.  And I am not laying a judgment on Bill Doss' decision, either. I haven't walked a mile in Mr. Doss' moccasins; what he does with his guns is none of my business.

The NRA, on the other hand, promotes itself as a defender of the Second Amendment while saying any honest gun owner would turn in banned guns -- but they also give us this "from my cold dead hands" gaga. It's phony doublespeak. The Liberty of this nation rests on mandatory, soul-searching, unwincing honesty and alignment with our fundamental rights. Two-timing both sides of the tough issues is for slippery politicians whose motives absolutely must come into question -- serving two masters faithfully is impossible. Either you support gun bans or you oppose them; the middle ground alleged to exist exists solely for those whose moral compasses are broken or whose backs are too weak to support a stand. You're in, or you're out. Black/white, yes/no, good/bad, right/wrong. Period. I expect "My NRA" to talk straight. If and when they don't, people who care about freedom need to expose their two faces and press for alignment.

Jim March opened with:

"Both cases share a common theme: the NRA's main targeted audience in both situations was the 'general public' versus 'committed gunnies'."

If that was the intention, the result is still unsettling. NRA told the general public that any honest gun owner would turn banned guns in. That is not only untrue, it's not smart. With that kind of appeasement being promoted out to the general public, it's open season on gun rights -- and they did it in one of a handful of states where Gunowner Season has been a yearlong event for over a decade. "Look at these extremists," our adversaries can say, "even the NRA says to turn in banned guns." In essence, by making statements like this to the general public, the NRA pits anti-gunners against real patriots who find the NRA softline intolerable.

Rights-encroaching civil authority is supposed to be afraid of an armed citizenry, not empowered by "our side" to undo it.


Part 2 - Heston's Remarks

1997 Heston -- NRA's Gun Prohibitionist Director

In his defense of the 1997 interview where NRA then-Director Charlton Heston said "AK-47s are entirely inappropriate for private ownership," Jim March said:

"I think it likely [Heston] hadn't thought those issues through well."

and that Mr. Heston might have been "really ignorant" (a massive understatement).

Then what was this actor doing on the NRA Board (other than an amazing amount of damage to our cause and some healthy fundraising)? What kind of major malfunction at NRA-HQ would put a gun banner in such an important position? For historical reference, people ignorant to how Charlton Heston got on the NRA Board are encouraged to understand one thing: he didn't get there because he was a strong RKBA patriot (obviously, as he was for banning guns from private ownership and getting the "radicals" out of NRA); he got there because of his name recognition -- same reason Bill Cosby got the job selling Jello Pudding, only the Liberty of the greatest nation on Earth is at stake.

NRA apparently thinks, or thought:

  • "Gun owners are sheep to be marketed to."
  • "We can train an actor to play the role of a patriot, and people will buy it."

Such respect from "My NRA", eh? Fearless defenders of freedom, right?

And after Heston supported gun prohibition on a widely attended California radio program, NRA didn't fire him and ship him out on the first train; they released a transparent list of phony excuses for his transgression, further insulting the intelligence of any gunowner with more than 3% of his brain in gear. Anyone who reads the 1997 Heston interview and then his response to Colonel Brown and buys Heston's inauthentic excuses for supporting gun bans has proven the NRA's two above messages to be correct.


2002 Heston -- NRA's Hoplophobic President

In response to NRA's President recently saying that militia guns make him nervous, again on a large California radio station, Jim March says Heston's hoplophobic comments were "better thought-out" and "more sophisticated" than the 1997 Gun Prohibitionist's message. And it's technically true that it's better to have NRA's President expressing fear of guns than it was to have him supporting gun bans.

But why, after several years, do we still get hoplophobia from the NRA's frontman? ("Hoplophobia" is Colonel Jeff Cooper's term for someone with an irrational fear of guns.) And if Heston isn't really afraid of guns, what possible good could come out of him lying that he is? All that does is reinforce other people's fear of guns, and in some cases installs gunfear into the minds of trusting gunowners who've been subjected to anti-gun Californiaisms for years. Scary means bad, bad means wrong, and wrong means ban. So, in essence, the gun ban message is still there -- especially for the less educated gunowners who heard the interview.

Jim March labeled Heston's "nervous about guns" comments as merely "deflect[ing] an objection." Says March, 

"The host's paranoia about 'assault weapons' (which are no such thing, we all know that) is very common." 

But the host of the April 2, 2002 interview was Larry Elder -- a staunch Second Amendment advocate -- not a paranoid anti-gunner as was the case in 1997. And the caller to whom he was responding was saying he'd like to own an AK-47 when Heston made his comment.  (That fact didn't make my first report as I was hoping to have a transcript. KABC-AM in Los Angeles has denied me a transcript, so we'll have to go on the word of a listener and the word of the NRA-friendly host.)

Heston CREATED the objection. Fear of AK-47s was brought up by him.

Finally, Jim March closes his rebuttal as follows. I've added emphasis to the parts I'd most like to address:

"What do y'all think the goal should be in a media opportunity such as Heston had at that radio station? In my mind, a 'general good impression' to the public is first, trying to stir up additional activists out of the ranks of apathetic gun owners second, appeasing us 'hardcore gunnie types' a distant third.

"Decision time: we have to decide whether or not to be effective, or to be 'ideologically pure'. Even if you personally prefer the 'pure' route, at least realize that there's another point of view, and don't automatically attack allies when they do the 'effective' routine.

"Both of these PR incidents that Angel complained about were highly effective."

The goal in a media opportunity should be education, forthright communication, and promotion of the true meaning of the Second Amendment. It should also be to wipe away irrational fears of guns -- not to create more of them.

If leaving the impression that some guns are scary is good, I don't want to see what a bad impression from NRA's current President might be.

How are additional activists going to get stirred up by hearing the NRA's lead guy say that guns are scary? How are "apathetic gun owners" going to be inspired by hearing that their "fearless leader" finds guns to be nerve-racking?

The belief that maintaining ideological (principle) purity and being effective cannot happen together is a lie promoted by gun prohibitionists and soft-shelled sportsmen. Our aggressors want us to believe that you cannot be effective and stand on principles. "Moderation!" some among us will preach, "so you don't appear too extreme!" And NRA wants you to believe that too -- it's been their favorite excuse for compromising your rights into non-existence "since 1871."

And I am not "attacking allies," I'm defending liberty from "allies." BIG difference.

Million Dollar Question for Charlton Hoplophobe Heston:

If the AK-47 makes you nervous, does the .50BMG rifle also make you nervous? Just curious; your home state is trying to ban those too, and I think a few NRA supporters in California might like to know where you stand. Between makeup sessions, perhaps you can find the time to read the words of these California men who live outside your exclusive gated community. While you are busying yourself being publicly afraid of guns, they have legitimate fear that armed state agents will come and try to take their "scary" guns by force:


Terrorism Against Gun Owners, Civil Disobedience, and Killing

Why I Will Not Obey California's Gun Registration Edict

.50 Caliber "Come And Take It" Flag


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