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Index of Past Commentaries

January 26th / 27th, 2013

"NRA Teetering on Sedition"

Wayne LaPierreIn the unlikely event that a rightwing, NRA gun nut is reading this column, let me put what little mind they have at ease. I am a gun owner and have been for most of my life. I believe that everyone with a normal IQ and no criminal or mental record of violent behavior has a right to own guns with which he or she can protect his or her home. Liberal as I am, at no time have I ever advocated for a repeal of the Second Amendment. Neither has President Obama. His comprehensive plan to make us all safer is commendable.

But NRA gun nuts don’t see it that way. No sooner had the president announced his plan and enacted 23 Executive Orders than the NRA posted a web commercial, calling Obama an “elite hypocrite.” Concurrently, NRA President Wayne LaPierre also issued a fundraising letter to his membership in which he said, “I warned you that this day was coming, and now it’s here. This is the fight of the century... Right now they’re steamrolling ahead with legislation that would ban your guns... They want to blame you, vilify you, bully you, and strip you of your 2nd Amendment rights.”

Again, no one’s rights are being stripped, and the only ban being proposed is one on assault weapons and large capacity ammo mags. But LaPierre has never been one to let facts get in the way of a good rant.

My first encounter with LaPierre and his tactics was in 1992, the year after he became president of the NRA. Back then, Virginia was the No. 1 source state for guns used in violent crimes in New York City. Criminals were walking into Virginia gun shops and walking out with 30 to 40 guns at a time, then taking them to New York City, where they sold them for drugs. Those drugs were then sold to raise capital for more guns, and so forth. Something had to be done to disrupt the guns-for-drugs trade along the Interstate 95 corridor, and Virginia Governor Doug Wilder (a gun owner and Bronze Star winner in Korea) had the solution. He proposed a law that would limit purchases of handguns to one per month. At first, LaPierre didn’t panic because he figured the law had no chance of passing in the cradle of the Confederacy. Then Wilder asked me to spearhead a marketing campaign for his bill, and when LaPierre heard that I was spending $60,000 on TV ads, he countered by spending $200,000. He also sent Chuck Heston in to make personal appearances. But our campaign resonated with voters who flooded their legislators with calls. The bill passed, and the cycle of guns-for-drug trafficking was broken. It was LaPierre’s first defeat, and from that point on, he never underestimated any local, state, or federal effort to impede the sale, registration or use of firearms.

Back then, LaPierre tried to discredit America’s first black governor for enacting gun reform, and now, 21 years later, he is trying to discredit and defame America’s first black president for doing the same thing.

I’m not suggesting that LaPierre’s  rhetoric is motivated solely by racism. After all, he is also a mouthpiece for the entire gun manufacturing industry, and must defend the right to own assault weapons regardless of who might occupy the Oval Office. But Wacky Wayne’s insulting characterizations of Obama and his call to arms, convey much more than just a tacit pronouncement of why we should “take America back.” His incendiary words are creating a perfect storm of radical rebellion. When LaPierre’s web video tells viewers to “stand and fight,” that’s code for, “A black man is trying to take your guns!” Wayne’s words are already dangerous, and could manifest into armed insurrection if not taken seriously. And that brings me to sedition.

Broadly stated, sedition occurs when speech or organization incites discontent or resistance to lawful authority. Clearly LaPierre’s recent speeches, letters and web videos meet that standard. So why hasn’t President Obama arrested LaPierre and padlocked NRA headquarters? Probably because it would further divide our nation, and make it more difficult to achieve real gun reform. But the president must not ignore or underestimate the NRA’s ability to coalesce disparate factions, especially those who resent his color and his authority. Already, for example, the Alaska legislature is crafting a bill that would make it a crime for a federal officer to enforce any new restrictions on gun ownership. Meanwhile, a Texas congressman has threatened to impeach Obama if the president’s reforms are enacted. Add to that the recent spike in sale of assault weapons and NRA memberships, and it’s easy to see how rhetoric could easily turn to rebellion.

Welcome to Wayne's World.