Reply to -- Defending NRA Rhetoric

By Bruce A. Clark (Written 6/17/96)

Mr. Wallace, I think you are obligated to back up serious statements like this with a lot of facts. Saying this goes much to your credit, and distinguishes you and your form of journalism from both the mainstream media and, more importantly, from the statements and articles published by others in the gun control movement. It displays a level of integrity that those with whom you seem to agree on the gun control issue (especially those journals and journalists who substitute opinion and propaganda for news) do not seem to possess.

This attitude on the part of others is clearly demonstrated with this single incident. George Bush, who likely only joined the NRA to get its endorsement in the 1988 election, resigned over the NRA's "jack-booted thugs" statement, and it was big news all over the country. However, when the late NRA president Tom Washington made a very reasoned and factual reply, it was ignored, and the organization had to spend a fortune publishing it in ads in leading newspapers. The media were not honest enough to present both sides of the issue.

Unfortunately for the people of this country, this method of journalism and news reporting is not the exception, but the norm. In another piece, I already mentioned how the Larry King Live show preferred to have someone on favor of gun control on the show, with no one to present another side of the issue. There are many more examples. These are the kinds of things appearing in the media and in politics this Spring, only a year after these same people were excoriating the NRA for its own rhetoric:

Why all of this noise? A recent column by Charles Krauthammer might provide some insight into the perspective of a member of the press on the gun control issue. He admitted that any notion the Clinton gun and magazine ban would reduce crime was "laughable," but Krauthammer praised the gun ban anyway. In his opinion, the assault weapons ban is a symbolic first step. "Its only real justification," Krauthammer wrote, "is not to reduce crime, but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation."

Mr. Wallace, you seem to have honesty and ethics, but the people with whom you agree on the issue of gun control seem to have neither.

While what you say is certainly true, your article would have been much stronger if you had investigated a little more, to determine whether what the NRA was saying had a real, strong basis in fact, and was not just rhetoric, protected by the First Amendment. NRA President Washington's open letter to George Bush briefly describes incidents of the BATF using gangster tactics, and he mentions additional cases, without giving descriptions. I'll add a few abbreviated descriptions here and refer you to a site on the WWW that describes abuses by the BATF.

The list goes on and on. Does it still sound like just NRA rhetoric? I agree and I, too, feel that a thorough investigation would be a good thing. Some members of Congress tried to do just that. Unfortunately, the whole process was interfered with, minimized and dismissed as unnecessary by other Congressmen, chief among them Rep. Charles Schumer, of whom you elsewhere speak highly.

I don't understand this business of being "fearful that a far right wing agenda was being advanced." As I have stated before, since when is defending the Bill of Rights a matter of where one stands on the political spectrum? Further, I think that if something is wrong, it is wrong, whether or not it might help someone with whom one politically disagrees. Do you feel that the ACLU should not have defended the rights of the Nazis to demonstrate in Skokie, Illinois? That was certainly advancing a far-right agenda. Then why did the ACLU do it? Because it was the correct thing to do, of course, and the only way to prevent the setting of certain precedents that would have had the effect of weakening the First Amendment. Why do the rules change, all of a sudden, when the Second Amendment is involved, not the First?

Hear, hear.