Newt Gingrich and Timothy McVeigh: One Degree of Separation

A popular saying (also title of a long-running play) has it that there are only six degrees of separation, at most, between any two human beings on Earth. For example, a homeless man on the streets of New York knows a social worker, who knows a priest, who knows a bishop, who knows a cardinal, who knows the Pope.

There is only one degree of separation between Timothy McVeigh, the accused Oklahoma City bomber, and Mr. Gingrich and the Contract Republicans: it is the NRA, which takes the membership money of people like McVeigh, puts the people that people like McVeigh listen to on its board of directors, and then gives that money to the Republicans, and some Democrats too, in the form of campaign contributions.

Most of the people who belong to the NRA are law-abiding, and most probably believe that they are joining an advocacy organization that will protect their gun rights. Ordinary members, however, don't have the right to vote for the board until they have been with the organization for five years. And the board, which governs the organization, consists of extremists, people sympathetic to the McVeighs and militias of this world and sharing the same rhetoric:

That ugly cackler. She pulls her husband around like a pulltoy on a string. My friends and I say that if that ever happened to one of us and our wife did that, somebody would slip into the house one night and slit her throat. --Leroy Pyle, NRA board member, discussing Sarah Brady of Handgun Control, quoted in Davidson, Under Fire: The NRA and the Battle for Gun Control (Henry Holt & Company 1993)

Harlon Carter, the man who led the NRA to the right in the '70's, was a convicted murderer whose sentence was overturned on appeal for an incorrect jury instruction but who was never retried.

Another NRA board member is Robert K. Brown, co-founder of Paladin Press, which publishes murder manuals and bomb cookbooks with names like Kill Without Joy, Improvised Explosives: How to Make Your Own and Expedient Hand Grenades. According to Erik Larson, Lethal Passage, "Investigators often find books from Paladin and its competitors in the possession of bombing suspects. 'Hundreds of times,' an ATF bomb expert told me." Brown left Paladin to found Soldier of Fortune Magazine, which became notorious for the murder-for-hire ads which resulted in actual murders until the magazine got sued too many times and stopped running them.

The following seems tame by comparison:

And Miss Reno, I say to you: If you send your jackbooted, baby-burning bushwhackers to confiscate my guns, pack them a lunch--it will be a damned long day.

Harry Thomas, NRA board member, quoted in the New York Times, April 28. The same article reveals that the NRA belatedly "discovered" that its BBS contained user messages giving bomb recipes.

What about the NRA's views on democracy? As a defender of constitutional rights, surely the organization believes in democracy? Well, its members cannot vote to elect the governing board until they have been NRA members for five years. And the NRA Web Pages are full of bulletins reporting on "anti-gunners'" attempts to make concealed carry laws and other pro-gun legislation the subject of referendums, which the NRA opposes. For example, her is an excerpt from the NRA's Grassfire newsletter for May 1995:

In Missouri, the Senate passed right to carry legislation, which included an amendment requiring the issue to be placed on the ballot for voter approval. A substitute bill without the ballot amendment will be offered on the House floor. NRA-ILA and state activists are working to ensure that the House adopts the stronger substitute bill.

Why would the NRA oppose a public vote on gun laws? Because it knows most of the public is in favor of some form of gun control, that's why.

The NRA is also a racist organization. Despite its attempts to create a few showcase activities for minorities, NRA racism is obvious in a variety of ways. Check out the book Guns, Crime and Freedom by NRA executive officer Wayne Lapierre. Every example he gives of a situation in which citizens would have been better off if armed involves white people who would have been able to shoot black people. NRA poster boy Randy Weaver is a white separatist. The NRA gets involved when the cops use undue force against a white man, who defends himself with a gun; this situation is the primal expression of Second Amendment freedom (in the NRA's view.) But, when a black man picks up a gun to defend himself in the same situation, he is a criminal, and (according to Lapierre) also a prime example of what we need to arm ourselves against.

Not long ago, I wrote to the NRA about Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black man who allegedly used a legally owned handgun to defend himself against a marauding policeman. I asked why Mumia Abu-Jamal was not taken up by the NRA, just like Randy Weaver. The response said they were looking into it. But there has still been nothing on the NRA Web pages about Abu-Jamal.

Why is Newt Gingrich (and numerous other Congresspeople) a member of a radical organization?

Why does it not bother Mr. Gingrich to belong to an organization whose board includes the publisher of Improvised Explosives?

Talk about double standards. Imagine that in the '60's, an organization existed whose stated purpose was to make sure that guns and explosives remained available to members of the Weather Underground--and half or more of Congress belonged to it, and voted faithfully in favor of its legislative initiatives. That is exactly the situation we have today.

Here's is a partial answer to the question (partial because it doesn't include soft money contributed to the national party, and because Gingrich has so far refused to reveal most of the contributors to the Progress and Freedom Foundation):

NRA Direct Contributions to Newt Gingrich
Source: Newtwatch

NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, G, Dir, 10/19/80,  $1,000 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, G, Dir, 9/15/82,  $1,000 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, G, Dir, 9/15/82,  $1,000 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 6/11/84,  $250 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 8/11/86,  $500 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 10/14/87,  $500 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, G, Dir, 10/31/88,  $1,000 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 9/19/89,  $500 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 3/20/90,  $2,500 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 4/26/90,  $1,000 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, G, Dir, 10/12/90,  $2,757 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 3/18/92,  $4,950 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, G, Dir, 10/12/92,  $4,950 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 6/30/93,  $1,000 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 5/26/94,  $500 
NRA POLITICAL VICTORY FUND, P, Dir, 6/30/94,  $3,450 

And here is Mr. Gingrich's letter to the NRA, quietly sent a while ago. The NRA bragged about it on their Web pages immediately, but the press somehow only discovered it months later:

January 27, 1995

Ms. Tanya Metaksa
National Rifle Association
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, Virginia 22030

Dear Tanya,

There were several articles in the paper regarding discussions that we have been having with the NRA and other fire-arms freedom groups regarding repealing the gun ban and other issues affecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. Let me say that this is both a discussion among friends but more importantly among like-minded individuals. As long as I am Speakerof this House, no gun control legislation is going to move in committee or on the floor of this House and there will be no further erosion of their rights. What we are going to have is a partnership of strengthening laws against the criminal misuse of firearms, which everyone agrees is the real problem issue, and eliminating harassment of law abiding gun owners who are not the problem. Republicans want to demonstrate the Second Amendment is more about the fundamental rights of the people in a government of and by thepeople. Our purpose is to remove ill-conceived and unnecessary government interference in those rights. I look forward to working with you.

Your friend,
Newt Gingrich

Mr. Gingrich voted against the modest five day waiting period in the Brady bill, the last piece of significant gun-related legislation to come up in Congress. And, if he and the radical organization backing him have their way, there won't be any more.