The Ethical Spectacle, June 1995,

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 homesless 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. 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.

Wayne Pierre quotes BATF rhetoric Right wing talk show hosts NRA money Newt's letter to NRA Voting record