The NRA, Taggants and Revolution

The NRA opposes a government initiative to require that black powder be chemically tagged for later tracing. Various European countries do this and have used it to solve hundreds of bombings.

The NRA beat back a provision on taggants in last years' attempt to pass an antiterrorism bill. Now, in the wake of the Olympics pipe bomb, another taggants bill is before Congress.

The NRA's release on the topic follows the classic "the law hurts us, it isn't needed, and it wouldn't work anyway" path of the group's initiatives on laws banning armor-piercing bullets and semi-automatic weapons. The NRA claims that "This proposal could have a huge impact on the safety of the shooting sports, and deserves a very strict cost-benefit analysis by independent scientists, not Clinton Administration bureaucrats." The release goes on to make the following claims:

You can always tell the difference between someone who is arguing from the core of his beliefs and someone who is just grasping any argument at hand to bat away an undesirable proposition, but without ever admitting the truth. Every NRA release, and every essay by an NRA official, is the latter kind of patchwork. No recent employee of the NRA has been as honest as Harlon Carter, himself a convicted murderer freed on a technicality, who said that guns in the hands of sociopaths and the resulting murder victims are "the price we pay for liberty". Today's NRA representative, for example Wayne Lapierre, is all over the map, essentially arguing the kettle defense: "I never borrowed the kettle, it was never broken, and it was already broken when I borrowed it."

The NRA should come clean and let us know if it is really seeking to protect a hobby, a right to revolution, or both.

If it is protecting a hobby--in this case, the right of sportsmen to purchase and handload black powder for sports shooting without having taggants imposed upon them--the NRA (as it always does) is elevating a relative frivolity over a public interest in being able to hold bombers responsible for their crimes.

It seems far more likely to me--though the NRA rarely admits this, except in relatively private dialogs--that the organization really stands for the latter position: that the Second Amendment gives Americans a right to revolution, effectively to shoot public officials when the going gets tough. NRA spokesmen admit, on rare occasions, that they regard this right as central to the meaning of the Second Amendment. For example, NRA CEO and principal spokesman Wayne Lapierre in his 1995 book, Guns, Crime and Freedom, (essentially a tract aimed at the converted) devotes the first two chapters to the proposition that the Second Amendment was drafted to confirm the right of the whole population, acting as a militia, to defend itself against a standing army and thus resist tyranny:

British confiscation of arms focused the attention of the Founding Fathers on the threats posed by a standing army quartered among the people, and the necessity of having an armed citizenry to prevent the tyranny of such an occupying force.

And again, rebutting the argument that this right is outmoded because small arms cannot be used to outgun today's military weapons:

Even if overthrowing tyranny were the amendment's only purpose, the claim that an armed populace cannot successfully resist assault stems from an unproved theory...a determined people who have the means to maintain prolonged war against a modern army can battle it to a standstill...

Of course, the Brits are long gone; the only standing army the NRA thinks we need to protect ourselves against is our own. Gun rights people believe that the Second Amendment is American democracy's safety valve.

My question is: are you comfortable knowing that these people own Congress? The NRA doesn't want taggants because they will spoil sportsmen's powder and interfere with their sport.... its only incidental, in fact wholly irrelevant, that the NRA is simultaneously arguing for an incipient Constitutional right to kill government employees. Beating back taggants legislation will make an exercise of this right easier to get away with.

It makes you think, doesn't it?