April 23, 2004

Chris Cox NRA Speech

Chris Cox gave a speech at the NRA convention. Mr. Cox is the head of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, which is the official lobby of the NRA. In the speech Mr. Cox made some statements that I genuinely wish were true, but as you'll see he contradicts himself & destroys any illusion that the initial statements were correct.

"Thanks to your efforts, we`ve beat hundreds of bad bills on our watch. From gun licensing, to ammunition bans, to the database registration schemes we defeated in 20 states last year"

You'd be surprised at the number & intensity of gun control bills that are proposed every year. on the state & federal level hundreds is a plausible estimate. But please note that he mentions gun licensing & registration.

"...Do you believe your rights, your liberties should be dependent upon the acts of criminals? No..."

& I agree with this: the criminal actions of a few should not be sufficient justification for burdening & chilling the Rights of everyone else.

"But as we predicted, the gun haters are back -- and they want more. Not just an extension of the ban, but an expansion -- to thousands of firearms and millions of your names on government lists..."

Now I don't have a problem with any of the above statements on their own. In fact I agree with them. But here's where things get complicated:

"I really, really like carry. No, not John Kerry - the right to carry.
You`ve had it here since `89. But in the past year or so we`ve passed right-to-carry in five more states - Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Missouri, and right next door in Ohio.
In all, 38 states now respect the right to carry. And despite hysterical rhetoric from the gun-haters, crime is much lower in those states.
Here`s another way of saying that: you`ve made more than half the U.S. population safer from violent crime. How? By giving them back a God-given right they never should`ve taken away in the first place.
Researchers estimate that if the states without right-to-carry had it, every year 1,500 murders would not happen. 4,000 rapes would not happen. 11,000 robberies and 60,000 aggravated assaults would not happen. Making people victims is wrong.
All Americans deserve the right to defend themselves and we`re going to see they get it!
In Missouri, the Governor vetoed right-to-carry. But thanks to folks like you, the legislature of the show-me state showed him and overturned his veto."

Let me be perfectly clear on this: even if it's a practical improvement over existing state laws, a measure that says you must pay a fee, apply for a license & wait for permission is not the recognition of a Right; it's a privilege. Yes, yes I know that it's better to have a privilege than to have nothing, but contrast the first few quote above with this last one praising the virtues of CCW laws. we can argue all day about it being a good or bad policy, but it is indisputable that if you have to seek & acquire permission then it can't really be called a Right.

He speaks of the states where the NRA (mainly through its state affiliates) pushed for CCW laws. what he didn't mention is the states where the NRA (again through its state affiliates) opposed Vermont &/or Alaska style bills that would have truly recognized a Right to carry.

He doesn't mention that if crimes could be prevented by liberal issuance of permits then they could surely be prevented on a larger scale if the person with no ill intent didn't have to pay a bribe or submit to governmental approval before carrying the means to prevent crime & protect themselves.

He also fails to mention that most if not all CCW licensing programs are de facto gun owner registration. He fails to mention that in most states with CCW laws a cop can find out if you're a CCW holder or not simply by running your license plate through his system.

He talks of "right-to carry" but his meaning is "privilege-to-carry".

"The danger has grown because the anti-gun movement has totally repackaged its candidates and its gun-hating agenda with a simple plan: lie to gun owners and say whatever it takes to fool them.
They`ve changed everything. The HCIs, Bradys and gun banners are hiding behind phony new names like 'Americans For Gun Safety' and they`ve got a whole new lingo for their lies. Words like "common-sense restrictions,' 'sensible laws' and so-called 'gun safety.'
But their gun-hating dictionary centers around one three-letter word spelled b-u-t. That`s why I call their candidates freedom-buts. That`s right, freedom-buts. It`s one way to spot the frauds.
They say, 'I believe in Second Amendment freedom but we should ban semi-automatic firearms.'
They say, 'I respect the right to own a gun, but we should register and license all of them.' They say, 'I`m a hunter, but we need to ban deer hunting ammunition."

So when the gun control proponents call for "common sense restrictions" it's a bad thing, but yet when the NRA supports "reasonable gun laws" it's a good thing?

Since the National Firearms Act of 1934 the NRA has approved of every gun control law passed on the federal level. The "assault weapons" ban is the only one I know of that they're actively hoping will go away. As for the rest they supported & in some cases helped to write the gun control laws on the federal level. & right now they support the strict enforcement of every one of those unconstitutional laws - including the "assault weapons" ban. The NRA-ILA even admits to supporting gun control. Here's their page on "Project Exile" which is a program that strictly enforces every federal gun law on the books. Here's the page where they say that the National Instant Background Check system needs improvement. (The NICS check is merely a system where permission to buy a gun must be granted by the feds - hardly in keeping with something called a "right"). Here's the page where they view a felony conviction as justifiable grounds for denial of the Right to Arms. Please note they say "...Felons, particularly those convicted of violent offenses..." which means that non-violent felons are included in their list of undesirables for firearms ownership. Here's another page where they support the strict enforcement of federal gun control laws.

The only difference between the NRA & Americans for Gun Safety is that they differ on what constitutes "reasonable" gun control. I have yet to see a mention (although there could be one & I've just missed it) on any NRA website of a federal gun control law conflicting with the constitution.

Mr. Cox speaks of John Kerry specifically:

"You can give back that ten-thousand dollar shotgun you borrowed for the photo-op. You can take off that blaze orange vest with the price tag still hanging off of it. You can stop dreaming about Hillary hunting ducks with a rifle and go back to Boston for your hair dye and Botox treatments."

I find that amusing not only because of the picture in the margin of the gentleman with the side by side & vest, but because the NRA places more emphasis on hunting than on the ownership of military weapons:

".Thanks to voters like you, and with President Robinson’s leadership, your NRA has been able to step up its focus as the leader on hunting issues. We led the way to bear hunting in New Jersey for the first time in 33 years, and in Maryland, for the first time in 50 years. We`ve worked closely with President Bush on hunting issues and we`ve stopped anti-hunting legislation in Congress.
..If you think the Constitution protects child pornography but not your right to own a Remington 1100. You`re probably not an NRA member."

Aside form the last line being a bad rip-off of Jeff Foxworthy please note that he uses the Remington 1100 as an example. Now don't get me wrong: the Remington 1100 is a fine shotgun, but it's usually associated with hunting rather than defense of self or state (not that it couldn't function adequately in all the aforementioned roles). From Charlton Heston holding up a muzzleloader to this speech of Mr. Cox the NRA has usually stayed away from using politically incorrect firearms to illustrate their points. It'd be refreshing just for once to see an NRA representative speak of the Right to own a Mini-14 or an M1A. By using muzzleloaders & firearms generally associated with hunting their shifting the focus of what Right the 2nd Amendment protects. It's subtle & perhaps I'm reading a bit much into it, but they imply that hunting is the main focus of the 2nd Amendment. Just to be clear the 2nd amendment is about protecting the ability of the people to resist by force of arms a tyranical government, either foreign or domestic. By not focusing on that & concentrating on hunting the NRA is setting us up for disaster in the long run.

"But just last month in the Senate, anti-gun politicians hijacked the bill with their gun-hating agenda. They said, we`ll give you lawsuit protection -- but you got to shut down gun shows and extend Bill Clinton`s gun ban. We said no deal."

Yes, they did say no deal - at the last minute & in no small part due to the no compromise gun groups & individuals breathing down their neck the whole time. If this was 1994 & we had no internet or streaming C-span then odds are we'd be listening to their justification of the necessity to "compromise" on the recently renewed "assault weapons" ban.

"But as we predicted, the gun haters are back -- and they want more. Not just an extension of the ban, but an expansion -- to thousands of firearms and millions of your names on government lists. Well, we`re not cutting any deals there, either. We`re going to fight them. And let me be perfectly clear:
I will never, never, sell out your rights for political compromise!,,,"

I wish I could believe that, but based on the NRA's passed behavior on the federal & state levels it's more likely that Charles Schumer will lobby for having an Ak-47 ( a real, select fire Ak-47) in the hands of every non-government employed civilian.

If you look at the speech closely you'll see that the NRA is opting for the "use more deodorant instead of taking a shower" approach. This is probably due to the gun owning critics of the NRA on the internet. Face it: it's harder to hide facts when most resources for fact checking are only a few clicks away. With sites like KeepAndBearArms.com & the many no-compromise local groups no one is getting a free pass. If you claim to support the Right to Arms yet you also support gun control word will get around. Now some if not most people think a certain amount of gun control is acceptable so they don't view things in quite the same light as absolutists such as myself. But now we have the ability to see the facts for ourselves & make up our own minds instead of relying on what we heard at the range from a board member of some group.

Mr. Cox gave it a nice try, but for me it falls far short of the image he wishes to project. It's a shame though: it'd be nice if the NRA were on our side.

Posted by Publicola at April 23, 2004 04:54 PM

-I've been reading your blog (is it considered a site now) for several months, enjoy it thoroughly, and it's become a routine. I've never commented here before, but we did have a minor ammo debate over at Annika's.
-I have a bit of a dilemma. I've never been a member of a large scale gun club and I'm considering joining the only 200m rifle range in the county. I'd like to compete in some military style rifle matches, most of which seem to be sanctioned by the NRA, and a NRA membership is requisite to joining the club. I fear joining the NRA would be viewed as an endorsement of their current and historic policy of 'reasonable gun-control', yet my marksmanship could benefit greatly. Unfortunately, I think a GOA membership will not suffice, and how I loathe choosing the seemingly lesser evil of marksmanship over philosophical conflicts.
-I'd heavily weight any advice you submit. As I'll likely join, can you think of a few ways to offset any negative impact I might create.

Posted by: Jasen at April 23, 2004 06:46 PM


It sounded from the above that you were asking Publicola for advice. Hopefully, he'll give it, but I'm going to chime in with my perspective.

I have allowed my NRA membership to lapse, largely for financial reasons. I joined only because I like their magazine. $25 (the introductory rate when I joined) was a bit high for a subscription, but not too bad. $35 (the renewal rate) is too much.

There IS another way to think about it that you might feel better about. Think of the NRA as an educational organization whose purpose is to teach gun safety and use. Thought about that way, the $35 is money well spent. They do a good job in that department.

Posted by: Bill St. Clair at April 24, 2004 04:27 AM


The NRA offers ranges a deal on insurance with the caveat that all members of the range must be NRA members as well. So GOA membership won't help.

It's just one of those crappy decisions we sometimes have to make - joing the NRA so you can shoot at the range or not join the NRA & look for another range.

I'd advise looking for another range & depending on where you are you might have other options as well (i.e. public land) but if you decide to join cause the range is more convenient than any alternatives I'd recommened spending as much if not more in membership to actual pro-gun orgs like GOA, JPFO & any state group that claims a no compromise approach. The NRA will hound you for cash cause the NRA is split in two legally - you have the NRa & the NRA-ILA. NRA member dues can't be used for NRA-ILA so the NRA-ILA hits you up frequently for donations. What the NRA-ILA does use is the membership roles to solicit donations as well as tout that they represent X million gun owners.

So my advice is to look around a bit more. I'll be glad to help you in any way I can, but if you decide to join the NRA just pay your membership dues & not a penny more. When they hit you up for cash explain to them that until they stop rolling over on you for the sake of political expediency they won't get a dime.

& the matches you speak of - I assume it's High Power Rifle? You have to have an NRA membership to compete seriously (i.e. awards, moving to championships, etc...) but I've shot quite a few matches w/o being an NRA member. I'm sure I'd get bumped for an NRA member if space was an issue but unfortunately that hasn't happened yet. (I say unfortunately cause it'd be no small consolation that a real large turn out for a shooting sport happened - it's all about getting people to learn how to shoot & then to practice.)

But feel free to e-mail me or comment further here if I can help in any way.

(BTW, Mr. St. Clair is correct - as an educational & sports shooting org the NRA is great. If they'd just stop selling gun owners down the river politically I'd be a member myself.)

Posted by: Publicola at April 24, 2004 02:23 PM

-Thanks, but I couldn't ask someone else to research the club scene in my neck-of-the-woods, thats my job. Your take on joining the NRA coincides closely with mine, that's fundamentally why I haven't joined yet. It's unfortunate they have as much influence on the ranges; I didn't know about the insurance deals.
-I've always been relatively competent with optical sights, but recently I've been trying to improve with the aperture/post configuration. It's pretty difficult at extended ranges.
Thanks Again,

Posted by: Jasen at April 24, 2004 07:54 PM

I'll probably regret asking this, but what is the problem with the NRA?

Sure, they're not a "no compromise" group like GOA, but we are talking about Washington DC here-- if you don't compromise a little, you don't get any of what you want. The NRA is willing to settle for some of the pie, while groups like the GOA make desperate lunges for the whole pie, and end up without crumbs-- that's why I let my GOA membership lapse.

They don't advocate for the immediate repeal of all firearms laws, mainly because there's no way it will ever happen. And if the NRA took up that position, they'd end up as marginalized as the GOA is, and then there'd be nothing standing in the way of future laws but a ragtag group of organizations boasting of how well they lose on principle.

Like it or not, the NRA is your standard bearer as well as mine. They have more members, more money and more juice than any other organization out there. By weakening them, you're hurting all of us.

And why? Because they won't waste money to take a case they have no chance of winning before the supreme court? Because they killed the Protection of Lawful Commerce act to prevent the Clinton "Assault weapons" ban from being renewed? Because they endorse G.W. Bush's imperfect gun rights record over John Kerry's gun-grab record?

There's a fine line between being a hard-liner and being hard-headed. Maybe you're willing to back a losing horse so you can reserve the right to say "I told you so!" to Wayne LaPierre, but I'm not. I'd rather take what I can get, when I can get it and hope to fight another day.

"Selling us down the river." Pfui! They're too busy trying to keep the boat from leaking to sell us down the river. Meanwhile, "hard liner, no compromise" groups want to drill holes in the boat to let the water out.

Posted by: greg at April 26, 2004 12:08 PM

-The problem with the NRA stems from the fact that they had the whole pie, minus the slice taken out by the firearms act in 1934, and they gave it away. I'm relatively certain that most of the firearms restricting federal legislation has passed with the NRA's tacit approval, or implicit approval in the instance of the '68 infringements.
-The NRA gave away the farm, developed and tilled with the forethought and sweat of our grandfathers. They swindled it all away, compromising until it was lost, save 10 barren acres, a mule and a worn-out holstein. Now, while the wolves are circling the mule, they claim their too busy trying to milk the the old cow to tend what's left of the farm. So you can stand there with your cup, waiting for what they may squeeze from the teat, but some people choose to focus on the reacquisition of the farm. These people are entitled as free men to persue their birthright.
-Your're correct the NRA does have more members, money and juice than anyother organization. There an 800 pound gorrila with the dispostion of a whipped french poodle.
-There does, however, come a time to dispatch the wolves, mortgage what you have left, buy back the farm and start pullin' wire to fix the fences.
But who am I to talk, being just as lethargic as the next guy.

Posted by: Jasen at April 26, 2004 06:27 PM

"if you don't compromise a little, you don't get any of what you want. The NRA is willing to settle for some of the pie, while groups like the GOA make desperate lunges for the whole pie, and end up without crumbs-- that's why I let my GOA membership lapse."

What a great thing our founding fathers had a lot more spine than Greg . . . they wanted the whole pie. They fought for it, some died . . . the rest won the pie, and our freedom. Can we keep what's left? Unless the Greg's of the country wake up, I doubt it. . . .


Posted by: Phil at April 26, 2004 07:35 PM


I'll get back to you more in depth in the next few days. In the meantime the only thing I can add to what Jasen & Phil said is that there is a big difference between compromising for startegic reasons & compromising for other reasons. The NRA's compromises have gained us nothing while they've lost us much. Compromises are great when you gain something from them - but they suck when you walk away from the table with less than what you had before.

Now if you agree with a certain level of gun control (as I believe you do) then the compromises the NRA makes might not seem like that big of a deal. But to me any prior restraint based law is a bad policy for any government to have. Taking a hrad line approach might not get us immediete repeal of all gun laws, but it would be more effective than taking a "some gun control is okay" approach.

Here's a thought to mull over whilst I try to find the time to elaborate on it in a post:

Say I want 0 gun control laws & the opposition wants 10. A compromise would mean 5 gun control laws right? Well let's say the NRA wants 3 gun control laws while the opposition wants 10. How many gun control laws would you get in a compromise? That's where the absolutists such as myself are more of a help than the gun control accepting NRA: they start off from a position closer to gun prohibition therefore they don't have as far to slip until that happens, whereas an absolutist has to be drug the entire way.

But like I said, I'll post more on this in the next few days.

Posted by: Publicola at April 27, 2004 02:27 AM

Nice talk...

I've been watching my gun rights go steadily south for nearly 60 years. Personally I'm sick of it.

No more compromise. No more "that's how they do it in Washington". No more of the NRA playing the political game. Either we are free to own weapons or we are slaves...period.

I want to see reversals of gun laws written by and supported by traitors to the constitution. Enough is enough.

Posted by: bjbarron at April 28, 2004 01:27 PM

Keep fighting, Publicola. I'm kind of on the fence about the NRA, and I haven't decided whether to renew next month. Still, whether I do or not, I'd never buy the bullshit argument that the NRA should be forgiven because they "have to compromise to get along."

I may ultimately decide to renew, because I think they do some very good work, and I'd like to be an NRA instructor. But if gun owners ever get as complacent about their rights as some here are sounding, then the battle will have been lost.

Posted by: Spoons at April 28, 2004 07:12 PM

A little bit of history, to temper your discussion. GCA '68 was the last Jim Crow law, pure and simple. If you weren't around then, you need to do some reading of old newspapers. It was a reaction to the assassination of Rev. King and Bobby Kennedy,certainly; but it had no legs until the ghettoes started burning. Suddenly, the Southern Democrats who opposed the bill, jumped on board.

As to the NRA, it did not become political until the mid '70's with Harlan Carter. It took 10 years for a target shooting organization to get motivated, and back then, Neal Knox was the big cheese.


Posted by: David Brown at April 30, 2004 11:08 AM
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