COMMENTARY: NRA Leaders Should Support Bill of Rights

By on March 1, 2017

JACKSON HOLE, WY – In his recent speech to the Conservative Action Conference, Wayne LaPierre, the executive director of the National Rifle Association, drew cheers from the crowd for his attack on protests opposing Trump Administration policies, going so far as to suggest that protesters are terrorists.

Since its inception, the NRA has provided an unbending defense of private gun ownership and often provided a voice in support for all freedoms Americans hold dearBut LaPierre’s verbal assaults against free speech are not unlike those given by gun control advocates against the Second Amendment.

Partial quotes from the First and Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights: “Freedom of speech … the right of the people peaceably to assemble … to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” And “the right of the people to keep and bare arms.” These and other rights of the people granted in the Bill of Rights are liberties most people in the world don’t have, not even in their dreams.

Gun owners that I know locally, and those I’ve met from across the country while working as a hunting guide, support not only the Second Amendment, but the entire Bill of Rights and believe it provides critical protection from possible (read probable) abuses of the majority government. The Bill of Rights was in fact created for constitutional protection for individual liberties and lists specific prohibitions on governmental power.

The Civil Rights Movement, even the American Revolution, came into being from protests. More recently, the Tea Party became a national movement through protests, many of their protesters carrying signs paraphrasing a quote by Jefferson, “Remember: Dissent is Patriotic.”

How right they were. And while an exceedingly small number of protesters have engaged in destructive action, destructive action is against the law and perpetrators may be prosecuted. It is no different than a gun owner using a gun to rob a liquor store; the NRA insists it is the action of robbing the store that should be condemned, not owning a gun.

It is worth noting that while political violence cannot be condoned, the number of incidents after the election of Obama and Trump, two politicians immensely disliked by opposition parties, were few and the cost of damages was much less than that of a December 16, 1773 tea party sponsored by Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty.

The idea that freedom means freedom for those with whom we agree and everyone else is a traitor is nothing new. Various communist governments of the past century, politicians pushing McCarthyism in the 50s, and fascist movements in Europe in the 30s voiced outrages at political opponents similar to those stated by LaPierre. Such words spoken by a self-proclaimed defender of the Bill of Rights go beyond self-righteous hypocrisy and cowardliness; they encourage the blatant surrender of America’s most precious freedoms to our enemies, a dimming of the brightest light in a darkened world.

The pages of history are filled with timid souls who sold their principles to promote their cause. In the end, they lost not only their cause, but their self-respect and even their country. As a gun owner, I am beyond embarrassed by LaPierre; I am ashamed.

Gun owners cannot leave the NRA in protest; no one else will give voice to their concerns. But one hopes NRA members will demand leadership that will be steadfast in support of gun rights while respecting that the Bill of Rights is not something that applies to the chosen few in power, and “We the People” doesn’t mean the people who agree with us, but every single American. PJH

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