Gun-rights groups gang up on NRA
Accuse 2nd-Amendment giant of aiding gun-control efforts
By David M. Bresnahan (c) 2000 WorldNetDaily.com
A coalition of gun-rights organizations is attacking the National Rifle Association over the NRA's support of a program that attempts to hold the line on new gun control legislation by calling for strict enforcement of existing laws. Citizens of America already has the support of many national pro-gun organizations who have agreed to a declaration of opposition for the NRA's Project Exile.
The NRA, long critical of the Clinton administration for its failure to enforce existing gun laws and constantly battling efforts by gun-control advocates to pass newer and ever-more-restrictive gun laws, has endorsed the adoption of "Project Exile"-which would require strict, mandatory enforcement of existing laws.
The problem, according to the coalition of gun-rights groups, is that many of the existing laws whose enforcement is promoted by Project Exile are themselves unconstitutional and should never have been passed.
Gun-rights activist Brian Puckett decided to challenge the policy of the NRA by forming the coalition and writing the statement to which member organizations have agreed. The statement calls for the NRA to drop its support of Project Exile and asserts that NRA leaders are actually helping gun-control advocates.
National organizations that have joined the coalition and approved the statement include:
Larry Pratt, executive director, Gun Owners of America
Aaron Zelman, executive director, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership;
Steve Silver, president, Lawyers Second Amendment Society;
Nancy Herrington, executive vice president, Women Against Gun Control;
Russ Howard, executive director, Citizens Against Corruption;
Leroy Pyle, president, Paul Revere Network;
executive director, Law Enforcement Alliance of America
The statement was also agreed to by many state and local gun-rights organizations and Puckett says others are being asked to come onboard. The statement and a full list of supporters is displayed on the organization's website, while a separate website was created for members of the general public who want to add their name to the list.
Puckett believes many gun owners give automatic support to the NRA's positions without taking the time to educate themselves on the issues.
In an effort to inform gun owners, Puckett formed a coalition of gun rights groups and leaders when he created Citizens of America. He describes his supporters as "true pro-Constitution, pro-Second Amendment people and organizations."
Speaking for himself, and not necessarily representing the views of the coalition of gun groups opposing Project Exile, Puckett told WND:
The NRA is a great and powerful tool for upholding the Bill of Rights and it must be directed by men and women with a clear vision of these rights. One should never confuse the NRA or its members with the current leadership, the so-called 'winning team,' which has presided over the most profound and far-reaching losses of our Second Amendment Rights since the 1968 Gun Control Act. The 'winning team's attacks on the enemies of the Bill of Rights have been timid, misdirected, and ineffectual. And now we have their Project Exile-a complete reversal of position on unconstitutional gun laws. It is an utter betrayal of NRA membership and the organization's proud heritage.
NRA president Charlton Heston spoke about the controversial initiative in a recent speech. "For years the NRA has demanded that Project Exile be deployednationwide. Makes sense, huh? The laws are already on the books. Just enforce them. But Bill Clinton won't do it," said Heston in a speech at Yale.
Puckett and his coalition of supporters believe Heston and other NRA leaders are advocating the support of laws that should not be on the books at all. The NRA claims it is all just a matter of strategy. It doesn't want any more laws enacted and has adopted what it considers an undeniably logical position-require the government to enforce existing laws before making new ones.
Indeed, Heston blames Clinton for enacting laws simply for political gain without any effort to enforce them once they are established.
"Everyone remembers all the press support for his 'desperately needed' semi-auto gun ban that outlawed guns based solely on their appearance. But nobody is reporting that out of thousands of certain offenders, the Clinton administration prosecuted four people in 1997 andfour in 1998," said Heston.
"It's surreal. Mr. Clinton stands in the Rose Garden with his 10prop-cops, lip-biting in pained support of some new law. The pressdoes its best to get it passed. It becomes law. Then everybodyforgets about it. And Americans buy it over and over and over again," saidHeston.
"Maybe you think a politician's lies can't hurt you. But let me tellyou, armed felons can. Passing laws is what keeps politicians'careers alive. Enforcing laws is what keeps you alive. But nobody'sgetting arrested, nobody's going to jail, it's all a giant scam,"said the NRA president.
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America and one ofPuckett's biggest supporters, told WorldNetDaily it's wrong to enforce laws that should not have been passed. He went so far as to claim that "most if not all existing gun laws are unconstitutional."
"American firearm owners and supporters of the Bill of Rights have invested countless millions of dollars and man-hours to prevent these same laws from ever being passed. Clear-thinking Americans continue to work tirelessly to repeal them," said Puckett (in his statement signed by Pratt and the other gun rights supporters).
The coalition was also critical of federal law enforcement agencies and the use of technical violations of the law to harass innocent people.
"There is no connection between supporting the Bill of Rights and supporting federal laws that are un-American. Moreover, the agencies that enforce such laws slaughtered over 80 people in Waco, shot to death a young boy and his mother at Ruby Ridge and continually commit brutal acts against citizens under the guise of 'gun control.' The 'legal' excuse behind the Waco massacre was the unproved suspicion of 'illegal' machine-gun possession. The 'legal' excuse behind the Ruby Ridge killings was a shotgun that may have been a quarter inch too short. Both are examples of 'zero tolerance,'" said the group in its statement.
The NRA has spoken out strongly in support of the enforcement of federal laws regarding the illegal possession of firearms by juveniles.
"Armed gangbangers should be afraid of getting caught. But, in the past two years, the President's Justice Department has prosecuted only 11 juveniles anywhere in the country for illegal possession of handguns," said LaPierre in a recent speech. But, according to Puckett and his group of supporters, despite LaPierre's good intentions there will be many problems for innocent gun owners if laws are strictly enforced.
"This could be your 15-year-old boy to whom you have given a .22 revolver to go shoot cans at a rural dump or out at the country home of a friend. You, yourself, can be criminally prosecuted for giving him the gun," explained Puckett about his concern of enforcement of existing laws.
The NRA does not want any minors to possess a firearm of any kind unless supervised by an adult at all times. LaPierre said adults must be held accountable for minors who gain access to firearms.
"So we support mandatory penalties for juvenile criminals caught carrying guns. But out of the thousands of these armed, teen thugs, we believe the Clinton Justice Department should have prosecuted more than just 3 in 1997 and 8 in 1998. That's not zero tolerance," said LaPierre.
Puckett said such a policy will make a young boy a felon if he is left alone with a rifle while out hunting with his father and the father will also become a criminal.
Most states require a concealed carry permit for those who wish to have a firearm with them in public. This is another area where the NRA and the coalition differ in opinion.
"We believe that a lawful, properly-permitted citizen who chooses to carry a concealed firearm not only deserves that right but is a deterrent to crime. We support the right to carry because it has helped cut crime rates in all 31 states that have adopted it ... with almost no abuse of any kind by the lawful citizens who took the courses, submitted to the background checks, passed the tests and became part of a proud citizens movement that's making America a safer place to live. The truth is, very few actually choose to carry a gun-but the bad guys don't know which few they are," explained LaPierre.
"So much for the Second Amendment. A right that requires getting a permit to exercise isn't a right, its a privilege granted by the government and revocable by the government," criticized Puckett.
The group has also called for the repeal of "all laws which infringe upon the right of Americans to freely carry arms in defense of self, family, and country."
David M. Bresnahan is an investigative journalist for WorldNetDaily.com