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By Gary Clark
March 29, 2002
KeepAndBearArms.com — A March 12, 2002 news item got me thinking. It was titled "Gun Violence Prevention Groups Claim Victory as H&R Block Severs Ties with National Rifle Association." It wasn’t the article itself, or what the article was about that was significant. It was the title that used the names "NRA" and "H & R Block" in the same sentence. Seeing those two names together reminded me of something too many people in the pro 2nd Amendment movement either don’t see or refuse to recognize, the effect of self-interest.
We live in a time characterized by far broader concerns over issues of liberty and unconstitutional encroachment upon liberty by government than just those centered on the Second Amendment. Over the last quarter century or so (a period concurrent with the gun control vs. 2nd Amendment battle) we have also seen the rise of an ever-growing anti-income tax movement. And, just as the gun control battle orbits a Constitutional amendment so too does the battle over the income tax. We’ve all seen serious and well-researched assertions that the 16th Amendment that created the income tax was never legally ratified. We’re also seeing the government refusing to address the issue.
So, what’s all this got to do with the NRA and H & R Block? Plenty! Why? Because of a fact of life far too many of us in the pro 2nd Amendment movement either fail to see or refuse to acknowledge. That fact of life centers on the economic self-interest of an organization and its leadership.
Expecting the NRA to support the position that "shall not be infringed" means just that -- no permits can be required if it’s a "right" and not a "privilege" -- is a lot like expecting H & R Block to support the position that the 16th Amendment was never legally ratified.
If the 16th Amendment and the income tax are thrown out, H & R Block is out of business. That much is pretty obvious, but Block does not hold itself out to be opposed to the income tax. The situation is very different where the NRA is concerned, and this is what gives rise to the dichotomy of opinion about the NRA within the pro 2nd Amendment movement.
We all need to become more aware of what the NRA is and has been historically. We then need to take a really hard look at what the strongest supporters and members of the NRA do for a living. Looking at it this way reveals one likely reason why the NRA refuses to support the position that no permits or registrations should be required if firearms ownership is a "right" that "shall not be infringed."
The NRA is, and has historically been, the single strongest advocate (and provider) of firearms use and safety training. Think about this for a minute. How many firearm use and safety course instructors do you know of who are NOT NRA certified? According the the NRA’s own website, there are currently some 38,000 NRA Certified Instructors throughout the United States. The NRA may not be the only organization that certifies gun use and safety instructors, but it is certainly the single biggest one. 38,000 NRA Certified Instructors averages 760 per state. The numbers alone prove the NRA virtually owns the firearms instruction certification market in this country. Now there’s nothing wrong with this. The NRA does a wonderful job teaching gun safety and certifying instructors. It’s what they’re really good at and I fully approve of what they do in this regard. Personally, I think every gun owner should take at least one gun use and safety course from an NRA certified instructor. I don’t think any governmental body should require it though.
Now take a look around the country. Most states have now become "shall issue" states and in every one of them (that I know of) the "issue" of the "permit" requires two things:
1. A clean criminal record
2. Attending and passing some form of firearms use and safety course
Where do you think the instructors for these courses come from? Wouldn’t you have to assume that with 38,000 NRA certified firearm safety instructors in the U.S. that most (if not nearly all) of the people who teach the courses required for CCW permits are among those 38,000? I would. Now ask yourself this: How many of these NRA certified instructors, whose economic life depends upon a steady stream of course attendees, are likely to support the position that it is illegal and unconstitutional for any level of government to REQUIRE gun permits and gun safety courses? While you’re at it, take a look at the NRA as a national organization. What do they sell and profit from? It is the sponsorship of gun training and gun safety courses and teaching materials. Furthermore, this is what the NRA has been doing for over a hundred years. It is their core business. Do you REALLY expect them to support the position that gun permits (and the training required by them) are unconstitutional? If you do, I’ve got a bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn I’ll sell you cheap.
Gun control isn’t like being pregnant. Being pregnant is a binary state. Someone either IS or ISN’T pregnant. But gun control exists on a continuum. You can have total gun control, such as outright bans, or only a little gun control, such as permits.
The mistake too many in the pro 2nd Amendment movement make is the assumption that the NRA is opposed to gun control. This assumption is false. The NRA is, always has been, and will continue to be a PRO GUN CONTROL ORGANIZATION! They will always support requirements for permits and attendance at gun safety and training classes because teaching these classes is what the economic life of so many of the NRA’s strongest supporters, depends upon. Any assertion that the NRA does not virtually "own" the firearms and gun safety instructor training and certification market in this country is like making the assertion that Microsoft does not virtually "own" the computer operating system market. Both are obvious on their face.
It is because of this that I do not belong to, nor support the NRA in any way. Supporting the NRA is supporting (a form of) gun control and I am opposed to ALL forms of gun control... unless you define "gun control" as being capable of putting a .30 round through an enemy of the Constitution’s left eye at 300 yards.
Gary Clark is a writer, small business owner and staunch defender of the right of every individual to own, bear and use ANY type of weapon that can be carried on the person. He lives in Las Vegas and can be reached by e-mail at Liberty@wtw.org.