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An NRA Member's Letter to Tanya Metaksa: What does the NRA want?

The letter below was received by the Firearms Policy Journal (predecessor organization of the Potowmack Institute) in September, 1998, from an NRA member who has studied the Firearms Policy Journal. The writer raises serious issues with Tanya Metaksa about what the NRA really wants.

In October, 1998, we were forwarded a response from Paul Blackman, Research Coordinator of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. The Potowmack Institute will provide its comments. Many points are made in the Potowmack Institute's amicus curiae in US v. Emerson.

Blackman does not really address the serious, fundamental issues--the consent to be governed, the just powers of government, the obligations of citizenship--raised by the NRA member in the September letter. He does not address the issue of what internal sovereignty is and how any political community maintains its internal sovereignty. He does not address the issue raised of how gun owners protect themselves from an ambush if the NRA's armed populace agenda is fulfilled and there are no rules and regulations that can be applied against the lawless. It is not clear from Blackman's response that the NRA really understands the full implications of what it wants. If Blackman is any representative example, the NRA operates on unexamined assumptions some of which are positively dangerous. It does not have to worry as long as there is no political or intellectual leadership that exposes the falsehoods, articulates another more hopeful vision of political life, and pursues policies and cultivates a constituency consistent with it.

The most serious, fundamental issue this country has to face as we enter the twenty-first century is the contours of citizenship. It is not an issue that the news media appear to be able to handle. Everyone remarks on the political cynicism and then contributes to it. The forces of darkness have nothing to fear:
The Dereliction and Cowardice of the Washington Post
Sam Donaldson, Michel McQueen (now Martin), Jodie Allen,
Pres. Clinton, the NRA, ABC News, Sunday Morning, March 12, 2000,
NPR's Diane Rehm
"Sixty Minutes"
Or, the politicians:
The Blood on their Doorstep

The rest of us do not have to be constrained.

What the NRA wants is to maintain a balance of power between a privately armed populace and any all government. It has to keep gun ownership outside of accountability to public authority. Accountability means specifically registration of ownership. This is the one point of policy that the NRA works hardest to prevent. It is the only means by which gun ownership can be effectively regulated. In his brief (p. 39-42) for Sheriff Printz in Printz and Mack (1997), the NRA's Stephen Halbrook devoted several pages to the historical will of the people to reject registration of ownership expressed through the will of Congress. His argument was that the courts have to respect the will of the people. Halbrook does not explain that the will of Congress does not reflect the will of the people in this matter but the lobbying efforts of armed populace ideologues like himself going back to the 1930s. The gun lobby has not been able to win its personal right to be armed outside of any lawful authority in court. It has to have its right by defeating and manipulating legislation. It takes its success in the legislatures to the courts for indirect validation. The same argument was made in NRA v. Reno (July, 2000) and in the Citizens' Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms' amicus in Emerson.

Otherwise, to defeat legislation it has to rally an eager to believe constituency. One of the appeals is that gun laws do not work. The recent report by Handgun Control, Handgun Control, Inc., Press Release, March 21, 2000, NRA Hypocrisy Exposed, "The Enforcement Fable," documents the NRA's strategy to sabotage gun legislation and enforcement. It then can claim gun laws do not work. Handgun Control, however, does not address the armed populace fantasy that motivates it. We will address it here.

What is at stake are the most fundamental issues of law, government, and citizenship. These are not new issues in American history. They come up for renewal every few generations. They are up for renewal now. At the time of the American Revolution just about everyone studied John Locke's The Second Treatise of Government, the primary manual of the Revolution. The newspapers published the Federalist Papers (LaPierre's list. Today we get the Washington Post. Substantive public debate was conducted at every level of society— in the parlors, the town squares, and in the assemblies. The political leaders where engaged. Today they are not. The real forum of debate in the eighteenth century, however, was the pamphlets. Today the pamphlets are on the Internet. We no longer need the news media and the politicians for our civic enlightenment. Here is where the NRA can explain and justify what it really wants to its own members. We will look for Blackman's further explanation in our Interactive. We expect a no-show.


Tanya Metaksa
Executive Director
The National Rifle Association
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030

Dear Ms. Metaksa:

I have concerns about your recent mailing regarding gun registration and taxation that will take effect on December 1. You state that "this is first time in American history that our government has attempted to impose National Gun Registration on the American people." This is not a true statement. The Militia Act of 1792, enacted by the same people who ratified the Second Amendment, required all gun owners to be "enrolled"--that is, registered--for militia duty. This is a historical circumstance that must be well known the National Rifle Association. Don Kates, a prominent Second Amendment lawyer, is author of three law review articles listed in Wayne LaPierre's Guns, Crime, and Freedom. In one of these articles (Michigan Law Review, 1983), Kates wrote:

It would be completely consistent with the intent of the Framers of the Constitution and historical practice if the Federal Government or state government or just the county sheriff were to requisition the membership lists of the National Rifle Association or other gun owner organizations in order to call out the militia or the posse comitatus.

The NRA's opposition to registration is not only in conflict with history but also in conflict with the recent proposal of Ron Stewart, president and CEO of Colt Manufacturing. Stewart proposed in an editorial in the American Firearms Industry magazine last December a national permitting system for gun ownership that would required mandatory training and testing. At least one gun manufacturer has responded to the very falsely based tactics of Handgun Control and the public health lobby to impose defectless liability on gun manufacturers with the intent to drive them out of business. I think Ron Stewart is on the right track. Registration including training and testing is not only the mechanism to remove liability from the gun manufacturers and place it on gun owners where I think it more appropriately belongs, but it also provides the mechanism to establish legal categories of gun ownership that can be used effectively to disarm the lawless. I provide for my self-defense as a gun owner under constitutional government by first disarming the lawless. Otherwise, if all citizens are armed for self-defense, as the NRA seems to want, and there are no rules and regulations to disarm the lawless then my insecurity becomes absolute. The armed predators will simply ambush their victims. I have not so much faith that the lawless are so stupid or timid that they will not resort to an extreme course. There is no inherent conflict between gun ownership for self-defense and legal standards established under constitutional government. It is not a question that gun laws do not work. A law that disarms the lawless is the first law that the 65 million gun owners in this country have to make work if they are to call themselves citizens and enjoy personal security as citizens.

The issues become what has changed in the past two hundred years that registration is a nightmare now when it was not in 1792 and what does the NRA really want that it has to misrepresent simple facts of history? What seems to be different is found in Charlton Heston's speech at the National Press Club in September, 1997. Heston describes a permanent pre-revolutionary situation derived from revolutionary events of 1775-76 not the constitution framing events of 1787-89. In the language of the Declaration of Independence when the people "altered or abolished" a government, they "institute new government." The new government derives its "just powers" from the "consent of the governed." The Constitution of the United States instituted new government. The permanent pre-revolutionary state that Charlton Heston seems to want places gun owners in a state of civic limbo. By keeping their guns outside of the law, gun owners refuse the consent to be governed and withhold themselves and their guns from any obligation to maintain the "just powers" of government. Without just powers government cannot secure rights or much of anything else including its own survival. At the same time, however, in Heston's conception gun owners do not declare a revolution to alter or abolish this government. The civic limbo the NRA seems to want to maintain creates the threat not only of armed lawless predators but also the threat of the private armies which we have seen in recent years. It is hard enough to be concerned with the threat of lawless individuals. I cannot defend myself against the threat of private armies. Private armies can acquire lists of gun owners the same as can the government. If there is no lawful authority to protect me from private armies whom do I call on when the private armies go door to door confiscating guns.

You make much of the possibility that registration will lead to confiscation. Let's be clear. To preserve this government and this Constitution, we need to confiscate guns from the lawless and the disloyal. Otherwise, private armies of unknown loyalty create the possibility of tyrannical usurpation. All a tyrant need do is issue a decree that all weapon owners are to join forces with the tyrant or surrender their weapons--and those found not cooperating will be summarily executed. An individual gun owner has no defenses in that circumstance except to take to the hills and join a revolutionary army. The revolutionary army then becomes the tyrant's target. A revolutionary struggle is a contest for power over who will confiscate the guns. Tyrants gain the power to confiscate guns because they have defeated a government that was too weak or corrupt or discredited to maintain its authority against private or revolutionary armies--whether Hitler's Storm Troopers or Mao's Red Army.

The NRA has an important mission to defeat bad legislation, misplaced legal strategies, and legally undefined bureaucratic intrusions. The tactics and the strategies of Handgun Control and the public health lobby will produce bad law and bad court decision. The FBI, the Clinton Administration and the Washington Post likewise have no conceptual foundations for what they want to accomplish and need to be held accountable for their true objectives. The burden of clarification falls on the NRA. The antidote to bad law and bad legal doctrine is good law and good legal doctrine, but to achieve good law and good legal doctrine the NRA has to explain what it really wants. It can start by explaining the "consent of the governed," the "just powers" of government, and the obligations of gun owners as citizens not as individuals armed outside of any law or lawful government. In the eighteenth century when there was a threat to the community the local political leadership commanded the men of the community to be armed, to undergo training and be available to secure the community against the threat. The militia gave the "just powers" of government an institutional structure that involved citizen participation. That was a very different concept of civic life from the NRA's individual freedom to be armed outside of the law.

These matters need to be explained. If the NRA cannot explain what it wants, it is sneaking in its own backdoor scheme just as are Handgun Control, the Clinton Administration and the FBI. Backdoor schemes of any sort do not deserve support. I await an explanation.


[TOP]
[BOTTOM].

NATION RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA
INSTITUTE FOR LEGISLATIVE ACTION
11250 WAPLES MILL ROAD
FAIRFAX, VA 22030-7400

October 15, 1998

Dear NRA member:

Thank you for your recent letter to Mrs. Metaksa. She has asked me to respond on her behalf.

First, regardless of whether Don Kates's interpretation of what the Militia Act of 1792 would suggest might be constitutional under the Second Amendment, the FBI proposal remains the first serious attempt to impose national gun registration. The Militia Act and the FBI proposal differ in a number of ways, with only the latter constituting anything approaching national gun registration. For one thing, the Militia Act applied to citizens rather than to their firearms; were it an effort to limit access to guns, it would be more similar to a licensing proposal than a registration proposal. In addition, the Militia Act did not call for any national record keeping.


Section VI of the Militia Act of May 8, 1792 required:

    That there shall be an adjutant general appointed in each state, whose duty it shall be to distribute all orders for the Commander in Chief of the State to the several corps; ...
    to furnish blank forms of different returns [inventories] that may be required; and to explain the principles of which they should be made; to receive from the several officers of the different corps throughout the state, returns of the militia under their command, reporting the actual situation of their arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, their delinquencies, and every other thing which relates to the general advancement of good order and discipline:

Then in Section X:

    adjutant general shall make a return [inventory] of all militia of the state, to the Commander in Chief of the said state, and a duplicate of the same to the President of the United States.

Presidents Washington and Adams did not require the militia returns, but President Jefferson for ideological reasons wanted to emphasize the militia over the regular army required the "Return of Militia" starting in 1802. These reports were made to the Federal Government through the 1820s when the militia was in an advanced state of decline and neglect. The "Return of Militia" under "Arms, Ammunition, Accoutrements" listed all available militia resources including privately owned side arms, pistols, muskets, bayonets, pounds of powder, etc. There was no concern in those days that privately owned arms be maintained outside of the reach and knowledge of the Federal Government. That is our very contemporary armed populace fanatasy.


It called for eligible citizens to be enrolled at the local level, where they resided, whereas the FBI proposal involves information in the hand of the central government. And the Militia Act kept no track of what guns a citizen bought or owned, only required that most enfranchised males had one appropriate gun, and accoutrements; there was no effort to record any information about that gun, nor any interest whatever in any other firearms the citizens might own. And, of course, enrollment was limited to those obligated to provide some military service in time of emergency; there was no effort to collect any information on persons not so obligated (women, children, old men, Indians, blacks, etc.) nor on their guns.


But there was no implication whatsoever in the Second Amendment or the
Militia Act of 1792 that there was any constitutional protection for these unobligated members of society to privacy or anonymity in their gun ownership. There is a big difference between citizens and their guns. Guns don't consent to be governed. People consent to be governed. Kates can suggest all he wants. The NRA can offer its proclamations, but what is constitutional and unconstitutional under any amendment is decided by the judiciary.

The question was, What does the NRA really want? The answer seems to be what the NRA does not want. What the NRA does not want is licensing that would limit access to guns and national gun registration by the central government. The latent concern seems to be for the kind of ominous threat perceived by our current array of conspiracy theories about the new world order or some such. The NRA can oppose licensing and national gun registration the same as it advocates privacy and anonymity for gun ownership, but Blackman offers no credible explanation for why these objectives are desirable or undesirable on their merits or demerits or how they are constitutional or unconstitutional under the Second Amendment or consistent or inconsistent with the militia practices of the early republic. The NRA and our contemporary conspiracy theorists can have their fears about tyrannically encroaching central government but those fears in so far as they involve the civil rights of private individuals have no roots in the Second Amendment and the Militia Acts of the early republic.


There is a larger context to what the NRA wants. It is what the Potowmack Institute has called the "libertarian fantasy." It is also a rightwing fantasy that is manifest in the NRA's agenda.
The critiques of it are within the rightwing itself. See:
"Big Sister is Watching You", National Review, 1957.
"Libertarians & Conservatives", National Review, 1979.
"The Libertarian Movement in America", J. Contemp. Studies, 1983.
"Libertarianism or Libertinism?", National Review, 1969.

The libertarian fantasy is address in the Potowmack Institute's amicus curiae in US v. Emerson.


As Kates does suggest the context of the Second Amendment can only be understood by the national Militia Act. There were also dozens of state militia acts. The Militia Act of 1792, as Blackman seems to concede, was about military organization. To "bear arms" describes a military function and militia duty was local conscript duty. The Second Amendment and the militia acts were not about individual civil rights. Nor were they about a right to revolution. The larger context of the Second Amendment was the jus militiae, the right of the people to participate in the military function of the state as citizen soldiers rather than leave those functions up to the regular army--whether commanded by the King or the Federal Government. The militia and the regular army were two strongly differentiated concepts. The militia acts enrolled the obligated men of the local community as citizen soldiers. The militia officers maintained detailed lists of all equipment not just muskets but also knapsacks, swords, pistols and even horses. The purpose was to have an inventory of the military resources of the community. The weapons were as important as the bodies. There were no serial numbers then but if there had been they would have been recorded to prevent double counting. As Kates accurately points out there was no concept of a right to privacy or anonymity of gun ownership in its relationship with public authority. Under the Militia Act the enrollments were available to the national government when called on for a legally prescribed purpose. Militia duty was analogous to, but a different concept from, national conscript duty under the Selective Service Acts of the twentieth century. The militia obligation in principle was taken for granted and there was no question of the local officials' authority to impose the obligation. The NRA can oppose registration and lobby for its armed populace fantasy, but it cannot wrap itself in the Second Amendment and the Constitution to have its fantasy.

Stephen Halbrook who argues for the NRA in court denounced Kates' article in the November, 1984, American Rifleman. The NRA lists both Kates and Halbrook prominently as supporters of its "progun" Second Amendment civil right. The NRA might clarify their conflicting positions. Blackman has not.

The context of the eighteenth century militia was described by historian Lawrence Cress in Citizens in Arms (1982):


See a shorter treatment by Cress in our Archive:
Lawrence Cress, "An Armed Community: The Origins and the Meaning of the Right to Bear Arms," J. Am. Hist., 1984.
Other history files in our archive:
John Kenneth Rowland, .../1197row.html, previously unpublished PhD dissertation, Ohio State, 1978.
John Kenneth Rowland, Appendix A, US v. Emerson,
Saul Cornell, "Commonplace or Anachronism," Constitutional Commentary, October, 1999.
Don Higginbotham, "The Second Amendment in Historical Context",Constitutional Commentary, October, 1999.
Michael Bellesiles, "Suicide Pact",Constitutional Commentary, October, 1999.
Garry Wills, "To Keep and Bear Arms",New York Review of Books, September 21, 1995.
Leon Friedman,"Conscription and the Constitution," Michigan Law Review, 1969.


A few paragraphs later Cress writes:

There is no implication in this description that the militia involved a civil right to private gun ownership outside of the context of the militia institution which involved conscription, a registry and an obligation to serve the community--usually without pay. In contrast to the militia, the regular army was paid, not conscript, duty. Out of concerns about the King's army going back centuries the Antifederalists were very concerned about the potential abuses of a regular army at the disposal of the national government. In his previously unpublished dissertation (1978, excerpts at .../1197row.html), historian John Kenneth Rowland argues that the problem of the Antifederalists, who demanded the Second Amendment, was that they did not understand that the fundamental concepts of political theory had changed from the British Constitution to the US Constitution. The British Constitution involved a theoretical and rhetorical balance of power--in practice, mostly rhetorical--between the rulers (central authority with a regular army) and the ruled (the people enrolled in the militia) but under the US Constitution the rulers and the ruled had become one and the same. The people divided their sovereignty between state government and federal government, consented to be governed by both, and made their arms available to both to be called out as "the force of the community" to enforce "known, settled, standing law" (in the language of John Locke in The Second Treatise.) The theoretical balanced lost its meaning. The change in concepts meant an eventual change in the attitude toward the army and a complete disappearance of the conscript militia by the 1830s. Cress ends his book:

The constitutional balance has been reinvented today in gun lobby/libertarian consciousness as a balance of power between a privately armed populace of private individuals and any and all government. The new consciousness is a contemporary invention with no roots in the militia consciousness and practices of the eighteenth century.

The true legacy of the Second Amendment, meanwhile, is the citizen soldier in American military planning and democratic philosophy. The dual philosophies of the professional soldier and the citizen soldier have competed as the basis of military organization for two hundred year. The dual philosophies are the theme of Russell Weigley's authoritative History of the United States Army (1967). The citizen soldier and the professional soldier merged in the national army in the twentieth century. There was a brief national conscription law during the Civil War but it was never rigorously enforced and therefore never challenged in court. (Chief Justice Roger Taney actually prepared a brief to declare it unconstitutional but a case never came up.) The Selective Service Act of 1917 was the first time a national conscription law was universally imposed. It was challenged and upheld. If the Supreme Court had examined conscription knowledgeably, it could have ruled that conscription was constitutional for the local militia but not for the national army and forced the need for a constitutional amendment while the United States was at war. The Selective Service Act cases were important events in the evolution of the United States as a modern nation state. In the twentieth century we have described our national armed forces as being composed of citizen soldiers and been proud of their condition and performance as such. In this spirit, the NRA describes itself in some of its literature as a virtual auxiliary to the armed forces of the United States. By doing so it implicitly accepts the centralization of authority in the national government which in other contexts it opposes. If a true militia concept of local conscript duty as a constitutional balance against the dangers of the regular army were maintained, the NRA would have to have a different attitude toward the regular army.

Former Senator Gary Hart has proposed a revival of the organizational aspects of the true militia concept in his recent book, The Minuteman (1998). He argues for a reform of our present military organization based on local reserves. Hart spent twelve years on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is very knowledgeable on this subject. His chapter 4 describes the militia concept accurately in historical context and practice. He cites true historians of the Second Amendment and 18th century militias and mentions none of the long list of gun lobby/libertarian pseudoscholars that we find these days in the law journals. Hart's book is highly recommended for any serious inquiry into this subject. Hart does not get into police functions but the militia mentioned by Cress above could be reinvented with the same logic for local police duty. It could become an instrument and institution to raise republican civic consciousness; however, we would not expect the NRA to support any such proposal today especially if it involved a registry and government control and we are afraid our present day professional police forces for different reasons would not be very sympathetic either.


It would most assuredly not be consistent with the intent of the framers to requisition the membership lists of the NRA or other gun owner organizations.


Au contraire, it would be completely consistent with a correct understanding of the militia institution that local political leaders, who were usually indistinguishable as militia officers and civil leaders, had authority to draw on community resources to maintain a militia registry. If there is any dispute on this, it would have to be settled in court and not by analysis of the Potowmack Institute or proclamation by Blackman and the NRA.

What is important in the present context is that there was no constitutional protection for any organization to maintain lists of gun owners outside of militia availability. In the eighteenth century gun ownership was never completely private. The public had a claim for public purposes. Privately owned muskets could be requisistioned with or without the musketeer's body. Private lists outside of public reach would have been regarded as a treasonous threat to public order. If there was constitutional protection mentioned for such an absurdity, let's see it. Private lists now are no less a threat but the political culture has degenerated so much that we do not have the political leadership to address the threat.


Whatever other issues might be involved, any such efforts would violate the First Amendment's freedom of association, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.


At issue here is the Second Amendment not the First. The courts have never recognized a freedom to associate under arms without legal authorization. There is no Second Amendment individual civil right secured by government to "armed citizen guerrillas" (See Appendix D) so they can associate for the purpose of "outflanking" this government. The Second Amendment and the Militia Act involved completely different concepts from what are advanced now for gun ownership.

While those court decisions are from the 20th century, there is nothing in the writings of the Founding Fathers which would suggest that membership lists of potentially controversial organizations could be requisitioned by any level of government.


If there is anything to suggest that "potentially controversial" private organizations would enjoy constitutional protection to maintain private lists of gun owners, let's see it.

As to the notion that such lists now could also be obtained by "private armies," the lists are protected by the various security devices used by the NRA and other gun organizations, and efforts to defeat those security procedures would violate any number of federal, state, and/or local criminal laws.


Oh, really. Are these lists also constitutionally protected from a requisition for the kind of public purpose that Kates describes? Would the constitutional protection extend to the Ku Klux Klan, the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, the Freemen of Montana, the Republic of Texas, Puerto Rican nationalists? What would be the protection, constitutional or otherwise, for the rest of us caught in the crossfire?

We are getting close to the conceptual foundations of law and government here, but Blackman wants to have it both ways. He wants an individual right--secured by government, mind you--to privacy and anonymity including secret lists of gun owners maintained by controversial organizations. The right to privacy and anonymity is the right to be armed outside of the law. To be armed outside of the law means gun owners do not consent to be governed and do not give "just powers" to government. No consent to be governed means no citizenship, no civic culture, no common agreement on a frame of government. The Bill of Rights is about the privileges and immunities of citizenship in a liberty enhancing political order under law and government not natural rights--which are revolutionary rights--in the State of Nature which is the state of anarchy. Blackman assumes that the "just powers" of government will nevertheless exist to enforce federal, state and local criminal laws. He wants all the benefits of political community without any of the obligations that sustain it. What he wants is the essense of political cynicism.


You seem to be of the opinion that, after the Revolution was successful, the Constitution superseded the right of revolution espoused in the Declaration of Independence, and that Charlton Heston is mistaken in describing a "permanent pre-revolutionary situation derived from the revolutionary events of 1775-76."


The questions was, What does the NRA really want? This is getting interesting. Having just described secret secured lists of gun owners, Blackman now proclaims explicitly that it is a correct notion that the Constitution of the United States created a "permanent revolutionary situation" where the "just powers" of government to enforce criminal laws do not include the "just powers" to defend itself against revolution. Revolution is treason. Treason is also a crime. It is the only crime defined in the Constitution. At anytime in any country there is at least a minuscule percentage of the populace that is disposed to armed rebellion. By elevating through its own proclamation the armed populace fantasy to the status of a civil right, the NRA gives some people a false sense of license.

The writings of the Founding Fathers and of early constitutional scholars support Mr. Heston's position. In the Federalist Papers, James Madison, father of the Constitution and of the Bill of Rights, explained that the citizenry would have roughly 15 times the firepower of any standing army. The leading constitutional scholar of the first half of the 19th century, Justice Joseph Story, expressly noted that the right to bear arms might allow the people to recapture their government should it become tyrannical. There is simply nothing in either the writings of the Founding Fathers, the early constitutional scholars, or, for that matter, the "social contract" theorists (Locke et al.) who influenced our Founding Fathers, which would suggest that "consent of the governed" meant gun ownership was subject to "'just powers" of government," whatever that may mean.


Au contraire, John Locke wrote in The Second Treatise of Government, the primary manual of the American Revolution:

Locke's final passage begins:

The state of New Hampshire actually wrote Locke's concept into its 1784 Bill of Rights:

The New Hampshire Bill of Rights provoked no controversy. In The Second Treatise the surrendering up of "the executive power of the law of nature" and the right of the community "to imploy his force" are the very foundations of political community and without which there is was no political community. For more on these concepts see our file The Rule of Law. "[W]hatever that may mean" seems to be where Blackman and the NRA have great difficulty.

The great difficulty raises more questions. The gun lobby has not been able to win what it wants in court, but not for the want of trying. See .../warin.html and Appendix E. The personal right is now under appeal in federal court in US v. Emerson. It has to maintain respectability by wrapping what it wants in the words of the Founding Fathers and early constitutional scholars. The passages referred to above are from James Madison's Federalist Paper No. 46 and Joseph Story's Commentaries on the Constitution (1833). The deception is treated in Appendix I of the Potowmack Institute's amicus curiae in US v. Emerson. We might hope that the Research Coordinator for the NRA has read the references he provides in their originals. Blackman is either intellectually incompetent, practicing deception, or deluded by the same kind of true believing wishful thinking that led Speaker Gingrich to predict a gain in the 1998 election of 40 Republican seats in the House. James Madison's words from Federalist Paper No. 46 are the most frequently and ubiquitously quoted to make the case for an individual right to be armed outside of the law for the purpose of maintaining a permanent revolutionary situation. The NRA member guide (insert, American Rifleman, March, 1991,) is as good an example as any:

Federalist Paper No. 46 has been given much attention in Potowmack Institute files which has submitted to the Fifth Circuit in its Appendix I to its amicus brief in Emerson. No more need be added here except to emphasize that Madison's words do not support the claim of a right to revolution and do not describe an individual right to be armed outside of the law. Madison was describing a power relationship between the state maintained conscript militia and the regular professional federal army. The context was the constitutional balance described by Cress above. Madison's purpose, rather than high political theory, was to encourage ratification of the Constitution to which there was much shrill opposition.

Likewise, the passage from Joseph Story's Commentaries on the Constitution does not support the claim. The context again was constitutional balance. In the same passage we also find the often cited phrase "the palladium of the liberties of a republic." The palladium (safeguard) was not about rights of individuals to privacy or anonymity that would contribute to a permanent revolutionary situation. A few sentences later in the same paragraph Story wrote, "How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see." The organization was maintained by the local political authorities who imposed an obligation without regard to individual civil rights. Story's opinions on the militia are expressed in opinions of the Supreme Court in Houston v. Moore (1820) and Martin v. Mott (1827) Story worried that the militia institution and its constitutional function were falling into disuse. He seems to have failed to comprehend the changes in concepts described by Rowland and in attitude toward the regular army described by Cress above. At other places in the Commentaries Story discusses treason at some length. The Second Amendment was not about the right to commit treason. If the NRA wants to claim Second Amendment rights, it has to resurrect the institutional context in which the rights had meaning. See "The Libertarian Fantasy on the Supreme Court" for the full context of Story and his palladium and his comments on treason; also, treated in amicus curiae in US v. Emerson.


There was simply no view that giving some powers to the government meant giving unlimited powers, including the right of the means for self-defense, to the government.


The NRA never passes up the chance to make a demagogic appeal to individual self-interest with self-defense.

Individuals who enter political community and consent to be governed do not give unlimited powers to government and they do not give up the right to self-defense. Self-defense is a right protected in law and constitutional doctrine. There is no conflict in principle between gun ownership for self-defense and accountability of gun ownership to public authority. However, the right to self-defense does not justify a right to be armed outside of the law and individuals under law and government do not get to decide in their own case what is self-defense .

The question was, What does the NRA really want? What the NRA wants extends beyond the NRA and even into the halls of Congress. There are no secrets here:

Sue Wimmershoff-Caplan, a member of the NRA's National Board, wrote in the Washington Post, July 6, 1989: "Twentieth century military machines are far from invincible when outflanked by armed citizen guerrillas."

Wayne LaPierre wrote in Guns, Crime and Freedom, p. 7: "...those four words--"The Right of the People [from the Declaration of Independence]"--state in plane language that the people have the right, must have the right, to use whatever means necessary, including force, to abolish oppressive government."

David Kopel who is a frequent contributor to NRA publications wrote in "Trust the People: The Case against Gun Control,"Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 109 (1988) explicitly in the context of gun ownership: "The tools of political dissent should be privately owned and unregistered."

The Second Amendment Foundation asserted in its amicus in US v. Francis J. Warin: "...a basic right of freemen to take up arms to defeat an oppressive government."

Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of American wrote in a recent mailing to GOA members that the Founders "passed [doesn't he mean ratified?] the Second Amendment because they wanted to ensure that no government would ever again have a monopoly of force."

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wrote in his book To Renew America, p. 202: "The Second Amendment is a political right written into our Constitution for the purpose of protecting individual citizens from their own government."

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has stated: "An armed citizenry, people who have the ability to defend themselves, are [sic] not going to become an oppressed citizenry." Congressional Record, November 19, 1993, p. S16315.

Well, the people do have the right to take up arms to abolish an oppressive government. It is a moral right, a natural right, a God-given right, an unalienable right, but it is not one of those certain unalienable rights, not an individual civil right, that can possibly be secured by government. How could it be? Once the right is exercised and the government is abolished there is no longer a government to secure the right. Such rights exists in the State of Nature outside of the context of government and constitutions. The Declaration of Independence was a charter for revolution. The Constitution is a charter for government. Lawful government is different from an armed standoff. When the Whiskey Rebels, who included militiamen, defied federal authority in 1794 under circumstances very similar to the revolutionary situation of 1774-76, President Washington sent an army and tried the leaders for treason. From the beginning, the constitutional balance described by Cress was a matter of rhetoric and theory with little practical meaning in the resolution of domestic grievances. The gun lobby's very contemporary ideology has a difficult time with public authority. Our contemporary politicians have a difficult time understanding their obligation to maintain sovereign public authority. Not so when the new government was instituted.


I'm afraid I don't understand your references to "civic limbo" or the idea that gun owners are in some such state.


Dr. Blackman needs to apply his mind. The NRA member's September letter above would appear to have explained the "civic limbo." Maybe we can make it a little clearer. The "civic limbo" is the permanent revolutionary situation that Charlton Heston, according to Blackman, is not mistaken about. Although the intent is clear enough in the above quotes, openly and loudly asserting the right to revolution would invite condemnation when there is no critical mass to support a revolution. The NRA has to maintain its respectability and its credibility. This is the NRA's problem. The hedge is the "civic limbo." We sort of consent to be governed, sort of pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands, but we keep our guns outside of accountability to public authority in case we don't get our way in electoral, legislative or judicial processes which means we do not really consent to be governed at all. While we call on the "just powers" of government to secure our self-defined rights, we have given no meaningful "just powers" to government. The "civic limbo" is what the Potowmack Institute has called the "armed populace doctrine" and the "armed populace fantasy". Insofar as the NRA's Stephen Halbrook describes "libertarian republicans" (p. 9, That Everyman Be Armed) and the Libertarian Party Platform asserts a right to "individual sovereignty" and "political secession" (even for individuals), we have also called this "civic limbo" the "libertarian fantasy." Individual sovereigns by definition do not consent to be governed, do not give "just powers" to government. The most they will consent to is voluntary association. They make a treaty among sovereign individuals. Alexander Hamilton addressed this circumstance in a different context in Federalist Paper No. 33:

Three hundred years ago John Locke described in The Second Treatise that sovereign states recognize no higher law or authority and exist in the State of Nature in their relations with each other. The NRA will create the same circumstance for sovereign individuals. The Potowmack Institute receives e-mail from gun owners who assert a common refrain that "an armed society is a polite society." Sovereign states have developed elaborate rules of diplomacy to communicate with each other so their signals are not misunderstood. Diplomacy is very polite, but when differences become irreconcilable and communication breaks down, sovereign states go to war. What the NRA wants is not a government that is about POLITICAL POWER AND SUPREMACY but a treaty, a voluntary association, among sovereign individuals, who reserve the right and the means to secede--make revolution--when things don't go their way. The "civic limbo" the NRA wants to have by maintaining a contingency of extralegal armed force is a childish political fantasy. To gain credibility for the claim, the NRA gives the good faith assurance that law-abiding gun owners will not exercise the right. They will just maintain the fantasy. Members of Congress have accepted the good faith. The rest of us do not have to. The capacity to exercise armed force--whether the intent is fantasy or not--is a threat. In John Locke and in law the threat to exercise armed force and the actual exercise is not much different. In Dennis v. US (1951) the Supreme Court ruled:

We can see the anarchy in the daily news.

The question was, What does the NRA really want? Here we have it. The adolescent isolence of the inability to accommodate to sovereign public authority thrashes about on our Interactive. The same inability comes out as political cynicism, with no aversion to deception, in middle-aged men.


Similarly, I don't understand your concern about "private armies go[ing] door to door confiscating guns" because there is "no lawful authority to protect me." Just as their attempts to seize membership lists would be illegal, if an individual or a group goes to a single house, or door to door, seizing guns, or any other property, that constitutes robbery or burglary and theft.


Blackman still wants to have it both ways. He wants lawful authority to secure rights and property and to enforce criminal laws but wants to maintain a permanent revolutionary situation where lawful authority is provisional at best. A government that cannot maintain its lawful authority, cannot maintain the monopoly on the exercise of armed force and the monopoly on the capacity to exercise armed force, is not a government and cannot be depended on for anything that governments are obligated to do. The best twentieth century example was the Weimar Republic (Germany, 1919-1933). The Weimar Republic did not have the political will to disarm and disband the private armies--the Nazi Party's "armed citizen guerrillas," called Stormtroopers--that would outflank it and eventually succumbed. Blackman offers no guidelines on how we distinguish between the Nazi Party's "armed citizen guerrillas," the NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas," and the "armed citizen guerrillas," who made the American Revolution.

How is it that there is "no lawful authority" to protect us from that? Like other "lawless predators," the government is authorized to take action,


So government is now a lawless predator, another armed force, e pluribus unum, competing in the struggle.

and, until that time, citizens are allowed to use their privately owned firearms (or other weapons, or any other means) to protect themselves from predators and private armies.


Gun owners can have all the guns they want but not to have its childish political fantasy. Citizens protect themselves first by maintaining the sovereignty of the legal institutions of government. There is no conflict in principle between private gun ownership for lawful purposes and accountability to public authority. The self-defense the NRA wants is self-defense in the State of Nature not self-defense under law and government.

In a famous passage about a hundred years ago the German sociologist Max Weber defined the state as maintaining the "the monopoly on violence." Weber was observing the nation-state as a new legal political entity that had been several centuries in development. The American Revolution made important contributions to that development. Alexander Hamilton anticipated the ultimate definition in the passage above from Federalist Paper No. 33. It was anticipated even earlier by John Locke when he referred to "the force of the community." In Weber's passage the state did not confiscate all the guns and leave individuals disarmed and helpless as seems to be the NRA's great fear (certainly Halbrook's). In Weber, the exercise of armed force within the jurisdiction of the state is authorized or permitted by the state which means it is authorized or permitted by law. Under a government of, by and for the people, the laws are enacted of, by and for the people to provide for their security. Stephen Halbrook's political cynicism (p. 9, That Every Man Be Armed) can only conceive of "authoritarian absolutists" who confiscate all the guns and "libertarian republicans" who make a treaty. Constitutional government is somewhere in between. Allegiance to sovereign public authority under a viable constitutional order creates a civic culture of public trust--the opposite of political cynicism. The NRA enters into this discussion with an extreme individualist ideology of individual sovereignty that produces a civic culture of private fear and suspicion and a political life of public cynicism.

Weber is dismissed as a German statist by libertarian ideologues eventhough Germany in his time was more decentralized that was the United States. Weber provided the accepted definition of modern political existence in a nation-state. If Blackman and the NRA have a new political concept, they should formulate it for all to examine so we can decide if that is what we want for the twenty first century. The strategy seems to be to "sneak" it in--as the letter above already suspects--through the kind of misrepresentation that is manifest in the references above to Madison and Story and by promoting civic decline and exploiting a climate of fear to win gun owners' votes .


I'm simply at a loss to understand what your concerns are, or how you believe NRA policy protects predators and armies who wish to commit violent or property offenses.


The NRA will create a political environment which is not a political environment. To maintain gun owners in the "civic limbo" of a permanent revolutionary situation, with no fundamental agreement on the "just powers" of government to maintain by legal authorization the monopoly on the exercise of armed force and the monopoly on the capacity to exercise armed force, the NRA's ideology will create opportunities for private concentrations of power including armed power. James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 51 that "if men were angels no government would be necessary." The NRA's permanent revolutionary situation assumes that the only wickedness comes from government. In the State of Nature, individual gun owners will, of course, have their natural right to self-defense against their neighborhood warlord and his private army. As Locke put it, "the strongest carries it" (§ 1).

Similarly, the statement "if all citizens are armed for self-defense, as the NRA seems to want, and there are no rules and regulations to disarm the lawless then my insecurity becomes absolute" makes no sense to me.


Blackman really needs to apply his mind here. The life he saves may be his own. In a permanent revolutionary situation there is no viable legal political authority, no civic culture of public trust, and no public order except as tenuously provided by good faith and force of habit. Mr. Blackman will have lost the fundamental freedom to walk alone (gun in hand or not) across the parking lot to his car. He will have to join an armed group and move about the way an infantry unit moves across a battlefield. Otherwise, the armed predators, lurking in the shadows, will simply put a bullet into the back of his head and make off with his wallet, his car--and his gun.

The best description of the situation we have seen is provided ironically by libertarian ideologue Ayn Rand in the Virtues of Selfishness:

Ayn Rand was not as naive as Paul Blackman and the NRA. When we pass the point of no return on the slippery slope to anarchy, Blackman will need more than a few guns for self-defense.

The NRA doesn't want all citizens armed for self-defense. We support legislation proscribing gun ownership for convicted felons, adjudicated mental incompetents, and others. And we certainly don't want anyone to arm himself who doesn't want to be armed. And there are all sorts of rules and regulations disarming the lawless. But even if all citizens were armed for self-defense, how would your insecurity become absolute? It would mean that 100 percent of citizens were armed for self-defense, of who roughly one percent were criminals, which would seem to put criminals at a statistical disadvantage under most if not all circumstances. You seem to be imagining a hypothetical horrible unwarranted either by reality of the hypothetical situation envisioned.


The Libertarian Party Platform opposes laws "restricting, regulating, or requiring" gun ownership. Unlike the Militia Act of 1792, the Libertarian Party and the NRA don't recognize the "just powers" of government to coerce anything let alone gun ownership. The position is rather disingenuous. All those guns in private hands, untouched by any laws, create a permanent revolutionary state and fulfill the armed populace fantasy.

Starting with Aristotle, one important purpose for entering political community was the personal security individuals in the State of Nature could not provide for themselves relying "on their own strength, and their own invention" (--Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, chap. 13, the same paragraph that ends, "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short.") By creating a situation of unlimited access to guns to fulfill its armed populace fantasy and no "just powers" to enforce legal standards or categories that would disarm the lawless and the disloyal and no institutional structure modeled after the militias of the early republic, the NRA will create a circumstance where no one is at liberty not to be armed. The NRA has to maintain this circumstance because, if a national firearms policy supported by gun owners, once they decide they are citizens, were to disarm the lawless and the disloyal, the people might discover that they do not have to rely solely on their private efforts for self-defense, the people might find themselves liberated from the need to acquire and maintain private weaponry, and the NRA would lose its self-defense appeal to win gun owners' votes to defeat legislation.


While there is not much dispute about the notion that convicted felons (and various others) have lost their rights and can be disarmed, there is considerable controversy regarding how such proscription can be constitutionally enforced.


So now Blackman does want to limit access to guns but doesn't know how and at the same time maintain a permanent revolutionary situation. The NRA supports legislation that would proscribe gun ownership for convicted felons, etc., but there can be no means of enforcement what would infringe on individual sovereignty. We have unlimited access to guns but if anyone misbehaves we impose draconian punishment. The prescription is for arbitrary, authoritarian--and, expensive--enforcement, the very kind of situation the NRA does not want. More than a hypothetical horrible is envisioned.

There is no controversy on this at the Potowmack Institute. The means for enforcement will be found when the NRA gives up its imaginary claim of constitutional protection against prior restraint. No prior restraint mean no effective means of enforcement, just word of honor and good faith before the fact and draconian punishment by example after the fact.

Prior restraint is only a constitutional issue in fundamental First Amendment rights of speech, press, and religion. A parade permit is First Amendment prior restraint on a fundamental right regardless that the First Amendment says Congress shall make no law to abridge. When it comes to armed assembly, the threat of armed assembly, or the fantasy of armed assembly, prior restraint to the gun lobby and its libertarian intellectual allies is an infringement on individual sovereignty. Because the courts have never granted constitutional protection from prior restraint, the NRA has to defeat prior restraint by defeating legislation to maintain its permanent revolutionary situation because prior restraint would involve accountability to public authority, the one thing the armed populace fantasy cannot accommodate. Blackman does not mention prior restraint but it a big issue in gun lobby literature.


The fact of the matter is that the lawless will always be in a position to have guns, since they defy the law.


This is a very tired refrain. The NRA cannot win what it wants in court. The refrain is very useful in winning the votes of the gullible to defeat legislation. The Potowmack Institute wishes that Blackman had more imagination. Why have any laws at all if the only people against whom the laws can be enforced are the people who will not disobey them to begin with? If men were angels, we could have unanimous agreement on all issues and no laws and no government would be necessary. We could return to the State of Nature. In the real world, gun laws are the first laws we have to enforce if we are to have political community as described by John Locke rather than a permanent revolutionary situation. If the great concern is coercive government--particularly central government--the way we minimize coercive government is to use free institutions. We get out all the relevant information honestly presented, have rational public debate, arrive at a consensus, and make laws that are founded on political concepts that make sense and enjoy wide support. Enacting and enforcing laws that make sense have a large impact on routine behavior. If there is still a problem, we organize 60-70 million gun owners into militias and call them out to enforce the gun laws of the land. But first the militiamen have to decide that they are citizens of the United States, who have pledged allegiance under law and government, and are not individual sovereigns in the State of Nature who maintain a permanent revolutionary situation.

Blackman and NRA can take the lead here once they give up the armed populace fantasy. They should not expect much help from the Washington Post, Handgun Control, the public health lobby or the the politicians.


The question is whether the various proposals would disarm the rest of us and put us at a greater risk. That is the concern expressed by criminologists such as Gary Kleck, who opposes gun laws which might tend to disarm the law-abiding more than the criminal, which would certainly be the effect of mandatory training, testing, registration, personalization, and similar laws.


Kleck starts with the same false premise addressed in the preceding comment. What we need to know first about Gary Kleck is who funds his research. See the Rightwing Movement. If he has a new political theory for a permanent revolutionary situation, let him formulate it and present it for examination. Otherwise, he furthers the cynicism.

We were disappointed that the former CEO of Colt Manufacturing appeared to be calling for a licensing scheme, just as we were similarly disappointed by similar proposals by Smith & Wesson in the 1970s. Although Colt has received a $500,000 grant from the government to develop a so-called "personalized gun", we have worked with Colt in the state of New Jersey to defeat a proposed "smart-gun" mandate.


Modeled after successful strategies to improve automobile safety, the public health lobby pushes the "personalized gun" and "smart-gun." Regardless of the merits of the proposals, the strategy does not ask, What does the NRA really want?

The gun manufacturers appear to be under pressure from the manufacturer liability law suits pursued by Handgun Control and others. When we ask politicians, What does the NRA really want? The answer is, The NRA is a front for the gun manufacturers. The false definition is a recipe for bad strategy, bad law, and bad court decisions. Ron Stewart did not answer the letter at .../ronstew.html. We do not know how serious the gun manufacturers are or what they understand about what they are caught up in. The point was already made in the September letter above that Colt's proposal would put responsibility on gun owners where it belongs rather than on gun manufacturers. We agree. Blackman offers no position on where liability should lie. The Potowmack Institute wants to see the question raised conspicuously in public discourse. We can start asking members of Congress.


You suggest that we make too much of the possibility that registration will lead to confiscation. One reason for this is that there is no benefit.


This is a deflection of the issue of what the NRA really wants. Registration creates the means to establish legal categories of gun ownership that would effectively disarm the lawless and the disloyal. At the same time it registers the consent to be governed and moves us from a permanent revolutionary situation into political community.

Registration may lead to confiscation or it may lead to nothing. It cannot lead to good.


Blackman is still deflecting. It is revealing of the agenda that accountability of ownership is what the NRA works hardest to prevent. It has to be the first area of inquiry. Blackman could explain a little more about what kind of good a permanent revolutionary situation will lead to.

(In the '80s, New Zealand [I believe it was] abandoned registration of firearms when the police testified that registration had served no law enforcement purpose since being adopted around the time of the First World War.)


Wherever it was, it was not here. We live here.

Registration of firearms has been used to assist in confiscation or banning of some firearms in such jurisdictions as Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., New York City, New Jersey, and Bermuda, in addition to non-Anglo-American nations with even less regard for traditional rights.


There is no traditional right secured by government to maintain a permanent revolutionary situation. If the NRA would work to build consciousness on gun ownership in a viable legal context rather than maintain a permanent revolutionary situation, we could get laws and policies that make sense.

During World War II, the Nazis used registration lists of radio owners to curtail the ability of persons in countries such as Norway to listen to allied broadcasts. And, of course, the registration of Jews, in Vichy France and elsewhere was used to round up Jews for extermination purposes, a rather extreme form of confiscation. While tyrants may be able to confiscate some guns, or other property, even without registration, registration lists make such confiscation easier. And registration of guns serves no legitimate purpose.


A legitimate purpose is to create the means to confiscate guns from the lawless and the disloyal. That is why we institute law and government and how we provide for our security under law and government. First we have to decide that we are citizens of the United States and not individual sovereigns who make a treaty rather than a government. Registration is essential to a viable legal political order. It is irrelevant to a revolutionary situation. Legal categories of gun ownership effectively enforced would only disarm the one percent that Blackman mentions above. One in a hundred sounds small but it still creates a large menace. The institutions of government in this country at all levels combined do not have the manpower resources to confiscate the remaining 200 million guns in one swoop. Blackman appears to have as little faith in the ability of the American people to resist tyranny when necessary as to make lawful government work when necessary.

Confiscation of guns, radios or anything else is a right of victory or conquest. What else is the victor supposed to do? The victorious Allies confiscated weaponry in Germany and Japan in 1945. Jews in Europe had no state that would protect them so they created the state of Israel and gave it their allegiance. Now the palestinians want a state to protect themselves from the Israelis. In neither case is there any tender concern that they reserve a civil right to outflank their own government.


(Registration of most property is to aid taxing registered property; that might be fine for houses, cars, or boats, but would conflict with the exercise of constitutional rights, such as voting or gun ownership.)


So now we remove all regulation, put a gun in every pocket, and vote early and often.

Registration of automobiles (a title with VIN) and real estate (a deed, filed at the courthouse) are mechanisms of taxation, to be sure, but they also are proof of ownership. We have government to secure property. To secure property requires proof of ownership.

Registration for taxation was one of the constitutional justifications for the prohibitive tax on machine guns, etc., in the National Firearms Act of 1934. We need to come up with a new justification like maintaining the sovereignty of the legal institutions of government against the NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas" who would outflank them. In the eighteenth century they maintained the militiamen on a registry so they could be called out to enforce the laws of the Union and suppress insurrections. If the militiamen were the insurrectionists they had to decide if they were going to respond to the call or continue their insurrection and be indicted for treason. Either way big, bad government had them. The natural right to revolution is "in extremis," as the Second Amendment Foundation put it in its amicus brief in Warin. In extremis means a critical mass of support in the general population. The natural right is a moral justification not a civil right secured by government.


We seem to be in agreement in opposing bad legislation supported by Handgun Control, Inc., the public health fascists, and the Clinton Administration. I don't understand what you are complaining about when you denounce our "own backdoor scheme" as unworthy of support. I'm afraid I can't offer an explanation without a better statement of what it is you're objecting to.

Sincerely,
Paul H. Blackman, PhD
Research Coordinator


"[P]ublic health fascists" is not a constructive contribution. Blackman reveals something of his mentality. The New England Journal of Medicine meanwhile refused to print the article at .../addressi.html. What is Blackman worried about? He has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Handgun Control and the public health lobby pursue these strategies because they cannot ask, What does the NRA really want? We will ask here. There are simple solutions to the problems of gun ownership and gun violence. The real issue is gun ownership accountable to public authority or gun ownership outside of accountability to public authority. Are gun owners citizens under law and government or individual sovereigns, laws unto themselves, in the State of Nature which is the state of anarchy? As long as there are large numbers of guns in the society there will be outrages which, while disturbing and symptomatic of other disorders, in a country of 250 million plus are still relatively rare. The solutions involve a confrontation with fundamental issues not the behind the scene deals in legislative committees and the legal technicalities of court rulings both of which take place largely outside of public view. When it comes to the fundamentals of citizenship, the people have to arrive at a consensus on what they want and let policy follow. Policy will follow when the people insist that members of Congress debate substantive issues on the floors of Congress and on the campaign trail. The NRA will find an important, constructive role to play when it gives up its armed populace fantasy.


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