Bob Herbert | The N.R.A. Is Naming Names

Monday, 13 October 2003 00:24 by: Anonymous

  The N.R.A. Is Naming Names
  By Bob 0aHerbert
  New York Times

  Monday 13 October 2003

  The National Rifle Association doesn't call it an enemies list, but 0adeep in the recesses of the organization's Web site is a long, long compilation 0aof the names of groups and individuals that the N.R.A. considers unfriendly.

  I'm happy to report that I'm on the list, but my name is truly one 0aamong very many. The A.F.L.-C.I.O. is there, and the American Academy of 0aPediatrics. The Children's Defense Fund and the Lutheran Office for Governmental 0aAffairs are there. The United States Catholic Conference, the U.S. Conference of 0aMayors and the Y.W.C.A. of the U.S.A. are all there.

  Among the celebrities on the list are Dr. Joyce Brothers, Candice 0aBergen, Walter Cronkite, Doug Flutie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Vinny Testaverde, Moon 0aZappa and the Temptations.

  Also on the list are the Kansas City Chiefs, Hallmark Cards, the Sara 0aLee Corporation, Ben & Jerry's, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas 0aCity.

  I'm sure there's a method to the N.R.A. madness, but to tell you the 0atruth, all I can see is the madness.

  All of the groups and individuals listed are supposed to be anti-gun. 0aI can't speak for the Kansas City Chiefs or Moon Zappa, but I'm not anti-gun. I 0athink soldiers, the police and certain other law enforcement officials should 0ahave guns. Civilians, however, should be required to demonstrate a good reason 0afor having firearms. We should go to great lengths to keep guns out of the hands 0aof children, criminals and insane people. All guns should be registered. And all 0agun owners should be properly trained and licensed.

  The N.R.A. sees this as a radical, even lunatic position. So I guess 0awe're at odds.

  I asked Andrew Arulanandam, the N.R.A.'s director of public affairs, 0awhy the list had been compiled and displayed on the Web site. He said, "We put 0athe list together in response to many requests by our members wanting to know 0awhich organizations support the rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear 0aarms, and which organizations didn't."

  I asked what he thought his members would do with the information. He 0asaid, "How they use the information is at their own discretion."

  I recently read Jules Witcover's book "The Year the Dream Died: 0aRevisiting 1968 in America." The murders that year of Martin Luther King and 0aRobert Kennedy were among the great tragedies of U.S. history. Both were killed 0aby freaks with guns.

  What is not so well known now is that President Lyndon Johnson tried, 0ain the aftermath of the murders, to get Congress to pass legislation requiring 0athe registration of guns and the licensing of owners. The gun lobby fought and 0akilled that effort, and it continues to fight to the death any attempt to bring 0asanity to the manufacture, sale and possession of guns.

  Between 1968, the year of Johnson's failure to get his legislation 0apassed, and 2001, the last year for which complete statistics are available, 0amore than one million Americans were killed by firearms.

  No number of gun-related fatalities or serious injuries is sufficient 0ato deter the N.R.A. from its fanatical course. A former N.R.A. lawyer has 0aadmitted in an affidavit in a lawsuit that distributors and gun dealers have for 0ayears been illegally diverting guns that end up in the hands of criminals, and 0athat the industry has closed its eyes to the practice.

  Instead of fighting to end this threat to the public's safety, the gun 0alobby and its allies in Congress are pushing legislation that would protect the 0apractice by granting special immunity from liability to gun manufacturers and 0asellers.

  The big item on the legislative agenda next year is the federal 0aassault-weapons ban signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Because 0aof a sunset provision, the law will expire next September if it is not renewed 0aby Congress and the president. The gun lobby has made it clear that it will do 0aall in its power to bury the ban. The plan is to not even let the issue come up 0afor a vote.

  The N.R.A. Web site and its enemies list (which looks like nothing so 0amuch as a broad cross-section of America) has led inevitably to a counter Web 0asite, nrablacklist.com, created by a group called stopthenra.com. In addition to 0afacing off against the gun lobby on legislative matters, the new group and its 0asite are inviting people to volunteer for a spot on the N.R.A. enemies list.

  Ah, free expression.

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