Someone in my office has been bringing in scads of old magazines and putting them in the Men's Room for reading material. It does open up few new thresholds for discussion, since most of them deal with military issues (not history, necessarily, more administrative and career-oriented). However, I looked through a copy of the NRA's monthly rag with the finely chiseld features of a famously conservative Hollywood actor (and well-known gun nut) on the cover and felt compelled to rant a bit on a public level.
Just what in God's name is the problem with these folks? Apparently the NRA no longer stands for the National Rifle Association; if I'm reading their propaganda...oops, I mean drivel...oops, I really mean positions correctly, the acronym should really stand for National Republican Allies. Apparently these folks are SO fanatic about the right to own their own AK-47 (a damn good huntin' rifle!) that no other social issues matter any longer. Cooling-off periods, registration, licencing, background checks or anything else designed to keep nutcases and real crooks from getting everything from pea-shooters to anti-aircraft guns are consistently opposed by the NRA. Since the Big Elephant has sold its soul long ago to fringe causes, why should blubbering over supposed 2nd Amendment Constitutional rights be any different? I suspect that just about every Big Elephant-carded politico is probably a card-carrying NRA-ite as well. Most of this particular magazine was, outside of the usual technical reviews of new guns and ammo, taken up with trashing Democrats, John Kerry in particular, and making sure that everyone knew how much the NRA had given to the Big Elephant National Committee, crowned off by a big map of the 2004 election showing how many states were "red".
Look, I like guns as much as the next red-blooded American male. As a Boy Scout I learned to shoot 22 cal. bolt-action rifles and my best friend in high school took me out one Saturday with his dad and older brother just outside the city limits of my hometown so that we could blast away with an assortment of firearms at vicious milk bottles filled with water ("Shoot twice, they're dangerous when wounded!"). It was my first experience with semi-auto handguns, 22 cal. and, even better, a 9mm Belgian Browning taken off of a dead Nazi in WWII. Since then, I've also had the experience of shooting skeet with my brothers-in-law (unfortunately, skeet aren't all that tasty on the dinner table). I like guns. I'd love to have one or two and be able to go out to a shooting range and blast away from time to time.
BUT, from reading the newspaper and watching the news over most of my adult life, I've come to realize that a lot of guns are used to kill the ones we love, either by kids getting into boxes irresponsible parents leave around unlocked or by those involved in domestic violence as a final solution to personal problems between soon-to-be ex-spouses. Of course, the NRA usually counters with their little page of how some 98-year old granny packin' heat took out some 19-year old punk who was engaged in a home invasion robbery or how a 5-year old got out the family Uzi, loaded it up with a magazine of teflon-coated 9mm rounds and whacked a drug-crazed mafia hitman coming to take out his parents. Sure, OK; I'll bet that for every example they cite of manly (or womanly) self-defense, there's probably fifteen to twenty examples of someone's kid committing suicide by 45mm or a stupid husband taking the easy route to instant divorce from his wife with a shotgun. The NRA has gone from an association that used to stand for education and common sense in gun ownership to a fringe bunch of fanatics who, if you scratched the Big Elephant surface of probably more than a few of them, you'd find a closet fascist who would love nothing more than to see the U.S. of A. turned into a religious theocracy and one-party dictatorship.
We've got a local grandmotherly type (well, just imagine a sawed-off Arnold Schwartzenegger with a skirt and wrinkles) here in Florida who's been one of the bigwigs for the NRA over the years. She recently whined about the passage of a law in Florida last session that allows law-abiding people carrying licensed handguns to start blasting away whenever they feel threatened by someone else--NOT in actual, physical danger mind you, where you're defending life and limb in your home--just if you feel threatened and can, after the fact, articulate how you felt threatened by the little old homeless lady who was just LOOKING at you strangely before you pumped her full of lead. Our NRA heroine was proclaiming that the State Attorney's Association, which opposed the law, was a bunch of "bleeding-heart liberals"! Most of these guys are somewhat to the right politically of Ghengis Khan, but apparently not right enough for our pistol-packin' Grandma. She's also been fond of saying over the years that if the weenies in the government would just "enforce" the current laws, all those outlaws who use guns to kill people wouldn't be able to anymore, because they'd be playing "hide the sausage" with people of similar ilk in the State Prison system. She forgets, of course, that her ultra-conservative fringe allies in the Big Elephant camp don't like taxes that pay for prosecutors' salaries and bigger and better jails equipped with well-trained correctional officers instead of poorly-paid guys and gals in rural counties that no longer have any industries other than penal in nature (those other jobs long since been sent over to Asia or South America by our loyal Big Corporate types with the nodding permission of the Big Elephant-in-charge).
The NRA has turned into a Johnny-One-Note; "liberty" for them means one thing, "GUNS, GUNS and MORE GUNS!". Nothing else matters. Crummy schools don't matter. Our sinking status as a champion of personal rights (other than gun possession) world-wide doesn't matter. The rights of the Average Joe and Josephine to not have to worry about gangs better armed than cops doesn't matter. Nope, according to the NRA, everyone should have a gun (better two or three) concealed somewhere on their body at all times to be able to defend themselves against the bad guys (usually Democrats and Government agents trying to take the guns away). Nothing else matters, even if we eventually turn into a Third-World wasteland.
Guess we'll really need the guns then, won't we?