Editorial: Calm Reasoning Went Out With the Eisenhower Administration

(Jan. 1994)

I was talking to NCCDA President Robert Horne the other day, and he gave me an interesting bit of news. While our newsletters have been getting mostly positive reviews, a few members have taken issue with their increasingly confrontational tone.

Well, it's a poorly-kept secret that I have been responsible for much of the intemperate language in most of our mailings. By liberally adding to Robert's much-calmer words (with his permission), I hoped to accomplish two things. The first was to more fully justify our mailing costs, as two or three pages cost the same to send out as one. Second, and more important, was the desire to keep you all as riled up as possible.

It was the second motive that produced the complaints. I can fully understand the line of thought that dictates that we not give our foes ammunition with which to condemn us as wild-eyed extremists. I just don't happen to agree with it. KEEP IN MIND THAT THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION IS CURRENTLY ATTEMPTING TO ABOLISH THE FOURTH AMENDMENT'S PROTECTION AGAINST UNLAWFUL SEARCHES AND SEIZURES, DESTROY THE SECOND AMENDMENT, AND TAKE OVER ONE-SEVENTH OF OUR ECONOMY! The time is long past when Sarah Brady and her pals gave a damn about fine debating points. They have scented blood in the water, and are swarming in the hopes of ramrodding their slate through before the November elections, when many anti-gunners are up before the voters. The rest will come prior to Bill Clinton's probable eviction in 1996.

On the other hand, those pushing for a more moderate tone might be confusing being circumspect (carefully weighing every possible repercussion) with acting logically. It just ain't so. Judiciously avoiding any language that might be taken by anyone to be inflammatory accomplishes exactly two things. The first is to ensure that the HCI-types will treat you like a dog that has learned to speak - an interesting curiosity, but still an animal. The second is to lull many of our potential supporters into a dangerously misplaced sense of security (as in "Well, if they aren't worried, why should I be?").

We live in the age of the punchy sound bite, when anything that is not cast as a screeching emergency will most likely be overlooked. The perfectly good reason for this is that most folks are too busy with their own lives to keep up with the tremendous volume of garbage pouring from our local, state, and federal governments. If all they see when they pause their remote for a moment on C-SPAN are the anti-gunners waving pictures of bloody bodies into the camera while our side engages in a one-sided debate on the original intent of the Founding Fathers, which side do you think will win? Our public schools have done their job very well, so that when the average person hears the word "rights," they reflexively think, "Oh yes, what the government gives to me." No finely reasoned three-sentence rebuttal that we manage to sneak into an anti-gun newspaper article can defeat that mindset.

I wish that a few hundred words in our newsletter would be enough to set voters on the right path. But they cannot. Very few writers could convey the necessary information even in a thick volume (then try getting anyone to actually read it!). The most that a group like ours can hope to do is to provoke or intrigue others into taking an active interest in our cause. In that light, one of the most encouraging developments I have noted in the defenders of the Second Amendment over the last few years is the number of times that people I have never met before will begin a conversation by asking, "have you read . . . ."

Our opponents are quite correct when they talk of instigating "mass opposition" to the right to keep and bear arms. They have that luxury because they can triumph by simply knee-jerking a sufficient number of fence-sitters to their side for a few critical weeks or months. Tyranny needs only to be imposed once, for after it has been achieved, public opinion will be rendered meaningless.

Liberty is much more fragile. Defending it demands that every single one of us takes the time to personally acquire an understanding of what our individual rights were intended to be, so that we know exactly what to fight for. Mob rule can be based upon momentary passions, but the re-establishment of freedom requires study and reflection on the part of each and every one of the individuals who promote it.

To further that end, I can recommend no single book more highly than The Federalist Papers , an exhaustive collection of essays by James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. They engaged in a wide-ranging debate, which took place just before the adoption of our Constitution, on the nature and function of a proper government based upon the rule of law and the supreme rights of the individual. A paperback copy at a used book store shouldn't run you more than a few dollars.



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