Fire! Ready! Aim!

Ed Raymond

Will thoughts and prayers save the NRA?

The National Rifle Association was chartered in the state of New York in 1871 as a non-profit organization with a social welfare mission. In the good old days it taught hunters, marksmen, and young boys and girls the proper use of firearms with safety as one of its major “missions.”

It has gradually turned itself into a juggernaut providing billions of profits to firearm manufacturers, million-dollar salaries to its lobbying executives, and the country with a tsunami of more than 400 million firearms.  These firearms have been taken up by hunters, cops, malcontents, crazies, gangs, soldiers, and 3-year-olds who kill their mothers.

The firearms have killed and wounded 140,000 American per year in a country resembling the conflicts exhibited in the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
It seems the NRA has forgotten about its original mission. Attorney General Letitia James of New York thinks so, too. She has some experience closing down “charitable” organizations that abuse charity. She closed down the Trump Foundation in a heartbeat because it was only charitable to the Trump family.

I’m writing this column on Au. 10. On Sunday Aug. 9, 21 people were shot in Washington in one incident: one dead, seven in hospital critically wounded, and 13 required medical care. The one dead made it 115 for the year in Washington. Police Chief Peter Newsharm blames the availability of illegal firearms for the shootings.

Three weeks before, nine people were shot outside a Washington restaurant with one killed and five critically wounded. On the same day, an 11-year-od boy was critically wounded at a stop-the-violence cookout!

Corky and I lived in Washington for a year in 1954-55 while I was going through Marine Corps Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia. Shootings were very rare. But about 20 years later, Wayne LaPierre went to work as a lobbyist for the NRA and started to develop the gun culture.

By the way, most large cities have gun culture problems similar to D.C. On the July 4th weekend, Chicago, a city with strict gun laws, had 47 shootings: 17 killed and 70 wounded. Since June 20, nine Chicago children below the age of 18 have been killed by firearms. The youngest was 20-months old. Two three-year-old girls were critically wounded in one exchange.

We are not running out of corrals.

Is there some relationship among these stats?

In 2018 police in the Divided States killed 1,042 citizens with firearms. Brit-ish police killed three and Japanese po-lice didn’t kill anyone. Finnish police fired six shots – back in 2013!

Let’s count the number of firearms per 100 persons in 10 developed countries: Divided States-120, Can-ada-35, Norway-28, France-19, Ger-many-19, Australia-14, Russia-12, Den-mark-9, Spain-7 and Great Britain-4.

Is there a possibility that those numbers are related to citizens killed by police?

Every day 100 people are killed by firearms in the Divided States. Has the NRA failed in its “social welfare mission” to teach firearm safety? Has the New York attorney general have enough evidence to close down the NRA as a nonprofit charity?

The NRA was founded by two Civil War vets (one a lawyer and the other a New York Times reporter!) shocked by the horrible marksmanship of the average soldier. The NRA charter promoted rifle shooting, safety and firearm maintenance for the New York National Guard.

This is hard to believe today, but when Congress held hearings for the 1934 Firearms Act that placed controls on machine guns because of John Dillinger and other criminals using them to slaughter enemies, bank tellers, and cops, NRA President Karl Frederick made this shocking statement: “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

His name is hard to find on the NRA’s website today. Known as the best shot in America (three Olympic sharpshooter gold medals), Frederick was also a conservationist and president of the Camp Fire Club of America. In 1934 he helped Congress pass laws to control machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, although he testified he was against registering and licensing of guns and owners.

He testified further: “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one.”      

He would not approve of Charlton (‘Moses’) Heston as five-time president of the NRA holding up an old rifle and declaring in the 2000 presidential campaign: “Al Gore will take away the Second Amendment from my dead, cold hands!”

Heston was certainly the greatest creator and defender of NRA positions that were infused with white supremacy, pro-life, Christian Identity religion and anti-gay proclamations coming from NRA executives and the 76-member NRA Board of Directors. He loved to give speeches about political correctness, culture wars and white power. During his time as NRA president (1998-2003) he gave lots of right-wing speeches containing “white power” ideology: “The Constitution was handed down by a bunch of wise old dead white guys (all slave owners, Moses!) who invented our country! Now some flinch when I say that. Why! It’s true they were white guys! So were most of the guys that died in Lincoln’s name opposing slavery in the 1860’s. So why should I be ashamed of white guys? Why is ‘Hispanic Pride’ or ‘Black Pride’ a good thing, while ‘White Pride’ conjures shaven heads and white hoods? (Because it ‘conjures’ up skinheads and white power KKKs, Moses!) Why was the Million Man March on Washington celebrated by many as progress, while the Promise Keepers march on Washington was greeted with suspicion and ridicule? I’ll tell you why: Cultural warfare!” (Promise Keepers was an extreme right-wing organization claiming Jesus as  savior while it followed the ideology of the Christian Identity Church: anti-black, anti-gay, anti same-sex marriage, and placed the man at the head of household. (It was not very attractive to most American women!)

Wayne LaPierre loved to have Moses around spouting white pow-er speeches, Republican politics, political correctness, Christian Identity theology and the tyranny of Democratic administrations.

Why is LaPierre in deep doo-doo with the State of New York?

Wayne has been a government activist and lobbyist practically all of his adult life, joining the National Rifle Association 43 years ago after serving as a legislative aide to Vic Thomas, a Democratic delegate in Virginia – and a gun rights advocate. Several Vietnam draft deferments are mixed in. Maybe he had bone spurs, too.

He also worked for the American Conservative Union, a right-wing political organization still alive today, after earning a Master’s Degree in government and politics at Boston College. LaPierre is not a hunter, and expresses no particular interest in fire-arms.

I have been keeping a file on the NRA for as long as Wayne has been CEO. If NRA members and opponents want a quick but substantial summary of the doo-doo the NRA is suffocating in, read Danny Hakim’s article in the New York Times Magazine of Dec. 18, 2018, and updated on Aug. 6, 2020, titled “Inside Wayne LaPierre’s Battle for the NRA.”

You can come to only one conclusion: It’s a story of a bunch of guys who gradually turned into crooks and thieves over a hundred years and ended up double-dealing with another bunch of crooks and thieves.

One fact blows up the idea the NRA was a nonprofit on a social welfare mission. In 2017 each of the eight top executives of the NRA out-earned the president of the American Red Cross, one nonprofit with 10 times the revenue of the NRA. All eight executives, including the main milker Wayne LaPierre, were ferociously yanking on the teats of a cash cow supplied by unsuspecting hunters, collectors, militia members and  gun nuts.

Wayne’s compensation in 1995 was $200,000 a year. In 2017 his salary was $2.2 million. In a recent year he topped out at $5.1 million. He has lived well.

The New York attorney general is investigating bills totaling about $500,000 for suits and clothing purchased in a Beverly Hills boutique. He put another $39,000 worth of clothing on an NRA credit card in one day. He is also charged with millions of dollars spent on limo and private jet travel over the years. Eight trips to the Bahamas in a span of eight years cost the NRA $500,000. He and his family had expensive vacation trips to Budapest, Hungary and Italy as well as vacation time spent at Palm Beach, Los Angeles and Reno, Nevada.

Oh – and safaris in Africa with his wife. And a few other little expenses:  several million spent on personal security, $1.2 million in gifts for friends at Nieman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman luxury stores, and a $17 million retirement fund.

There was even a discussion about buying a $6 million home before the start of the New York investigation. The NY attorney general is probably not forgetting about the expensive meals in luxury hotels and the golf club memberships.

Sounds like Wayne went on a social welfare mission for himself and his executives, not others.

When greed overpowers morality and common sense

We have had hundreds of mass shootings and thousands of individual deaths by firearms since Wayne LaPierre assumed leadership of the NRA in 1991. Statisticians have estimated that since 1968 we have killed more civilian Americans with firearms than the 1,396,733 American troops killed in all our wars since the Revolution.

I’m going to use two recent mass shootings to show the absolute insanity of our lax gun laws.

In 2017 Stephen Paddock from Las Vegas hotel windows fired 1,100 military rounds in 10 minutes into a crowd of approximately 20,000 attending a music concert in a large nearby parking lot.

As a one-time commander of a Marine Corps heavy machine platoon, I immediately recognized the sound of automatic machine gun fire, not semi-automatic fire. He killed 58 (and himself later) and wounded an astounding 851 people. Police found 14 AR-15 rifles fitted with bumpstocks. This device turns semi-automatics rifles into automatic machine guns. One pull and hold on the trigger can fire 50 rounds.

Twelve of the AR-15s had 100-round magazine drums attached. In addition, he had eight AR-10 rifles, a handgun, and thousands of rounds of ammo.   
Here was one man of dubious background possessing more firepower than a squad of 13 Marines in a machine gun platoon! To allow one civilian to purchase dozens of rifles and guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition without controls is beyond insanity.

In 2013 a mentally disturbed NRA-member Adam Lanza killed his NRA-member mother and then strolled over to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and fired 154 rounds from 30-round magazines in less than five minutes, killing 20 first graders and six adults. He used the 154th round to kill himself. His mother had purchased firearms so she and Adam could fire them for fun at a local range. He used an AR-15 style Bushmaster at Sandy Hook to put 11 military-style rounds into one first grader, turning the victim into burger.

If you have some time, Google these mass shootings: Orlando Pulse gay club-49k,58w; Virginia Tech-32K,23w; El Paso Walmart-23k,23w.

It’s time to close down this NRA criminal enterprise and go back to the NRA that had a sound social welfare mission about firearms. Remember when the Rent-All NRA politicians in Congress voted “”NO!” against any gun controls and sent their “Thoughts and Prayers” by the thousands to the victims and their families? They had to send so many the phrases finally got ironic derisive catcalls from the public.

The phrase will never be used again for firearm deaths.