Burton on the Bay:

Changes of Heart:

Not Every Hunter Sides with the NRA

Actor Charlton Heston, new president of the National Rifle Association, has had a change of heart insofar as gun purchases are concerned. To him I say, join the club.

We've all been through it, at least many of us. It's a complex question, this purchasing of firearms - not to mention the ownership of one specific category: handguns.

No, we're not going into the Second Amendment, the purported right for all to bear arms and what our founding fathers meant by a well-regulated militia and whether that right is for everyone. We've argued that before, and in our area where hunting and target shooting is popular and big business, it's a no-win argument.


The Way We Were

But back to Charlton Heston for a moment. Seems he has had a change of heart about guns, something akin to that of fellow actor Ronald Reagan's views on unions, seeing our former president was once at the forefront of the labor union of the stars and quite liberal in his views - and we all know how he ended up.

Just about the time Heston was about to take over the helm of the NRA with promises to lead that mighty organization back to "the mainstream" via supporting only pro-gun candidates for office, it came to light that 30 years ago he had different views.

According to papers in the presidential library of Lyndon Johnson, who incidentally was a big hunter, shortly after the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy 30 years ago this week, Heston - who has worked his way up the NRA ladder - joined other Hollywood stars in boosting passage of a controversial bill in Congress to ban shotgun and rifle sales via the mail to minors or strangers.

Now, Heston's on an opposite course. He's 75, which prompts one to wonder whether wisdom comes with age - but that's another sore subject, seeing that this writer is only several years younger than the new pres of the NRA.

Several times this writer has been on the membership rolls of the NRA only to drop out because of disagreement with policies - then to rejoin in view of the valuable work it does in its gun safety programs. But when the former executive vice president blistered President George Bush mercilessly for turning in his membership in an issue involving guns and ammo applicable for mowing down cops, I decided I was out for good.


Not That Kookie

Which in the way of official NRA thinking makes me either unpatriotic in that I don't support the Second Amendment (which I do), an anti-gun nut (which I'm not) or in the eyes of much of the public - because I own and use firearms - a "kook," which I don't believe.

No question, by some I'm considered a kook for other reasons, seeing that I like to wade into issues and don't always take the popular view. But not a kook because I own and use weapons.

I own both sidearms and longarms, use them appropriately, have no criminal record, no legal mental problems, and presumably am not looked on as a candidate to rob a bank, go on a shooting spree or otherwise use said firearms to do unlawful things.

I have no objection to registering my handguns, even my muzzleloaders, rifles and shotguns if it would lessen the killing, maiming, intimidating going on all around us today. A small sacrifice, I think, to get back on track for law and order.

I'm not paranoid enough to think that some wicked government is going to take over from inside or outside and scan the list of registered gun owners, then come pounding on the door and seize the ancient muzzleloader carried by my great grandfather who went west by wagon train, then throw me in the hoosegow, as NRA would have me believe.


That Kookie

Yet the NRA would like to have me back real bad. The other day as NRA was making preparations to crown Charlton Heston, I got this letter, really this appeal, from executive veep Wayne LaPierre offering to hack ten bucks off my $25 membership fee, also to give me an official NRA hat and let me participate in a poll intended to show Congress that the gun-lobby is wrong in "questioning your patriotism and good citizenship - just because you own a firearm."

The questions are so worded that one must take as gospel the accusations inferred within. There is no way the respondent can make a qualified answer. It's yes or no, as in have you stopped beating your wife?

Talking about loaded questions, you should see the 20 in the poll. Hopefully, those in Congress will get to see the questions as well as the answers. The questions are not only designed to produce misleading answers but also to further the NRA agenda and put fear in people like me who own guns for recreation or to protect the domicile. A sampling:

Other questions ask whether I support or oppose (as if the actions were imminent):

We're also asked if we belong to any volunteer or civic organization within our local communities, whether we are regular contributors to religious or charitable organizations, have volunteered or given money for a political candidate (a little arm twisting here), or if we served in the U.S. armed forces - as Timothy McVeigh and Lee Harvey Oswald did. Whew.

When the presumed thousand upon thousands of ballots are returned (many from frightened gun owners with checks included), NRA undoubtedly will have many answers intended to intimidate Congress. Answers as misleading as the questions.

With more guns than Bibles carried into schools these days and gunshot victims dying like flies on the street, should we not be facing up to the real issue?

What can be done about gun ownership - while still protecting the right of the average legitimate recreational gun owner to pursue sport? Somehow that question didn't make it on the survey questionnaire. Enough said ...

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VolumeVI Number 23
June 11-17, 1998
New Bay Times

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