Monday, June 11, 2001

Week of 06/11/2001

Target: The ACLU and the NRA
- by David Matthews 2

"The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be... The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists." - Dr. Martin Luther King

When it comes to protecting and defending our civil rights, you can’t find two groups any more active, vocal, or influential than the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association. Both groups are very fervent in their defense of their respective favorite constitutional amendments. The NRA concerns itself with the right to bear arms, while the ACLU concerns itself with the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights.

NRA members are very defiant in their stance concerning gun control. They announce to the whole world that the only way government will take their guns away is if they pry them from their cold dead hands! Now that’s a graphic picture! Of course, its a bonus when they can get NRA president Charlton Heston to make the pronouncement with his booming "Moses" voice.

The ACLU, on the other hand, attack like mosquitoes on anything they consider to be a threat to civil liberties. They don’t make booming pronouncements. They don’t leave graphic images of defiance in their wake. They don’t even protest. They just file lawsuits. That’s all they do. If they can’t work with the various government entities, they sue those entities.

Both groups are governed by their extreme defense of their respective rights. The NRA feels that you should have the right to own, sell, collect, possess, and properly use a vast arsenal of weapons, and to defend your property with an M-60 machine gun if you so incline. The ACLU would be willing to support any individual or organization from government repression, even admitted pedophiles.

And yet, even though both sides are strong advocates of liberty, both sides are often on opposite ends of each other.

ACLU members are governed by the more liberal factions of society, and are often advocating gun control. They believe so strongly in a peaceful society that they cannot even remotely support people defending themselves when threatened. Of all of the rights in the Constitution, they feel the Second Amendment has simply outlived its usefulness.

Meanwhile, the NRA is governed mostly by conservatives, and while they have a downright religious devotion to the Second Amendment, they’re not too happy about the other nine parts of the Bill of Rights. They don’t believe in the Separation of Church and State because they feel it takes GOD out of society. They really have no qualms about taking land by eminent domain, as long as it’s not THEIR land being taken. They feel that only guilty people exercise their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, and guilty people also have no right to complain that their punishment is "cruel and unusual." They’re all for a right to a speedy jury trial as long as that jury says "GUILTY" the minute court is in session.

NRA members don’t mind the Fourth Amendment being voided, simply because it’s being done in the name of the War on Drugs and the War on Crime, and those two things use the word WAR in them, and WAR means using guns and all, and they really, REALLY love that!

And let’s not forget the First Amendment, shall we? Free speech? Well, they don’t care about that, because it lets protesters burn the American Flag, which they proclaim to be just one step "Under GOD". The right to assemble? Well, so long as it involves an NRA meeting, or a church gathering. Anything else is fair game. And speaking of religious fervor, let’s not forget the Freedom of Religion, which they support so long as the religion in question is THEIRS.

Two groups governed by extremely polar ends of society, often on each other’s back so closely they’re almost going to need a condom and some lubricant.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… I happen think these two powerful, extreme polar groups really should be working together, not against each other!

Both groups currently believe that some of the rights spelled out in the US Constitution are to be supported to their extreme ends. The NRA feels the right to bear arms should be absolute, and the ACLU feels the same way about most of the other rights. They also feel that the rights they do not respectively support HAVE limitations.

What they fail to understand, however, is that those arguments inevitably cancel each other out.

The NRA, for instance, feels their Second Amendment right is unyielding. It "shall not be infringed" - as it is written. Yet the First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law", and NRA members seemingly have no qualms about watching Congress make laws that infringe on THAT Amendment, do they? Sure, Congress can make laws that censor speech and turn America into a neo-Nazi theocracy as long as it worships THEIR God. Just don’t touch the guns.

The ACLU feels that the Second Amendment is outdated, just like the Third Amendment, which prohibits the government from forcing you to house soldiers. But if the Second Amendment can have an expiration date, what is to stop the government from imposing an expiration date on any other right? The federal government, for instance, can claim that in this day and age of the "War on Drugs", the Fourth Amendment has outlived its usefulness.

And here’s a nightmare scenario for my fellow civil libertarians: what would happen if a faction of the government decides to simply ignore the judiciary? A law is declared unconstitutional, and the government says "screw you, and screw the courts, we’re still going to enforce it". What are you going to do then? Send more lawyers? Get in front of the cameras and whine about it? What are you going to do when the government refuses to respect that "civilized" society?

Perhaps the best way the ACLU and the NRA can start to work together is to stop this push by anti-freedom moralists to censor things deemed "harmful to minors." Once upon a time, the conservatives would not have even given a second thought about those things, because they believe that "harmful to minors" would only pertain to sex and explicit words. However, quite recently, violence has been added to the list of things considered "harmful to minors." And quite often, anything that even remotely resembles a gun has been censored in our government schools. Drawing a picture of a gun, or even pantomiming using a gun has had dire consequences by youngsters. Even a picture of a young boy at a firing range being supervised by a certified instructor has resulted in government persecution. Certainly the NRA would have a vested interest in making sure their freedom of speech would not be infringed in the name of "protecting children", right?

Then again, the NRA is starting to find out on their own about the value of free speech, thanks in part to the McCain-Feingold reform bill that would outlaw much of their lobbying efforts. Oh yeah, NOW they’re preaching the virtues of free speech when it’s THEIR speech that’s on the censored list!

Both the ACLU and the NRA fail to make an important connection concerning the interrelation of our constitutional rights. They fail to realize that each of those rights in those first ten constitutional amendments have equal worth, and each are needed to protect the others. The arguments they use to protect one of those rights can be used to protect ALL of those rights. And conversely, the arguments they use to limit any other right can also be used to limit THEIR rights as well.

No, it’s not easy to defend the rights of those people you would otherwise not give a care about. Do you really think that the ACLU want to defend the people who make their skin crawl? They’re about as comfortable doing that as the NRA is in defending the militia groups who think the UN black helicopters are just around the hill. But if they cannot make that libertarian leap, then the next right that will be on the government chopping block could very well be theirs.

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