Archive for April, 2008

posted by Charles L. Cotton on Apr 27

As I am writing this article, I’m sitting in a lounge chair on my patio. A strong wind is blowing and dark clouds are rolling in. It’s clear that a storm is coming. Well, I wish the only storm brewing was related to the weather! Eight years of relative peace on the federal front are coming to a close and political storm clouds are gathering. President Bush didn’t go out of his way to help gun owners, but he didn’t hurt us either, even when pressured to do so after the Democrats took control of Congress and tried to “deal” on legislation he wanted.

Gun owners have enjoyed tremendous success at the polls for several years, even considering the Democrats regaining majorities in the U.S. House and Senate. Many of the newly elected Democrats claim to truly support the Second Amendment, but only time and an opportunity to vote on gun bills will tell whether these claims are election rhetoric or true commitments. One thing is certain, the 2008 Presidential Election offers the very real prospect of returning an anti-gun President to the White House. This has implications even more ominous than the 1994 passage of the Clinton gun-ban, also known as the “assault weapons” ban. As noted, many of the “new” Democrats in Washington have not had the opportunity or misfortune to see a vote on a gun bill. So Second Amendment supporters must still view the likelihood that the Democratic Party’s margins in both the House and the Senate will increase as an ominous possibility. Clearly, the battle to defend our Second Amendment rights is far from over.

After suffering stunning defeats at the polls in 2000 and 2004, anti-freedom groups like the Violence Policy Center, Sara Brady and their ilk focused on state legislatures. They were hardly content to accept the demise of the so-called “assault weapons” ban and introduced even more menacing legislation in several states. After taking control of the U.S. House and Senate, the Democrats introduced an even more Draconian “assault weapons” ban at the federal level. Though filed, this bill has not been pushed by the Democrats for fear it would hurt them in the 2008 Elections. The anti-gun forces bankrolling the anti-gun Democrats are confident that whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is in the White House, they will remember them as their “friends.” So if we see a President Obama or President Clinton in 2008, then the far-reaching “new” assault weapons ban will be the first of many battles we will have to fight. Remember, Obama has stated he supports not only the assault weapons ban, but also a federal law banning concealed carry by citizens throughout the entire Country!

Under President Bush’s direction, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton lead a successful fight against anti-gun forces within the United Nations and against George Soros’ puppet Rebecca Peters, all of whom were trying to do with a UN treaty what the anti-gun forces have been unable to do in the Legislature. Unfortunately, the U.N. small arms treaty is like a summer cold, it always seems to come back. If Clinton or Obama are in the White House and Democrats like Senators Schumer and Feinstein continue to enjoy a majority in the Senate, a devastating U.N. smalls arms treaty is a very real possibility.

At a time when we should be gearing up for battle, there is a distinct danger that the pro-Second Amendment voter base has grown complacent, because of our successes at the state and federal levels for the last eight years. Our victories have been numerous. The NRA and its state associations have steadfastly expanded law-abiding citizens’ rights to carry handguns for self-defense. “Shall issue” concealed carry statutes are now the rule, rather than the exception, in the majority of states; a feat many would have considered impossible only a few years ago. Anti-lawsuit statutes have been passed in several states to protect firearms manufacturers from frivolous, politically motivated suits filed solely to drive them out of business. This is in addition to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed at the federal level to provide a two-pronged defense.

The NRA also took action in response to the atrocities inflicted on helpless citizens in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Former Mayor Ray Nagin, illegally and unconstitutionally ordered the confiscation of all firearms from law-abiding but stranded and helpless citizens, leaving them without the means of self-defense at a time when their lives were clearly in danger. As one woman said, “They didn’t offer me a drink of water, they didn’t offer me any food, they didn’t offer me a ride out, they just took my gun and left!” Thanks to the NRA, federal legislation was passed preventing the repeat of such despicable acts by public officials. However, the NRA didn’t stop there. Suit was filed on behalf of citizens whose property was illegally confiscated and the scope of Mayor Nagin’s lies and deeds came to light during the discovery process. We should also take pride in the fact that this suit was made possible because the NRA had investigators on location in New Orleans to obtain documentary proof of Mayor Nagin’s quest.

The NRA made passage of laws commonly known as the “Castle Doctrine” a top priority in the states. These laws vary by state, but at their core they allow a citizen to defend themselves from violent attack, without having to worry about facing prosecution and prison. Many of the states included civil liability protection in their version of the “Castle Doctrine.”

But make no mistake, all of these successes are in danger. With the Democrats in control of the House and Senate, not only do we face the very real possibility of another assault weapons ban that is more encompassing than Bill Clinton’s version, we could see the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and the Emergency Powers Act that prohibits the confiscation of firearms in times of emergency. If John McCain is President, he likely would veto such legislation; Clinton or Obama would sign it with a big grin on their face.

I made this statement in 2005 and it bears repeating.

Ironically, our successes can actually work against us, unless we are ever vigilant. It is comforting to see the great strides we have made, but we cannot allow that success to lull us into complacency. Rather, we must use our successes as a springboard for new efforts.

Unfortunately, three years after first making this statement, our “new efforts” are going to be directed largely toward protecting what we have gained.

There is much work to be done. In truth the fight to defend all Constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment, will never end. There will be times of relative peace as we enjoyed from 2000 to 2008, but the threat will always be present to some greater or lesser degree. While we have to guard against complacency that is born of success, so too must we guard against fatigue caused by a seemingly endless battle. So how do we accomplish this? We win by staying in the fight with our commitment of time, energy, effort and money. If you are not a member of the NRA and the TSRA, then by all means join both. If you are already a member, then consider a donation or better yet, regular sustaining donations. Our successes have always come at the cost of time, effort and money and this isn’t going to change. In addition to money, be ready to respond to a call to action by voting, getting others to vote to support their Second Amendment Right, and placing calls, faxes and emails to Senators and Representatives.

Millions of our ancestors fought World War I, the “war to end all wars,” with the fervent hope that their children would know war only on the pages of history books. But only 23 years later, Americans found themselves in World War II locked in a battle to save our way of life. We’ve learned there is no “war to end all wars” whether it is fought on the battlefield, or in the political arena. So pray for peace, even if only for a little while, but do so while preparing for the coming political battles. To do less would guarantee the demise of the Second Amendment.


posted by Charles L. Cotton on Apr 6

I learned this morning that Charlton Heston died yesterday at his home in Los Angles. His wife Lydia was at his side as she has been for sixty-four years. Although Mr. Heston’s death was not a surprise in view of his failing health, the news reminded me of the NRA Annual Meeting and celebration in 2003.

In 2003, the NRA Annual Meeting of Members was held in Orlando, Florida. As usual, we had committee meetings virtually the entire preceding week and the Board meeting was on the Monday after the Annual Meeting of the members. To say the week was busy would be an understatement. We started early and worked late to finish our committee work. By Friday, we were ready for a break.

There is usually a Friends of the NRA Dinner on Friday night and a banquet on Saturday night after the formal Meeting of the Members. In 2003, it was different. It is well known that Charlton Heston served as President of the NRA for five years, the only person to have served more than the customary two year term. In all likelihood, he would have been re-elected, had he not been stricken with Alzheimers. But it was not to be and in 2003, Charlton Heston stepped down as President of the NRA.

Many people believe Mr. Heston was elected and re-elected simply because he brought celebrity status to the office, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. To honor Mr. Heston for his tireless service, a special Tribute to Charlton Heston was held on Friday night during the 2003 NRA Annual Meeting and celebration. Mr. Heston and Lydia, his wife of 50+ years, were on stage during the tribute that was narrated by Tom Selleck. As one would expect, videos were shown of several of Mr. Heston’s speeches and appearances made on behalf of the NRA, its members and pro-rights candidates. What came as a surprise to many people was the dedication Mr. Heston has shown to civil rights throughout his life. He was one of the relatively few whites to march with Martin Luther King in Washington, D.C., a show of courage that would become a hallmark of his character.

Martha and I sat in front of the stage and watched Mr. Heston, Lydia and the video tribute in awe. We were struck with just how much Mr. Heston had done not only for the NRA members, but for the entire pro-rights movement. Marching with Dr. King was not so different from promoting pro-gun candidates; both required a heartfelt respect for our God-given freedoms protected by the United States Constitution and most state constitutions. In his five years as NRA President, he traveled tens of thousands of miles, gave hundreds of speeches and interviews and was often verbally attacked and ridiculed by those who would deprive Americans of their Constitutional right to own and use firearms for self-defense and sporing purposes.

We’ve all seen several standing ovations, but the one given to Charlton Heston and Lydia was the most sincere expression of appreciation given to a great American I had ever seen in my then-53 years. I am not what one would call an overly emotional person, as Martha will certainly confirm. However, watching Charlton Heston and Lydia walk from the stage while waving and throwing kisses to we who loved and admired him, then disappear behind the curtain, was one of the more difficult moments in my life. I kept thinking, “look at what this man has done and how much we are losing!”

Was Charlton Heston merely a celebrity figurehead? Hardly! He was the consummate patriot who was always willing to put the rights of others before his own interests; one who worked through his own physical pain and exhaustion to carry the fight for freedom to anyone who would listen.

I always find the NRA committee and board meetings to be rejuvenating, especially the Annual Meeting with tens of thousands of NRA members present. 2003, however, was in a class by itself. That year, Mr. Heston left the NRA Presidency, but his spirit and dedication will be long remembered and will serve as an inspiration for all who truly treasure freedom. We can show our respect for him by doubling our efforts to draw more people into the NRA. With the 2008 elections approaching and the likelihood of the Democrats expanding their majority in the United States House and Senate, strengthening the NRA has never been more important. Add in the distinct possibility that Senator Barack Omama may occupy the White House when a new United Nations small arms treaty is presented, and the threat becomes even more clear. To be sure, the NRA is the most powerful and successful civil rights organization the world has ever known, but one can only imagine what could be accomplished if our membership were doubled or tripled.

And what about TSRA? Why do we have approximately 35,000 members, when NRA membership in Texas is close to 300,000? If all NRA members would join TSRA, what politician, State or local, would dare tread on our freedoms? If you are not a member of either the NRA or TSRA, please join and encourage each and every family member to do likewise. The NRA and the pro-rights movement are stronger than ever in our history, but the threat is hardly over. The Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence is just waiting until the 2008 elections are over, while praying the U.S. economy will remain soft until election day. Remember, a change in the White House means a change not only in the President, but also the U.S. Attorney General and the real likelihood of nominating at least two new Supreme Court Justices, if Justices Stevens and Ginsberg retire as many predict. We are strong, but we need to be stronger yet.

At one time, the NRA offered the Tribute to Charlton Heston on VHS or DVD. I don’t know if the DVD is still available, but if so, every patriot should own it.

God speed Mr. Heston,

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