Posts Tagged ‘National Rifle Association’

A Few Words from a Former Gun Owner

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

I used to own a gun. I kept it hidden in a shoebox in the attic, where it remained unfired for years. I was comforted by its presence. I thought it might come in handy some day if a dangerous criminal came to our house, or maybe a gang of anti-Semites or the Ku Klux Klan. We lived in Englewood, New Jersey, at the time but hey, you never know. Besides, we have something in this country called the Second Amendment that says that American citizens have the right to keep and bear arms.

The Founding Fathers of our Revolutionary government gave us this right so we could protect ourselves against any attempt by future government leaders to establish a dictatorship. Maybe I would need my gun to help keep the fascists from taking over. I could not have imagined that some 40 years later a delusional right-wing candidate for the United States Senate would speak openly about “Second Amendment remedies” or that gun-toting right-wing militia groups around the country would be preparing for battle against a government they perceive as barreling towards socialism. (The odd thing about this is that corporate rule in this country has never been stronger.) Some scary people are out there now with guns—and I’m not talking about the mentally ill ones who go on killing sprees at schools, movie theaters and other public places.

You can see some of them on the TV news: wackos like Ted Nugent (who predicted he’d either be dead or in jail if President Obama were re-elected) and the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre (who said in a 1995 a fund-raising letter to NRA members: “The semiauto ban gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.”) Six days later NRA member Timothy McVeigh used a similar argument to justify using a fertilizer bomb hidden in a truck to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people including 19 children under the age of six.

I never thought about using a fertilizer bomb but sometimes I fantasized about using my gun to kill a Nazi war criminal, an old Hungarian guy who lived a few blocks from our house. The Hungarian government had been asking for years that he be sent to Hungary to stand trial. But the U.S. allowed him to remain here, accepting his argument that he couldn’t get a fair trial under that country’s Communist government. This man’s crimes were described by Charles R. Allen, Jr., in his book Nazi War Criminals Among Us (1963). Chuck Allen was one of my journalistic heroes, a great investigative reporter who devoted much of his work to exposing the presence of numerous Nazi war criminals in the U.S.  (For more information about his life and work, copy and paste “Charles R. Allen Jr (Saidel)” into your browser bar: The actual link is too long to print here but those search words will lead to a 2005 obituary and it is a darn good read.)

Even now I don’t think it was so unreasonable to entertain thoughts about shooting the old Nazi. I knew from my few trips to the shooting range, however, that I’m not a good marksman: I never got close to a bullseye and was lucky to even hit the target. What if I missed the Nazi and shot an innocent bystander, a child, or even the guy’s wife?  I never fired the gun. The bastard died of old age.

One day my wife was looking for something in the attic and she noticed the shoebox. I had never told her or anyone else in the family about the gun. This led to an argument that I lost: She didn’t give a fig about Second Amendment rights, protecting our house from criminals, anti-Semites, racists, or the coming of fascism. We had children. As unlikely as it may have been for them to climb into the attic, find the gun in the shoebox, figure out how to use it….and to then shoot and possibly maim or kill someone (even themselves) with it—it wasn’t worth the risk. She was right. Statistics show that many more deaths occur to family members in the homes of people who have guns than in homes without the guns. So one day when I wasn’t home she threw it in a dumpster.

And if the government ever becomes so insufferable and tyrannical that the majority of people find it necessary to rise up against it,  those weapons you or I may own won’t help much. But that doesn’t mean all would be lost, either.

Gandhi, anyone?

Michael can be reached at


The Limits to Our Rights

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

The hand wringing over the Second Amendment continues in the days and weeks after the Newtown Horror. In op-ed columns and letters to editors some people who support the gun lobby have expressed concern that any attempt by the government to regulate gun traffic somehow betrays the spirit of the Bill of Rights.

The framers didn’t limit the people’s basic rights 221 years ago so why should we allow limitations now, the question goes. This is specious in two important respects. For one thing, taken to its no-limitation conclusion, we may soon hear an argument by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates suggesting that to prevent someone from possession of flame throwers, nerve gas and nuclear weapons somehow deprives us of our right to bear arms. It sounds absurd, but deep down you know that someone, sometime is going to test this position.

Then there’s the generally overlooked fact that we have always placed limitations on the rights handed to the people in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

–The limits on free speech – including the cry of “Fire!” in a theater, calls to violence, conspiracy, slandering, and libeling – have been detailed almost to the point of cliché. But platitudes or not, they remain limits on what are generally believed to be – but are not – absolute freedoms in the First Amendment.

–The First Amendment also prevents the government from establishing an official religion, but violations of this occur almost every year around this time. Invariably, some local bodies somewhere in America allow the placement of a Christmas tree, a crèche or a menorah on municipal property, thus violating the spirit of the First Amendment.

–The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments,” which might come as a surprise to the two-thirds of the states with capital punishment statutes on their books.

–And then of course there is the explicit limitation in the 27 words of the Second Amendment itself: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It’s confusing in its brevity, and this puzzlement is what keeps the fight over the amendment alive. The right of the people to keep arms shall not be infringed, yet the militia – comprised of the people – will be not just regulated, but well regulated.

What does “well-regulated” mean? I suggest that my interpretation of those two words is as valid as the NRA’s, maybe more. Here’s what I mean:

No, you may not possess a hand grenade, an Abrams battle tank or an assault rifle, all of which are designed to kill large numbers and not a white tailed deer or a couple of ducks. Those weapons are for the military.

And yes, background checks on the criminal and mental health histories of prospective gun buyers will be conducted with fervor and honesty. If this results in an extended long waiting period, so be it.

What America needs are politicians with the courage to inform the National Rifle Association that the working definition of “well-regulated” will not be written by NRA flacks.