Is the National Rifle Association “un-American”?
New York Times contributor Stanley Fish seems to think so. But while his headline aims to unsettle, the article itself immediately takes a few steps back by giving some NRA members a pass.
“I don’t mean those who wish to protect recreational shooting and hunting,” he begins, “nor do I mean those who, like Justice Antonin Scalia, believe that there is a constitutional right to defend one’s home and family with firearms. These are respectable positions … I mean those who read the Second Amendment as proclaiming the right of citizens to resist the tyranny of their own government, that is, of the government that issued and ratified the Constitution in the first place.”
Thus Fish is very careful to target one specific sort of NRA member: the “militant” one. For these rambunctious radicals, the Second Amendment is a way to defend a particular form of government – one that satisfies their own sinister ends.
For these militants, the “purpose of the American Revolution was to secure the freedom of individuals and that means a minimally intrusive government.” Worse, they believe that “representatives elected to safeguard that freedom may become intoxicated by their power and act in ways that restrict rather than enhance individual choice.”
But none of this is particularly interesting for Fish. He has a specific agenda in mind, and eventually he comes clean: he fears the secessionists who are looking for armed revolt. As he sees it, NRA militants are like “an army of little Richard Nixons, deciding what laws to obey, and deciding too when lawmakers have failed to obey the law as they see it.”
After cherry-picking some quotes from the commentators on a story posted on another website — nice to know he’s reading comments! — Fish concludes that NRA militants are the “modern successors” of John Wilkes Booth, and that they will cry “tyranny” while claiming to be the only “true Americans” left in the country.
All of this gets to the heart of the left’s frustration with trying to force the issue of gun control. As the president and his administration deal with their emerging scandals, we should not forget the serious defeat that the left took in the Senate over gun control less than a month ago. Despite the president’s scolding lecture, the bill was unable to escape the Senate.
So for a piece that started by characterizing an entire organization as “un-American”, all Fish leaves us with is the small and relatively uncontroversial claim that militant, right-wing secessionist radicals, should they exist in any serious number, are un-American.
We can probably grant that, but what promised to be a broad indictment of the NRA has become a narrow argument that attempts a form of guilt-by-association. So yes, let us admit that the “militant,” the “right-wing radical” who insists on “secession” from the union is, in all likelihood, “un-American.”
But one must ask the question: Did we really need 1,500 words to figure it out?