If the Anti-Saloon League could be consigned to ancient history, so can the National Rifle Association.
Remember the Anti-Saloon League? Of course you don’t. It’s a musty, dusty relic in history’s cellar – a cask of vinegar where once was a mighty potion.
Similarities? Oh, my.
Like the NRA, the self-righteous and ultra-powerful Anti-Saloon League was known by its acronym. Like the NRA, the ASL held enormous political sway. Like the NRA, it was run by a megalomaniac named Wayne.
The NRA’s Wayne – LaPierre – may have floated down to Earth on a golden staircase, but he’s a piker compared to Anti-Saloon League director Wayne Wheeler. For a time Wheeler was the most powerful deal-maker in Washington on behalf of the most mighty interest group in history.
It was so powerful it helped write a mistake into the U.S. Constitution.
How long has the NRA held policy-makers in the palm of its hand? Not nearly as long as the Anti-Saloon League did. Indeed, the ASL’s grip was so ironclad that for 13 years – 1920-1933 – the 18th Amendment made Prohibition the law of the land.
Then the fever broke. And with it, reason and reasonable people defeated and defanged the ASL.
So, reasonable people: Be resolute in the face of the NRA’s fire power. March, vote, show up at town halls. Force compromised lawmakers to defend the indefensible.
Firearms should be regulated. They are regulated, of course, but barely more so than pink hay-fever pills. Operating a firearm should entail more than operating the claw at your local arcade, but the NRA will fight that inconvenience to the death.
An arcade is the perfect analogy for the gun lobby, because gun rights are more about commerce than any freedom the founders imagined.
Commerce, as in: It’s my right to buy any killing weapon I desire, and for merchants to make it easy for me. It is less about self-defense and personal freedom than it is about keeping up with the Joneses.
In expressing his admiration for the March for Our Lives, former Justice John Paul Stevens stirred mighty ripples by writing in the New York Times that the Second Amendment should be repealed.
It should, he writes, because its reference to a “well-regulated militia” is a relic of musket and fur-trapper days.
More so, Stevens writes that the Second should be repealed because the Supreme Court repeatedly has upheld laws that limit what kinds of weapons can be made available to civilians, the process for purchasing them, and the authority of communities to limit them.
He quotes former Chief Justice Warren Burger as saying the NRA had “perpetuated one of the greatest pieces of fraud . . . on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The fraud is in the pitch that any effort that hampers the convenience of gun owners or limits one’s choices at checkout is an assault on freedom.
The fact is that nothing has ever been proposed by any American governing body to “take away” lawful citizens’ legal guns, and nothing of that sort will ever transpire. It’s pure hysteria.
Stevens is right that the Second Amendment is antiquated and dangerous. However, it would be impossible to abolish – first legislatively and second in getting sufficient states to ratify.
What is more likely is that the majority of Americans who support gun sanity will vote out the officials who stand inert in the face of gun insanity.
Let that begin this November.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young now lives in Colorado.