- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2000

Second Amendment supporters fire back at president

I thought President Clinton calling the rebuttal by the National Rifle Association (NRA) "political smear tactics" was amusing because he is an expert at such tactics and has been practicing them during his entire tenure in the White House. His administration's practice of deception is shameful. He continually demonizes the NRA, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, for its unwavering stance in protecting the Second Amendment right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms. He constantly blames the NRA for his Justice Department's failure to enforce the more than 20,000 existing firearms laws.

Mr. Clinton needs to look the American people in the eye and explain why his enforcement of existing gun laws is so poor. He also needs to explain why he claims to have stopped criminals from purchasing handguns with the National Instant Check System (a system the NRA, not he, promoted) but the Justice Department has such a poor record of prosecuting individuals caught by the checks.

Mr. Clinton has issued a challenge to Congress to pass what he calls "common sense" gun control legislation before the April 20 anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. This is nothing more than a political move to promote his protege, Vice President Al Gore, in his bid for the White House.

NRA President Charlton Heston stated what most Americans believe: "When what you say is wrong, that's a mistake; when you know it's wrong, that's a lie."

In spite of what the Clinton administration would have the people of this country believe, the NRA has always promoted gun safety and criminal control. The NRA has promoted and continues to promote gun safety and training through its many programs. The Police Firearms Instructor Certification Program, begun in 1960, has trained more than 10,000 NRA-certified police and security firearms instructors. The Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program, begun in 1988, has taught more than 12 million pre-kindergarten to sixth-grade children that if they see a firearm in an unsupervised situation, they should stop, don't touch, leave the area and tell an adult. Refuse to Be a Victim seminars have helped more than 15,000 men and women develop their own personal safety plans using common-sense strategies. NRA's promotion of Project Exile, begun in Richmond, has been instrumental in removing violent criminals from our city streets. This program has been promoted since its inception by the NRA, not the Clinton administration. The NRA continually has asked this administration and Congress to fund Project Exile across the country.

The president never misses an opportunity to grandstand; he knows that no gun law could have prevented the recent tragedy that took the life of Kayla Rolland. Yet he shamefully used this tragedy to promote his political agenda. The gun Kayla's 6-year-old classmate used was stolen, was found in a known crack house and was in the possession of convicted drug dealers. It was known that guns were being traded for drugs there.

Mr. Clinton can do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. All that is needed is tougher prosecution of gun-wielding drug dealers, felons and others who are banned from having guns.

If this administration is not going to enforce the present, adequate federal gun laws, coercing Congress to pass new laws will be a waste of time and taxpayers' money.

LEO H. WEBSTER JR.

Cary, N.C.

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As a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, I would like to thank President Clinton. I would like to thank him for elevating the NRA from Page B5 to the front page. By virtue of his illogical and vicious attack on the NRA, he has done more to bring our views before the American public than would have been possible otherwise. The very fact that White House spokesman Joe Lockhart wants to silence the NRA should be speaking speak volumes. Mr. Clinton's actions have prodded the NRA leadership into action and have awakened a sleeping giant.

If Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore want to make firearms an issue, so be it. Let them explain why, after years of increasing infringement on our Second Amendment rights, they need more laws. Let them explain why their current laws aren't being enforced. Where are all the prosecutions? Let them explain why they ignore the criminals while attacking the law-abiding.

If they are so intent on firearms safety, why don't they support the NRA's Eddie Eagle firearm safety program in our schools? Firearm safety is knowledge, and that is what Eddie Eagle provides. Why are Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore afraid of a little knowledge? Could it be that Mr. Clinton's definition of gun safety is different from what most reasonable people would think? Could their version of gun control, now referred to as gun safety, actually be people control? Why else would they suppress the full story on the Michigan shooting of a 6-year-old? Why not tell the people about the crack house, the drug dealers and other criminal activity? Why pretend this was a normal All-American home?

ROBERT E. BRAND

Gaithersburg

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The 6-year-old girl in Michigan probably would be alive still if the child who shot her had been taught the lessons contained in the NRA's Eddie Eagle youth program. This program teaches children that in the event they encounter an unattended firearm, they should immediately:

Stop.

Don't touch.

Leave the area.

Tell an adult.

These are simple steps that even a child living in a crack house could understand and follow. The program is designed for use by school districts, civic groups, youth clubs and any other organization concerned with children's safety. The program does not try to teach children about the Second Amendment, hunting, target shooting, self-defense or the NRA. It is strictly about teaching children the four steps outlined above.

My own children learned the Eddie Eagle steps from instructors at the State Department as part of their orientation before we left for our first overseas assignment. If President Clinton really wants to prevent future tragedies involving children and guns, he should order the Department of Education to have the Eddie Eagle program provided to every school district in the country.

SAMUEL A. MADSEN

Woodbridge, Va.

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Apparently the truth hurts, based on the knee-jerk reaction and overheated rhetoric coming from the White House in the discussion on gun laws. The gun that was used in the death of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland was stolen. Exactly how would a gun lock or a three-day waiting period have prevented her death? When President Clinton was asked that question, he went stiff as a board a good imitation of Vice President Al Gore when confronted by the truth. Criminals don't worry about background checks or waiting periods. They steal their guns.

If existing laws aren't enforced, what good is a new one? Will it be enforced any better, or is it just another feel-good measure so it can be said something was done? The National Rifle Association's ads with Charlton Heston are right on the money, and Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, is right, too. Mr. Clinton uses any tragedy as an excuse to step in front of a camera for political purposes. As to the charge that the president is the target of a smear, Mr. Clinton knows about smear campaigns; he uses them all the time.

MIKE DAVIES

Ashburn, Va.

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Though many may find Wayne LaPierre's remarks about President Clinton using gun deaths to advance his agenda harsh, I agree with Mr. LaPierre.

There are more than 20,000 federal firearms laws on the books, and few if any are actively enforced. One only has to look at the success of programs such as Project Exile to see that enforcement of existing gun laws is the best curb against violence.

The National Rifle Association has been actively promoting firearm safety and advocating strong punishment for violent criminals. Sarah Brady, Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore continue to take the bully pulpit whenever someone shoots someone else.

JOHN WOOD

Macon, Mo.

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Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, has stated one of the most crucial truths of modern political history: President Clinton must have a certain number of victims, whether by guns (elimination of the right to bear arms), racial issues (power to shape society) or poverty (power to redistribute wealth) to advance his agenda. Liberals must have classes of sacrificial victims to promote their causes because their issues have no moral foundation.

So Mr. LaPierre really struck a nerve, and that is why Mr. Clinton is crying so loudly. He has been defined truthfully.

MELVIN L. JOHNSON

Brazoria, Texas

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I am not a member of the National Rifle Association. I am a police officer with almost 20 years of street experience. I have to say that the NRA's remarks of this past week are to the point. My colleagues agree.

We do not need additional laws that will only be enforced lightly by our judicial and penal systems. We need strict enforcement of our many very viable existing gun laws at all levels of the criminal justice system. The latter is where we have failed to date.

Let's work toward a real change, not one that feels good on paper but falls short on the street.

DAVID OSTREM

Portage, Mich.

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