Chatterbox phoned the National Rifle Association yesterday to solicit yet again its comment on the Coalition Provisional Authority's seizure of guns and other weapons in Iraq. Yet again, a courteous press assistant wrote down Chatterbox's request. And yet again, nobody returned the call.
Two other gun organizations, however, have ventured where the NRA fears to go. Chatterbox salutes their boldness, if not their logic.
The more daring stance is taken by the Montana Shooting Sports Association, or rather by its president, Gary Marbut. Marbut has weighed in against the Iraq ban, even though it is so loosely written that it permits ownership of AK-47s, either automatic or semiautomatic. (An earlier draft banned AK-47 automatics, but when this created an uproar, Viceroy L. Paul Bremer III backed off. In practice, the U.S. infantry is imposing a quota of one AK-47 and one pistol per household.)
In his May 31 op-ed, Marbut writes:
I recognize that there is an issue about the safety of our military personnel in Iraq (and I have a son in the military, so I don't take this lightly). Still, it could be argued, with equal validity, that there's a safety issue for police (and/or others) inside the United States if you and I are allowed to keep our guns, so all of us ought to be disarmed, too—only police and military should be allowed to possess firearms. …
Marbut's onto something here, but not what he thinks. By suggesting that our military's need for safety in Iraq is no greater than our police forces' need for safety back home, Marbut hopes to demonstrate that firearms restrictions abroad are a terrible idea. To Chatterbox, though, and no doubt many others, the parallel demonstrates that the lack of meaningful firearms restrictions in the United States is a terrible idea. Perhaps sensing the double-edged quality to his argument (and not wanting to sell out his son in the military), Marbut shifts to arguing that the interests of Iraqi gun owners and American troops converge. He does this by invoking, though not in so many words, the familiar pro-gun doctrine that "if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns." A well-armed Iraqi citizenry, Marbut maintains, will keep our troops safer because good-guy Iraqis, who outnumber bad-guy Iraqis, will have the firepower necessary to help keep the peace. But isn't that what they have in Iraq right now? And isn't the result anarchy, rampant criminality, and the murder of U.S. servicemen? It's hard to imagine life in Baghdad getting worse once the TOW missiles have been carted off. Still, Chatterbox congratulates Marbut for a bold effort.
A more conventional stance—indeed, one predicted by Chatterbox—is assumed by the Gun Owners of America, which attacks not the Iraqi gun ban but its relative laxity compared to gun-control laws in the United States. GOA states in a June 2 press release that the Bush administration is imposing a "double standard" by allowing Iraqis to own semiautomatic and even automatic weapons whose manufacture is banned in the United States. Never mind that ownership of semiautomatic weapons—and even, to some extent, automatic weapons—will remain legal even if Congress renews the 1994 assault-weapons ban. Or that federal gun laws go largely unenforced.
In the press release, GOA executive director Larry Pratt elaborates:
In Iraq we are told that the people need their guns because they feel their security is still at risk. But what about our own citizens here in America? Is our security not as important? How bad must the terror threat get before the Bush administration is willing to trust the American people to defend themselves with guns that have far less firepower than the typical shotgun?
To which Chatterbox replies: Bad enough that all semblance of a functioning government has collapsed, as it has in Iraq. Still, give GOA credit for trying to argue the point at all. The NRA, meanwhile, maintains its pregnant silence.
NRA Weasel Watch Archive
May 29, 2003: Day 7