Statement from Chris Cox on “Gag” Rumor

Just in from NRA:

The NRA has received a number of questions about blog posts that claim I issued a “gag order” to NRA board members on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is absurd and wrong.

This claim shows complete ignorance of how the NRA operates. NRA staff, including everyone (myself included) at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, work for the NRA Executive Vice President, who in turn works for the NRA board, which in turn is elected by NRA’s voting members.

Under the NRA by-laws, NRA-ILA has “sole responsibility to administer the legislative, legal, informational and fund raising activities of the Association relating to the defense or furtherance of the right to keep and bear arms, in accordance with the objectives and policies established by the Board of Directors.” To carry out that mission, NRA-ILA strives to ensure that the NRA’s positions are clear and based on the most accurate information possible.

The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is not to be taken lightly. That’s why, when Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement in April, I sent an e-mail to NRA board members and staff stating that with the critical case of McDonald v. Chicago still pending before the Court, “it is very important that NRA not comment on Justice Stevens nor engage in speculation on potential successors.”

Similarly, when the President nominated Solicitor General Kagan to the Court in May, I sent a message to the NRA Board pointing out her lack of a judicial record; noting that NRA-ILA was reviewing all available information; and stating that “it is important that we all refrain from commenting until we know more about Kagan’s views regarding the Second Amendment.” Again, I referenced the fact that NRA has a case pending before the Court.

When Ms. Kagan was nominated, little information on her record was available. More recently, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library has released an enormous volume of documents from her time in the White House. NRA-ILA staff has reviewed these carefully and they raise serious concerns. As we said last week: What we’ve seen to date shows a hostility towards our Right to Keep and Bear Arms, such as her role in developing the Clinton Administration’s 1998 ban on importation of many models of semi-automatic rifles; her note mentioning the NRA and the Ku Klux Klan as “bad guy” organizations; and her comment to Justice Marshall that she was “not sympathetic” to a challenge to Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban.

Respect for the Senate confirmation process requires that a nominee be given the opportunity to explain his or her position on critical issues affecting gun owners. That’s why the NRA has been working with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to make sure she is thoroughly questioned on these issues. Once the hearings are complete, the NRA will announce its position on her confirmation.

This is exactly the approach the NRA took last year when we opposed the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. Early in the process, we expressed our serious concerns about her record. We announced our opposition after her confirmation hearings ended without evidence that she would properly respect our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms and apply it to the states. Her dissenting vote in McDonald v. Chicago confirmed that our position was correct.

Unfortunately, false Internet rumors are far too often repeated as fact. Rest assured, however, that the NRA is fully committed to representing the interests of our members and all gun owners in this process and defending the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, as we do in all legislative, legal and political arenas.

I would also note the Hill is reporting NRA is likely to score the vote. This comes from an anonymous source, supposedly within NRA, so who knows… but time will tell whether it’s true, or another Internet rumor.

Nunchakus For Everyone!

As part of the orders that were handed down at the same time as McDonald:

MALONEY, JAMES M. V. RICE, KATHLEEN A. The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for further consideration in light of McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. _(2010). Justice Sotomayor took no part in the consideration”
Well, OK, not quite yet, but the Court will presumably have to do more serious analysis, or at least different analysis, on whether New York’s nunchaku ban violates the Second Amendment.

Kopel’s Testimony on Kagan

I meant to post this earlier, but I’ve been distracted by a few things – including talking to a potential new addition to the EVC program in Pennsylvania. Woo hoo. But, I’ve also been trying to keep up with the Kagan hearings. What’s interesting is that as I was reading Dave Kopel’s testimony on Kagan, I heard his concerns brought up by Sen. Jeff Sessions.

The unfortunate lesson of the confirmation of Justice Sotomayor is that Senators who care about the Second Amendment cannot rely on platitudes about “settled law” or even direct promises to abide by Heller. Before this Committee, Ms. Sotomayor declared, “I understand the individual right fully that the Supreme Court recognized in Heller.” And, “I understand how important the right to bear arms is to many, many Americans.

To the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice Sotomayor repeatedly averred that Heller is “settled law.” The Associated Press reported that Sen. Mark Udall “said Sotomayor told him during a private meeting that she considers the 2008 ruling that struck down a Washington, D.C., handgun ban as settled law that would guide her decisions in future cases.”

Yet on June 28, 2010, Justice Sotomayor joined Justice Breyer‘s dissenting opinion in McDonald v. Chicago, and announced that Heller was wrongly decided and should be over-ruled. Apparently her true belief was not what she told this Committee, but instead: “In sum, the Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self defense.”

So by “settled law,” nominee Sotomayor seems to have meant “not settled; should be overturned immediately.”

Accordingly, statements from Ms. Kagan about Heller being “settled law” provide not an iota of assurance that as a Justice she would support Heller, rather than attempt to eliminate it.

Can Board Members Speak for NRA?

For folks who don’t know much about how NRA works internally, I can probably explain this Politics Daily article, and also what’s appearing over at Bucks Right. NRA’s internal board rules (which are set by the Board itself, as an elected body) prevent Board members from speaking on behalf of the organization. This is longstanding practice by the Board, and not something new. This rule exists because everyone recognizes that NRA must be able to speak with a single voice on issues. NRA would not be able to function if each individual Board member could speak out on positions on behalf of the organization as a whole. One can imagine what that would be like, if, say, Joaquin Jackson thought it was OK to speak on NRA’s behalf.

During the Sotomayor hearings, there was confusion among Senators about NRA’s position, despite efforts by Board members speaking out against Sotomayor that they spoke for themselves and not in any official capacity with NRA. I am not privy to what goes on in executive session during committee meetings, so I really don’t know what happened. I am sure, just like with any family dispute, there were issues and sore feelings over how the Sotomayor thing went down. But I am also sure there were no gag orders. The Board does not take orders from staff. Things just don’t work that way.

Won’t Someone Think Of the Children?

That’s what Mom’s Against Guns is saying, as they merge with CeaseFirePA. We covered Mom’s Against Guns once before, when they obtained free billboards in the Philadelphia Area on false pretenses of being a 501(c)(3). Well, I guess now they won’t have to worry about their corporate status, having failed and merged with CeaseFire PA.

Reciprocity Under Attack Again

For those of you in Pennsylvania, today the anti-gunners are coming after concealed carry reciprocity once again. They have put off the vote over and over again since they can’t quite scrape together enough. If this really comes up, it likely means they have the votes or they are close enough that they think they can swing it.

You know what to do. Contact information is here.

McDonald Quote of the Day

From Glenn Reynolds’s article on gun rights becoming normal:

For gun rights activists, that has both upsides and downsides. On the one hand, it means that some gun-control laws, at least, will now be found unconstitutional. Most of the work of doing this will be done by lower courts, which have traditionally been pretty dismissive of Second Amendment rights, but there’s some sign that lower courts are taking things more seriously since Heller, and this case is likely to reinforce things considerably. Chicago’s existing anti-gun ordinance is very likely to be struck down now, as it is virtually the same as the D.C. gun ban struck down in Heller. Other highly restrictive laws are also likely to fall.

On the other hand, if gun-rights activists sit back and expect the courts to do their work for them now, they will be sadly disappointed. If pressed with further cases (which Gura says he plans to bring), the courts will do some good. But the primary protection for gun rights up to now, and for all constitutional rights, really, is political. Judicial review was intended by the Framers to be a backup system, not the main source of protection. That was intended to come from the people — and realistically, because if people don’t stand up for their own rights, courts are unlikely to take up the slack for long. (Especially when, as here, the protection comes in a 5-4 decision).

Absolutely. This is not the time for us to just let the courts handle things. SAF is a fine organization, and is doing great work with their litigation strategy. But they are a 501(c)(3), which means they cannot participate in the political process to the degree NRA can. Both groups are important. Professor Reynolds concludes:

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment decisions have made a major difference. In particular, they have offset the gun-control community’s longstanding effort to “denormalize” firearms ownership — to portray it as something threatening, deviant, and vaguely perverse, and hence demanding strict regulation, if not outright prohibition. That effort went on for decades, and received much media support. Two decades ago, it seemed to be working.

But with the Supreme Court saying that it’s clear the Framers regarded individual gun ownership as “necessary to our system of ordered liberty,” that effort must be seen as a failure now. Gun ownership by law-abiding citizens is the new normal, and the Second Amendment is now normal constitutional law. It will stay so, as long as enough Americans care to keep it that way.

Read the whole article. Well worth your time. It’s almost hard to believe this is true, and when I first got into this issue I wouldn’t have believed it. But I’m increasingly believing it is true –they’ve lost this aspect of the culture wars. Now we just need to win broad protection for our rights.

Kopel to Testify at Kagan Hearing

Glad to hear Dave will be up on the Hill before the Judiciary Committee. Dave is not a Board member, but is friendly among NRA circles. Tomorrow on Red State: “Chris Cox seen boarding a flight to Denver with leg irons and a roll of duct tape.”

The Gag Order Rumor is Unequivocally False

Chris Cox made an appearance on NRA News about an hour ago where he talked about the rumors that NRA issued a gag order against it’s Board members. I pointed out yesterday, due to the structure of NRA, this is not really possible, but held out the possibility staff may have asked the Board not to get involved with the Kagan hearings. After doing all the research, I have concluded that they have not even done this. First, let’s see what Chris had to say:


Now, I figured some people reluctant to take Chris at his word, because no doubt many know he’s been secretly keeping the NRA Board members in the dungeon at HQ (it’s located in the space right next to the NRA range, for those who don’t know). So today I had Bitter digging around, and talking to Board members. Scott Bach was willing to go on the record and say there’s been no “gag” order, or even a polite request. Tom King you’ve already heard from. Joe DeBergalis is saying the same story over at If there’s been a gag order, it would seem none of the NRA Board members got the memo! Perhaps Chris Cox’s e-mail was broken that day. Or perhaps they were afraid to talk with the .45 ACP held to their heads. Who knows!

The accusations that I’m a shill, brown nose, and suck up are going to keep on coming in. The truth is that none of these folks have even a vague idea of what NRA’s real problems are. To be blunt, most of them don’t even know or care how NRA functions. So yes, I will keep defending the organization against half-baked criticisms and false rumors, spread by people who are far better at tearing down than building up, and I will do it without apology.