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Standing Guard: Equality For All

Friday, May 16, 2008

With the sad passing of Charlton Heston, his lifelong record of courageously fighting for the restoration and preservation of the civil rights of all Americans comes sharply into our hearts and minds. Forty-five years ago, Chuck Heston marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to correct the wrongs of racial segregation--wrongs existing under the cover of unconstitutional state and local laws.

Knowing Chuck, spending time with him, understanding the depth of his feelings and commitment to preserving equality in America has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Everyone who met him or heard him speak was touched by his power; his intellect; his honest, clear thinking; his towering ability to communicate his beliefs; and his truly humble view of himself. With his courage, his force of will, his ability to communicate with the American people, Chuck Heston had few peers.

During the last years of his life--as NRA members--we were blessed to march with Chuck Heston to preserve and strengthen the Second Amendment.

I can tell you that most of all, what he wanted under the Second Amendment--for all Americans--was equality.

Equality. If the fulfillment of the promise of the founders can be summed up in a single word, that is it.

Fifty years ago, there were places where children were denied access to public schools and to public universities because of the color of their skin. Signs at public accommodations warned, “No blacks,” or “Whites only.”

Most importantly, fifty years ago in America, there were places where people couldn’t vote because of color. It was a time of oppressive laws that have long been erased as unconstitutional, in part thanks to the courage of Americans like Chuck Heston.

During that ugly and evil time, the arguments most often put forth to perpetuate Jim Crow laws--separating Americans and denying some their full civil rights, including the right to keep and bear arms--revolved around the notion that such discrimination was the business of local or state government.

Those excuses to promote inequality have a contemporary and shameful ring.

Today, in this presidential primary election, we are hearing that exact same argument about some people’s civil rights from politicians who should know better. They are saying it is acceptable that some citizens are more equal than others.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama make a hollow claim that they believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right, but they say it only applies to some

Americans in some places. They call denying that right to others because of political geography “common sense,” or “reasonable.”

Was there ever anything “common sense” or “reasonable” about denying some Americans the right to vote? It doesn’t occur to Obama or Clinton, or any other like-minded politicians or members of the media, or their followers that the right to own a firearm is as sacred to all individual Americans as the right to vote.

The Second Amendment is indeed like the right to vote. It’s your choice, but it cannot, it must not be denied to law-abiding Americans. It is not a local option. It is not a state option.

Specifically with respect to the D.C. gun ban, ABC News reported that Obama expressed “broad support for the rights of local jurisdictions to make such decisions for themselves.”

“The city of Chicago has gun laws, so does Washington, D.C.,” Obama said. “The notion that somehow local jurisdictions can’t initiate gun safety laws … isn’t born out by our Constitution.”

Gun safety? That translates to a ban on armed self-defense in the home. For some Americans--based solely on political geography, it translates to confiscatory bans on whole classes of ordinary firearms most other Americans own.

Equality? No way.

For the sake of clarity, let me change a word or two. What would be the public reaction if any public official said:

“The notion that somehow local jurisdictions can’t initiate a poll tax or literacy laws for voting … isn’t born out by our Constitution.”

An unfair comparison? Hardly.

I know some people will say, “How dare you make such a comparison?”

My answer, is, “How dare you not see it?” Liberty belongs to us all.

When it comes to gun laws, D.C. residents--a large majority of whom are African Americans--are rendered second-class citizens by a local jurisdiction that has denied them a fundamental right and has denied equal protection under the law. In D.C., self-defense in one’s home with a working firearm is a crime.

In Obama’s hometown of Chicago, the political machine took the same tack as D.C. in banning handguns for law-abiding citizens. They outlawed compliance with a long-existing gun registration law.

Gun bans via local option? That’s what New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s coalition of urban politicians is all about. Denying civil liberties one city at a time.

Denial of liberty at local option was an affront when Chuck Heston marched with Dr. King and it is an affront now.

Civil rights. That’s what the NRA has been all about from the beginning. Charlton Heston knew it. You and I know it. That’s what gives us our extraordinary strength. We must always remember Chuck Heston, and like him, never back down in our fight to protect the Second Amendment--America’s First Freedom.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.