November 6, 2003

Are You on the NRA Blacklist?

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The website nrablacklist.com was launched last month to encourage individuals to electronically sign a pro-gun control petition. In just three days, the website met its goal of 10,000 signatures.

The founders of nrablacklist.com wanted to bring attention to the 19-page list posted on the National Rifle Association’s website titled “Fact Sheet: National Organizations with Anti-Gun Policies”. The Fact Sheet cites organizations, celebrities, national figures, journalists and anti-gun corporations who have endorsed gun control laws. A few names on the list are Kevin Costner, Alec Baldwin, Julia Child, Keyshawn Johnson and Jimmy Carter.

The petition does not specifically oppose the creation of a blacklist though. Rather, it supports the “Assault Weapons Ban Reauthorization Act of 2003,” which bans the importation of semi-automatic weapons and opposes the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” which grants gun manufacturers and dealers immunity from civil liability suits when people are harmed by the misuse of the guns they sell. Both bills will soon be voted on in Congress.

To date, over 25,000 people have signed the petition. The website is part of stopthenra.com, sponsored by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Million Mom March.

The organization’s main objection to the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” is the effect its passage would have on the victims of the Washington sniper. A press release by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence claimed that the victims of the Washington sniper would be unable to sue Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply, the gun shop where the young sniper Lee Malvo told officials he shoplifted the three-foot long weapon used in the shootings.

To counter nrablacklist.com, the NRA has launched a “Good Guys” section of their website. The website contains a counter petition for those “law abiding Americans who support free speech and the right to keep and bear arms.”

Sarah Withers, a student at Columbia, is a member of a group affiliated with the Brady Campaign, and helped launch nrablacklist.com. She said “with these two particular legislations impending, we felt that an extra push was needed to gain support and shed light on what the NRA is doing.” Her website claims that the NRA is “hoping you’ll keep your mouth shut — while it buys and bullies Congress into two outrageous favors.”

On why the NRA posted such a fact sheet, Withers claimed that “the NRA wants its members to boycott those organizations and celebrities on the list — they say that loud and clear. They don’t want their members to go to movies starring the listed celebrities. They don’t want their members to watch the blacklisted networks. They don’t want their members to support certain education and religious organizations that once lent a hand to gun control.”

It remains to be seen whether NRA members will respond to such a call. In Ithaca, the existence of the fact sheet is relatively unknown. Steve Shrubis of the Ithaca Gun Company said, “From a legislature standpoint, we have received no feedback on [the NRA Blacklist].” Alan Gantert, associate director of athletics, who teaches gun safety and riflery at Cornell, also has heard nothing from his students about the blacklist.

At Columbia, Withers has found it difficult to gauge the student body’s view towards nrablacklist.com. She said, “Students are certainly interested in what it is about and they will listen to me explain our stances, but what they do with information is hard to say. Judging from the rising number of signatures, I would say that nrablacklist.com has had an impact on Columbia’s campus, but more importantly, it has impacted Americans coast to coast, inside and out of the academic world.”

In response to the accusations posted on nrablacklist.com, the NRA released the following statement on Oct. 24: “Desperately seeking relevance, the Brady bunch has even launched an anti-NRA website which attempts to bash NRA as ‘blacklisters’ for merely documenting the gun-ban advocacy of such ‘mainstream’ American ‘luminaries’ as Alec Baldwin, Michael Moore, and, lest we forget, Moon and Dweezil Zappa.” Withers countered this remark, saying, “Well, if someone published a list of people they did not like and wanted to incite everyone to boycott them, would that not be considered a blacklist? We are simply calling a spade, a spade.”

On the constitutionality of gun control laws, Withers said, “What about the elastic clause of the Constitution, giving lawmakers the right to amend the Constitution to change with the times? Was Thomas Jefferson ever held up at gunpoint by a thug with an automatic weapon? Of course not … The framers never considered weapons beyond what they had at the time. Well, times are changing, and our lawmakers need to realize that.”

The Cornell chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is working to bring about awareness of civil rights and violations against them. When President Farid Ben Amor ’05 was asked about the groups’ position on the second amendment and nrablacklist.com, he stated, “Since the ACLU’s primary aim is to defend the Constitution, it officially remains somewhat neutral on gun control. While the ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as providing no protection to bear arms, it also believes that there is no constitutional impediment to it. However, it does support reasonable restrictions on gun ownership and would probably side with the website’s goals in its opposition of legalizing such harmful weapons and closing doors on legal recourse.”

Archived article by Casey Holmes

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