Boy, the National Rifle Assn. sure is thorough.
Richard Nixon’s renowned enemies list had 823 names of people and organizations, but as president, Nixon had scores of issues to grapple with and an entire world to be mad about or suspicious of.
The NRA deals with only one issue, guns. And yet the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action has got its own list of more than 300 people and groups and companies that have, as the list notes, expressed some anti-gun sentiments at one point or another.
What is the point of the NRA list? Nixon’s enemies list was for private, political purposes. He ordered his aides to sic the IRS on former L.A. Times Publisher Otis Chandler, for example, and to check on whether Chandler’s gardener was, in Nixon’s word, a “wetback.” (The Times is on the NRA’s list too, although it’s still called “Times-Mirror,” a name it hasn’t borne for a dozen years. The cobwebby Blue Chip Stamps company is on the NRA’s list too. Maybe I should have checked to see whether the Atwater Kent radio company was there. That’s some long memory. Maybe Blue Chip Stamps didn’t let you redeem them for guns?)
So is this list a guideline for NRA members to boycott the people and the products of companies on it?
If that’s the case, NRA loyalists can’t buy Levi's, because Levi Strauss is on the list. They shouldn’t cheer for the Kansas City Royals or the St. Louis Rams -- as Yahoo Sports points out, the teams didn’t like the idea of a Missouri state law letting people “pack heat at ballgames.” No vacations for them at Silver Dollar City attractions in Branson, Mo., either; the company has posted “no firearms” signs for visitors.
In fact, there are an awful lot of Missouri businesses on the NRA’s list, such as Hallmark cards. The state that was the fulcrum of pre-Civil War slavery disputes now seems to be a battleground again, over gun safety laws. Some Missouri sheriffs are endorsing the sentiments in a letter sent to the White House by one of their number who told President Obama that he would “most certainly urge my fellow sheriffs in the state of Missouri and across this great nation to rise to the defense and aid of all Americans should the federal government attempt to enact any legislation or executive order that impedes, erodes or otherwise diminishes their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.” In other words, “make me.”
(Why, I wonder, is every other amendment to the Constitution subject to constitutionally sound limits and qualifications, when the one amendment that expressly contains its own limits and qualifications -- the part about the well-ordered militia -- is considered by its more hysterical adherents to be beyond any legal or judicial review or revision?)
NRA members might have to drop their Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage because it is on the list too.
They shouldn’t listen to Tony Bennett, or buy A&M Records, or see any movies starring Julia Roberts or George Clooney or Kevin Costner. No sneak-peek watching “Boardwalk Empire” (Steve Buscemi). No “30 Rock” (Alec Baldwin). My pal Harry Dean Stanton, the actor and World War II veteran, is on the list, and he says that while yes, he’s against guns, he’s also against most things that are organized.
Nixon’s enemies list had some puzzling names, like Joe Namath, who was listed as a Giants player. The NRA’s has the NFL’s Doug Flutie and Keyshawn Johnson, whose anti-gun crusades sure don’t ring any bells with me, and Olympic skater Tara Lipinski, who has campaigned against kids using drugs and tobacco.
And there’s actress Arlene Dahl, now a lady well into her 80s and a Republican who, unlike many in Hollywood, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee. What did she say about guns to rouse the institutional ire of the NRA?
So many of these names are just head-scratchers. C. Everett Koop, the pediatric surgeon and Ronald Reagan’s surgeon general. The AARP. The YWCA. The National Assn. of Chain Drug Stores. (What is that beef? Did they decide against selling banana clips in the dental-floss aisle?)
And Britney Spears? Britney, girl, I don’t know what you said, but I must have underestimated you somewhere along the line if you’ve riled up the NRA.
Moral leaders -- religious figures, school principals and health and safety organizations -- are on the list, as are physicians and TV networks, newspapers, magazines, USA Today, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone and, OK, individual journalists, many of them newspaper cartoonists. But Motorcycle Cruiser magazine? What could the complaint be there?
Yet there are some important folks the NRA managed to overlook.
- Those Americans who, a hundred or so years ago, supported funding for rifle practice in some schools and universities, in order to create men ready for military service; there’s that pesky “well-organized militia” bit from the 2nd Amendment again. Those offenders would be GOP Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
- The public figure who, in the midst of World War I, said that “a citizen army … would be thoroughly useless unless the individual members had received considerable instruction in modern military practice. The idea that a million men could spring to arms overnight is fallacious.” And that would be a certain Mr. Jones, secretary of the NRA. The current NRA has opposed some gun-training requirements.
- In 1989, a national law enforcement figure demanded that Congress ban semiautomatic weapons, in spite of the hate mail he said he’d been getting on the matter. That was LAPD Chief Daryl F. Gates.
- The organization that supported 1930s gun restrictions and the 1968 Gun Control Act, licensing gun dealers, banning certain weapons and taxing possession of others. That organization was the NRA.
- The governor in 1989 who signed the nation’s first law banning assault weapons. He was California GOP Gov. George Deukmejian.
- The chair of a national commission on violence who, in 1969, said almost all Americans should be banned from owning handguns. He was Milton Eisenhower, the brother to Ike, the GOP president who had led the Allies to victory in World War II.
This list may wind up like Nixon’s, paradoxically providing bragging rights to those whose names appear -- yes, I mean you, Geraldo Rivera -- and stirring envy and even fibs among those whose names don’t. Times cartoonist Paul Conrad was positively gleeful at finding himself on Nixon’s list. Barbra Streisand and Norman Lear may be among the few to appear on both Nixon’s and the NRA’s lists.
I’ll venture to predict that we’ll see more public officials start speaking up against guns, in part to get their own names on that list. In Missouri, this may be a nonstarter, but hey, in Hollywood, this could be a career kickstarter.