A Sunday editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch launched what has become an annual “Bash Gun Rights Week” by the news media, which used to limit its invective to the National Rifle Association as its annual convention loomed, but now has expanded its scope to include the firearms industry and other gun rights groups.
The NRA gathers this weekend in Atlanta for what promises to be a rousing event that attracts an anticipated 80,000 members. The main event will be an appearance by President Donald Trump at Friday’s Leadership Forum, the first time since Ronald Reagan appeared more than 30 years ago that a sitting president has addressed the organization.
The convention is typically preceded by stories and editorials criticizing the gun rights group for defending the Second Amendment, discussions about guns in America and violence in the streets, gun-related tragedies and vilifying gun owners. Recent years have seen some balanced coverage of such subjects as armed self-defense by women or the group’s training programs. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution recently published something of a primer on the NRA’s upcoming visit.
But the St. Louis editorial aimed to bloody the NRA’s nose, and went after the firearms industry and another organization that also has had an impact on gun rights in the courts, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF). The headline warned readers to “Expect new fear mongering as gun lobby works to prop up sales.”
The opinion attempts to perpetuate the long standing myth that the NRA shills for the firearms industry. But industry has its own umbrella organization the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The NRA represents the interests of its five million members. The fact that many of those members also happen to work in the firearms industry should surprise nobody.
However, pulling SAF into the spotlight is something new, and it’s apparently because last week, that group launched the “Black Robes Matter” effort calling attention to Trump’s opportunity to appoint more conservative, pro-rights judges to the federal courts. True, SAF and NRA have joined forces in the past on legal actions, such as stopping the unconstitutional seizure of firearms following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and the San Francisco handgun ban. They also teamed up to defeat a parks gun ban in Seattle, and are currently cooperating in another legal challenge against Seattle’s “gun violence tax,” which is also joined by NSSF.
But NRA, NSSF and SAF are all independent organizations that just happen to have a common cause.
What appears to hit the proverbial raw nerve at the Post-Dispatch is that firearms groups now appear energized by Trump’s victory to start efforts aimed at rolling back decades of demagoguery against gun rights. SAF’s sights are set on the courts and NRA is focusing on Congress and state legislatures. It might best be described by something SAF founder Alan Gottlieb wrote in December, challenging the Trump administration to “Make the Second Amendment great again.”
The political left, which appears to include most of the dominant media, would like nothing more than to relegate the right to keep and bear arms to the status of a heavily-regulated government privilege. For decades, newspaper editorial boards have exercised the First Amendment to support every effort to erode the Second.
The Trump presidency could change that dramatically. Balancing the federal courts could create an environment in which restrictive gun laws can be successfully challenged and thrown out. That could be a nightmare scenario for the gun prohibition lobby.
And, it might force newspaper editorial boards heretofore tilted far to the left to acknowledge that there are ten amendments in the Bill of Rights, and they are all equally important to a free society.