David Kopel is the Research Director of the Independence Institute, an NRA instructor, a Second Amendment scholar, and a friend of PAGunRights.com. On Thursday evening, he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Elena Kagan’s record on the Second Amendment. His commentary discusses the “Clinton-Kagan gun ban” and how “neither her testimony, nor her professional record have given [the Senate] plausible reasons to believe that she would protect the Second Amendment rights of the American people.”
You can also read Kopel’s written testimony where he decimates Kagan’s belief that the KKK & NRA should be linked as “bad guy orgs.”
The NRA has always stood up for civil rights, including the right to keep and bear arms without regard to race, color, or creed. The historic role of the KKK was to deprive African Americans of this right.
The cofounder of the NRA was General Ambose Everett Burnside, who had recently finished two terms as Governor of Rhode Island. As a Union General, he had been a leader at integrating the freedmen into combat roles. As the Providence Journal later put it, Burnside was â€•One of the first of the regular army officers to approve heartily of Mr. Lincolnâ€˜s emancipation policy, he was also one of the first to favor the arming of black troops, and one of the most successful in training them for action.
After founding the NRA, Burnside was elected Senator from Rhode Island. He fought against racial segregation in the military, and proposed that West Point adopt an affirmative action admissions plan for blacks.
The sixth NRA President, General Winfield Scott Hancock, was nationally extolled as “the hero of Gettysburg.” As Democratic nominee for U.S. President in 1880, he had lost the popular vote by less than 10,000 votes, and if he had won the swing state of New York, he would have won the electoral vote. Hancock was remarkable for his time, always treating black people as equals, even before the Civil War. In 1880, Hancock led a national campaign to vindicate a black cadet at West Point who had been attacked by some white cadets, but whom the West Point administration claimed had injured himself.
The NRAâ€˜s Articles of Incorporation omitted something that was common for other sporting organizations at the time: a racial exclusion clause. In contrast to many other organizations and clubs created in the late 19th and early 20th centuriesâ€”such as the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association, the Professional Golf Association, the New York Athletic Club (for track and field), and the Amateur Athletic Union (same), the NRA welcomed members and athletes of every race.
The NRA was the governing body for the sport of rifle shooting, and eventually became the governing body for almost all the shooting sports. In this way, the NRA set a good example of racial integration and equality for the millions of Americans who participated in the shooting sports. Even during the worst of Jim Crow, a NRA match was one place where blacks and whites were exactly equal, and where skin color did not matter.
In the very segregated Washington, D.C., of the 1930s and 1940s, the shooting range at NRA National Headquarters was the only integrated place where a young black man could go and feel fully welcome. At least that was the experience of Richard Atkinson, a black man who grew up in the District during those years, and who was later was elected a director of the National Rifle Association.
The concerns Kopel raises are some of the reasons the NRA has made its opposition of Kagan crystal clear to members of the Senate. They will score the vote on her confirmation when they calculate grades for the 2010 elections.
Senators Arlen Specter & Bob Casey will likely return to Pennsylvania this next week for the July Fourth holiday recess. Please make sure you contact them to let them know that you stand with NRA & do not want a Supreme Court justice who believes that Americans who believe in gun rights are similar to despicable racists.