Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.
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Monday, March 14, 2011

Is the NRA bluffing about their millions of members?

I had a very interesting discussion with someone at a recent social event. This man asked me about myself and what I was doing with my life. When I told him that I had just come from a press event in Minneapolis, he and his wife both almost simultaneously sarcastically wished me good luck with that thankless effort. Then he wanted me to know that he received an unsolicited survey from the NRA recently. As  someone who agrees with gun control, he tried to answer the questions but noted that there were not many options for him to disagree with the way the questions were worded. So he sent it in more or less as a protest to the NRA for sending this to him in the first place. Within a few weeks he received his membership card to the NRA and started receiving the NRA magazine- free and unsolicited. Naturally this raises the question about the membership claims by the NRA. They maintain that they have about 4.5 million paid members. Really? If it's as easy as sending out a survey, hoping someone will answer it and send it in and you're an automatic member, how can these numbers possibly be right?

The pro gun guys on this blog constantly remind me that they have the numbers and my side doesn't. I think we can safely say that they NRA is playing with their numbers. They need to keep Congress in fear of them and this is a great way to do it. If their agenda is so good, why do they need these kind of tactics? Their concerns and their issues should speak for themselves. If they don't represent common sense and reality, then the ideas should be rejected as this editorial piece so aptly points out. " The NRA is a good organization that lost its compass when it entered politics, became the mouthpiece for gun manufacturers and their lobbyists, and now only injects fear into the debate. The NRA should become independent of gun manufacturers and get back to its original purpose of promoting education, gun safety, responsibility and stop fear politics. Lawmakers should wean themselves from money ties to the gun lobbyists, and carry out their legislative business based on merit not on dollars."


Now where was I? Oh yes, the NRA. Catch this video that ran today on Fox News, of all places. It is a video to discuss the editorial written by President Obama on Sunday in the Arizona Star. In the video, NRA Executive President Wayne LaPierre and Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke express their opinions about the proposed changes to our nation's gun laws that President Obama wrote about. I don't know about you, but I think LaPierre sounds like he is out of touch with today's reality about guns. He sticks to the same old talking points- let's just get all of "those people with guns" off the streets. How he proposes to do this is any body's guess because he doesn't reveal a plan for doing it. We are now allowing dangerously mentally ill people to live in the community rather than in locked up facilities because of money and a philosophy that this would be the best way to deal with them. As for criminals, sure, we all want them off the streets. We are sending sex offenders into homes in our neighborhoods and our jails and prisons are full. It costs money to do this. Besides, people cannot be committed to mental facilities against their will. Meanwhile, these very same people can get guns at gun shows without background checks in most states. They can get them other places as well but gun shows are one sure and easy place to get them. Why not prevent them from getting the guns in the first place if we can pass laws that won't affect law abiding citizens? LaPierre did not answer that one. It's always that we have to protect the second amendment rights with no suggestions for how to protect the rest of us in our communities  from those who shouldn't have guns ( and I am not talking about guns for self defense here or carrying in public as a way to protect us from prohibited purchasers). 


The recent Newsweek ran this long and quite thorough article about the issue of gun violence. They were right on in their analysis of where the country actually is on the issue rather than where the NRA and their supporters say is the case. Again, the NRA is wrong. " It’s counter intuitive, but the current political climate might favor gun control as well. No coalition suffered bigger losses in the 2010 midterms than the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who tend to court NRA support. Meanwhile, only three of the 106 Democrats who backed legislation to close the gun-show loophole lost their seats. The results represent up-to-the-minute proof, says Helmke, that the “NRA can neither save you nor sink you”—an argument that could swing a few Democratic votes in the months ahead. The public, meanwhile, endorses the current proposals, according to the NEWSWEEK–DAILY BEAST Poll: 51 percent want to outlaw high-capacity magazines; 67 percent back prohibiting the sale of firearms or explosives to individuals on terrorist watch lists; 83 percent support fully funding the national background-check database; and 86 percent favor instant computerized background checks for every gun buyer."


I have been writing the very same on this blog for months now. It's reassuring to know that the message is going viral. Last week I posted about the Time magazine article dealing with PTSD, domestic violence and guns. Many in the main stream media are echoing calls to do something about the issue of gun control. It can be done. We can, as I have said before, walk and chew gum. The time is here and it looks like things are happening rapidly. According to this article in the Huffington Post, meetings will begin this week to discuss how to move forward. Finally the voices of common sense are getting their day and the message is going to the top. It is coming from the majority who favor sensible gun laws. The NRA and it's supposed over 4 million members have made their noise but some of it is falling on deaf ears. In the wake of mass shooting after mass shooting and the continued daily carnage, the voices of victims and those who have been working so hard on this issue may actually drown out the loud but uncompelling voices of the NRA and it's followers. Their message has failed to change with the times. Dinosaurs went out of existence a long time ago. If the NRA doesn't get on board and be willing to do some talking, they will be left to the dustbin of history.


Our elected leaders need to understand that the NRA is blowing smoke when it comes to their support and their "members". Common sense tells us that the NRA is bluffing and has lost it's way in order to fund itself and the political and financial interests it now represents. Who is speaking for the victims? Not the NRA. But now, perhaps, the President and others will have the much needed discussion about guns and reasonable gun control.

41 comments:

  1. Actually, there's a very easy way to get a rough idea of how many NRA members there are using publicly available information. By default, an NRA membership includes a subscription to one of the NRA's magazines, and it's magazine subscription numbers are audited by an outside agency so it can sell advertising. American Rifleman has a circulation of 1,846,472, American Hunter 1,066,261, and America's 1st Freedom 609,300. That's a total of 3,522,033 subscriptions.

    Now, this doesn't correlate exactly with membership. It is possible to subscribe to more than one magazine for an additional fee, and junior and associate memberships don't come with a magazine subscription. However, I do think it clearly refutes the idea that the NRA is significantly misrepresenting the size of their membership.

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  2. But, Chris- what about people like my friend who are getting the magazine unsolicited? He must count in the numbers. That is my point. He doesn't want to be a member but somehow suddenly he is.

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  3. "The NRA is a good organization that lost its compass"

    We hear that or something similar a lot from gun control advocates. I would like to see how that would affect the latest gun control proposal.

    Think back to the days before the NRA "lost its compass" (whenever those days were). Now imagine that a law was proposed then to ban any magazine greater than 10rds. What would have been different about the NRA's position back then before the NRA "lost its compass"?

    Do you think they would have said "go ahead - no problem"? Really?

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  4. Joan, this is very encouraging. http://www.illinoiscarry.com/forum/uploads/monthly_03_2011/post-849-129981626382.jpg

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  5. So can we clarify what the issue is? We DAILY hear what a big bad bully the NRA is, but now we're hearing that they don't have as many members as they say they do.

    So where does all that money come from? Does the NRA have some behind-the-scenes billionaire looking to foist his political views on the rest of the country?

    Just want to be clear.

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  6. "(the NRA) became the mouthpiece for gun manufacturers and their lobbyists...The NRA should become independent of gun manufacturers"

    Another favorite piece of dogma for gun control advocates. The reality:

    In the 1990's, gun manufacturers felt that their image was being hurt by the NRA's no-compromise approach and established their own lobby, the American Shooting Sports Council. This group commenced efforts to compromise on gun control, and its first and best-known effort was the agreement with then-President Clinton to include gun locks with most guns. That angered the NRA, and their threatened boycotts forced
    gun manufacturers to disband the ASSC in favor of a more compliant manufacturers group, the NSSF.

    Most gun control advocates don't get it: Gun manufacturers don't control the NRA. The opposite is true: The NRA influences the gun manufacturers! japete, you should feel it from your blog: Those who comment in opposition to you are not gun manufacturers -- they are voting NRA members motivated by ideology, whose votes tell the NRA which way to go. To any extent that gun control advocates believe their own propaganda (that gun manufacturers control the NRA, not the opposite as is true) they are the weaker for it.

    PS: The chairman of the ASSC, Richard Feldman, is still hated by the NRA. He wrote an expose book about how the NRA got him fired. Gun control advocates would love the book -- if it didn't debunk many of their claims as well.

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  7. "86 percent favor instant computerized background checks for every gun buyer."

    86 percent? Zowie! I guess that gun control advocates (who believe in polls so strongly) had better renounce their intention of replacing instant computerized background checks with mandatory minimum waiting periods.

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  8. I get Bloomburg Business Week every week, despite having never subscribed nor paid a dime. Mistakes in billing and subscription happen. To take the anecdote of your friend erroneously receiving a NRA magazine and extrapolating that the NRA is padding its membership count is a stretch of logic, to say the least.

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  9. Jay- the bills on the table do not include mandatory minimum waiting periods other than what is already in law. It takes a few minutes to run a background check and out you go with your gun.

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  10. Does Bloomberg Business Week use their inflated membership rolls to lobby Congress about issues?

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  11. Its alright Joan, I'll clear this up. Send me your friend's name and address and I'll buy him a gift membership, my treat!

    I'll buy you one too...I'm afraid you wouldn't enjoy the magazine though...probably wouldn't wear the hat or put the sticker on your car either...

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  12. japete: "the bills on the table do not include mandatory minimum waiting periods other than what is already in law."

    But most of the lobbying groups promoting those bills make no secret that they intend to push for mandatory minimum waiting periods. True or false? We are supposed to ignore that?

    japete: "It takes a few minutes to run a background check and out you go with your gun."

    That would be fine except that it is the intention of the Brady Campaign to then make it take several days or longer.

    Really, japete? You see nothing wrong with telling us that we shouldn't mind because it only "takes a few minutes to run a background check and out you go with your gun," while it is your group's goal to do away with that as soon as you are able?

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  13. Pat- thanks for the offer. They have a hat?? I don't look good in hats so I don't really wear any hats but I might consider the NRA hat, actually. I'm sure it's very nice.

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  14. What are you talking about Jay? Where do you get your false information. We are not proposing anything of the kind. Read the bill. It's not there. We are not talking about the waiting period here in the proposed bills. You are wrong.

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  15. "I don't look good in hats so I don't really wear any hats but I might consider the NRA hat, actually. I'm sure it's very nice."

    I figure its only fair...you and Heather persuaded me to join the NRA in the first place! :)

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  16. "They have a hat?? I don't look good in hats so I don't really wear any hats but I might consider the NRA hat, actually. I'm sure it's very nice."

    Another rare moment when you and I have something in common. I didn't get a hat either, for the same reason as yourself. But no worries! I chose a free flashlight. It's lightweight and compact enough to fit in your purse, and best of all, it's shaped like a shotgun shell. Isn't that clever!

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  17. Hmmm... so your friend completes a survey and receives a few free magazines, and suddenly this is enough evidence to declare that "I think we can safely say that they NRA is playing with their numbers." ??

    I would like to point out that I have been receiving free subscriptions to both Rolling Stone and Spin magazine for the past three years without so much as an invoice, so I know that mistakes like that can happen.

    I would also like to add on to Chris's statement regarding magazine subscription numbers as a rough estimate of membership totals. He forgot to mention that the NRA also has family memberships, in which case only one magazine is sent to the household. Also, he did not look at the fact that NRA junior members receive "NRA Insights" as their magazine. The NRA also offers "Associate Membership" for a discounted fee which does not include a magazine subscription.

    If we take 4.5 million members, and subtract all of Chris's figures, we come up with just under a million not receiving any subscription. When we consider family memberships, junior memberships, and associate memberships, I'm fairly certain those numbers can bridge the gap.

    But, really, you can believe whatever you want. Whether you think we have four million members or four dozen members, as long as we keep winning elections it doesn't matter to me what you believe.

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  18. "The NRA should become independent of gun manufacturers and get back to its original purpose of promoting education, gun safety, responsibility and stop fear politics"

    Perhaps you are unaware of the multitude of gun safety classes the NRA puts on across the country? Perhaps you are unaware of the Eddie Eagle program the NRA runs to educate children on gun safety? Perhaps you are unaware that the NRA provides materials which outline the basic rules of gun safety? It's all well and good to blame the NRA for not being safety oriented anymore, especially when your own organization can only point to "Well, we fight for more laws" as their only achievements. How much safer are we because of gun control groups? It seems as though the only thing they can ever say is "Well, if it only saves one life..."

    That's all well and good, but guns are here to stay, and sticking our heads in the dirt will not make us a safer society. I'm positive that the programs the NRA puts on accomplishes this goal.

    As for "promoting fear," I feel that tactic is justified. You see, I have a lot of guns that you guys don't want me to have. I'm afraid that if you are successful I will loose those guns, which are the foundation of my civil rights. Perhaps if there wasn't so much pressure from the anti gun lobby, the NRA could devote more time and money to safety programs than to politics.

    "No coalition suffered bigger losses in the 2010 midterms than the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who tend to court NRA support."

    I hate to disappoint you here, but of those pro gun Blue Dogs that lost the election, how many of them were replaced with anti gun politicians? This previous election wasn't about gun control; there hasn't really been any gun control on the federal level to get angry about. No, these Blue Dogs lost because they come from conservative districts that were mad about their lock step support of Obamacare and the liberal agenda.

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  19. "Naturally this raises the question about the membership claims by the NRA. They maintain that they have about 4.5 million paid members. Really? If it's as easy as sending out a survey, hoping someone will answer it and send it in and you're an automatic member, how can these numbers possibly be right?"

    4.5 million, 3.5 million, hell even 1 million is a considerable amount of members that can't be ignored. Your side wishes that they could muster up a fraction of that kind of membership. Your organization may try to question the number and play it down, but it does so at it's own peril.

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  20. Alcade- do Rolling Stone and Spin magazines use their numbers to lobby Congress?

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  21. Alcade- " You see, I have a lot of guns that you guys don't want me to have. I'm afraid that if you are successful I will loose those guns, which are the foundation of my civil rights. Perhaps if there wasn't so much pressure from the anti gun lobby, the NRA could devote more time and money to safety programs than to politics. " I sincerely hope you don't "loose" your guns in public. That would be unfortunate.I doubt very much that the NRA is doing what they are doing because of the "anti gun" lobby as you guys love to call us. They are doing what they are doing to stay in business and keep themselves getting huge salaries and benefits and for the upkeep of their building in Virginia. It's a self fulfilling deal.

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  22. I fail to see the "peril" here Ruff.

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  23. Dear readers- check this one out and see if I am right about the inflated numbers of NRA members- The NRA is now giving out free "Freedom Associate" memberships on its website - http://www.nrahq.org/FreedomAssoc/default.asp

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  24. You know every so often I get unsolicited phone calls even though I'm on the Do Not Call registry. Some of those calls are honest mistakes. So I pick up the phone and I tell them please do not call this number anymore. Please take me off your list. I would definitely take the time to do this if I received mailings from the VPC, MAIG, or Brady Campaign. In fact, many mayors have done this with MAIG.

    So why aren't these people who are getting unsolicited materials from the NRA doing the same? Maybe they like the nice gun photography? Maybe they like the history articles? Maybe they are amazed by the number of self-defense uses that the mainstream media seems to ignore in their publications? Maybe they like getting free magazines?

    Who knows. Even if the magazines are being sent for free, not taking action to be removed from their list is passive acceptance. It's called opt-out, and I hate it, but the Internet has really forced this upon us.

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  25. Oh, one more thing. The important number isn't the absolute NRA membership number but the ratio: NRA membership / (Brady + VPC + MAIG memberships) which is something like 80 to 1. If a representative gets 80 calls to support legislation and only 1 call to not support it, then common sense says they will support it.

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  26. I read President Obama's editorial and while it might tarnish my NRA membership to say this, I can support what he said. It seemed reasonable to me. I haven't watched the Wayne LaPierre / Helmke videos because, quite frankly, I don't pay much attention to what either of those extremists say. I also don't read the Huffington Post, because I think that's extremist too.

    Anyway, I didn't see anything extreme in President Obama's editorial like banning 30 round magazines by banning everything over 10 rounds and turning all those people that own 10+ round magazines into criminals. Incidentally, at the end of the State of the Union address, I thought I saw an unhappy Carolyn McCarthy approach the President in a yellow dress and the President snubbed her.

    My point is that I believe President Obama will garner more support if he stays away from extremist positions and even one thing, an improved background check system, is better than the incessant bickering that results in nothing at all.

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  27. You missed something here, Migo. This was a survey sent to someone. He filled it out to make a statement against the NRA. Then he became an automatic member with no chance to opt out. He is now on their membership rolls unless he calls them back to get his name off of the list. He doesn't like the material at all and would just as soon not get it. He hates the magazine but keeps it so he can see what they are up to. I suspect he will opt out soon since this just began recently. I would say that more of the people who get the magazine and memberships unsolicited are more like my friend than yours.

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  28. No Migo- the important thing is the total membership numbers. That is what the NRA uses to intimidate elected officials. They don't use a ratio.

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  29. Great Migo. BTW- Paul Helmke is nowhere near being an extremist. HE is one of the most reasonable people I know about the gun issue. He is a Republican and served as a Republican Mayor. He is not saying anything different than the President said in his OpEd for the most part. There are things the Brady Campaign would like to see happening that the President did not support but we would be elated if the things proposed by the President actually happened. The fact that LaPierre refused to meet with the White House says who is the extremist in the room. No compromising there.

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  30. Joan, the 10+ round magazine bill is an extreme bill and in my dictionary anyone that supports it is extreme, quite simply, because it criminalizes otherwise law-abiding citizens. Now if a bill was proposed that banned the new manufacturing and importation of 20+ round semi-automatic pistol magazines, then, while I still might not support it, at least I might capitulate and admit that might be reasonable.

    In general, anything that puts handcuffs on an otherwise law-abiding citizen is extreme in my dictionary.

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  31. japete said...

    No Migo- the important thing is the total membership numbers. That is what the NRA uses to intimidate elected officials. They don't use a ratio.
    March 15, 2011 12:51 PM


    Joan-

    There are only two things that matter-

    Campaign contributions and letters/phone calls from constituents. Migo was pretty clear.

    "If a representative gets 80 calls to support legislation and only 1 call to not support it, then common sense says they will support it."

    The communication among gun owners about gun control legislation is very good. Go to any website that has anything to do with things that you want to ban- primarily semiauto rifles and handguns- and you'll see some communication/discussion about impending legislation and encouragement to contact representatives.

    We do that whether we are NRA members or not. If a Senator's office is swamped with calls and letters in support of a bill and gets one or two calls or letters in opposition, that'll have an impact.

    Brady and the NRA can say whatever they want about how many members they have, because only a fool would take either one of them at their word.

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  32. Indeed- there is robust discussion about the issues and what you guys are doing among the gun control groups all around the country as well.

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  33. "The communication among gun owners about gun control legislation is very good. Go to any website that has anything to do with things that you want to ban- primarily semiauto rifles and handguns- and you'll see some communication/discussion about impending legislation and encouragement to contact representatives."

    The gun control crowd has websites. It's not the websites that are the center of the gun rights communities - it is the gatherings. The ranges, the clubs, the gun shows. The myriad venues where millions of gun owners get together on a regular basis and talk to each other.

    It's these that are our real advantage. And that is why it is these that the Brady Bunch is so focused on shutting down.

    If the gun rights community was simply a bunch of guys sitting around in their underwear, ranting on blogs, it'd be no threat to the collectivists' dreams. It's because we really are a community - people who know each other, work together, socialize which each other, and organize together, that we are as effective as we are.

    And that is why we will defend the gun shows - because without them, we'd be less able to block the constant assaults on our fundamental rights and liberties.

    Joan - looking out the window, it almost looks like Spring. This means we'll be seeing open-carry BBQs, soon. Well, soonish.

    We usually hold them in a fairly public place. You're free to stop by.

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  34. Thanks for the offer jdege but I must decline. I am happy to see the snow melting and ready for spring myself. The winter was long and too much snow. Just so you know, we are not trying to take away your community. I know you value that. I have my own communities and many of them are places to talk about the gun issue and other political issues. I am always glad to be surrounded by people who value what I value and like what I am doing. That's important to me.

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  35. "The NRA should become independent of gun manufacturers and get back to its original purpose of promoting education, gun safety, responsibility and stop fear politics."

    It's kinda hard to promote education, gun safety, and responsibility when there are no guns. For that reason, it is necessary for the NRA to fight for the 2nd Amendment.

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  36. "The gun control crowd has websites. It's not the websites that are the center of the gun rights communities - it is the gatherings. The ranges, the clubs, the gun shows. The myriad venues where millions of gun owners get together on a regular basis and talk to each other."

    Apologies. I didn't articulate that very well. On "our" websites, you don't just have politically active diehards- you also have new folks just wandering through looking for recommendations on a new holster or something. And all of them see reminders that what they enjoy doing is in jeopardy. On gun control websites, you get people who are interested in gun control, but that's it.

    That's not a dig at gun control advocates, that's just the nature of the beast. It's people who are just doing something they enjoy doing versus people who have to go out of their way.

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  37. The entire gun control movement is based on fear. Gun control advocates keep shouting how many people are going to be shot if we don't enact some particular piece of legislation. What they don't mention is how their legislation will not affect the criminals committing the crimes and killings. They are already prohibited from owning guns.

    Also, despite the gun control advocates recent claims at supporting the Second Amendment, they still want to discourage and prevent gun ownership anywhere they can. Their work will not be complete until citizens of the United States are completely disarmed.

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  38. That's right, John. When we meet as the various organizations, we talk about how we can organize all of our supporters to form a posse. Once we do that, we are going to go door to door and take away all of your guns. We figure it should take maybe 5-10 years or so before we have them all. One problem is that we just can't find a good place to store them all because there are so many. That will be for our next meeting.

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  39. "One problem is that we just can't find a good place to store them all because there are so many."

    Plus it's going to be expensive to buy that many trigger locks!

    Oh, and when you come to IL make sure you get your FOID card. If you're caught in possession of a firearm without one you'll go to prison.

    Not sure if they'd let you continue to blog from a jail cell - so you'd better play it safe.

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  40. During the course of the almost 2 years which have elapsed since these comments were posted, we have seen several more tragedies, injecting more fire into the ongoing debate, regarding gun control. I believe in the second amendment, but only to a point. I am NOT "obsessed with guns" like the NRA and it's affiliate lobbyists. Yes, their moral compass has become skewed. They are fearmongers who believe that NOTHING is more important than the preservation of the republic, and that the second amendment is the hallmark (most important) amendment of the constitution. The fear being, of course, that our increasingly powerful government is going to take everything they own, away from them. What, however, is the REAL reason that these people so fearfull? It's probably because of the fact that white males have heretofore always been the controlling dominators of our subjugative society. The reelection of Obama has become confirmation in their minds, that from now on they (we) are going to have to SHARE in this power and control. The same kind of primal ecstasy that one derives from the ownership and operation of the firearms, themselves. It makes us feel safe and in control! All the proof that one needs to this assertion, is by examining the nature of the NRA's membership. What percentage of its enlisted membership is composed of white males?......I rest my case!

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