A REAL HEADSCRATCHER

Rabbits’ eyes are set so that they have almost complete 360 degree vision. They do have one blind spot and no BLIS system to cover it. It’s right in front of their noses. It seems that when it comes to guns, Americans have the same blind spot and apparently no BLIS system to cover it.

Bunny Rabbit Bunny Easter
I wish I could see what’s right in front of my nose

Let’s start with these points. First, even though I follow the news religiously, I not only can’t remember all the names of the people who have been killed by police in the last several months, I can’t even remember most of the cities in which the shootings took place. I feel guilty about that. The second is that when the president spoke last week he said that in between two deadly death by cop shootings, there were slightly more than 400 shootings of people by people. Finally, Americans own 393 million guns or 46% of all the guns registered in the WORLD. That’s 120 guns for every 100 people. The popular AR-15 assault weapon is owned by 2.5-3.7 million people. The discrepancy is one of definition. ATF estimates that there are over 600,000 “machine guns” in citizens’ hands. A good question would be why? Up to last month of this year there have been 146 shootings that qualify by definition as mass shootings. That is up 76% from last year. Your head spinning yet? Let’s dive into those numbers, even add a few, and then scratch our heads about how to change them.

Buying a gun in America, a handgun, a shotgun, a hunting rifle or a military assault rifle is almost as easy as buying a suit or a gallon of milk. First and most obvious is at a gun store. I walked into one, a small shop on the second floor of a very innocuous shopping mall–bagel shop, dry cleaners, a few restaurants, gift shop and so on–of course you had to ring the bell to get in. The owner, a kindly looking, movie type 60+ year old was packing a side-arm that would have made Dirty Harry comfortable. While I was nosing about and he was answering my questions, I was offered a training course that would qualify me for a permit to carry. If I just wanted to take it home and keep it there, I wouldn’t need that.

in the rifle shop
“Yes, sir!” “This will stop most anything you shoot at or check out what’s behind me.”

I could go to a pawn shop. Less expensive guns; same spiel. Then of course there is the gun show with its famous loop hole and the most popular place for Joe or Jane Already-Committed-a-Crime citizen to get it all done in just a few hours–or less. Four to nine per cent of all guns a year are bought at gun shows. Before we go on, understand we are talking the legal end of the spectrum. Because of their lack of regulation in many states, the more than 400 shows a year cater to those who can’t get what they want legally.

Here’s more. Guns are stolen and have their serial numbers shaved off. Guns come in like drugs from all over the world. And like something seen in a movie, people are making their own guns either through the use of parts and instructions from the net or printing them, yes printing them, on 3-D printers. The Gifford’s Law Center tells us that millions of gun change hands in American without background checks. Back for a minute to gun shows. The so-called gun-show exemption allows for private individuals to sell guns to other private individuals without a background check under something called the private exchange exemption. Gifford’s again: the majority of guns bought at gun shows are used in criminal acts. Conclusion? Except for the cost, milk is as easy to buy.

The politics of the issue is almost as incomprehensible. Like characters at the Mad Hatter’s Table, everyone is shouting at each other. The shouting is about the second amendment. Let’s take a look at it and try to reason out what makes sense and what doesn’t. Here ya go: The Second Amendment, one of the ten amendments to the Constitution comprising the Bill of Rights, states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That’s 26 words, count’em. Sounds pretty simple; clearly it is not. If you’d like some homework google 2nd amendment court cases. It is the politicians who makes us nuts and allow this slaughter because they can do it in the vaunted name of the the constitution of the the United States. Some of you may remember the show, “You Are There.” A popular early TV show it took a piece of history and acted it out the hope being better understanding. Let’s do a little of that.

The second amendment was passed in 1791. Two things are instructive. One is the need for such an amendment; the other is the weaponry used then. Let’s start with the most obvious, the one thing that should scream out for gun regulations. It is the amendment itself. calls for “a well regulated militia.” Regulations have been hard to come by. Then too, a militia by definition is an organized group, called together under regulation to protect something specific, like the country, from an invasion. Just what was was going on in the in the mid-1700’s? Oh yes, the American revolution and the drafting of the constitution for the new nation.

Is this what they really meant?

Let’s start with the leader America is currently enthralled with, Alexander Hamilton. He wrote in the Federalist papers:

The militia’s main responsibility would be to protect the nation from phenomena that can or will endanger national security. In “The Federalist 29”, Hamilton writes that, “It requires no skill in the science of war to discern that uniformity in the organization and discipline in the militia would be attended with the most beneficial effects‘”.[2]

Unlike militias of the past, Hamilton viewed new militias as a uniformed group similar to that of an organized military. “It is, therefore, with the most evident propriety, that the plan of the convention proposes to empower the Union ‘to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United states…” (James Madison, John Jay, The Federalist, books.google.com).[2]

Let’s take a point from James Madison: James Madison originally proposed the Second Amendment shortly after the Constitution was officially ratified as a way to provide more power to state militias, which today are considered the National Guard. Ego, since we now have a national guard explain to me why we need a militia.

There are many an argument pro and con but in your own mind do the Oath Takers, Proud Boys or even the KKK, no less the basket full of neo-nazi groups, fit what is above?

Let us move to the 800 lb Gorilla in the room, The National Rifle Association (NRA). My points here again go to common sense and who shall lead us with it. When the National Rifle Association was officially incorporated on November 16, 1871, its primary goal was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis”. Today, the NRA’s website says the organization is “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization”. May I point out the grand difference between its founding purpose and the statement on the website?

Under today’s laws the NRA is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization with the IRS code of 501-C4. Having run 501’s for more than 30 years, I can tell you that the government makes a bargain with you. You gain by being tax exempt. For that you accept certain restrictions on a variety of issues, the biggest of which is lobbying. An IRS, 501(c)3 is a nonprofit organization for religious, charitable, scientific, and educational purposes. … Whereas on the other hand, 501(c)4 is a social welfare group, and donations to 501(c)4 are not tax-deductible. (Apr 12, 2021). There is however a however and that is the NRA Foundation. (“NRA Foundation”) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that raises tax-deductible contributions in support of a wide range of firearm-related public interest activities of the National Rifle Association of America and other organizations that defend and foster the Second Amendment rights of all law-abiding Americans. It is the momma bird that feeds its baby, the NRA, and other babies, all of whom lobby for their version of the second amendment. In 2016 it raised a staggering $330 million dollars; $660,000 represented one gift. The years following, because of the mass shootings. It is hard to believe that an organization raising that much money can be in debt and contemplating bankruptcy but it is, massively. Read on, you’ll get it.

There are two issues, intertwined, that one comes up against when probing the NRA. The first is the culture of corruption. The second is the corruption of individuals, namely it’s executive Wayne LaPierre. The NYS Attorney General has filed to dissolved the organization. The Federal government is nosing around the issue of taxes. Such things are very expensive in lawyer costs. Here is a sampling of both.

NRA’s Culture of Self-Dealing, Mismanagement, and Negligence

The lawsuit alleges that the four men instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent. They overrode and evaded internal controls to allow themselves, their families, favored board members, employees, and vendors to benefit through reimbursed expenses, related party transactions, excess compensation, side deals, and waste of charitable assets without regard to the NRA’s best interests.

When board members challenged LaPierre and others over their financial governance and leadership of the NRA, LaPierre retaliated and turned the board against those who attempted to challenge the illegal behavior.

The complaint lays out numerous other instances in which LaPierre, Phillips… and other executives and board members at the NRA abused their power and illegally diverted or facilitated the diversion of tens of millions of dollars from the NRA. These funds were in addition to millions of dollars… four individual defendants were already receiving in grossly excessive salaries and bonuses that were not in line with the best practices and prudent standards for evaluating and determining compensation.

Wayne LaPierre – Executive Vice-President

In his nearly three decades as executive vice-president, Wayne LaPierre ran the day-to-day operations of the NRA and exploited the organization for his and his family’s financial benefit, and the benefit of a close circle of NRA staff, board members, and vendors. Of note, LaPierre:

  • Spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of the NRA’s charitable assets for private plane trips for himself and his family, including extended family when he was not present.
  • Visited the Bahamas by private air charter at least eight times in an approximate three-year period with his family, at a cost of more than $500,000 to the NRA. On many of those trips, LaPierre and his family were gifted the use of a 107-foot yacht owned by an NRA vendor.
  • Traveled to Africa with his wife for all-expense paid safaris, gifted by an NRA vendor.
  • Spent millions on unwarranted travel consultants for decades, including for the booking of luxury black car services — spending more than $3.6 million in the last two years alone.
  • Secured a post-employment contract for himself with the NRA, without board approval, currently valued at more than $17 million.
  • Allotted several millions of dollars annually in NRA funds for private security costs for himself and his family without sufficient oversight on their use.
  • Received more than $1.2 million in expense reimbursements in just a four-year period for expenditures that included gifts for favored friends and vendors; travel expenses for himself and his family; and membership fees at golf clubs, hotels, and other member clubs.
  • Secured lucrative consulting contracts for ex-employees and board members worth millions.

Oh yes, according to Celebrity Salary, La Pierre makes a shade under one million dollars a year in salary plus $150,000 a year bonus. He became eligible for an employment payment from his compensation plan that was worth $3.7 million. That year he took home over five million dollars. The suits in his closet, according to the Wall Street Journal, cost over $300,000 and $39,000 of them were bought in one day’s shopping spree. Nor can we leave this tale of excess without mentioning his 10,000 sq ft, six million dollars estate in Texas–where else?

The complaint alleges that as executive vice-president, LaPierre handpicked individuals in senior staff positions at the NRA that have shown themselves to be loyal (where have we heard/seen than before?) to LaPierre as an individual, rather than to the organization. Time and time again, LaPierre has shown that loyalty, more than competence and responsibility, is integral to his staffing picks, which led him to personally hire senior staff— some chosen despite failing to meet the necessary skills or experience for their respective roles and responsibilities.

We started with a rabbit. We’ll end with a bear, Winnie the Pooh who would announce, “We’ve come to the end of it.”

the answer’s in there somewhere

It’s the end that is the headscratcher. The NRA has changed its stripes without filing for just a change. It set up a Foundation so it could raise money and repeatedly violates the rules imposed re lobbying. It has a culture of corruption and bullying and it is run by in individual whose very essence is corrupt. Their holy grail is the second amendment, an amendment formulated shortly after the revolutionary war when people were using muskets and pulling together groups to protect the homeland. Does all this sound reasonable or even kosher to you? Not me. As complicated as all this is, the citizen reaction is simple. Using these common sense tools stay in steady contact with : you state representative, your state senator, your representative in Congress, your United States Senator, and the President of the United States of America. Say, “I’m sick and tired and won’t stand it any more!”

Yes the Emperor has clothes, expensive clothes and declares himself Emperor. Given that all I’ve shared is public record, my headscratcher is that so many you don’t get it. Clamp down on the NRA and a host of political and social problems will steadily shrink–at least from my perspective.

2 thoughts on “A REAL HEADSCRATCHER

  1. Thank you Bill for once again helping us to think about another hard to understand aspect of American culture and it’s intersection with the Constitution…..

    Like

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