The NRA's extremism

To the Editor:

In spite of the commendable intent of the National Rifle Association to protect our Second Amendment right to bear arms, I have frequently been dismayed by its extremism and lack of thoughtfulness. I write this as one who has been an avid hunter of large and small game, as well as a person who would be quite capable of using a gun to protect himself and those for whom he is responsible.

My first complaint against the NRA is its absolutism; its insistence that issues be approached without qualification. We may call this the fallacy of "all or nothing." Any right, if pushed to the absolute extreme, is bound to conflict with some other cherished right. That is why Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, referring to the First Amendment, made the famous statement that no one has an unconditional right to cry "fire" in a crowded theater.

Those knowledgeable about the constitution have long been aware that the Second Amendment was ambiguous in its wording, because the relation of the first clause about a well ordered militia and the second clause, which bars infringement on the people's right to bear arms, is not clear. One would think that the NRA would have welcomed an attempt by the Supreme Court to clarify this amendment, which It did in the landmark 2008 case, District of Columbia V. Heller.


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