On Guns
by Tom Gresham

Straight Talk From the Firing Line
Guns & Ammo, May 1999

As lawsuits by cities against gunmakers cascaded one upon another through the winter, gun owners asked two questions: Where is the NRA, and what can I do to help? Until the SHOT Show in February, there were no answers.  In a one-two punch, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the NRA answered both questions, to a standing ovation from manufacturers, gun dealers, and the firearms media.

A side note. Prior to the announcements, Josh Sugarman, the head honcho at the virulently anti-gun Violence Policy Center, was ejected from the room.

Because the NRA wasn't named in the suits, and because its prime focus (at least, on the political side of things) is legislation rather than litigation, the 800-pound gorilla didn't have a role.  When the mayor of Atlanta decided to jump into the fray and get some of the free money he thought would be available from the gun companies (how little he knows), the Georgia Legislature went into action.  At that point, the NRA was on the scene. At this writing, the Legislature has passed a bill prohibiting the lawsuit by Atlanta.  The governor is expected to sign it.

The NRA already is working on similar bills in other states.

At the SHOT Show, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) also announced the Heritage Fund.  The plan asks gunmakers to voluntarily contribute one percent of their gross revenue to a fund that will be used to fight the lawsuits, and also to finance the creation and placement of advertising that will balance the media smear campaign against gun owners.  With attentiongetting headlines such as "The very fact that it can be dangerous is what makes it safe," this campaign explains what recreational shooting is all about.  The ads will be run in publications read by the "intellectual elite," a group identified as opinion leaders in the country Early testing showed that these ads are effective at swaying opinions.

We need to remember that the fights in the courts and legislatures are skirmishes.  The real battle is for the minds of the public at large. Up until now, gun owners have been missing in action on that battle front.

How can you be involved? You don't have a gun company, but you can still contribute to the Heritage Fund through the Century Club.  It allows individuals to contribute $ 100.  As soon as I heard of it I plunked down my C-note.   Frankly, I can't think of a better place to put my money.

The NSSF is at I I Mile Hill Road, Newtown, CT 06470-2359, or call them at (203) 426-1320.

It always amazes me when I find a gun owner who doesn't understand that the battle over gun control is total war.  It's not about being fair. it's about winning. Often I discover that gun owners either don't know or don't believe that the gun grabbers really do want to ban gun ownership.  Not control guns.  Not register guns.  Not restrict the sale of guns.  They want to pick them all up.

"Oh, come on, Tom," they say "Aren't you getting a bit paranoid?"

It was a treat, in January, to be able to expose this plan in public. On "Gun Talk," my syndicated radio program, I spent an hour with Tom Diaz, author of "Making A Killing: The Business of Guns In America."  Diaz works for the Violence Policy Center, a group which opposes the Eddie Eagle gun safety program and which has called for banning guns.

I thought it would be interesting to see how Diaz would defend his book, which is a shallow attack on gunmakers (comparing them ' to tobacco companies), and his call (in the final chapter) for the "phasing out" Of handguns. He didn't want to go there , and he ducked and dodged, bobbed and weaved.  I pressed, asking what "phase out" really means. Finally, he admitted that it meant that the government would pick up all handguns.

When I asked if that isn't confiscation, he said it wasn't, because gun owners would be "compensated" for the guns that were taken from them by force of law.  He really didn't want to say he advocated confiscating handguns, but I wouldn't let him dodge the question. The exchange went this way

Gresham: "Everybody who has a handgun, you want to take it away Am I right?"

Diaz: "Overtime. Exactly."

Gresham: "Okay So let's be real clear. You want to take handguns away from every law abiding person, every crook ... everybody in the country who owns a handgun, you want it."

Diaz: "Right. Over time."

Gresham: "Over time."

Diaz: "I'm not talking about tomorrow because that's a very different proposition."

Gresham: "If you could wave your wand and do it tomorrow, would you?

Diaz: "Of course."

Much more effective, it seems to me, for gun owners and the public to hear a gun grabber public for government confiscation of private property-the only private property protected by the Constitution-than for me to keep saying it on my show.

We added a new aspect to Gun Talk with the "Guns & Ammo Spotlight" segments. Those contain two or more G&A editors shooting the bull about a particular firearm. When one of them described shooting a .50 BMG single shot, saying he thought he saw the face of Jesus when he touched it off, I nearly fell out of my chair!

Okay, so how do you get Gun Talk? If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where the program runs (from 2:00 to 5: 00pm Eastern time, Sundays), just tune it in. If you aren't sure if there's a station nearby, hit the scan button to find it. Check both AM and FM bands. Any station anywhere can run the program. If you can't find the program, you can still listen over the Internet. Go to my web site at www. guntalk. com and follow the links that say "LISTEN."

Tom Gresham hosts a national radio talk show, Tom Gresham's Gun Talk, presented by Guns & Ammo magazine Sunday from 2 to 5 p. m. Eastern. Check your local stations, or listen on the Web at