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Not for Praise, but for Principle



An address to the
17th Annual NRA National Shooting Coaches
and Instructors Conference

by Thomas C. Wyld

Director, PR & Communications
National Rifle Association
Institute for Legislative Action

Fairfax, Virginia,
August 18, 1995


Thank you for being here for the 17th Annual NRA National Shooting Coaches and Instructors Conference.

You, NRA-certified coaches and instructors, are the best kept secret in the National Rifle Association of America. So, who's keeping the secret?

Certainly not the NRA, not the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, certainly not the PR staff of NRA.

  • Thousands of competitions annually.
  • More than thirty thousand certified instructors who reach hundreds of thousands of Americans.
  • More than ten thousand NRA-certified police trainers who reach more than four hundred thousand peace officers nationwide.

Those aren't secrets -- they're part of the stories we tell about our Association every day.

Indeed we routinely tell your story at every turn -- and, just as routinely, your story is turned down.

One example.

Just a few days ago, I was interviewed by, let's call it a prominent Washington newspaper, about a shooting accident that ended tragically in the death of a young man. In responding to the press, I listed the three cardinal rules for safe gun handling -- the same rules you, your competitors and your students live by. By repeating those three rules, I was urging the reporter to include them in the story.

  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep the finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

In this tragedy, the gun was not pointed in a safe direction, and the gun was loaded even though it was not ready to use.

Tragically, a life was lost. But NRA's vital safety message was lost in that story, too.

I told the reporter that if his readers believed that gun safety training is vital, they should join the club. That club's the NRA. That club's champions are you -- NRA- certified instructors and coaches.

To this reporter and several others, we said, come to this conference. Attend NRA's open house on Saturday. Come see NRA Training Week.

In the words of one reporter I spoke to, that story would be, and I quote, too sweet.

So we've come to this in 1995. Good stories are "too sweet." The story about volunteers like you, working with people young and old, teaching safety, discipline, respect of self and others -- building in Americans the very traits that make our nation a great nation -- is a story that simply can't be told.

But you will press on with coaching and training regardless of the press. Because you don't do it for praise or publicity. You do it, because you know it's right.

And we in the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and all our members will press on, too, securing our heritage, safeguarding our rights, protecting freedom. We press on, despite the press, because we know it's right. Not for praise, but for principle.

No presentation is complete without a slide show, so I'm going to show you some visuals.

Slide number one. It's a picture of people like you celebrating on Election Night, 1994. I hope you see yourself in that picture, because you had lots of company and lots to celebrate. You and people like you were involved in over ten thousand elections -- I said it right -- ten thousand elections at the local, state and federal level. You and fellow NRA members achieved more than eighty percent success in November of 1994.

This slide is not a picture of anti-government people. Getting involved in ten thousand elections is not anti-government. It is government.

Slide number two. As you can see, it's a map of the United States. Since January of this year, you and your NRA have radically altered this map with Right to Carry -- legislation that enables law-abiding people like yourself to have a means to defend yourself and your loved ones while outside the home. Even TIME magazine tipped its hat to your NRA's enactment just this year of Right to Carry in Virginia, Utah, Idaho and Arkansas.

A few months ago, it was signed into law by the governors of Texas, Oklahoma and Nevada.

You've passed Right to Carry into law in North Carolina.

You have improved the existing law in Florida.

And you have extended Pennsylvania's Right to Carry law to the good citizens of the birthplace of freedom, Philadelphia.

Because NRA protected freedom, NRA assured the safety of more and more Americans -- because the threat of violent attack doesn't end at our front door -- because, without freedom, there can be no safety.

We're serious about freedom, you and I, and we're serious about safety.

That's why, in the first six months of this year alone, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, through its CrimeStrike Division, has worked toward criminal justice reform and victims' rights in fifteen states -- from "Three Strikes You're Out" in Vermont to the "Hard Time for Armed Crime" Initiative in Washington state.

Think about that. Criminal justice reform. And victims' rights. In fifteen states. In just six months. By one citizens' group. Your's. The National Rifle Association.

NRA is working for -- and passing -- Two and Three Strikes laws to ensure that repeat offenders are kept behind bars for life.

NRA is working for -- and passing -- truth-in-sentencing to require violent criminals to serve eighty-five percent of sentences imposed.

And we're working for -- and passing -- pre-trial detention of dangerous offenders, so predators don't get back to the streets before the arresting officer makes it home for dinner.

And that brings me to my next slide. Slide number three: the revolving door.

Catch-and-release may be fine for trout fishing, but a catch- and-release criminal justice system is no match for today's Billy the Kid. That's why NRA is lobbying for juvenile justice reform to ensure people who commit adult crimes do adult time.

Slide number four. A picture of the U.S. Capitol.

It was the scene last month of hearings into the tragedy near Waco, Texas, in 1993 which claimed the lives of four federal agents and more than eighty civilians. There has been a lot of talk about this hearing, and we want to address that talk with you today.

Legally and ethically, independent of the Congressional panel, NRA conducted its own fact-finding inquiry. We were perfectly within our rights to hire the nation's foremost engineering analysis firm to look into the Waco disaster objectively -- and provide that information to the nation.

That firm, Failure Analysis Associates, is the team of Ph.D.s who uncovered the O-ring problem in the Challenger spacecraft disaster -- and discovered the ignitors placed on a GM pick-up truck by NBC Dateline. With those kinds of credentials, you'd want that team on your side. And they were.

Legally and ethically, through counsel, NRA asked the Subcommittee that, if the opportunity presented itself, would a firm, even if retained by an advocacy group, be permitted to x-ray the fire-damaged guns retrieved from the ashes in Waco? The Subcommittee queried the House ethics panel, and that panel's leading Democrat, Jim McDermott, co-signed a return letter saying ... no ethical or legal problem.

So, Failure Analysis made the trip to Austin to x-ray the guns held in the Texas Rangers evidence locker -- but the firm was denied access to the guns by a Justice Department representative. Why?

Slide number five: a picture of Attorney General Janet Reno's personal assistant, on the ground in Austin, the man who denied access. As you can see, the picture's fuzzy, but it's not because the camer

a was shaking. It was Janet Reno's assistant who was shaking. Because when the credentials of the Failure Analysis team were explained to this man, witnesses said, quote, he visibly trembled, unquote.

Why? Why fear the truth?

Because X-rays employ photons. Unlike politicians, photons move in a straight line and never, ever lie. This firm would have provided its scientific data for any other expert to duplicate. They would have explained their findings, whether they found one illegal gun or one hundred illegal guns. Why was access denied?

When the CS gas plan was examined by the panel, Congressman Charles Schumer was right when he criticized the credentials of a Utah professor chosen to testify -- a man who had never made any calculations. The data was available. Failure Analysis examined that data and made those calculations.

But there was fault elsewhere. A British expert seemed to say in his testimony that CS gas posed no problem. He, too, was wrong.

Much of his testimony was linked with a British report that responded to criticism of British use of CS gas in Northern Ireland, and many believe that report itself was a political whitewash intended to soft-peddle gas effects.

The fact is, the Congress didn't call the nation's premier experts on the scientific aspects of failures -- failures like the use of ghastly amounts of gas at levels that threaten health and life itself.

Let me give you just a glimpse of what this firm found, testimony you never heard during the Waco hearings ...

On the first gas assault, from the Model Five delivery systems on the tanks alone, the CS gas concentration in some rooms at the Branch Davidian Center ranged from two to ninety times that required to deter trained soldiers.

Anyone hit directly by spray from the Model Five system would be affected immediately and potentially receive a dose resulting in systemic shock and conceivably death.

In addition to tank delivery, a ferret round -- a gas grenade, if you will -- was fired into every window of the center.

The methylene chloride used as a solvent in the gas reached 1.8 times the level immediately dangerous to life and health. The concentration level reached by firing just one ferret round was sixteen times the level required to deter trained troops.

And all this was the scientifically calculated result of just the first of four gas assaults.

That gas led to incapacitation and death.

It's ironic that NRA was falsely accused of running the hearings, when NRA and Failure Analysis wasn't even asked to provide that information.

I'm here to tell you: If we really ran these hearings --if we really orchestrated these hearings as my counterpart at the White House, Mike McCurry, had accused, those hearings would be very, very different.

America wanted sustained questioning by the committee, if not counsel. But the five-minute rule was the best the majority could do. Indeed, the words from these hearings that might be remembered the longest are: "I think my time has expired." And if the panel's leadership thought the press was going to hand out "fairness awards," they were mistaken.

According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, NBC Nightly News one night gave the Waco hearings a whopping fourteen seconds of coverage -- and minutes to the coverage of O.J. Simpson's socks. Fourteen seconds for the greatest loss of life in federal law enforcement history since Wounded Knee in the 19th century.

The next night's fare on NBC was no better -- a few more seconds to cover the largest use of CS gas against a single target in the history of mankind.

Take heart: Thanks to all of you, America learns gun safety from the NRA. While America learns nothing from NBC.

But the Waco hearings have caused the Administration to move -- albeit slowly and grudgingly -- toward resolving another tragedy, that of Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

I think it's quite clear that we wouldn't be seeing that movement had the NRA not insisted on hearings into Waco.

Weaver's lawyer, Gerry Spence, summed up the government's 16 months of constant surveillance, 1.2 million dollar investment and its 11-day siege of a log cabin when Spence said, "You had federal agents come into a little county in northern Idaho, suspend state law and then say they had the right to eliminate anyone with a gun."

Last year, the Justice Department's own task force sharply criticized the FBI's actions during the incident, immediately after the incident and after court proceedings. This task force concluded that the bureau's conduct, quote, contravened the constitution, unquote, and that criminal charges should be considered against those responsible.

Taxpayers who footed the 1.2 million dollar cost of the Ruby Ridge tragedy must now fork over an additional 3.1 million dollars. Soon, perhaps, the advice of the Justice Department's own task force will be heeded, that criminal charges be brought against those responsible.

Despite the savaging of NRA by the press, by the Charlie Schumers and the Bill Clinton's, the hearings into Waco and, soon, Ruby Ridge that NRA has called for consistently are starting to bear fruit. Justice is being done. The truth is coming out. NRA did the right thing -- not for praise, but for principle.

True, the Waco House hearings were not what they should have been, but in anticipation of what they would reveal -- and partially did reveal, FBI director Louis Freeh demoted his deputy, Larry Potts.

America is discovering what NRA has suspected all along. Waco and Ruby Ridge, fundamentally, were never, repeat, never a problem of law enforcement officers, but a problem of leadership.

Maybe we think that way, because NRA and law enforcement go way back. It was NRA who invented police firearms training in 1916.

It's NRA whose ten thousand certified law enforcement instructors today work with over four hundred and fifty thousand law enforcement officers -- local, state and -- you betcha -- federal.

NRA also buys a $25,000 life insurance policy free of charge for every law enforcement officer who joins. Since 1992, we have provided $450,000 in payments to the survivors of our law enforcement members who lost their lives in the line of duty.

If you work out the figures, that means -- some law enforcement agency loses an officer, an agent, a sheriff or deputy every other month -- and so does NRA.

President Bill Clinton told the Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this year, quote, The NRA is the reason the Republicans control the House, unquote. We didn't earn Bill Clinton's love, we earned his ire.

That's what you're seeing play out in the press, in the last several months, and in the months to come.

Why?

Let's ask this man -- final slide of the morning -- a picture of Henry Clay, a truly great lawmaker of the nineteenth century.

Let me paraphrase what Henry Clay said before the U.S. Senate on March 14, 1834.

    Those in power mark their victim and spread hatred of him -- to conceal their own abuse of power and their own encroachment upon liberty.

So if Henry Clay were here today, and talked in today's vernacular, I think he'd tell us, don't be surprised when you see the cheap shots being taken at NRA. Henry Clay would chalk it up to human nature of those in power who see their power crumbling.

Don't be surprised, Clay might say, when Clinton's allies in the media elite ignore the fact that, just last month, NRA recruited enough new members to fill the Houston Astrodome.

Don't be surprised, Clay might say, when NRA has its most successful legislative year in 1995, and our opponents respond by slinging mud.

And don't be surprised when they ignore the positive story all of you have written and continue to write in the hearts and minds of thousands of competitors and other shooters.

We do it, because we know it's right.

We do it not for praise but for principle.

It was true on Election Day 1994.

It will be true this fall when the House of Representatives votes to repeal the Clinton Gun Ban.

It will be true on Election Day 1996, when NRA and the rest of America elect a President of the United States other than Bill Clinton.

Thank you.


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