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I have only fired five firearms in my lifetime, all in one overcast winter afternoon in Colorado.
Having just attended my first gun show as a college journalist, I asked a buddy of mine if he could arrange for a buddy of his to let me try out his gun collection.
We drove to a secluded spot and set up a series of plastic jugs full of liquid. I then proceeded to shoot at the targets with the five weapons, one after another. I recall that one was a rifle, another a pistol, another a shotgun and yet another a .357 Magnum.
“Do you feel lucky?” I said to one of the plastic containers before aiming and firing. “Well, do ya, punk?”
I missed, the jug survived to be targeted another day and I never did get around to writing an article for my student newspaper about guns.
I don’t like guns. I respect the rights of hunters, the habit of target practice and the desire for self defense. But I don’t interpret the Second Amendment as allowing for the possession of assault rifles.
Which is why I am scratching my head at having received nearly two dozen emails to my Civil Beat account since January. They come from the National Association for Gun Rights, and they tell me that my active membership status has lapsed.
“But there is still time to renew today and help us fight back against Speaker Pelosi and the Gun Control Lobby’s plan to take back control of Washington, D.C. in 2020!” one email explained.
Most of the emails come from NAGR President Dudley Brown or a staffer named Katie P. For just $35, I’m told, I can renew my membership.
“But if you upgrade to $65, we will be even more prepared to fight back against the coming onslaught of gun control bills in Washington and across the country,” says Katie.
I don’t know how they got my email, but Dudley and Katie apparently do not read Civil Beat. If so, they might have read the editorial we published after the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017: “Congress Must ‘Get Off Its Ass’ And Move To Stop Gun Violence.”
(Congress apparently doesn’t read Civil Beat either. It did not get off its ass. Meanwhile, there have been dozens of mass shootings in the U.S. since that time.)
Instead of unsubscribing to NAGR, I’ve kept their emails to learn more about their intentions, and their tactics.
While Hawaii had the lowest rate in the U.S. for gun deaths and gun-related homicides from 2008 to 2017, “that still meant that someone was killed by a gun every eight days across the islands,” the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported in November.
We also have a lot of guns in the islands. A recent Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau study roughly estimated that “there were 2 million guns on the islands, which have a population of just 1.4 million,” Vice reported in August.
That explains in part why there are often so many bills introduced at the Legislature each year regarding weapons.
In the 2020 session they include proposals to repeal the ban on electric guns, to have the Department of Public Safety set up firearms buyback centers in each county, to prohibit the “manufacture, possession, sale, barter, trade, gift, transfer, or acquisition” of detachable ammunition magazines with a capacity in excess of 10 rounds, and to allow a rifle or shotgun to be lent to an adult who is at least 21 years of age.
Some of these measures are still alive. This one is not: Senate Bill 2002 would prohibit any person from possessing a loaded firearm while intoxicated, “unless the person is in their own dwelling.”
The National Rifle Association in Hawaii and the Hawaii Firearms Coalition both opposed SB 2002, but not for reasons I expected.
“The current bill only provides an exclusion to the gun owner in their dwelling,” Jon Webster Abbott, director of the coalition, wrote in his testimony. “This exclusion should extend beyond the four walls of their home and extend to all their property, place of business, and place of sojourn.”
Daniel Reid, the Hawaii State Director for the NRA, testified that the NRA does not support the use of firearms while intoxicated. But he quibbled that the language defining intoxicated in SB 2002 was subjective and arbitrary.
Which gets me back to NAGR and all those emails.
“With our rapidly expanding membership of 4.5 million grassroots activists, the National Association for Gun Rights has led the charge to halt the radical anti-gun agenda across the nation,” says NAGR’s website. “At the National Association for Gun Rights, not only do we work tirelessly to defend against attacks on our Second Amendment Freedoms, but we work to advance true firearms freedom in the form of Constitutional Carry legislation.”
The NAGR, which is based out of Fairfax, Virginia, says it has 20 state affiliates, but Hawaii is not one of them.
Ballotpedia says NGAR has as its organizing principle that they accept “no compromises” when it comes to gun laws. USA Today says it’s even more conservative than the NRA. And Open Secrets says it has ties to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, the Libertarian turned Republican.
I’ll give the NAGR this: They are persistent, and they offer enticements.
If I sign up as a Frontline Defender contributor, for example, Dudley and Katie say I will be automatically entered to win a Daniel Defense Delta 5 rifle “equipped with a Bushnell Forge Tactical Scope (package valued at $3,300).”
But then, of course, I have no idea what a Daniel Defense Delta 5 rifle equipped with a Bushnell Forge Tactical Scope actually is. But here’s a picture:
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