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Letter: NRA Needs a Dose of Heterodoxy

To the Editor:

It is a curious fact that the two first amendments to our Constitution concern religion and guns. Our freedom of religion has spawned countless denominations of the major faiths. Whenever we have disagreed with a doctrine or a religious leader, we have tended to split. Schism has been a fundamental feature of our religious freedom.

It is ironic, therefore, that the gun-owners of America seem to be marching lock-step behind Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association. (Visit the NRA site for “Wayne’s Commentary.”) The NRA has a rigid dogma that seems to be as restrictive as that of any 18th-century religion. The NRA also enjoys a funding source and IRS tax status that conventional religious leaders may justifiably covet.

NRA members who disagree with LaPierre’s dogma seem to have nowhere else to go. Many lifelong hunters, for example, may want nothing to do with multi-round, rapid-fire military weaponry, but they appear to have no organized voice. What these folks need is a good, old-fashioned, cleansing schism. Religious bodies split over competing interpretations of scripture. Why shouldn’t the NRA, an organization fervently committed to its leadership’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, split to embrace an alternative interpretation?

The Reorganized National Rifle Association (RNRA) might be a good name for a new organization that would accept current NRA members by “transfer of membership” without further fee. New officers and board members would be needed. The constitution and bylaws would be the same as the NRA’s except that a single article would be added that might read, “Believing that these weapons pose a coercive threat to our speech, safety and other civil freedoms, RNRA members pledge themselves to ending civilian purchase, ownership or use of multi-round, rapid-fire, military weaponry.”

This schism could hollow out the NRA and create a new and far more rational voice for champions of the Second Amendment. It wouldn’t stop another Newtown shooter in 2013, but it would be a significant step toward that goal.

Jim Hughes

West Fairlee