The following is the substance of my resignation letter from the NRA-ILA’s attorney referral panel, modified for the web. Attorneys who actually do agree with the NRA’s entire agenda may take this as an opportunity to apply to that panel.
17 December 2012
NRA Institute for Legislative Action
11250 Waples Mill Rd.
Fairfax, VA 22030
Re: Resignation from Attorney Panel
Dear Madam or Sir:
Sometimes silence is deafening.
I have had the opportunity to serve as a Maryland referral attorney on your informal panel (since the spring of 2009. I did so on the recommendation of attorney David Fischer, Esquire of Glen Burnie, Maryland, a former housemate of mine in law school. While I did not share all of Mr. Fischer’s views nor all of those of the NRA, I do view private access to firearms as a significant civil liberties issue, and I respect the Second Amendment as a part of our constitutional history and civil rights. I have appreciated the opportunity to do useful and remunerative legal work for your members.
The media silence of the NRA, however, in the face of arguably the most horrible firearms tragedy and outrage in our nation’s history is a clear indication of your organization’s unwillingness to participate authentically in American civic life. Were you decent rather than self-interested, you would have offered condolences like nearly every other major non-profit organization to the good people of Newtown, Connecticut and indeed the nation as a whole – your critics be damned. Instead, it appears that you are taking care of number one – the most extreme sector of your membership and its policy goals.
Your website contains as “news” the least relevant of old news – gun control court decisions in Illinois, aldermen’s right to carry, etc. It is a farce that you claim to be the National Rifle Association when you do not appear in the least way connected to the nation at present. Similarly, you have silenced your Twitter account and deactivated your Facebook page. Self-defense requires discipline and bravery; you advocate the first but manifest a clear lack of the second and third. You should have the courage to be Americans now and join your countrymen in grieving this horrific event. Alas, you are found nowhere, as if Newtown were not part of your nation. Perhaps it really isn’t.
Reasonable people, including many of the elected officials whom you have supported politically and financially, have read the Book of Daniel on the issue of firearms regulation. They have weighed and found wanting the NRA leadership’s blanket opposition to the regulation of semi-automatic weapons, the closing of the gun-show exemption for background checks, and the regulation bulk ammo sales and large clips.
Civil liberties are important, but we regulate free speech, sometimes with criminal sanctions, to prevent harm to innocents, disruption to public order and hazards to American service personnel. To paraphrase Justice Goldberg’s famous formulation, the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution do not constitute a suicide pact.
It is my hope that another more moderate, more courageous and more American organization supporting responsible gun ownership and allowing for reasonable firearms regulation will grow and thrive, ideally composed of former NRA members who, like me, respect the Second Amendment but respect their countrymen whose liberty it protects even more.
The great Rabbi Hillel once wrote: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I, and if not now, when?” For now, for today, I am for my nation.
Please strike my name (which may appear as “T. Bruce Godfrey”, “Bruce Godfrey” or erroneously “Robert Godfrey”) with my thanks for your administrative inconvenience.
Very truly yours,
T. Bruce Godfrey
Member, Bar of Maryland