In my blog post earlier today, I neglected to refute one of Sugarmann's "points" in his latest diatribe against the NRA--one which is in dire need of being addressed. Sugarmann provides readers with his version of some NRA history, describing the 1977 shift of focus from being mainly a sporting organization to gun rights advocacy group.
That day, the membership ousted a leadership suspected of being soft on gun control and replaced them with no-compromise, pro-gun hardliners led by Harlon Carter. (A piece of personal history on Carter, as a 17-year-old the future NRA head shot and killed another child. He was convicted of murder, but was later freed on appeal on a technicality.)It's Sugarmann's parenthetical reference to Carter's personal history that I take issue with.
Dave Kopel has a bit more information than Josh was interested in sharing. Kopel's piece, having been written years ago, was in response to a fundraising letter circulated by Handgun Control, Inc. (now known as the Brady Bunch). This letter also mentioned the shooting in which Carter was involved, and HCI's description was quite similar to Sugarmann's.
The Handgun Control letter continued: "50 years ago, Carter shot and killed a 15-year-old boy and was convicted of murder."There is, however, rather more to the story than either Sugarmann now, or HCI before him, want readers to know.
The letter omitted the fact that Carter was defending his mother's ranch against a gang of intruders led by the "boy," and that the "boy" was menacing Carter with a knife. At the trial, the judge was the prosecutor's father-in-law, and he refused to let Carter introduce evidence of self-defense.At least Sugarmann didn't have much credibility to lose.
Having left out the crucial facts about Carter's innocence, the Handgun Control letter complained that the conviction "was reversed on the technical grounds that the judge had not given the jurors adequate instructions about the law of self-defense." Actually, it wasn't just the instructions that were inadequate; all the evidence about self-defense had been excluded.
Most people would think that a citizen's shooting of a criminal should be judged by whether the citizen was acting in self-defense. But Handgun Control apparently considers innocent persons who shoot criminals to be as bad as common murderers — since self-defense is only a "technicality."