President’s Column | A Celebration And A Wake-Up Call

posted on August 22, 2023
Charles L. Cotton

As I write this, it’s the 4th of July and my wife and I just got back home from having lunch—Texas barbecue, of course! Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have written my column on a family day, but I am inspired to do it now. Earlier, I walked out of my home office and saw a photo of my dad in his uniform. It was taken shortly after his return from the Pacific after World War II and shortly before his discharge. Veterans Day and Memorial Day are when we traditionally think about and talk about those who served our country in the military. But seeing my dad’s picture made me think about him, my uncles (all of whom served during World War II) and my friends who saw combat in Vietnam.

Every time we celebrate the birth of the greatest country the world has ever seen, we need to remember the risks and sacrifices faced by so many people. These include the Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence to gain our freedom as well as those who fought, and continue to fight, to preserve that independence. Reality demands that we do more than bow our heads in prayers of gratitude for the dedication of others. We must also realize that the country so many worked and fought to build is not the country in which we live today. We, too, have a duty to the country and to our families and friends.

Americans are experiencing an era when the federal government, as well as some state and local governments, are being weaponized to achieve political goals that cannot be obtained by the legislative process. If you can’t pass a bill in Congress or a state house, then simply get a regulatory agency to go rogue and do your will. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the actions of the former governor of New York Andrew Cuomo and his co-conspirator Maria Vullo, former superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services. Together, they tried to deprive the NRA of banking and insurance services. Their conduct was so egregious that it forced the NRA to file suit based upon the First Amendment. Let’s not leave out the current New York attorney general who failed in her attempt to dissolve the NRA, but who is now seeking to have one of her henchmen placed in charge of the NRA.

Make no mistake, the NRA is not the real target of such tactics—you are! Those who would destroy American freedom as we have known it since 1776 are not attacking only the NRA. They are using their weaponized government agencies, and even the Office of the President, to attack honest, law-abiding Americans in a way that shocks the conscience. Look no further than the ATF’s handling of pistol braces and 80% lower receivers. For more than 10 years, the ATF has taken the position that putting a brace on a pistol with a barrel less than 16 inches is legal; i.e., it doesn’t create an NFA-regulated “short-barrel rifle.” Then, at the whim of a politician, the ATF changed its position, potentially making felons out of the millions of Americans who had relied on the ATF’s prior approval of pistol braces. Let’s also look at so-called 80% lower receivers. They are simply blocks of aluminum that require significant machining to make a lower receiver for a firearm, such as an AR-platform rifle. Now, by ATF regulatory fiat, a previously approved pistol brace and a block of aluminum suddenly come under their jurisdiction?

Numerous suits have been filed against the ATF and other federal regulatory agencies, challenging their attempts to preempt Congress’ role in making laws. Numerous temporary injunctions have been issued by federal judges protecting the rights of Americans. Some of these have been upheld at the appellate court level, while others are heading to the United States Supreme Court. SCOTUS has already spanked the Environmental Protection Agency for attempting to create laws instead of enforcing laws Congress has passed. Thanks to the work of the NRA and its members, the ATF is expected to suffer the same fate. Remember, the efforts of the NRA on behalf of American gun owners are not based solely on the proper limitation of regulatory authority of federal and state agencies. The fact that trumps all arguments is the NYSRPA V. Bruen decision that clearly sets out a standard for determining whether a law or regulation violates Americans’ rights under the Second Amendment. This was the NRA’s case, and it set a new standard of review that all courts must follow. If a proposed law or regulation was not widely in existence in 1791, then it will be found unconstitutional.

The Bruen decision will not cure all the ills our country is facing, though it will help empower Americans to be able to bear arms to defend ourselves during these perilous times. Courts are trying to ignore the Bruen holding just as they ignored Heller and McDonald, but I doubt this SCOTUS will allow a repeat of prior disobedience by lower courts. You can be assured the NRA is fighting for your critical freedoms in those courts, as well as in Congress and state houses. Will you stay in the fight with us? Urge others to join the NRA as well. We must stand on the wall together.


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