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Standing Guard

By Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President

Protecting Free Speech Against Global Gatekeepers

I recently visited a colleague who is a remarkable detective when it comes to conducting Internet research. He likens his work to peeling an onion. In the Internet universe, he says, the layers and interconnection of information and data are seamless, appearing to be without end.

But as we discovered, there can be an end.

My friend’s state-of-the-art, fiber-optic, land-line service abruptly went down for several hours. No high-speed DSL, not even long distance voice service. Nothing.

In the midst of that vacuum, I realized just how essential this truly instant communication has been to the preservation of the Second Amendment in our modern times.

You almost have to be of a certain age to understand how hard it was to disseminate the truth before the Internet. After the formation of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action in 1975, we did it, and we did it well. We communicated through direct mail, through phone trees, newsletters, through people-to-people contact and through mass meetings.

What the gun-ban crowd had and still has is the megaphone of the big media.

With the advent of the Internet, all of that changed for us.

But will that change, be altered or taken from us?

There we were at my friend’s sophisticated computer operation experiencing digital dead silence—completely cut off from the unfettered world of knowledge and opinion we all take for granted.

Digital silence. That’s something global users in other nations—like Russia, China and a long list of lesser undemocratic states—often experience because their governments have the power to pull the plug on individual websites or, at times, the whole network.

For Americans, with the advent of the U.S. invention of the Internet, free speech is not just open dissemination of ideas and information. It includes limitless instant access to those ideas and the ability to choose and search from among virtually unlimited sources. It is also the backbone of free enterprise and a vibrant global economy.

With the Internet—as created by Americans and managed by Americans—that freedom of speech and freedom of access has grown exponentially and, above all, has been preserved to a remarkable degree.

The Internet, as the most open free-speech institution in history, has become a major factor in gun owners’ ability to achieve success in preserving and protecting the Second Amendment.

Compare Internet freedom to the parallel universe of the national media, especially traditional, legacy network television.

The Media Research Center (MRC) tirelessly documents media bias on a broad range of topics, but has been especially keen on ferreting out dishonest coverage of Second Amendment issues.

Headlines from the MRC website (www.MRC.org) tell the story:
•  “ABC, CBS, NBC Slant 8 to 1 for Obama’s Gun Control Crusade”
•  “Doubling Down on Anti-Gun News”
•  “Media Coverage of ‘Fast and Furious’ Scandal Rare and Spurious”

As the impressive MRC media-bias evidence demonstrates, the common weapon against the Second Amendment has been the news blackout.

Were it up to the thought managers in traditional media, their rules of engagement—absolute control—would long ago have been applied to the Internet.

Thomas Friedman of The New York Times told Meet the Press that the Internet was “an open sewer of untreated, unfiltered information.”

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, appearing with Friedman, said “… there is so much disinformation out there that it’s frightening. … We just can’t function that way.”

So just how would Brokaw have the Internet function?

He laid it out in 1996:

“… the Internet works best when there are gatekeepers. When there are people making determinations and judgments about what information is relevant and factual and useful.”

And in Tom Brokaw’s and Thomas Friedman’s world, the gate is always closed to the Second Amendment, but always open to the gun banners.

Gatekeepers.

That is surely where we are headed with the announcement in March by the Obama administration that America’s oversight of the Internet will be handed away to, as yet, undetermined global control.

In a March 14 press release, the administration said the U.S. would “transition key Internet domain functions to the global stakeholder community”—whatever that may mean.

The U.S. Commerce Department pledged that the U.S. will insist that the “global stakeholder community” will “maintain the openness of the Internet.”

Really? How? Once Internet governance is out of U.S. oversight, it’s gone. And we are the only nation on earth that has a constitutionally protected First Amendment.

I would not trust the First Amendment to the care of “global stakeholders” any more than I would entrust them with the Second Amendment.

And why should anyone believe any assurances from the administration of a president who says his pen and phone trump laws enacted by Congress and who infamously promised “You can keep your doctor” and “keep your heath care”?

The Internet is not the property of Barack Obama. It is not his to give away. It is not some bureaucratic property to be bargained away behind closed doors. It belongs to the American people.

And it must be protected.

Maintaining American integrity of the Internet should be the responsibility of Congress. In 2012, Congress unanimously passed resolutions reasserting that U.S. policy is “to promote a global Internet free from government control.”

As NRA members, we must insist that our U.S. Senators and Congressmen demand a hold on this giveaway and open full investigations and hearings into the future governance of the Internet.

The future of the Second Amendment depends on the free exercise of the First Amendment. And that includes preserving America’s Internet and its unrestricted flow of ideas and vital information.