I am one of the founding members of Utahns Against Gun Violence, a citizens' organization whose philosophy and goals are usually at odds with the National Rifle Association. I personally believe that most of the NRA's positions are wrong-headed at best and dangerous at worst.
Nonetheless, I was offended by the Deseret News' recent editorial cartoon on the NRA. (Under the heading, "The Best Place for a Mandatory Safety Lock," cartoonist Jonathan Brown shows an obviously off-kilter fellow in an NRA cap with his mouth zipped shut, secured by a padlock.)In this democracy, there should be no place for an abridgment of a citizen's right to hold or express any political opinion, no matter how foolish, unpopular or abhorrent that opinion may be. Quite the contrary is true, and is the bedrock principle of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. Thus, while I believe that the NRA is flat-out wrong on most of its agenda, and while I think that NRA members are being led astray by a leadership gone awry, I would not for one second recommend that anyone in the NRA be stopped from talking, expressing their opinion or arguing their position. Only in a society where competing positions can be examined for all their strengths and weaknesses in the free marketplace of ideas can true democracy flourish. To do as the Deseret News' editorial cartoon suggests, to impinge on the rights of free citizens, or their organizations, to express themselves, would undermine our freedoms to a far greater degree than do those ideas expressed by those citizens, no matter how wrong they may be.
I will no doubt continue to disagree with the NRA on most of its philosophy and agenda. Nonetheless, I will fight for the NRA's right to speak and print those ideas with which I disagree. I would hope the Deseret News, whose very lifeblood is dependent on the right of free speech, would do the same.
Randall K. Edwards