J. Neil Schulman’s Stopping Power — Excerpts from a Letter to Nadine Strossen, President, ACLU
Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Excerpts from a Letter to Nadine Strossen, President, ACLU
October 11, 1991
Dear Ms. Strossen:
I’m a member of ACLU writing to ask your assistance in a matter where ACLU Of Southern California is, itself, violating my civil rights.
In the light of recent court decisions which have been narrowing civil liberties one after another, I joined ACLU with the intention of bringing my activism to ACLU. I have been impressed by ACLU’s work in the areas of the first and fourth amendments, its fourteenth amendment work in the area of equal protection, and its pro-privacy work (including pro-choice and gay rights), but there were major gaps where the government has been running roughshod over civil rights where I felt my energies, and those of like-minded people, could be of maximum value. Specifically, these are the fundamental human right to autonomy over one’s own body, as violated by drug prohibition and FDA interference with the purchase of vitamins and drugs, and the right to keep and bear arms, as protected by the 2nd amendment, and violated by statutes prohibiting or restricting ownership, trade, possession, and carrying of defensive weapons. (Let me note here that the Second Amendment is included in the copy of the Bill of Rights which ACLU of Southern California mailed me as part of the membership information kit, and again as part of the membership kit when I joined. What on earth are they thinking?)
I read the literature mailed to me by ACLU of Southern California carefully, noting that chapters could be formed not only by region, but also by special interest — for example, there’s a Gay and Lesbian Rights Chapter. I then called Gary Mandanach, President of ACLU of Southern California, and spoke with him several times, telling him that I have been recruiting new ACLU memberships with the intention of forming an ACLU of Southern California chapter, to be focused on 9th and 2nd amendment issues, including drug privacy and right to keep and bear arms. I requested his assistance in the formation of such a chapter, and he said he would bring up the issue at the next board meeting.
Today he informed me that ACLU of Southern California would not recognize any chapter I formed on these issues, since the board has a pro-gun-control policy. I asked how I could appeal this decision, or bring about its change, and he told me in essence, “There is no way.”
I am shocked, dismayed, and outraged. It’s the precise equivalent to me as if I was a newspaper reporter who approached ACLU with the intention of protecting the right of free press, and was told that the board of ACLU had a policy calling for government control of newspapers.
We have here a situation where I was (and am) ready to bring hundreds of new members into ACLU of Southern California, to support Constitutionally-protected civil rights — and ACLU of Southern California has not only told me to buzz off, but it has informed me it is in league with those who would narrow civil liberties. I do not intend to allow this corruption of ACLU policy to hinder the important work of defending civil liberties.
This letter is a formal request for national ACLU to grant me the right to recruit new ACLU members nationally, and to invite current ACLU members, for a new national ACLU affiliate to be called the Unabridged Bill of Rights Chapter. This would be unaffiliated with any regional affiliate of ACLU.
I believe that with proper publicity, I can bring in several thousand new members to national ACLU for this chapter, and restore the luster which has been tarnished by an ACLU affiliate’s attempt to fight for government restriction of civil rights rather than the constitutional rights of the people.
I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible, so that we can discuss the proper procedures I need to go through to form this chapter.
J. Neil Schulman
Nadine Strossen replied to this letter and told me she’d forwarded my reply to the ACLU of Southern California; she told me to write her again if I found their response unsatisfactory. Since Gary Mandanach of the ACLU of Southern California told me in polite language to buzz off, I wrote back to Nadine Strossen, and followed up with phone calls and faxes that were never acknowledged. — JNS
Next in Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is Letter to Scientific American
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