Updated: September 13, 2012 6:14AM
Armed to the teeth. Check. Possessed of enormous power over legislators, governors and judges. Check.
Able to dispatch muscle to any location in the country to defeat a political enemy. Check. Bold enough to openly extort police to expedite its agenda. Check.
It may sound as if I’m referring to the powerful drug cartels terrorizing Mexico. Or perhaps the mafia paralyzing Italy with impunity.
Unfortunately, the description updates the current status of the National Rifle Association. Not in Mexico. Not in Italy. But here in the United States of America.
The power and influence of the NRA has been well known and documented since 1970, leading to its success in having fought off gun control in all but one of the 50 states. That exception is here in Illinois.
But in a new, in-your-face assault, the NRA has issued a de facto declaration of war with police officers.
Under cover of an official “survey” and behind Marion Hammer, president of its partner organization United Sportsmen of Florida, the NRA has commenced an attack on the Florida Sheriff’s Association and other law enforcement groups that oppose any legislation that the NRA supports.
Hammer’s USF sent a survey to candidates for sheriff to determine if they would defend NRA interests, including the controversial stand-your-ground law, the possession of guns on college campuses and guns being carried openly in public.
The survey also challenged sheriffs to ban officers under their command from lobbying or testifying against any NRA-supported measures, even those that are deemed life threatening to the public and to police officers themselves.
The survey is a sham, of course, because Hammer, the survey signatory and a past president of the NRA, indicated that answers unfavorable to NRA interests would cause the organization to oppose the candidate, greatly harming their chances for election or re-election.
And Hammer further warned that skipping questions or opting not to return the survey would trigger NRA opposition to the candidate.
The American people have been patient and accepting of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that favored NRA interpretations of the Second Amendment, inferring the right of an individual to bear arms rather than a “well organized militia.”
They stood by while the NRA made massive campaign contributions, essentially buying the votes of Congress to enhance gun rights and restrict gun control.
They watched as the NRA turned each state into a de facto Dodge City, eliminating gun registration and giving every civilian the chance to carry a concealed handgun.
They cringed when states from Florida to Colorado were turned into the OK Corral with stand-your-ground laws that essentially make it legal for any gunman, including a felon, to shoot an unarmed victim and claim self-defense.
But extorting county sheriffs to support all NRA positions? On this, America may wish to stand its ground.
Even though citizens have been supportive of the unfettered right of a person to own a gun, the 60 percent of Americans who said in a 2011 Gallup Poll that they favored stricter enforcement of current gun laws and the 90 percent of gun owners who are not members of the NRA will not take kindly to this heavy-handed intimidation of police officers.
Until now, the NRA has stretched the Second Amendment to its breaking point — from demanding open exchange and possession of military assault rifles to permitting a fully armed populace at this year’s Republican National Convention to even blocking the restriction of guns on campus at the University of Colorado.
But because many governors, senators, representatives, mayors and judges remain cowed by the NRA, American citizens need to take matters into their own hands by proposing a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that would alter, if not abolish, the Second Amendment.
There is precedent for this kind of initiative — the 21st Amendment in 1933 repealed the 18th Amendment that had imposed Prohibition.
And the Internet makes it possible for an organization such as the Brady Campaign to circumvent the NRA’s puppets in Congress by mobilizing state conventions to get such an amendment on the statewide ballot.
The United States is the most violent country in the civilized world. More than 100,000 people are victims of gun violence each year, including the 12 slain by a maniac with an assault rifle in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
The language of a 28th Amendment can be crafted to ensure reasonable gun rights for Americans that would protect, rather than jeopardize, innocent lives.
David McGrath, a former resident of Evergreen Park and Oak Forest, is among the 90 percent of U.S. gun owners electing not to join the NRA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.