Guns and Drugs

Guns and Dope: An Ex-NRA Man Speaks Out


Supporters of legalized marijuana light up in Denver

Photograph by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Supporters of legalized marijuana light up in Denver

Richard Feldman is an unusual gun guy. A former lawyer and political organizer for the National Rifle Association, he got in trouble with the gun lobby for writing a tell-all memoir called Ricochet, in which Feldman entertainingly reveals how the organization sought to heighten controversy as a means of increasing fund raising.

[Full disclosure: Feldman has been a gun industry source of mine for many years and is a character in my own recent book on a leading pistol company by the name of Glock.]

Now Feldman is up to new and characteristically interesting doings. He has formed an unconventional gun rights group seeking to challenge the NRA’s hegemonic status on the issue. Independent Firearm Owners of America promises to push for pro-Second Amendment policies that also seek to diminish crime. On its board of directors I see Daniel Abel, a prominent New Orleans plaintiffs’ attorney who once helped lead the city’s (unsuccessful) liability lawsuit against the gun industry. If Abel and Feldman are on the same side, something fascinating is afoot.

Feldman’s first big initiative at IFOA is marijuana legalization. You read that correctly. The guns-and-dope lobby is born. All kidding aside, Feldman makes a coherent argument: that responsible gun owners ought to give marijuana legalization a close look. He offers the libertarian case here, on Daily Kos. In brief:

“In our zeal to put violent criminals out of business we’ve corrupted our law enforcement community with lure of asset forfeitures, giving rise to financial incentives to bust people after they sell the drugs so they can seize cash and property. Before asset forfeiture laws, standard procedure had been to simply destroy the drugs! This is perverted capitalism in an Orwellian form. Our founding fathers would collectively vomit if they saw what we’ve created in the very name of protecting our sacred individual civil liberty, freedom and personal actions.”

As a case in point, Feldman focuses on a recent marijuana-related police killing of a 20-year-old civilian suspect in New Orleans named Wendell Allen:

“Wendell was a former high school football hero and oh, BTW he’s black. Unlike Trayvon Martin he wasn’t killed by some over the top community watch activist, no he died because our elected policy makers continue to spend our precious tax dollars arresting, booking, prosecuting, jailing, sentencing, incarcerating and paroling dangerous criminals like Wendell Allen. Oh wait, he’s dead, Bill Bennett the former drug czar was right after all—marijuana can be deadly—especially when you are targeted by the police for possession.”

All gun guys are not alike. Agree or disagree, Feldman and his new organization deserve some attention and a voice in our current debates.

Barrett, an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, is author, most recently, of GLOCK: The Rise of America’s Gun.

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