Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sedition



Is it legal to advocate for the violent overthrow of your government?

The new president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is an attorney and certainly ought to know the answer. Granted, his law practice focused on defending gun manufacturers, but still, this should be basic legal background.

The answer, of course, is no.  The specific charge is sedition.
In 1940, the Alien Registration Act, or "Smith Act", was passed, which made it a federal crime to advocate or to teach the desirability of overthrowing the United States Government, or to be a member of any organization which does the same. (Wikipedia)
Specifically, the Smith Act prohibits:
...with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or...organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof. (Title I: Subversive Activities)
Recently, the Wisconsin branch of the NRA published and distributed a newsletter explicitly calling for armed revolt against the elected government.
"..ELECTIONS ARE NOT THE SOLUTION TO OUR PROBLEM; ELECTIONS ARE THE PROBLEM!.."  (Source)
The newsletter endorses the Oath Keepers, an organization labeled domestic terrorists by the FBI, precisely because they advocate the violent overthrow of the US Government.

Offensive rocker Ted Nugent is an NRA Board Member.  A complete catalog of his seditious comments would take volumes.  But perhaps a sample (one of the few without profanity or obscenity) will do here:
During a live interview at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting on April 14, 2012, Nugent called the administration of President Barack Obama “vile,” “evil,” and “America-hating.” He also stated, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” (Source)
The Brady Campaign has compiled statements from gun advocates about using political violence to get their way.  You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU6837Gye20

And now, a new NRA president, Jim Porter.  Well not entirely new, since he was an NRA vice president and follows his father who was a previous NRA president. And like Wayne LaPierre, Ted Nugent, Oliver North and others in the NRA's leadership, he also advocates arming yourself to overthrow the tyranny of the current government.



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The NRA has been very fortunate so far. Their brand of sedition and treason have not been prosecuted. The rhetoric has become so pervasive that it's dismissed out of hand by all but the most ardent followers. Yet seditious talk it is. And if you're aware of this posturing by the NRA and still maintain your membership, where do you stand?  It might be worth your while to carefully read the legal language here.

Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or 
Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or 
Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof— 
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction. (Cornell Law School excerpt of the Smith Act)
Peddling the violent overthrow of the US government is sedition, by any definition. It's time to rein in the rhetoric or call the offenders to account.  Wait.  Aren't these the guys who lament ad nauseum the non-enforcement of current laws?

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