NOT EVERY member of the National Rifle Association is a gun-toting survivalist with an ammo belt slung over his shoulder. Take it from Sandra Froman, who turns that image inside out.
She's a 5-foot- 2-inch, 60-year-old lawyer with degrees from Stanford and Harvard who practices business litigation in Tucson, Ariz. She's not only an NRA member, she's also a past president and a current board member.
Froman visited Orinda Country Club earlier this month at the invitation of the Lamorinda Republican Women's Club to speak on the importance of the Second Amendment, everyone's favorite constitutional lightning rod.
The Second Amendment, which protects Americans' right "to keep and bear arms," has been dissected, parsed and mulched so many times that no one knows for certain what it really means. Was it intended to protect states' rights to arm a "well regulated militia" against an overbearing national government as the wording suggests, or does it mean that every American has the right to strap on a shoulder holster in the morning and keep an Uzi under his pillow at night?
Because the amendment dates to 1791, the authors are unavailable for comment, leaving the matter to advocates such as Froman to provide enthusiastic, if decidedly partisan interpretation.
She explained to listeners that she was raised in San Mateo in a gun-free family and surrounded by gun-free friends. She had no interest in drawing
a bead on anybody until a thug tried to break into her suburban Los Angeles house late at night nearly 30 years ago.
"Even though I yelled through the door that I'd called the police, he didn't leave," she said. "I was fortunate that he wasn't able to break through the lock. But in the 15 minutes it took the police to arrive, I knew what it was to be afraid for my life."
The next day, she purchased a handgun and enrolled in a firearms safety class. Next came recreational shooting, then competitive marksmanship. Before she knew it, she was Annie Oakley.
"I enjoyed the sporting aspect of it," she said, "but always in the back of my mind was that I was practicing in case that guy came back."
Her call to the defense of the Second Amendment ignited in 1982 with the advent of Proposition 15, which would have ended handgun sales in California.
"Nobody, no government, no matter how well-meaning, was going to take away my means of self-protection," Froman said. "I became a gun rights advocate and helped defeat it."
She said the NRA's mission often is misunderstood, that it's as supportive of gun safety as gun ownership. And the organization's stance against an assault-weapons ban was a matter of definition: Assault weapons, as described by proponents of the law, would have included even semiautomatic weapons used for deer hunting.
Froman said the United States has more than 90 million gun owners, and they have more than 200 million guns. Some are good people and some are not, which reminds her of the TV westerns she watched growing up.
"The bad guys used their guns to frighten and hurt people," she said. "The good guys used theirs to protect people. We, as good guys, have an obligation to fight back to protect ourselves and our loved ones."
It's not just thugs at the front door that fuel her fervor for the freedom to bear arms. She's also concerned about a too-powerful federal government infringing on her rights. She pulled a page from American history — the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" — to make her point.
When British soldiers fired on American colonists in 1775, sparking the Revolutionary War, she said, Lt. Gen. Thomas Gage earlier had ordered his men to seize arms and ammunition that colonists had stored in Concord, Mass.
"If you remember nothing else about what I say today," Froman said, "remember that the act that sparked the American Revolution was an attempt by the government to disarm the civilian population."
That explains the NRA's stance against gun registration. When a government sets out to disarm its citizenry, she said the task is too easy if gun owners' names are stored on a database.
For those of us not yet convinced the feds' grand plan is to strip us of our inalienable rights, the visions of doom seem a bit over the top.
Besides, we've seen what happens when a well-regulated militia takes up arms against the government.
You might know it as the Civil War.