A George Washington University student sued Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander yesterday in and effort to overturn a 75-year-old U.S. law, that requires the Army to sell its surplus rifles and guns only to members of the National Rifle Association.
Geoffrey S. Gavett, 21, said in his suit filed in U.S. District Court that the requirement for membership in the NRA violates his First Amendment right to join - or not join - political groups of his choosing and his Fifth Amendment right "to be treated in a nondiscriminatory manner."
The Army this year has sold 1,200 M-1 rifles that were used in World War II and the Korean War at a price of $112.70, a figure far below the estimated $250 to $500 price on the retail market. But to get one of the rifles a purchaser had to first be a member of the NRA.
"Having to join the NRA to get one of these guns is like having to join the Democratic Party to get food stamps," said Sam Fields, the field director of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, a group that joined Gavett in his suit.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Joseph S. Smith said the Army plans to sell another 600 M-Is next year and has a stockpile of 700,000 of the out-dated weapons. He said there usually are three applicants for every rifle that is put up for sale each year.
John D. Aquilino Jr, a spokesman for the NRA, said that Congress passed the NRA membership requirement in 1903 because "we are and were the experts" on rifle marksmanship.