November 04, 2004

Revenge Of The Commentors?

In the comments to this post (Revenge of the Purists (I Prefer the Term Absolutists) a good fellow by the name of Charles expresses disagreement. I'll attempt to respond to his concerns here.

Let's start off by reviewing Charles' comments:

"Bush has taken a lot of flak for not being libertarian enough on guns. I think he's not being given nearly enough credit on guns. With 9/11, the DC Sniper, and Columbine, he had not only an excuse to press for the AWB but huge pressure to do it. He had the best political opportunity to press for new restrictions that I can think of ever. We in the pro-gun community tend to forget that the general populace that didn't know what the 'assault weapons' 'ban' was supported it 3 to 1 and the gun owning populace supported it 2 to 1 (because they're Fuddites, as you so aptly describe them.). He took flak in the debates because of it, and had to just take it. It was just not a political reality that he could have tried to defend it there. But despite 9/11, despite the DC Sniper, despite Columbine, we had the first plain increase in gun liberty on a federal level since the Fourteenth Amendment applied the Second Amendment to blacks.

'Bush's support of the AWB, McCain's bill to close down all gun shows, & his insistence upon government regulation of the 2nd amendment as exemplified through Project Exile would be it. It's not that Bush isn't pure enough; it's that he's anti-gun.'

If Bush was anti-gun, the AWB would have been renewed, and the gun shows would have been closed. We haven't the numbers to have stopped him. We are loud and dedicated, but in the end we have one vote each.

We spend most of our time just trying not to slide any further on the slippery slope. But this one time, just when events were most against us, we gained ground. Usually we have a choice of a Republican who's only a minor enemy, a Democrat who's a major enemy, and Libertarians or Constitution Party candidates who are friends but won't get elected. Despite Bush's lip service to the AWB, I think he genuinely took a risk to come through for gun rights, even if it was sub-rosa rather than standing on principle.

'It didn't happen because us "purists" (the term I prefer is Absolutist) raised hell on the phone with our senators & talked a bunch of non-purists & Fuddites into doing the same..'

Yes. That's a big part of it. And to reward them for our first advance in a century, in a hostile political environment, we'll vote Libertarian anyway. And our calls will be worth what next time? They will be worth CRAP. They will be calls not from potential supporters, but from the enemy. They will know that pissing off gunnies is as inevitable to a Republican as pissing off Communist Party supporters.

I think if we ignore that to be gun absolutists or purists and vote Libertarian/Constitution in this race we no longer send the message 'You must become more libertarian before we'll vote for you', but the message, 'You can't convince us vote for you until John Q. Public thinks you're a dangerous lunatic.'

Think about it: the first federal ground gained in a century. I think the first federal ground gained for the general populace, besides Supreme Court decisions, since the Second Amendment in 1789. This is not a small thing."

K, now on to the specific points he raised:

Columbine happened during Clinton & after the AWB was law. Bush could have made emotional appeals invoking Columbine, but it wasn't the hot item it was under Clinton.

As for September the 11th, 2001 it wouldn't have made much sense to use that as a reason to ban guns of any type as knives were the weapon of choice. Now it could be (& I attempt to) used to demonstrate that prior restraint based firearms laws such as the ones that disarm passengers don't accomplish their stated goals (disarming those with ill intent) while making life more dangerous for those that have no harmful intent. We lost an arms race to guys with razors. I can't express how sad that is for our country.

The DC Sniper - his rifle was post ban legal. Plus it was stolen. Other than getting the support of a few soccer moms who would have already been behind anything Brady or Boxer endorsed it just couldn't have been a convincing argument.

So the specific examples cited simply aren't as good for a gun control advocate as they may seem & they'd have been dicey for Bush to use if for no other reason than they'd have shown a failure of the gun laws & law enforcement.

Bush could have very well changed the nature of the debate on the issue. He could have calmly explained what the AWB did & didn't do. Hearing the President tell you that the ban only affected semi-auto's & then only cosmetically would have swayed a lot more minds than me & other bloggers writing about it constantly. Jefferson was of the opinion that when the public is ignorant on a matter that it was best to enlighten them. Bush could have done so. He didn't.

As for it being an increase, I'm reminded of Yoda at the end of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Obi Wan mentions in passing that they won. Yoda seems shocked & tells him it was not a victory because the Clone Wars had begun.

We did not gain any ground. We re-gained a little bit of ground that we should have never lost in the first place. & we had to fight hard to do even that. & if you overlook the Hughes Amendment I would remind you of the FOPA which did get rid of some of the more burdensome provisions of the GCA of '68. I see it as a net loss because of the Hughes Amendment, but most argue that it was a gain for us.

The AWB sunset was important not because it gained us anything, but because it kept the anti's too busy to do anything else. Not that I'll complain about buying new 11 rounders, but it wasn't the only thing we've had go in our favor since the 14th Amendment (which I should point out doesn't "incorporate" the 2nd Amendment in the view of most courts).

Bush being anti-gun or pro-gun is not evidenced by the laws that passes, but rather the laws he supports. It's true he could have been more active in his support of the AWB, but so could quite a few people that wanted it. In the end your calls made the Senate & possibly Bush realize that pushing the issue wasn't in their own best interests. I don't think gun control is as important to Bush as some other issues, but that doesn't mean he's pro-gun.

It's true we don't have enough votes in the Senate to survive most gun control bills, but we do have a workable plurality that can filibuster, & congressional leaders who realize how damaging any vote could be so they try to keep it from coming up. As long as we remind them of our resolve then we have a chance ot block gun control bills.

As for Bush taking a risk, he had a simple choice: piss off his gun owning base or piss off soccer moms whose vote he wouldn't likely get in the first place. He did what was smart, not what took courage.

As for voting against senators who are on our side, I never suggested that. I only recall asking people to vote against Bush & against any senators from any party that gave a yes vote on the AWB being added to the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

But here's something to ponder: what happens if we keep voting for republicans who support gun control? The easy answer is a popular quote form some politician whom I can't recall when asked about voting for gun control - "what are you gonna do; vote democrat?" By not voting our principles we are just as marginalized as you think we are by voting our principles. Short version is that if an anti-gunner comes up for re-election then don't vote for him. Otherwise our influence diminishes.

If we all voted for the most pro-gun candidate, even if they're third party, then the message would get back to republicans. They won't see us as the enemy but merely as another voting block to sway. You see Kerry with the shotgun? That wouldn't have happened if we'd have kept voting republican no matter what.

I do understand where Charles is coming from & I appreciate his taking the time to write about why he disagrees with me. I just disagree with his disagreement. For gun owners to be a political force we must not vote for anti-gunners no matter the party they belong to. To do otherwise leaves us nothing to back up our words with. If you voted for Spector or Boxer or any other anti-gunner then it becomes much harder for you &/or your friends to make demands.

Another thing: Bush's dad supported an AWB (albeit through executive order as it turned out rather than by pushing for a new law). Odds are he was taught that some gun control is okay. I don't see Dubya waking up & thinking of new ways to lose the race. Bush simply feels there's no wrong in gun control laws but he does possibly see the political danger they represent. Perhaps it's the way they were raised, or maybe it's just advantageous (at least seemingly) enough in their minds for them to support it. In any case we have to watch them. & damn close at that.

Posted by Publicola at November 4, 2004 04:01 AM

Some good points; I believe that it was the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee Lee Atwater who said that the Republicans could ignore the gun people, because they'll vote Republican no matter what - who else will they vote for? Badnarik, maybe?

Posted by: Frank Sauer at November 4, 2004 11:00 AM

Thanks for your incisive reply!

It seems that we differ primarily in our devotion to principle vs. pragmatism and our perception of the strength of the opposition. I think the bit of regained ground in the defeat of the AWB, while it was morally and legally ours all along, is so extraordinary that it deserves cutting slack for public posturing. But generally I would agree with Publicola that the old strategy of voting Republican as the lesser of two evils was what kept us losing. (And yes, I regarded the McClure-Volkmer FOPA as a major net loss for us due to the Hughes Amendment).

I also felt that if Bush gave a principled explanation of the AWB and why he didn't support it, it would not be reported by the MSM; it would only appear quoted by bloggers like Publicola, and would not be a political success.

Publicola is certainly correct about the illogic of relating the events I mention (Columbine, 9/11, DC Sniper) to a renewal of the AWB. I was thinking about public perception rather than logic, though. I seem to remember those being invoked by the antis in the lawsuit preemption-AWB debates in the Senate.

Publicola says, "Bush being anti-gun or pro-gun is not evidenced by the laws that passes, but rather the laws he supports." I guess this is one more place we disagree; I think that describes how a republic should work, not how it does work.

Publicola is correct ground being regained; but that doesn't make gained incorrect, so I'll stick with gain and lose so as to avoid having to have a history of the struggle prepended to every verb.

I'd say the sucess or failure of voting for Bush despite public AWB support will be shown in the next four years. if we lose ground (AWB renewal, etc), it failed, I was wrong to support Bush, and it's about the last nail in the coffin of compromise. If we gain no more ground, after reelection and Republican gains in House and Senate, it still failed and I was still wrong. If we gain some and lose some, then it comes down to cases, but I'd be inclined to count it as a failure unless the gain is clearly much larger than the loss.

But, if we gain some and lose none, then I think that will show that support of ideologically imperfect candidates can be a winning strategy, if it's the RIGHT ideologically imperfect candidate. The long losing battle of the past shows that simply picking the lesser of two evils isn't good enough.

"In any case we have to watch them. & damn close at that." YES! ESPECIALLY if we are as I suggested gambling on one that doesn't provide public support.

Posted by: Charles at November 4, 2004 11:18 AM
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