November 22, 2004

Ashamed Of Winners? Or Afraid Of Winners?

Gunner of No Quarters has a post up called Avoiding Winners? In it he questions why the CCRKBA & the NRA distance themselves from the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

There are several explanations that come to mind. Two seem plausible, though hard to take.

The first is that some gun owners (& by extension pro-gun groups) have developed a shame of gun owners. Or to be more precise a shame of gun owners acting like gun owners. It's not as far fetched as it may sound; for a long time (& possibly even today though less commonly) some black people were very critical of other black people whom they thought acted in a way that reinforced stereotypes. If you recall the motivation of the sergeant (played by the late Adolph Ceaser) in A Soldier's Story you'll be in the ballpark with this theory about the bigger pro-gun groups treatment of certain gun owners. The idea is that if a gun owner acts too openly pro-gun, such as by wearing arms or carrying them into public functions, then all gun owners will get a bad reputation because of the fear they will engender in the non gun owning public.

The following was written by Anthony J. Fabian, president of the Colorado State Shooting Association (an NRA affiliate):

"As for Don Ortega being 'one of ours,' Spencer could not be more wrong. We advocates of responsible firearms ownership continuously strive to separate and distance ourselves from the kooks in our ranks, while liberal gun-haters like Spencer are proudly identified and defined by the kooks in their ranks."

Mr. Ortega carried a shotgun into a city council meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. That was all. He never threatened anyone or did anything to cause concern. Well except for that whole exercise of a Right thing. Yet Fabian took pains to make sure Mr. Ortega was not regarded as a typical gun owner.

)Side rant about the CSSA: those bastards have helped pass gun control laws here in the state. The "shall issue" law we have is in large part because of them. The Vermont style carry law we've been trying to pass has failed because of them (again in large part). There's a particularly nasty law they helped pass in 2000. It allows the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to deny firearms purchases based upon arrests. Not convictions, but arrests. I have a friend that was recently denied because of an arrest some years back & once the appeal is settled (which should take 30 days or so) I'll write about it more in depth. But suffice it to say the CSSA is not high up on my list of "friends of the people". I passed their booth at a gun show last weekend & after seeing their flyers telling of what they'de done for Colorado it was with great restraint that I did not start a loud & profanity laden discussion of what they've done to Colorado._

In any case, they view gun owners who don't hide the fact as a threat to their agenda. That's one theory as to why the bigger groups try to distance themselves from the smaller ones that seem to be accomplishing things.

The other is a little harder to swallow, but in a sense just as plausible as any other explanation there is. Simply put the NRA does not want to go back to being a sports shooting organization. They expanded their membership & their budget dramatically when they got into politics & no one on the board wants to go back to the pre-68 days. So it's in their best interests to fight gun control, but not so much as to be effective about it. No sense in winning your way out of work, right?

Now this could be a deliberate decision on the part of the major players, or it could be a subconscious one; win small victories here & there but don't do anything to drastic that will achieve a big victory as that will decrease donations. Perhaps that's the underlying thought behind all the "incrementalist" strategy theories we hear from the bigger groups. Maybe that's just poor strategy. No way to tell for sure.

One thing is for sure: the bigger gun groups aren't retaking any ground. Hell, they're barely holding on to what we have as far as gun rights go, & in no small part that's because of people like you & smaller gun groups raising all kinds of hell at the politicians when they try to pass more gun control laws (the "assault weapons" ban being a good example, particularly the fight we had in February/March of 2004 in the Senate).

Could there be other reasons for the bigger groups trying to disassociate themselves from the smaller ones? Sure. & some other reason might be more accurate than the ones I've opined on here. But the record that the larger groups have seems to support either (perhaps both) of the theories I'm leaning towards. They don't want you to be too pro gun, nor do they want any major victories.

They don't even have any coherent strategy for achieving victories, least not that I've been able to discover. A popular excuse for this is that they don't want to broadcast their grand plan for victory to the other side. Look, it's been, what - 26 years since the NRA started really getting into politics? If they had a grand strategy they'd have sprung it by now or at least done enough for us to be able to discern a pattern.

The gun control groups don't seem shy at all about their agenda. In fact here's a paper on how to implement gun control across the globe. The U.N. has its own department for gun control. & here are some more links for international gun control efforts worldwide. If the other side is so open to the point of posting "how to" guides on weapons confiscation, then why the hell won't the NRA tell us of its grand strategy to thwart them?

Now let's look at some specifics for the other side's game plan. & before you smugly sit back & say it'll be a cold day in hell before they try that stuff here, realize that a good portion of it is already in place. From "Stage II" of "Weapon Collection: A Step By Step Guide" we find the following:

"Objectives and goals may include:

* Collecting a specific type of weapons or a specific number of weapons which is either causing significant damage to civilians (e.g. hand-grenades) or having a particular impact on the level of stability.
* Supporting programs that address larger violence issues, such as reducing the practice of resolving conflicts by violent means.
* Reducing the frequency and lethality of armed violence.
* Reducing the number of accidents and acts of domestic violence.
* Publicizing the connection between weapons and violence.
* Developing norms against weapons use.
* Increasing awareness of the negative consequences of weapons possession and misuse.
* Enhancing community solidarity.
* Improving relations between the community and/or the military as well as developing local institutional capacity to deal with arms proliferation in the future.
* Disrupting the weapons supply and local arms markets.
* Reducing the visibility of weapons in the community.
* Initiating the program as a launching pad for a broader community development project."

Any of that seem familiar? Hell, some of it is supported by the bigger pro gun groups, such as "reducing the visibility of weapons in the community". That's the main reason the VCDL is getting snubbed by the NRA & CCRKBA, & damned if they ain't enforcing "negative consequences of weapons possession". In fadt supporting Project Exile & its variants does just that, as most of the laws Project Exile seeks to enforce are laws against possession, either of a certain type of weapon, carried in a certain manner, or by certain classes of people.

Now let's look at some more from the suggestions to create a weapons free society:

"* Education and awareness programs that emphasize the dangerous effects of the proliferation of weapons in society.
* Improving policing techniques and practices to enhance the public image of the police and the confidence of the population in the police.
* The enforcement of laws and regulations regarding the possession and misuse of weapons.
* Capacity-building within national, regional and local law enforcement agencies
* Youth at-risk counseling programs.
* Community-building programs in areas such as peaceful conflict resolution, public health, education and sustainable development."

Again, these are all familiar to most of us if we look around. Not only are they being implemented at least in part, but sometimes with the help of the NRA & other pro gun groups. Project Exile & the traditional support for law enforcement agencies the NRA & other pro gun groups espouse seem to fit right in with the enemies plan.

So again, I see no evidence of any pro gun plan at work. I see isolated efforts here & there, but nothing that can be linked together to point to a strategy. & for those of you who are thinking of correcting me by mentioning the concealed carry laws that have been passed, I'll beg to differ. Concealed carry permits are a form of gun owner registration in which you pay a bribe & grovel for permission to exercise a Right. I know that most of you see it as a positive step, but I see it as a step backwards, not forwards even in places where concealed carry (or all carry) was prohibited beforehand. Besides, even if we think of concealed carry laws as a good thing, the NRA has been known to back inferior concealed carry laws when better alternatives were available (& possible). So I still don't see any grand strategy at work. Nor am I willing to buy into the strategy being so brilliant that I, a lowly blogger, just can't see it.

The fact is that the bigger gun groups have more in common with some of the bigger anti-gun groups than I'm comfy with. Not the least of which is the distance they try to keep from smaller groups or individuals who carry openly or otherwise seem successful in their efforts.

I don't have a definitive answer to Gunner's question. I just have my two theories that I discussed along with some disturbing observations. I do know that if the NRA won't come up with a plan then we need to. & we need to do it without having to act ashamed of gun owners who aren't afraid to exercise a Right (even if that means holding up a rifle more modern than a flintlock).

Posted by Publicola at November 22, 2004 06:23 AM

Those are some startling parallels.

The NRA gets into the "tough on criminals" stuff in order to counter the perception that pro-gun means pro-crime. It's a public relations ploy. And, actually, the distancing from the absolutist position is the same thing. They're afraid that they'll hurt their ability to be influential if they appear to be too "radical", IOW, they fear the backlash.

This also applies WRT membership. They believe, and rightly, I think, that a lot of their political clout comes from having a large membership. So, they don't want to risk pissing of the "moderate" members. Would they lose more membership by loudly advocation repeal of NFA or by remaining silent on that?

I was talking, about 4 or 5 years ago, with their [then] President. She was convinced that it was only through compromise that they managed to keep even worse gun control bills passed than the compromise legislation that went through. Now maybe that's true. This is a woman who spent time talking with legislators. She said that they just don't listen to the absolutists. Now I'm not saying that's the way it ought to work, but until we can change the political reality, it might in fact be what's do-able in the short term.

Mind you, I don't like it. And VCDL is showing that the political reality can be changed. And so your point, and Gunner's, is well taken.

But the NRA, and their affiliate groups, take the position that they have to work with the legislatures, otherwise they wouldn't be able to get anything done at all, and things would be even worse, and if I let my pragmatism come out, they do have a point. But it can't be the only point, and I think that it holds too much sway.

Re. CCW. Agreed on principle. But think of it in tactical terms. We're amassing a solid block of evidence that CCW does not result in mayhem in the streets, nor, at the least, does not result in an increase in crime. Considering the instrusion of lots of other factors, I don't know if we'll ever be able, statistically, to argue for a direct causal relationship to a drop in crime (maybe John Lott could get to the point where other factors were accounted for). But even so, when it comes to arguing for "Vermont" carry, the existing C-C-W [previously interpreted by your filter as "s t i n g . c c"] by permit states are providing data we can use in arguing for Vermont style. So I'm not completely dissappointed in them.

Posted by: jed at November 23, 2004 08:39 PM
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