January 29, 2013


There’s no point in taking the offensive, or even staging a defense, if you don’t have a clear idea of what outcome you want. It doesn’t have to be precise, detailed in minutia, but it does have to be clear.

Why? Because without that sort of focus it becomes difficult if not impossible to achieve anything. If you have opposition that exacerbates the situation. If you have tea and coffee in the kitchen but you can’t decide which one you want, then likely neither will get made. If you have a linebacker blocking your path to the room de tastiness, then it damn sure won’t get made, even if you get past him.

So the idea of blocking legislation would be pointless unless we had a clear goal that involved maintenance of the status quo as a tenet. In our case, I don’t think the status quo is good enough.

“Enforce the laws already on the books” is not a particularly compelling counter to cries for more gun control. The proponents of gun control don’t believe it’d be effective and opponents of gun control will hurt themselves in the long run, as all prior restraint based gun control is unconstitutional and immoral, and that comprises most of those “laws on the books”. Why enforce laws that infringe on our Rights? And why try to use a push for more stringent enforcement of laws that impose upon our Rights as a buffer to keep more laws that infringe upon our Rights from being passed? “Don’t stab me again; instead keep twisting the knife you already have in me”? I’ll pass on that.

What should we go for? That’s simple – a repeal of every prior restraint based gun control law on the books, with no more prior restraint based gun control laws added. Ever. Simple. Not easy, but very simple.

The biggest problem is getting folks on board. I’m not talking about the fence sitters who are often the object of desire betwixt two separate camps. Convincing gun owners that such a goal is not only possible but desirable is gonna be a big task.

“Well, I ain’t got a problem with a background permit/license/registration” How many times have you heard that? Or a variant of it? How many times have allegedly pro gun folks (and allegedly pro-gun groups) not only failed to support but actively opposed constitutional carry in certain states? How many have argued that “now’s not the right time” to press for an NFA repeal, or even a Hughes Amendment repeal? If you haven’t then you haven’t been paying close enough attention.

Privilege. Some folks are obsessed with it, or at least glamorize it. They like having approval, of being members of a special club. They like it so much that whether beknowst to them or not they’ll turn every Right they enjoy into a privilege as long as they think they can pass muster and get an “A” on their licensing exams.

In most places with Blue Laws governing the hours of operation of liquor stores, do you know who the biggest opponents of relaxing those laws are? Usually it’s some group of liquor store owners. The reasoning? If the state prohibits all liquor stores from being open then they get a day off without competition. If liquor stores can be open 7 days a week, then they have to work 7 days a week or they’ll lose business to competitors who don’t close down for a day. It’s the same in the gun world.

The folks who’ll yell the loudest about an NFA repeal or a Hughes Amendment repeal aren’t anti-gunners – they’re usually machine gun owners. And I understand their motivations – because of the artificially distorted market created by those constitutionally reprehensible laws, their automatic weapons are severely inflated in value. You can get a quite “illegal” full auto AK-47 on the street (via China via Mexico) for around $400. Want a “legal” one? 5 digits. Around $15,000 if you can find one (oddly enough, a transferable AK-47 costs a little less than half what a Hostess employee made prior to them deciding to toss the Twinkies out with the bathwater). So they don’t want to see their investment diminish. Having a $15,000 firearm suddenly be worth fair market value (probably around $1000 depending on variables) would be undesirable to quite a few of them. (There are some folks who have NFA firearms who’d gladly lose the investment value in exchange for more freedom, but I have no idea what percentage of the overall group they are – just that the NFA firearm owners who don’t want the NFA or the Hughes Amendment repealed tend to be very vocal about it when it comes up). (btw, seems to be a Repeal the Hughes Amendment facebook page, with only 1,179 likes. Just sayin')

The Gun Control Act of ’68? That was mainly trade protection, supported by Remington and Winchester, etc. The Brady Bill? Supported by the NRA cause they wanted the instant check system (It’s a long separate discussion). Colorado’s “guilty until proven innocent” law (which allows denial for firearms purchase if an arrest is shown without a positive disposition)? That was supported by, among others, a bunch of NRA "A" rated congresscritters as well as the NRA and Colorado State Shooting Association and the Firearms Coalition of Colorado.

I could go on. And I will.

Project Exile – supported by the NRA

Heller v. DC – NRA tried to interfere with a case of its own (Seegars v. Ashcroft)

Mulford Act (law prohibiting carry in Cali) – Reagan (who’s usually assumed to be pro-gun)

Magazine capacity limits – championed by Ruger

(And don't get me started on "sportsman's groups" advocating jacking up the prices of hunting and fishing licenses. Le grrr.)

See the point? Gun owners (especially when grouped) have often been the biggest supporters of some forms of gun control, or at least have been far too often busy pulling other gun owners down by their ankles.

What we have to do (“we” meaning I & anyone else who thinks this is a good idea) have to argue with gun owners who support these kinds of laws. We have to argue them out of it, and into supporting a repeal of all prior restraint based laws.

There’s another complication – pragmatists. These are folks who probably agree with the ultimate goal (i.e. no prior restraint based gun control) but think it’s impossible, and therefore set their sights lower. At the drop of a hat they’ll exclaim “the perfect is the enemy of the good” while justifying some active or passive concession. Being politically clever or mastering the art of the possible appear to be a more solid course for them to take than to go off charging at windmills.

So we have to convince as many of them as possible that only by going for what seems impossible can we achieve all that’s probable. Let me toss this out there cause it’s not heard enough:

”The perfect may be the enemy of the good but mediocrity is the enemy of us all”

(Yes; I’m arrogant enough to quote myself – I was a guitarist, need I say more?)

Fighting a holding action is not ideal. When ambushed it’s generally better to attack. When attacked it’s generally better to counter-attack. And when someone ups the asking price, it’s wise to lower your bid. (Hopefully I’ve just analogied myself out for a while)

In Colorado we’re screwed. There’s a good chance something downright nasty will get passed. But Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is fighting back. They’re doing so by supporting a few pro gun bills (the current count is 7 pro gun bills versus 5 anti gun bills). There’s very little chance of them passing (in fact one was killed in committee yesterday) but while the anti’s are fighting these, it ties up their resources and capital. Not enough to stop them entirely, but it slows them down a bit.

See RMGO has a strategy. That’s backed by resolve and by goals. They’ve gotten their ass kicked on some proposals, but they’ve also helped shape things in our favor (notably, having CSU's gun ban stricken down in court). We’re still not a constitutional carry state, but we’d be less likely to become one if they weren’t doing what they do.

So no; we may never see a repeal of the NFA in our lifetime. Is that a reason to not fight for it, or for some other seemingly impossible repeal? We can argue about the specifics of which law to push hard for repeal of versus which law to only mildly push for repeal of, but we should always be pushing for repeal of at least one prior restraint based gun control law. No matter how unlikely it is now.

Since 2004 an “assault weapons” ban renewal has been proposed. Every year. Until this year it had little to no chance of being passed. A lot of anti-gun bills, some calling for complete confiscation, are proposed every year, just on the chance that circumstances get right enough to have them acted upon. And they talk about them when they can – at least the more popular ones. To be fair there are pro gun bills proposed every year (Imma miss me some Ron Paul) but very few actions beyond their proposal are mentioned (except on the gun forums where some enterprising young poster stumbles onto a particularly nice sounding one).

The anti gunners have a goal. Their strategy isn’t set in stone, but they keep chipping away at things when and however they can. We don’t do that too often.

Yes, we have 4 states now with constitutional carry. We repealed the prohibition on carry in national parks. We saw the “assault weapons” ban sunset. We had a qualified victory in Heller and a qualified victory in McDonald. So that tells me our goal was to have the 2nd amendment decreed an individual Right (subject to some restrictions) that was applicable against the states (under Due Process, not Privileges and Immunities) and 3 states legislatively followed what a Vermont judge reasoned over 100 years ago.

What now? Enforce the (unconstitutional) laws on the books? Keep new unconstitutional laws from being enacted?

A complete elimination of all prior restraint based gun control laws. No exceptions. No allowances. That has to be our ultimate goal. Anything that’s not seen as a step but more like a plateau probably ain’t a good idea. Finally get “Shall Issue” in a state that had a complete prohibition? Cool, now work towards Constitutional carry. Stop an “assault weapons” ban from passing in your state? Cool. Now work on repealing the (unconstitutional) regulation of short barreled shotguns and rifles.

As long as we have that main goal, we’ll always have something to do. That’s daunting, and distressing. But it’s better than “settling”. Read The Death of Ivan Ilych (the Russian as well as the English version are available at the bottom of that link) or watch Amadeus for cautionary tales about mediocrity.

If we say a repeal of all prior restraint based gun control equals 100 on a scale, and we never reach 100 but make it to 75, that’s likely a lot higher than we’d reach if we set the bar at 75.

So in a sense having our goal as the repeal of all prior restraint based gun control laws is pragmatic, the same way that you don’t stop running at the finish line – you stop running 10 yards past the finish line. Many a race has been lost by doing otherwise, just as many of our Rights have been imposed upon because we didn’t push hard enough. Oh yes, in some cases we didn’t fight smart enough, but having our goal clearly in mind is the best thing we can do in order to see what corrective action our strategy and tactics are in need of.

What I suggest we do is make clear, repeatedly if necessary, to any pro-gun groups we belong to – even the hunting and fishing associations – that we want a repeal of all prior restraint based gun control. Same with the congresscritters de jure. Doubly so for any pro gun pals we have who don’t have a problem with permits. Be polite, try to be concise (like I got room to talk about that…) but be resolute. Explain why prior restraint based gun control is not a cool thing, and even if they don’t want all prior restraint based gun control laws abolished that shooting for that is the best method of preserving and/or restoring the aspects of the Right to Arms they do cherish.

Otherwise we’ll fight holding actions, gaining victories or pseudo-victories here and there, taking losses that are essentially unforced errors, and seeing this bit of freedom we advocate as seldom realized, more often merely an illusive dream.

Posted by Publicola at January 29, 2013 08:59 AM | TrackBack
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