December 28, 2004

Gun Bloggers & The Year In Review

Alphecca isn't doing his Weekly Check on the Bias this week. Instead he's doing the Yearly Check. Of course it's a wrap up of what has occurred this year that concerns firearms. It's by no means exhaustive; he just sticks to the main stories.

Jeff touches on something that deserves a better look. I'm speaking of the late February/early March struggle in the Senate over the Lawful Commerce in Arms bill & it having an "assault weapons" ban renewal added on to it.

Via Instapundit you'll find Ed Driscoll has his top ten list of important stories in the blogosphere. Rathergate is mentioned of course, as is the violence during the campaign. Curiously enough there’s no mention of the "assault weapons ban”.

The thing that Mr. Driscoll has missed is the gun bloggers. More specifically the fight over the "assault weapons" ban last February/March.

Hugh Hewitt has a new book out called Blog : Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World. (Here's a review on it by Instapundit himself.) I haven't read it yet but I’d be curious to know if he mentions anything about the pro-gun bloggers as such. I've written three posts disagreeing with Mr. Hewitt's conclusions on the importance of the "assault weapons" ban. This won't be a fourth as I have no idea (only a hunch) if he mentions what I'm about to or not in his book. (Although at the risk of sounding like a suck up I do think I might get around to buying this book of Mr. Hewitt's. Despite my disagreeing with him on some issues I still think he's entertaining.) But I don’t feel that any book about blogs in 2004 would be complete if it didn’t mention the fight against the “assault weapons” ban. (If Mr. Hewitt does mention it [even in passing] I’d be most impressed.)

To sum up the House sent the Lawful Commerce in Arms bill to the Senate. The bill provided immunity for gun makers & sellers against lawsuits where someone used their product in a criminal or negligent manner. It in no way affected product liability claims. Bottom line was if you robbed a liquor store or negligently shot your cousin while cleaning it, the victims couldn't sue Colt or Joe's Gun Shop. If you got hurt because the firearm blew up when you were using it as you were supposed to then you could sue the hell out of Colt.

Anyway, in the Senate a deal was struck late one night to prevent a filibuster. The deal was any & all amendment could be offered to be attached to the Lawful Commerce in Arms bill. For the next three days all sort of gun control bills were offered & voted on. Two stuck hard; the "assault weapons" ban renewal & a McCain bill that would have essentially ended all gun shows in America. Finally the bill with its amendments was voted on & soundly defeated.

Now here's the "whys" of what happened:

The NRA & the firearms manufacturers wanted this bill passed. They liked the idea of not having to waste money defending themselves against frivolous lawsuits. Can't say as I blame them. Thing is they wanted it bad enough to play a very dangerous game.

The idea was that any bad amendments could be stripped off in a committee that would have to reconcile the House & Senate versions of the bill. That's how we got the gun control laws we got in 1994: a false belief that the committee’s could strip the bad parts out of the larger bill. So they figured ("they" being the NRA, firearms manufacturers & others who lobbied relatively pro-gun Senators) that it was a good deal: they avoid a filibuster & if any bad amendments get added on they'd get stripped out in a committee.

But the NRA & the Senate started to feel a lot of pressure. From who? From us. Message boards, chat groups & gun bloggers were watching this time. We didn't like the idea of relying on a committee to get rid of bad amendments. So at the last minute the NRA asked all Senators to kill the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Not because they thought things over. Not because they realized it was wrong to gamble with our Rights like that. They did it because they realized that now they couldn't give us a bullshit excuse when a gun control law got passed. They couldn't hide behind the veil of politics they so often claim is why a gun control law got passed despite their objections. They could not make deals in secret anymore. We have C-Span2 & we can post as fast as we can type. In an hour a few hundred thousand people can be told of a shady deal being cut in their name. In two hours those same people can call their congress critters & their NRA reps. Until they shut down the net they just can't conduct business like they had been.

Here's part of miss Nikki's & my postings of what went on during the debate over the Lawful Commerce in Arms bill. Also look here.

Bloggers alone don't deserve credit. Online columnists, message forums, news groups & other forms of electronic media comprise more traffic than the gun bloggers. The readers of blogs have often been essential to a blogger posting about something important, either by e-mailing the blogger or by leaving a comment to a post that the blogger explores further.

But that's something that was missed: gun bloggers & other pro-gun internet sites didn't just report the news - we helped shape it.

After that I think both presidential campaigns were run a little differently than they otherwise would have. Bush kept tight lipped about his support for the "assault weapons" ban & Kerry bent over backwards to try to convince us he wasn't anti-gun. I think part of what caused the actions of Bush was that he became aware that a lot of people who would have otherwise supported him would have stayed home if the "assault weapons" ban was still law.

As for Kerry, this brings me to another story that was missed as being covered by bloggers better than the mainstream media: his illegal shotgun.

Kerry accepted a semi-automatic shotgun that would have been banned if legislation he co-sponsored had passed. Further Matt at Stop The Bleating pointed out that the transaction was of a dubious legal nature & that Kerry could not legally take his shotgun home to Massachusetts. An interesting discussion ensued not just about the bill Kerry co-sponsored or the legality of the transaction itself, but of what exactly constituted a pistol grip. The story never quite developed the legs it could have, but between that, the big deal made of Kerry's quotes about hunting & the alleged goose hunt he went on (this is the funniest take I've seen on Kerry's alleged goose hunt - put down your drink & click it now) I think blogs did a fairly decent job of pointing out that Kerry's knowledge of guns came primarily in the form of voting to ban them.

Now bloggers don't deserve all the credit. The truth is most politically aware gun owners could have seen through Kerry a dozen ways till Sund'y. What the gun bloggers did was enable them to focus; to get the word out more efficiently.

Gun owners are more influential in elections than most would like to admit. But what the internet does generally & blogs & message boards do is help spread the word.

Pre internet - & really pre-blogs/message boards - gun owners were like kids watching an old western. All we'd talk about was the good guys shooting it out with the bad guys. Then came the internet & the message boards & finally the blogs. What happened was the topic changed from the good guys shooting it out with the bad guys to a discussion of how many times either the good guy or bad guy (usually both) shot his single action 6 shooter without reloading.

Take any major news story on guns from say the late 1960's till present. The common person will think it's just another news story, but gun owners will usually notice that it's full of factual & logical errors. An "SKS isn't concealable. A Colt 1911 isn't a machine pistol. There is a semi-automatic revolver but it's not very common & certainly too expensive to be used in crime. We typically know that "junk guns" are just a nice way of saying "disarm the poor people". We know "assault weapons" mean anything that looks scary to a gun prohibitionist. In short we know the press doesn't know a damn thing about the technical aspects of guns & they often come to the wrong conclusions about gun policy & gun law. But aside from talking to each other at the gun smith's or the gun dealer's shop it wasn't common knowledge.

The net changed all that: now we can not only point out the flaws with the press, but we can keep a close watch on the NRA.

There were other things worth mentioning; the spreading of news whenever a gun owner was mistreated by police; whenever important court cases came up as well as analysis of their outcomes. But helping sink the "assault weapons" ban was the big one for gun bloggers & gun owners alike. The Geek With A .45, Triggerfinger & myself even went in on a group blog just to make sure the damn thing died. Luckily though I think the point was driven home in March & it went out without much fanfare.

So gun bloggers (& the entire pro-gun online community) didn't make the headlines like the ones who busted Rathergate wide open did. I won't even argue that Rathergate wasn't a bigger story. What I will say is that Rathergate & most other blog originated examples of media bias are merely continuations of what gun owners have known for a long time & what gun bloggers have been pointing out so well but without the attention that other areas seem to receive. The press simply doesn't know a damn thing about guns yet reports authoritatively on them; hence all their reporting is suspect, or should be at least (hat tip to Say Uncle).

But for me & I suspect many others recognition isn't nearly as important as advancing the cause we believe in. (Hell I blog under a 2,000+ year old pseudonym - how important could recognition be to me?)

Still it'd be nice if the on-line pro gun community got a little recognition from the not so adamant pro-gun online community. Not so that we can get recognition individually, but so the cause can get more of the attention it truly deserves.

Posted by Publicola at December 28, 2004 06:16 AM
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