Friday, January 23, 2015

A War Most Civil

In Marvel Comic's Civil War storyline, a conflict develops over the proposal of a Superhuman Registration Act. Tony Stark (Iron Man) supports such a law, on the basis that it is inevitable and if they are part of the process they can temper the bill so that the resulting law won't be as onerous as it otherwise would be. Opposition to the act is led appropriately enough by Captain America. Initially both sides engage in argument and debate, but after the act passes the pro-registration side starts to hunt down and actively combat the anti-registration heroes. It ends with the anti-registration faction surrendering to avoid further bloodshed, and Captain America imprisoned (and eventually assassinated).

Just twixt you and me, any strategy that leads to Captain America being offed by his own government is not a cool one.

Some of y'all may have gathered that something similar is going on amongst gunowners. Actually it's been going on for ages, with flare ups now and then (most notable in 1977). But it's not as some would think a disagreement over how to achieve our mutual desires; the two factions have two very different goals, only related tangentially by an object (the object of course being a gun). One side wants weapons possession to be treated like a privilege with rules that they feel are acceptable. The other wants possession of weapons respected as the Right it is, with no prior restraint involved at all.

That is the crux of the internecine eruption currently consuming space all over the internets. The particulars are of course more complex but it all resolves to that simple description - one group wants gunowner control as long as the rules are acceptable, the other doesn't want any gunowner control.

There is a bit of confusion amidst one of the camps;  some folks want an end to all prior restraint based gunowner control laws but think that a more pragmatic approach is best, so they side with those that say compromise is the best route to protecting gun ownership.

It is possible that in the other camp, some want a modest level of gunowner control but feel that taking a hardline stance against any will result in a more favorable compromise, though I haven't seen any direct evidence of that to date.

Now this Gulf War (as David Codrea puts it) is not identical to the comic book storyline I mentioned above. For example we don't have superheroes or flashy costumes or a direct debate over the ultimate goal of registration. We do have folks turning on each other. I have seen comments from folks claiming to be gun owners not only decrying the practice of openly carrying weapons, but stating they would call the cops on anyone they saw doing so even if they knew it to be legal. There are writings from both sides attacking the others' character, both in general and individually.

I am not a disinterested observer. I have chosen a side to support. I'm down with the Cap on this one; I'm against registration. That means I'm against all background checks. That means I'm against the prohibited persons list. That means I'm against any compromises on any of those subjects.

As out of character as it may seem, I would like to make a call for unity. I don't wish to see gunowners turning on each other, belittling those who carry differently, or have different ideas to achieve the same goals. I think the more of us that work together, the more effective we'll be at eradicating the cancer that is prior restraint based gunowner control.

I'd like to make a call for unity.

But we can't really be unified if we aren't working towards the same thing.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, both people in a relationship have to have mutually inclusive interests. If you're a christian and your partner is a crackhead, it's just not gonna work out. "You can't be like 'I'm going to church, where you going?' - 'hit the pipe". It's the same with the current situation.

The other side's goal is a complete ban on firearm possession. They've adopted an incremental approach toward that end, with a prohibited persons list and background checks being steps along the way. An expansion of background checks and registration of gun owners will further them towards their goal.

The other camps goal is a modest expansion of background checks, in the hopes that it will halt any further progress towards elimination of private gun ownership.

My camp's goal is an elimination of the prohibited persons list, which would also do away with background checks and any registration currently being done. It would stop any expansion of background checks or registration.

In my estimation, it'd be easier for the other camp to ally with anti-gunowners than with my camp. They're both moving in the same direction, albeit with different motivations and with a different ideal outcome for each party. But they want the same thing, the difference being the anti-gunowners will want more than just the one thing that is agreed upon currently.

So as much as I would like to have unity within the two camps of gunowners, the goals of each is too disparate. I think no matter how well intentioned they are, their support of a limited expansion of background checks will lead to registration and do nothing to further the cause I have chosen to champion. I cannot support their efforts, will not support their efforts.

There is some hope, in that many who advocate the other camps strategy may come to see that the result will not be what they wish for. When Spider-Man saw that the pro-registration side had constructed a prison for anti-registration heroes, he switched sides and joined the resistance. So I think it will be with many pragmatists who want all gunowner control laws eliminated; they'll realize their support of a limited expansion of background checks, rather than being a mean to further their ends, is actually destructive of those ends.

Unlike comic books our plots aren't scripted and we can't use some murky technical gimmick to bring back those that have fallen. Harlon Carter and Neal Knox and Aaron Zelman aren't going to resurrect and give us their insights. We each have to do the best we can with our own judgement and the facts as we know them at the moment.

I linked earlier to a piece explaining a bit about the NRA's 1977 revolution in Cincinnati, where folks who thought there should be a fight against gunowner control laws took control away from moderates who wished the NRA to remain a sporting organization. Power has changed hands several times since then, with more moderate factions occasionally prevailing against more resolute fellows. It seems that may be happening again. Whether it's just an internal power struggle fueled by personal ambition or if it has causes rooted in what's occurring between the two gun owner camps I've been writing about this entire post remains to be seen.

I have often been critical of the NRA. They're big and powerful and can get things done, but they've often pursued strategies I felt were harmful to my goals, and they simply support too much gunowner control for my tastes. But they are far more influential than I am, so whatever direction they move in will have some sway, especially if these moves are being swayed themselves by this divergence of gunowners.

The SAF and CCRKBA (and possibly other gunowner groups) are headed by Alan Gottlieb. The rationale behind Mr. Gottlieb's actions of late have been the source of much speculation. Whatever his reasoning he has come to personify the other camp; the ones who would accept modest expansion of background checks. He's not alone. Bob Owens penned this piece supporting federal universal background checks. Others have attacked folks over tangential issues, such as openly carrying weapons during a protest, and it's speculated that such attacks over tactics are an effort to weaken Gottlieb's opposition's position over the larger issue of strategy.

As I said I'd like to be able to call for some level of unity. But that's not possible with differing goals. So this internecine conflict within the world of gunowners will continue, as it has for some time now. I'm just hoping in this version, Captain America survives.

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