It has come to my attention that there are certain segments of the gun owning community that feel conceding on the issue of background checks is a politically and pragmatically wise course of action. The idea is that since gunowners were outspent in Washington state in the fight over passage of I-594 that such losses are inevitable in other states, therefore if we support some form of universal background check we can reduce the damage done by an I-594-like law. The most prominent proponent of such an idea is Alan Gottlieb of SAF and CCRKBA fame, but he is not alone.
To this notion I must not only say “No”, but “Go to hell no”. Allow me to break it down:
Dean Weingarten penned a piece at ammoland with his thoughts on how I-594 was passed in Washington state. In that piece there’s also a link to an analysis of the initiative from David Kopel. I recommend reading both if you haven’t already.
Laws like I-594 and Colorado’s “universal” background check scheme have 2 very important purposes for the anti-gunowners; they establish a registry of firearms and their owners as well as attempt to suffocate the gun culture. These types of laws make it illegal or at least legally perilous to do the things we have traditionally done to grow our culture. Taking a friend or relative shooting, teaching firearm safety in the home, explaining and demonstrating features of a firearm, loaning a firearm to a friend or relative in need – all of those things are chilled by laws such as I-594 and Colorado’s “universal” background check. They’re aiming to stagnate us as a culture with the ultimate goal of eliminating us entirely. Perhaps not in the traditional way progressives have eliminated their enemies (although I wouldn’t rule that out if they thought they could accomplish it), but they think if they can stop our culture from growing we'll be increasingly reduced to irrelevance and eventually extinguished as a cultural group.
Both principally and pragmatically, doing anything other than opposing such efforts tooth and nail will be our downfall.
Alan Gottlieb has done some great things for gunowners and I appreciate a lot of his efforts. But his Neville Chamberlain impressions ain’t anything to be proud of. This much more sympathetic write up than I would have given describes Gottlieb's initial support for the Manchin-Toomey "universal" background check bill that never went anywhere a few years back. That was prior to I-594 being an issue. (I bring this up as Gottlieb is a well respected figure in the firearms world, and he seems to be the chief proponent of the appeasement wing this time around, but his ideas are unfortunately catching on).
Gottlieb chose to divert most of his efforts, along with his organizations, into promoting his competing measure I-591. According to Weingarten’s article, about 6% of funds in opposition to I-594 were spent refuting I-594’s propaganda. The rest were spent promoting the competing initiative. $600,000 vagainst $10,000,000+ is a rather large disparity, and that, along with mainstream media’s support enabled I-594 to pass. This has been framed as being outspent by Bloomie the hut and his billionaire pals being the shape of things to come. Resistance is futile, we will be assimilated, etc. But this is wrong.
The strategy used to fight I-594 was flawed. The competing initiative idea should have been abandoned, and all resources should have been used to oppose I-594. In short, a strategic error rather than being soundly beaten was what occurred in Washington State. The flawed analysis that some are using has led them to believe that “universal” background checks are inevitable, and we should compromise as much as we can to lessen the severity of such laws when they come to our door.
That’s a big ol’ pile of male bovine excrement.
Such initiatives can be fought, and successfully if a better strategy is used. One that relies on the principle that gunowners stand on - that owning and carrying weapons is a basic human Right - and furthering that through sound strategic and tactical efforts will make such contests much more difficult if not impossible for the anti-gunowners to win.
The media is not our ally. And far too many gunowners, let alone non-committed nongunowners (i.e. those proverbial low information voters) don’t realize the harm in background checks. Note, I didn’t say the harm in “universal” background checks. I said background checks. All of them – including the ones we endure currently at gun stores. In fact, some organizations one would think are very pro-gunowner have in the past and even now support background checks. The NRA is the most prominent example but there are others.
If fighting efforts such as I-594 is to have any chance of success we all need to oppose background checks, on both pragmatic as well as principled grounds. Further, we need to get those pro-gun groups to start opposing background checks in their entirety. This will actually be the most difficult hurdle we face, as support of certain types of gunowner control laws are entrenched within the organizational structure of some of these groups. In short, we have to convince them to oust the Quislings, which isn’t so easy when the Quislings have seniority.
But assuming we can accomplish that – getting pro-gun groups on the same page to oppose all background checks – then we start the main focus of our efforts, which will be educating everyone we can about the harm background checks do, and the danger of a universal registration system (which is implicit in any "universal" background check system). This will involve not only attempts at breaking through the mainstream media, but using social media (Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc.) as well as social interaction to work around mainstream media. As important as yelling it from the rooftops, we must whisper in the ears of our friends, acquaintances and even family that background checks are not only immoral, but dangerous and harmful, and that no government can be trusted with such power.
Voter turn out is also something we should focus on. We must stress the importance of voting against any background check initiatives even if the remainder of the ballot is left blank. A lot of folks that naturally ally with us tend not to vote, as the Republicans haven’t exactly been friendly to us post-election and the Democrats tend to be hostile, so they see no sense in wasting their time choosing the lesser of two evils. Convincing them to show up at the polls if for no other reason than to vote against more gunowner control should also be an integral component of our strategy.
I am confident that in most states, if we fight not only hard but smart, using the above as a guideline, that we can beat any initiative that we are threatened with. But it will require taking a principled stand, not just a practical one.
In some states we may lose despite our best efforts. But we should still fight; even if we do lose we will be in a much better position to continue fighting in the future than we would if we conceded any points now for imagined short term gains.After all, you don't really think they'll leave us alone if they just get "universal" background checks do you? Any concessions we might get if we don't oppose "universal" background checks will be what they set their sights on a few short years from now. Appeasement simply does not work in the long term.
In fact I’ll assert that the appeasement strategy the NRA and others championed in the 1980’s and 1990’s has led us to this precipice we’re currently facing. If the NRA had not supported background checks in the form of the NICS then we’d have much more solid footing to stand on now as we oppose an expansion of those background checks. That concession makes it confusing for fence sitters as well as some gunowners to understand the NRA’s opposition to “universal” background checks. If back then they had fought it’s possible they could have lost, but they (and we) would be in a better position now to fight this most dire threat to our culture and our Rights. More likely though, is they could have fought and won, but they succumbed to the appeal of compromise, the lure of appeasement.
I bring this up because Gottlieb and others – undoubtedly some within the upper tiers of the NRA – are asking us to repeat the same errors of the 1980’s and 1990’s; claiming that defeat is inevitable so we have to compromise to make a bad law less bad. It was a mistake then that we’re still paying for now, and it’d be a mistake now that in 20 years would be seen as the harbinger of our doom.
In future posts here I will try to outline more specifics about not only why we should fight, but how. In the meantime we should oppose any suggestion at compromise no matter how tempting it seems.
We should not bargain, We should not make deals. We should not cede any more ground than we already have. We should not contemplate trading our opposition to "universal" background checks for some perceived short term gain.
We should fight background checks as they are proposed and as they exist currently. We should do so because it reinforces out fundamental position that owning and carrying weapons is a Right. We should do so because it places us in a stronger position to not only stave off new affronts on our Rights, but to reclaim territory that was lost and repeal such unconstitutional laws.We should do so because even where victory is a slight chance, fighting such evil efforts is the right thing to do.
Remember, appeasement is for chumps.