Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bouncing Background Checks

If you've read anything I've written in the past week (or ever) you've probably realized that I'm opposed to background checks under any pretext whatsoever. I think supporting any sort of expansion of background checks is an unwise move and definitely not the best option we have as gunowners. So, what should we do instead of appeasement?

The biggest problem we have regarding background checks (and proponents of appeasement continually bring this up to justify their position) is public opinion. Polls and initiatives so far have shown that a majority of people support background checks and/or their expansion. In large part this is because the mythology of background checks (i.e. keeping "the wrong people" from acquiring guns) is appealing to people. Most folks don't delve deeply enough into the subject to realize how ineffective background checks are at their purported goals, or how dangerous background checks are to them, or the potential consequences and co-requisites of background check expansion. This, as always, is the tactic that our opposition relies on; misinformed or ill informed electorates.

So what we should do is simple (which is not to be confused with easy). The solution to ignorance is education, not capitulation.We should inform the electorate. Here are my ideas on how to accomplish this:

The very first thing to mention is that it'll be much more difficult to make the case against expanding background checks if we claim to support background checks as they exist now. People are turned off by hypocrisy, and claiming to support background checks now but oppose them being made "universal" is not going to be as effective as some would think. Would you give real credence to someone that wished to ban SKS's but not Garands, for example? Or thought revolvers should be licensed but not semi-auto's? So being consistent in opposition to background checks of all kinds is crucial if we're going to turn public opinion our way. In this case, it's not a choice between being pragmatic or principled, as you can be both by opposing background checks in all their forms.

A four pronged approach seems best. The first prong is to explain to people that background checks don't do a very good job of keeping guns out of "the wrong hands"; that people intent on evil are at most minimally inconvenienced by background check laws. The second prong would be to show the harm the background check laws (and the obligatory prohibited persons list) do right now, and how this harm would increase as background checks are expanded. Prong number three is to educate the people on the dangers of any government getting to decide who may or may not be armed; not just the bureaucratic incompetence inherent to government run programs, but the harm that can be caused by a malicious intent against any particular group or the populace in general . The fourth prong is teaching folks that owning and carrying weapons are individual Rights that should never be subject to government approval. All of these can occur simultaneously and probably should. The idea that who gets to exercise a Right should never be up to government can and should punctuate the other arguments.

There are several ways to spread these ideas. Writing essays on blogs may or may not change the world, but it should not be the only medium that's used:

Posters are helpful, with sympathetic and/or striking images and concise captioning. For example, showing a person who does not look outwardly menacing, with the caption mentioning some minor conviction (sneaking into a movie in Ohio or slapping a boyfriend when they were in their late teens comes to mind) that prevents them from legally owning firearms and thus protecting themselves and their families. Or a graph showing the number of background checks, number of denials, number of wrongful denials, and a quote from some gangster about how background checks never slowed him down. Or an image of some soldiers from a totalitarian country that engaged in democide with the caption mentioning how they made sure "the wrong people" didn't have guns just like our background checks do now, or lamenting that they wish they had our background check system to keep "the wrong people" from acquiring guns. Images such as these are ideal for Twitter and Facebook and other social media as they are easy to spread around and would go some way to correcting the myth that background checks are either effective or harmless.

Short videos could be very compelling, even if mainstream media refused to sell ad space for them.

A young woman in her late teens/early 20's waits anxiously at the counter. Her parents are there with her trying to be reassuring. It's mentioned that she's been waiting for 3 days on the results of her background check. A salesman walks up while flipping through some paperwork and tells her that she's been approved for her purchase. She and her parents smile as the salesman slides a box across the counter to her. She opens it up and it reveals a Bible (or Torah or some other religious book) as she and her parents comment on how nice it is. As the camera pans away to show they are at a religious book store a voice-over or caption states that it would be unconstitutional for any government to require a person to have permission to buy or own religious materials and people would not tolerate it if they tried, so why do people tolerate similar background checks on other constitutionally enumerated Rights, like owning firearms?

Imagine the same scenario as above, but with the salesman telling the young woman that permission was denied. Or using political books instead of religious, or have the scene unfold at a library, as checking out a book would be a "transfer".

Or, a period piece set in the 1870's. Have a young black man or woman shown filling out paperwork in a store with firearms along the shelves. Have the clerk say he just has to telegraph the information for the background check and show him walking into a back room. As he sends the information over telegraph, have the scene cut to a government office, where a government worker reviews the information, then mouths "denied" as he sends back the response. Switch back to the clerk regretfully informing the young black man or woman that they've been denied permission to purchase a firearm. When he/she asks why, the clerk responds sincerely that he simply does not know the reason. Then have the scene shift back to the government worker that issued the denial abut to leave for the day. As he clocks out he grabs his klansman's cloak and hood & mentions to a co-worker similarly attired that they don't want to be late for the rally that night. The voice-over or caption then mentions that background checks are great for preventing "the wrong people" from having the means to protect themselves, as the man or woman who was denied is seen on their front porch watching helplessly as a cross burns in their front yard.

Show a gangster talking with another gangster.  Have the first gangster seem depressed and the second gangster tell him to cheer up and suggest they do a drive-by for the fun of it. Have the first gangster say that's why he's depressed; he tried to buy a gun for the drive-by they had planned but the background check denied him. Have the second gangster sympathetically offer his regrets. The first gangster then asks hopefully if he could borrow the other gangsters gun for the drive-by. The second gangster tsks and says he can't as it'd be against the law to transfer the gun to him without getting a background check first. The voice-over or caption would state that such a scene would only play out in Hollywood, and that background checks don't stop real murderers and robbers and thugs, only people who obey the law.

Show police at a crime scene at a house, with the audio having an answering machine greeting voiced by a woman asking to leave a message. The caller says he's from the gun store and the lady's background check finally came back approved and she can drop by the store during regular business hours to pick up her shotgun. Then have a stretcher with a sheet over it wheeled out, with the cops talking about how tragic it was that the woman's abusive ex killed her and her kids. Have the voice-over or caption tell how she had her abusive ex arrested 2 days ago and got a restraining order against him, then immediately went out and tried to buy a gun, but he got out of jail before the background check came back. Mention that he was already a prohibited person and couldn't legally buy a gun, whereas she had a clean record but for some reason the background check was delayed. Conclude with asking why anyone should support background checks, when they don't hinder the bad people but can keep good people from protecting themselves and their families.

Short videos such as I described could take up 30 seconds to 1 minute of air time and be easily shared on various social networking sites. I doubt even if we all scraped together the money that such an ad would be shown at half-time during the Superbowl, but I think our side can use social media to bypass mainstream media.

Radio spots may work as well, and talk radio stations would be more likely to sell us air time. But if not audio can be used in a video format with a static image, so the same means of disseminating videos would work for audio messages.

Calling in to talk radio stations, whenever the subject comes up, would be helpful. A lot of conservative talk show hosts support background checks, but presenting a reasoned argument against that idea can sway a lot of people who are just listening in, even if the host seems undaunted.    

Unlike convincing evil people to give up kidnapping and slave trading, a hashtag campaign against background checks could be a good idea. I'm not a Twitter user (140 characters? Please - I can't even strike out with a stripper in less than 170!) so I have only a limited idea of how it works, but perhaps #TheWrongPeople or #BackgroundCheckThis or #RighstDontNeedPermission or #BouncedChecks? All leading to tweets showing how background checks are a bad idea for us.

If I had the expertise I'd set up one myself, but a website devoted solely to background check opposition would be helpful. It'd be useful to have a central place where the main arguments against background checks, along with any graphics or videos and an update on background check related news and things to do, could be found or referenced with a single click. I don't think it's essential, just a real nice item to have. Hopefully someone who does have the skill and resources will set one up soon.

Simple discussion amongst your friends and acquaintances helps. A lot of gunowners and fence sitters don't see the harm in background checks, so when the subject comes up, tell them. Inform them that background checks of any kind don't really deter bad people, they actually prevent a lot of good people from protecting themselves effectively, and that government shouldn't have the power to decide who gets to have Rights and who doesn't. Remind them of how easy it is for anyone, including them and their loved ones, to wind up on the prohibited persons list. Ask them to explain to you, since the background checks don't do a good job of stopping evil people from getting guns, what its purpose is and why should anyone support it as is, let alone expand it.

That's it. Use blogs, posters & short videos on social media and talking with folks you know to teach people that background checks should be repealed, not expanded. It'd be real damn nice if we could get the NRA and other gunowner groups to get on board, but a lot - too many - of them support background checks and some even support their expansion. So it has to be a grassroots effort unless the bigger orgs see the light, and even then a lot of it will have to come from us.

I said it was simple, not easy. But just as we've taught folks that "assault weapons" aren't machine guns and we're teaching people that suppressors are a safety item, we can teach people that background checks are a bad idea. It will take time and victory is not guaranteed, but I think this is a much more effective way to deal with the threat of expanded background checks than to just surrender, as it helps us in the long run as well as in the short term.

Remember, appeasement is for chumps.

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