I stumbled across some old work of mine yesterday. I was just one of a few that provided comments to the King County (Seattle area) Board of Health in January of 2000. They announced they were going to hear a report on “Firearms as a Public Health Issue” and public input was welcome. I and a few other good guy activists showed up to give our input. The procedure was rather odd. We had to give our input before we heard their report. We also had to sign up ahead of time and they called our names one at a time to talk to the board about our topic. Another odd thing was there were none of the bad guys signed up to testify as the cutoff time came and went. IIRC Joe Waldron speculated they figured it was a slam dunk and they didn’t need to bother showing up.
But what to say? We hadn’t heard the report, so how could we comment? We had some hints though. The “public health” meme was probably at it’s peak about then and the arguments were well known. I had my laptop with me and started writing up a little speech. I took the laptop to the podium with me and read from the screen. I forget how much time I had, something like two minutes or so.
Here are the official meeting notes. Here is what the notes say about my input:
Joe Huffman lives in Moscow, Idaho, but also maintains a home in Redmond, Washington.
Any study of gun ownership and use must take into account the benefits. He is concerned that in the report to the Board, they’re unlikely to see the lives saved, the rapes stopped, and all the other millions of times each year that firearms are used by private citizens for self-defense. Ninety-eight percent of the time, that’s without a single shot being fired. You might think he exaggerating when he says millions of times each year, but he’s not. Numerous peer reviewed studies by criminologists put the number literally as high as 2.5 to 3 million times per year. When the people here today listen to the report, he’d like them to remember the silent benefits of gun ownership. Ask if it includes the health benefits as well as the trauma, crippling, and deaths that are caused by firearms. Ask if the trauma and deaths are police shootings that are completely justified or are accidents or criminal acts. If they don’t include the benefits, ask why not. Ask if they can point to a single place or time where reducing the availability of weapons had made the common people safer. Mr. Huffman has been asking that question in debates for years, and has yet to hear a verifiable affirmative response. If the report is only on the costs and not on the benefits, ask why they don’t have an interest in the benefits. Ask if it would be appropriate to report on the 100,000 medical accidents each year that result in death without noting the millions of lives saved and improved. Of course, it wouldn’t be appropriate, but yet it’s the same thing.
After our testimony we got to listen to the report being presented. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. You can read about it in the notes.
Then a most outrageous thing happened. Pam Eakes, President of Mothers Against Violence in America was invited to speak even though she hadn’t signed in before the deadline, didn’t get there until after most of us had spoken, and then she was given more time than any of the good guys were. I suspect she was called when the input was all going against them and she rushed into town to try and help.
That evening I heard my voice on the radio. The meeting was recorded and the radio station had extracted a few sound bites. I provided the sound bite for the good guys.
At that time many gun rights leaders thought we were just fighting to slow them down as best we could. They didn’t say that in public of course. But in private, when no one was within earshot they would tell the insiders, the people whose loyalty wasn’t in question and asked the right questions. They told me it wasn’t going to be possible to stop them or reverse the tide. We were fighting a lost battle they said. Another 10 years and it would all be over except for the shouting. The courts wouldn’t help us and the 2nd Amendment would just be a vestigial organ that in another 10 or 20 years after that no one really knew what it had ever meant.
Today, as near as I can tell, Mothers Against Violence in America doesn’t exist anymore (http://www.mavia.org was their website). I’m pretty sure Ms. Eakes was the founder and the only public face to that organization. She got lots of media attention. I suppose it wasn’t really a fair fight. Ms. Eakes against the millions of NRA members, hundreds of thousands of members in SAF and CCRKBA, the JPFO and dozens of other organizations. The media tried to even things up by giving her far more than her fair share of coverage. But in a fight of millions against a handful it’s generally safer to bet on the millions.
Even though I was, and am, just one of millions of people that contributed to some of our recent victories for the right to keep and bear arms I’d like to think I contributed a measurable part in stopping the bad guys in King County Washington that day. And mostly it was because I, an Idaho resident living 300 miles from the battle front that day, bothered to show up. You can show up and make a difference too. Ry and I were talking about this on Wednesday. Human nature applies to gun (and anti-gun) activists too. If you can just show up you can make a much bigger impact than you might imagine because most of the time showing up is 90% of the battle.