Jeepers Threepers

I’ve mostly ignored the “Prags” v. “Threepers” divide in the gun rights activists community. But then after making this post the comments lead to one thing, another, then another. Sebastian got more than a little sarcastic. So now I think it is time for me to say something.

It maybe true that I don’t have much chance of breaking new ground but I’m going to try.

First let me attempt to define the position staked out by the “combatants”. Because I have been mostly ignoring the “battle” I may not have this quite right so please feel free to correct me if I misrepresent someone.

The position of the “Threepers” is that the line has been drawn in the sand here and now. Not one further inch (or millimeter) of infringement will be allowed. If further restrictions are made then it will be resisted. That resistance may be passive such as refusing to comply with registration or licensing. That resistance may be subversive as in smuggling or participation in a black market. Or in the face of forced compliance they will actively resist using armed force if necessary. Quoting the primary advocate for this position:

We will not disarm.

You cannot convince us.

You cannot intimidate us.

You can try to kill us, if you think you can.

But remember, we’ll shoot back.

And we are not going away.

Your move.

The origin of the name “Threeper” is also of potential interest and comes from the same site as linked to above:

During the American Revolution, the active forces in the field against the King’s tyranny never amounted to more than 3% of the colonists. They were in turn actively supported by perhaps 10% of the population. In addition to these revolutionaries were perhaps another 20% who favored their cause but did little or nothing to support it. Another one-third of the population sided with the King (by the end of the war there were actually more Americans fighting FOR the King than there were in the field against him) and the final third took no side, blew with the wind and took what came.

Three Percenters today do not claim that we represent 3% of the American people, although we might. That theory has not yet been tested. We DO claim that we represent at least 3% of American gun owners, which is still a healthy number somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million people. History, for good or ill, is made by determined minorities. We are one such minority. So too are the current enemies of the Founders’ Republic. What remains, then, is the test of will and skill to determine who shall shape the future of our nation.

The Three Percent today are gun owners who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act. Three Percenters say quite explicitly that we will not obey any futher circumscription of our traditional liberties and will defend ourselves if attacked. We intend to maintain our God-given natural rights to liberty and property, and that means most especially the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, we are committed to the restoration of the Founders’ Republic, and are willing to fight, die and, if forced by any would-be oppressor, to kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution that we all took an oath to uphold against enemies foreign and domestic.

We are the people that the collectivists who now control the government should leave alone if they wish to continue unfettered oxygen consumption. We are the Three Percent. Attempt to further oppress us at your peril. To put it bluntly, leave us the hell alone. Or, if you feel froggy, go ahead AND WATCH WHAT HAPPENS.

The pragmatists or “Prags” are those that take essentially the default position of political activists for defenders of the 2nd Amendment and liberty in general. The term “Prag” is used primarily as a derogatory term by the “Threepers” and hence are mostly defined and identified by them rather than the “Prags” self-identifying as such.

The position of the “Prags” is now is not the time to take up arms to regain or defend our lost rights. Even publically discussing such action is “scaring the white people” and as such is counter productive. “Threepers” might claim the “Prags” will never take up arms and will be do nothing more than grumble no matter how oppressive government becomes. Some defenders of the “Prag” position might claim that the threshold for using force exists but we just aren’t there yet. If nothing else when they are “loading up the box cars headed for the camps” or they start going door to door to collect arms they will start shooting.

I am of the opinion that both sides have valid claims advantages for their positions and both have valid criticisms of the other side. I am also of the opinion the effort spent squabbling with each other would be better spent on other endeavors and perhaps the best of both sides can be synthesized into something better than either.

Neither psychology nor politics are my specialty but I am of the opinion the “Threepers” are overlooking something in the psyche of the U.S. population and are making a tactical error.

They have some things right, such as a lot of anger and resentment which exists at the excessive government and the massive infringement of liberty. The thing I think they are overlooking, or at least excessively discounting, is that people in the U.S. have by history and principle, perhaps unarticulated and even subconsciously, have near zero tolerance for bullies and hypocrits. I know they believe of themselves and advocate from a position of standing up to government bullies but I fear it will be far too easy for the media and the government to spin the “Threepers” position as the bullies and hypocrites. They can be spun as bullies because they are willing to use force to get their way.

They can be spun as hypocrites because they insist the government adhere to the constitutional restriction on government powers but reject legal restrictions on them even though those restrictions have passed through legislative debate and vote, executive signing, and judicial review.

The bully aspect brings up another concern. The people in power will take exceptional offense because they self selected to acquire those positions of power and are very jealous of it–they have at least a little and in many cases a lot of bully in them. To challenge them, to make them look impotent will cause them to expend far more resources than if it were some ordinary person that was injured or had their property damaged. Think of the laws that punish those that injury or kill law enforcement and government officials compared to those that punish people that don’t draw a government paycheck. The resourced devoted to “bring the perpetrators to justice” will be far, far, more than those devoted to catching and punishing someone that committed the same injury against a private citizen. There may be claims of “equal protection under the law” but there are different laws that apply and a much different attitude is there to back it up. All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

The tactical error I think they are making is publically identifying themselves. Even if they use aliases and handles unless they take some rather extreme OPSEC precautions they can be easily tracked down. If there is an “incident” in a particular geographical area that has anything close to a flavor resembling something from a “Threeper” website or email there is going to be a relatively short list of “people of interest”. With the disproportionate resources devoted to “the problem” the chances of getting away with it are much lower and will discourage others from attempting something similar. This last claim may be a bit weak because depending on the circumstances and type of coverage the “incident” gets it is possible martyrs will gain sympathy for the movement. But I think it is extremely risky to count on this. Law enforcement and politicians in particular will be able to sense the risk of sympathetic martyrs and do their best to avoid that scenario. Drug dealers get near zero public sympathy even though a case could be made that they are exercising an infringed upon liberty. I claim “gun dealers” are a very short distance from “drug dealers” in the hands of skilled propagandists manipulating public opinion.

The “Prags” are correct that progress is being made via political and judicial processes. D.C. v. Heller over throwing the D.C. ban on handgun possession is the crown jewel of this. It was a political process that watered down the ’94 “assault weapon” ban to have an expiration date and the requirement that effectiveness studies be done. It was political processes that prevented the AWB from being renewed. It was political processes that restored our right to carry self-defense tools in National Parks.

As successful as the “Prags” have been in the last decade that could all be wiped out in another decade or two. Think of the widespread drug use in the 1960s which was essentially ignored by police and politicians. By 1980 we had much harsher laws and SWAT teams were breaking down doors with no-knock warrants (at least at the Federal level created because of the risk of drug evidence being destroyed see also here). Do you think it couldn’t happen? How many drug users were there in the 1960s compared to gun owners today? With the wrong people on the Supreme Court and/or the wrong poster children challenging the laws the “reasonable regulation” language of the Heller decision could result in Federal laws that mirror the gun laws of New Jersey where “When dealing with guns, the citizen acts at his peril.”

The questions that have to be asked of the “Prags” are, 1) “What is your threshold at which you will tolerate no more infringements and take up arms to defend them?” And 2) “If you are fully committed to only the defined political and judicial processes then how can you say you are not condemning our children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren to a life of perpetual servitude?” Remember the words of Winston Churchill.

Reader Rob recently asked me in email, “Has there been any time in history where a government once having usurped human rights, has returned them without blood shed to regain them?” He proposed this as a “cousin” to my Just One Question. I managed to poke some minor holes in his implied assertion but I think the point is mostly valid. Infringed rights extinguished for a generation are probably going to go extinct. Think of machine guns in this country and handguns in the U.K. the odds are very slim that those will be regained via political and/or judicial processes. If the “Prags” say they will take up arms “if the conditions are right” then there really isn’t that much difference between the “Prags” and the “Threepers”. It’s only a matter of where they each draw the line and how publically they do it.

As a self-defense firearms instructor one of the most important lessons I try to teach my students is to draw a line in advance of actually needing to use deadly force. As John Clifford once convinced me of in a private conversation is that “When you draw your gun is far more important than how fast you draw it.” If you don’t know when to draw it the “game” will be over without you drawing. You must “draw a line in the sand” and stick to it or you might as well not have a gun at all. I think this probably applies on the larger scale of government tyranny. What went through the minds of the Jews in Germany during the 1930s or the gun owners in the U.K. as they suffered one infringement after another? Wasn’t their surrender without a fight a failure to “draw a line in the sand” and stick to it?

Assuming these observations and conjectures are true what conclusions can be reached? I claim the following:

  • As long as the “Prags” are making progress there is little or nothing to be gained by a pure “Threeper” philosophy
  • The “Threeper” mindset of preparation and training if expressed in terms of firearms sports (USPSA, IPDA, Steel Challenge, and even Boomershoot) and disaster preparedness can be almost as useful in preparing for an armed conflict
  • Firearm sports as training exercises will give plausible deniability and enable the recruitment of far more people than an open declaration of hostility to government infringements backed up with threats of violence
  • The mindset of a gun enthusiast is nearly incompatible with that of statist determined to infringe the rights of others–the more gun enthusiasts we can recruit the more liberty lovers we will have recruited
  • All people should “draw their line in the sand” but such lines should be kept, for the most part, private
  • If people take action after their line has been crossed it should be in such a way that it maximizes the chances of getting away with it

But the most important claim I make is probably not obvious and is the opposite tactic of that by all other groups that I know of in this country that have used violence to further their aims. If illegal action is taken it should be in such a manner that the political goals are hidden to the greatest extent practical. Earth First taking credit for property destruction does not further their cause. People in the U.S. do not respond well to threats. I believe the same applies to “Threepers”.

If you decide it is time to take action it will be better for the action to appear as an accident, motivated by personal (is that judge who is hostile to gun rights sleeping with someone’s wife?) rather than political reasons or even the action of your enemy. Even if the action were to be the destruction of multiple parking lots filled with ATF vehicles it is better to let the motivation for the action to be ambiguous (was it politically motived by the laws restricting alcohol, or tobacco, or firearms, or explosives, or rocketry, or one of any other number of special interest groups?) than for credit to be taken. Politically it will be much easier for both friends and enemies in government to change government behavior to comply with your wishes if they can believe it wasn’t because of the illegal activities of activists they are conforming with. How will they know what needs to be done to stop the pain? They’ll know. They aren’t stupid. They can connect the dots and form reasonable hypothesizes to act on from just two and certainly three hostile events (two points define a line, three confirm it). But the mindset of the U.S. people will not allow them to act on those hypothesizes if they are fully confirmed by someone taking credit or getting caught and their affiliation revealed. And even if they don’t move the government in a friendly direction if the action reduces the resources available for infringement of liberties it is still a net win.

34 thoughts on “Jeepers Threepers

  1. See, even in your absence your presence will be felt at the Rondy, as I predict this post will be the focus of much conversation among GBR attendees this year. Nicely done. We’d prefer you in the flesh, of course, but this lengthy (for you) post will serve as a reasonable facsimile.

  2. Indeed, it is all about the strategy. And your final two paragraphs are quite interesting and illuminating. While I had thought of the “don’t claim credit” and “get away” parts, I had not considered that it could still get the message across.

    I’m going to disagree with you about the public stand part however. If some people are willing to take the substantial risk of such action, more power to them. I see it as part of a multi-pronged approach. I understand the risk part, maybe it will drive the bullies to be more belligerent. There is always risk in civil rights struggles, even the pragmatic method. Other than that I like all the bullet points.

    As a geezer who is a relative newby to the pro-rights camp, I’m still trying to sort it all out. I do find it very disturbing when one pro-rights camp uses the anti-rights bigot’s language (“insurrectionist”) to describe another pro-rights camp. Especially since I did not see it in my readings. Once there is personal attacks, those involved are unlikely to be able to go back to debate, and it understandably produces mutual hostility and insult. Personally I wish to two clashing camps would just STFU about each other, and get back to business. It is possible to continue the various strains of activism without the confrontation. Go ahead and make philosophical points about your methods, and ignore the _persons_ in the conflict. I can say that the conflict has caused me to completely loose respect for a couple of the flamers (on one side, on the other side I’m only greatly concerned at this point). Not that they would care, but I can no longer read the top couple of flamers because of the loss of their credibility.

    Well, I’ve stepped in it now. Go ahead and explain the error of my ways.

  3. Why does America always have to divide into camps on an issue. They did it with JFK, they do it with end time scenarios, they do it with Birthers and Truthers and so on. Why can’t a central position be found where all agree to join forces?

  4. “Firearm sports as training exercises will give plausible deniability and enable the recruitment of far more people than an open declaration of hostility to government infringements backed up with threats of violence.”

    Speaking of “scaring the white people”, that sentence is a gift to the Bradys. Try to read that sentence from the point of view of somebody who has never met a gun owner, and who is prepared to view the gun culture as unfamiliar, alien, and menacing. Somebody who’s been told a lot of militia scare stories.

    You’ve made a bunch of gamers, gadget collectors, and self-defense enthusiasts sound like a secret terrorist training camp.

    <JOKE>Maybe you are working for the Blackwater secret confiscation squad…</JOKE>

  5. I know they believe of themselves and advocate from a position of standing up to government bullies but I fear it will be far too easy for the media and the government to spin the “Threepers” position as the bullies and hypocrites. They can be spun as bullies because they are willing to use force to get their way.

    This doesn’t persuade me, because both sides of this debate are already portrayed this way. Simply possessing a gun makes you a default “bully” in the media. I don’t take this to mean that we have license to be bullies, but we shouldn’t be swayed by worrying about if it was our own fault that we are falsely accused.

    As long as the “Prags” are making progress there is little or nothing to be gained by a pure “Threeper” philosophy

    I don’t believe that the progress that has been made could have been made without the threeper deterrent.

    All people should “draw their line in the sand” but such lines should be kept, for the most part, private

    Absolutely.

  6. I’m with ChrisTheEngineer. I just don’t read their trash any more. None of them on either side.

    Like you, I can see the points of both camps to some degree…heck, I consider myself somewhat a proponent of both camps in that, I’m also committed to resisting any further infringements on our rights and will resist with all means available…including legal and political means. I don’t think either camp is that far from the other philosophically speaking when you get right down to it; they’re just talking past each other.

    And that’s the problem. It’s the acrimony that I can’t abide. Does either side really believe that the name calling, derision and childish poo-flinging helps our cause in any way shape or form?

    I’d like to hear someone explain exactly how that helps EITHER camp…or the cause of liberty as a whole.

  7. “I know they believe of themselves and advocate from a position of standing up to government bullies but I fear it will be far too easy for the media and the government to spin the “Threepers” position as the bullies and hypocrites. They can be spun as bullies because they are willing to use force to get their way.”

    ummm … isn’t that what governments do as a matter of policy – use force? Why is it okay for government to use force (often violent force) and not okay for citizens to use force to defend themselves?

    Just curious …

  8. Sigh. That is the sound of inevitability.

    To be fair, the JPF vs. PFJ distinction is sharper here and well-documented.

    Great post.

  9. Thanks for the good post, Joe. It seems that some of the original players in this kerfluffle (Both sides) got butt hurt and that pretty much ended any chance of meaningful coordination and practical problem solving as soon as the flamewar started.
    Which pretty much leaves a lot, if not most folks, who see both aims as having merit, out in the cold.

    Damn shame, too.
    Great Monty Python clip, Sean. Sums it up well.

  10. As a young man trying to sort through both sides of this issue, thanks for the very temperate and rational post.

    I’m curious Mr. Huffman, about the issue of lines. As a favor could I ask you to write a post about how you decided where your lines were? Not about exactly what they are but how you decided where to place them?

  11. Very well said, Joe. Both sides are fairly described and the benefits and risks of each position laid out. One of the most thoughtful comments on the debate. Thank You.

    I agree with ChrisTheEngineer about the multi-pronged approach and about STFU and getting back to work, as well.

  12. ChrisTheEngineer, I agree the public stand as articulated by the “Threeper” leadership isn’t as harmful as say The Weathermen in the late ’60s and ’70s. I might have been overreaching by saying “there is little or nothing to be gained” from their philosophy at the present time. I presented it as a “claim” (really a hypothesis) which is in need of support or refutation. How could we determine the correct answer?

    Retardo, I’ve been “broadcasting” a similar message about Boomershoot for years without adverse effects. I think the key is pointing out that all but the most extreme pacifist has their own “line in the sand” even if they don’t realize it. When government thugs are loading their neighbors onto boxcars for shipment to the “work camps” they will concede it’s okay to start shooting. Keeping your “line in the sand” private prevents “The Brady’s” from getting much traction.

    Phelps, the bully meme in the MSM mostly fell flat because the people with guns behaved themselves. Yes, it was attempted to portray them as such but it didn’t get much traction and even the most anti-gun administration in U.S. history basically said it was no big deal.

    I’m not so sure the “Threeper deterrent” played a critical part. What part did they play in the Heller decision? Did they even have a voice that could be heard during that decision? And later as they were finding their voice there was the coincident run up on sales of guns and ammo which could have signaled an even stronger but much subtler message. I’m willing to be proven wrong but I’d need to see some evidence.

    Sailorcurt, I often feel very “different” and detached from others. The “Prags” v. “Threepers” debate is a case in point. I see the points both sides are making and don’t see myself that much different from either side but I don’t see myself strongly identifying with either side either. For some reason I don’t develop a hostile or intolerable attitude toward either side. When they start the “childish poo-flinging” it triggers a rather “academic” response in me. I think, “That’s interesting. I wonder what sort of psychological or sociological model could have predicted this and what sort of counseling could redirect them to more productive endeavors.”

    Sennin, yes, the government is a bully. Government is force. But most people see it as a “Mommy” who only uses force because “she” loves us. That mindset is difficult to break through. Someone who challenges “Mommy’s” authority is not going to be well accepted. Only “Mommy” is allowed to spank the naughty child. I don’t think most people understand that our government derives is powers from the people instead of the reverse.

    Sean, great analogy with that video. I’m sure there is some fundamental sociological process at work here.

  13. “Simply possessing a gun makes you a default “bully” in the media.” Worse– simply protesting against the administration makes you a “terrorist” or part of an “unruly mob”. I think we’re already winning on the name-calling front– the Left has shown itself to be unhinged. Don’t think that a majority of people are falling for their BS either. Beside, as stated in the post; it only takes an active or vocal minority. Such has always been the case.

    And yes, Joe; the recent gun buying spike is sending a very powerful message. They’re not sure how to react to that exactly, but Obama’s recent waiving off of the protesters-carrying-guns issue, I submit, is a direct result of it. I’ve made the point to the antis before– you keep mouthing off about wanting more gun restrictions, and our business will increase as a result. Keep it up, please.

    As for the gun-sports-serving-as-training issue; the antis have always seen it that way. That and that alone is what has motivated them from the beginning of time. Anti-hunting, anti anything related to guns, is their political position based on the need for us to hold still for the (statist) treatment.

    Priest: Regarding the line in the sand thought experiment, John Ross did one of his own in his (infamous to the Left) book, Unintended Consequences. To summarize; he made the analogy of a nice man asking to talk to a young lady. So far so good– he could be a scumbag, but there are people around and it’s nice day and all, and there are plenty of opportunities for her to bail out if she gets nervous. Then he asks her over to his van. OK, maybe. Then he asks her to get into her van for a good time. Maybe she’s a bit adventurous, and so maybe she could go along. Maybe it will be a good time, and besides; he seems nice. Then he asks her to put on some handcuffs. “Don’t worry. It’ll be fun…”

    Where did our charming man cross the young lady’s line in the sand? Or did he? Ross’ point was that it might have been when she got into the van, but FOR SURE it was when he asked her to put on the handcuffs. That’s the time, if you’re thinking, that you bail out, using deadly force to escape if you must. If you’re being asked to place yourself totally at the mercy of someone else, if your option to bail out of the deal is being taken away if you accept the next request, your line in the sand has been crossed. Disarmament is one of those examples, but then it’s been tried as an incremental process, hasn’t it? And it’s gotten pretty far along in parts of this country in spite of the second amendment, hasn’t it? I hold that the passage of the 16th amendment is another possible example (go back and read the language). Handcuffs, anyone?

    As for the very specific assertion that the threepers may have had nothing to do with Heller; I submit that we do not know that, that the threepers’ mere presence has had some positive influence. Just being there in the background, like those gun and ammo sales statistics of the last year, can be worthwhile.

    It can say a lot. Couple that with some of the extreme anti-military comments coming from the current batch in WA (which is nothing new– see John Kerry’s “testimony” before congress as a young vet for one example). They’ve openly accused ex military of being potential “terrorists”, the same as they’ve accused civilian protesters and gun owners. Now if they fear millions of civilian gun owners (who’ve been stocking up on guns and ammo) and who knows how many more veterans, I’m thinking their tactics will be effected by that fear. The question is; how, exactly? How will a culture of power hungry, capitalist-hating, America-hating, humanity-hating, Castro-loving, Chavez-loving statist tacticians, with their life-long dreams seemingly within reach for the first and possibly last time but possibly slipping away under their feet, with all the considerable power that is available to them– how will they react over the next three years?

    And that’s what it is, isn’t it? They have to react to their detractors, don’t they? Otherwise we know pretty well what they’d do. They have to deal with us little, dirty, rotten, stinking, fucking peons. Somehow…

  14. Maintaining a moral high ground would be hard enough for gun owners, no matter who or what provoked an incident. The media will demonize guns owners. I have not read one (trigger)scenario that did not have a(some) contradiction(s), except, the one where someone is physically hurt or worse. I would just as soon it was not me.

  15. Joe, thanks for drawing this out clearly. Every time I came upon this “debate” it confused me mightily. It is essentially an internal squabble. It was the poo-slinging that confused me. An awful lot of friendly fire incidents…

    Label me a budding aggressive Prag.

    My line is well before New Orleans just after Katrina. Nobody is being herded onto buses (though maybe there ought to have been some buses used), but guns are being collected and the removal of self-defense in a demonstrably unsafe situation is tantamount to direct threat.

    All bravely said (he said of himself), I am waiting the final 24 hours in the California 10 Day Waiting Infringment for our first firearms. We have gotten a simple gun safe so that we don’t “scare the white people”. We don’t want to give the opposition ANY opening.

    We are essentially registered, so much information is collected and apparently shared locally that it causes me pause. It is my annoyance with this that leans me towards a Threeper position.

    If I may twist Orwell: “All are created evil, some are just more evil than others.”

    The key is for the less evil to restrain the more evil. Those who restrain the restrainers are the most evil of all.

  16. My worry is that when a line in the sand is crossed, _WE_ will be all-in and the only way out will be to win a shooting war. Part of this worry is them being maneuvered into a position where their response doesn’t work for our side at all.

    That said, I think it is a good thing they are out there pointing out the elephant in the living room that not every gun owner will just hand them in without there being a physical fight. It’s also noteworthy we’re not seeing 60 Minutes or 20/20 doing a massive investigative report on Mike Vanderboegh and the “Threeper Militia”.

    I find that I am offended that they manufactured a derogatory label for people who have the same goal, but different tactics. I think it points to a fundamental character flaw that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it reminded me of listening to a racist.

  17. Joe, in answer to your question about how to determine the correct answer I would suggest historical data. I don’t think a definitive answer will be found though. I suggest considering the example of the Deacons for Defense and Justice. But there will be no clear answer.

    I take an engineering approach to the question. When I work on research projects, that is projects where it is not known how to achieve the goal (or we would not be doing the f’ing project), we use a multi-pronged approach. Team A uses method 1, person B uses method 2, etc. If all the methods succeed, so much the better, and if only one works, we have still succeeded. I realize this analogy does not have the same complexity as our political problem, but it is my philosophy for how to tackle our problem. I have read why the “ABC” camp does not like the methods of the “CBA” camp (and vice versa), and I don’t buy it. There are legitimate problems with both the prag and threeper methods (which I will not point out, why give our opponents anything?!), and there are legitimate strengths with booth camps. There are far more radical possibilities, so keep that in mind. None of what I’ve seen is close to the weathermen, which I do remember.

    I say let them all have at it, and may they succeed. And Thank-You all for your efforts to restore liberties lost, which is about far more than just guns.

  18. I’ve thought about this before, and I’d like to point out a few things that people may not have thought about. When most people think about what an armed revolution for gun rights would look like, they seem to forget to think about what the wider consequences might be or what everyone else would do. The problem is that if any kind of revolution is started and is NOT decisively squashed by the Government, then we establish a precedent for every group in the country that using violence to subvert the political process works. Do you really think that there aren’t elements on the Left just itching to start shooting and bombing things to support their flavor of Communism/Socialism/whatever? They’re doing some pretty thuggish things now; do you really think they’re going to sit on their hands while we shoot their favorite politicians? What about every other group in the country with a grudge? Why shouldn’t they start shooting to get their way too?

    I think people envision an Unintended Consequences style action, where the Government eventually accedes to the demands of the group doing the killing to stop their people from dying prematurely. But what action do they take to satisfy a dozen different groups, all fighting for radically different ends? The only possible actions the Government can take are to either ignore the Constitution and do whatever it takes to stop everyone who is in revolt, resulting in a police state of unimagined proportions that may never go away; or they can let the country collapse into anarchy.

    I’m not saying that we should never revolt or anything, but try to think about what the extended consequences might be before anyone starts pulling triggers. I don’t know exactly what my line in the sand would be, and even if I did it’s probably best not to publish it. Even if I had thought of one, who’s to say that they won’t do some other intolerably bad thing that never occurred to me before? I think my line in the sand would be more related to the Government holding fair elections and abiding by the results than what rights they’re trying to take away. We can and have gotten rights back, but if it goes hot, the chances of the country ever being united again under a reasonably fair and stable government are slim indeed.

  19. Mason,

    None of the people/camps discussed want revolution. It is about the methods to avoid revolution.

  20. Joe,
    As usual when you take the time to right a long thoughtful post it is worth the reading. I do have one quibble though. When you wrote “They can be spun as hypocrites because they insist the government adhere to the constitutional restriction on government powers but reject legal restrictions on them even though those restrictions have passed through legislative debate and vote, executive signing, and judicial review.” To me the primary reason for the Bill of Rights is to define the boundaries of the legislative process. That no matter how the popular vote goes, no matter how many elected officials support a law, unconstitutional is still unconstitutional.

    To go a step farther. If I agree to live under the Constitution, don’t commit mutinies or felonies , etc, then the Constitution works to protect my rights. I have those rights no matter where I was born or choose to live. I have the right to practice the religion of my choice, to keep the arms of my choice for defense, etc. But here in the US the government is obligated by the constitution to protect those rights. However, if the people of this country were to decide via the constitutional process to eliminate the 2nd Amendment, I would still have the right. I just would no longer enjoy the protection of the 2nd Amendment to exercise that right.

    Based on my readings of Sipsey St Irregulars, Western Rifle Shooters, even War on Guns, I get a feeling that they believe that the legislative process, the judicial process and the law enforcement process are broken. The fact that a Supreme Court Judge could even think let alone write that they don’t care that 2A protects an individual right because it doesn’t match their personal agenda or the fact that Illinois can practice infringement via their FOID card without significant judicial impediment leads me to think its rather broken.

    I know you did write “They can be spun” not “They are”. But I felt the issue of the legislative process leading to unconstitutional laws is relevant to both this discussion and other issues of liberty.
    MichaelG
    “I think my line in the sand got washed away by the incoming tide.”
    “But I will know where it is when nobody else remembers.”

  21. Some things I keep meaning to say…

    If a “multi-pronged approach” were on independent paths I would agree that would be best. But it is my belief that open threats of violence undermine the political/legislative approach. It’s sort of like a debate between two engineers trying to build a road from one side of the mountain to the other. One wants to build a tunnel and the other wants to build a road through the trees over the top. Not only do they end up spending more resources if they each do it their own way but meeting halfway in the middle doesn’t exactly work either. Of course if they both succeed then the end result is great. But I fear both approaches could end up in failure.

    I knew about the “No Fort Sumpters”. I should have mentioned that. Sorry. That is a crucial point. But Ruby Ridge and Waco weren’t exactly a “Fort Sumpter” and still the press and a LOT of people blame the victims and sympathize with the government. Do your own little survey on that and see what sort of response you get. It’s going to be very tough to get public sympathy for action against a government that is widely believed to be the equivalent of “Mommy”.

    Yes, the government is violating the constitution on such a broad scale that it is clear things are very broken. But the reality is that once the Supreme Court says a law does not violate the constitution the reality is that all our protestations really are just a waste of time. They could (and did) say “growing wheat on your own land to feed to your own cattle affects interstate commerce” and that’s the end of it. IMHO we need a change in the constitution. I would like to see people in government who pass or enforce laws that are later found to be in violation of the constitution be charged with treason with all penality options on the table. Once convicted they may never participate in government again in any way–not even a “Social Security” check. Currently there is no penality for violation of the constitution which makes doing so nearly risk free.

  22. I don’t see the statement (paraphrased) “if you attack us we will defend ourselves” as a threat of violence.

  23. ChrisTheEngineer, It will be interpreted just as if someone said they would “defend themselves” if an attempt was made to arrest them for drunk driving or child molesting. Once they pass a law saying, “All guns must be registered” or no “high capacity ammunition feeding devices” and then some LEO tries to arrest you for not registering or turning in the standard capacity magazines what does “we will defend ourselves” mean? Isn’t that a threat of violence? Or am I missing something?

  24. Why do you carry a gun? Is it to defend yourself? Is or is not that a threat of violence?

  25. Thoughtful, Joe. You missed some points and over-stressed others, but on the whole, not bad.

    Part of the divide is that both the self-described “pragmatists” (shortened to “prags” and the Threepers (usually called other things by the Prags) are playing the political game on two different fields with different rules which are set by the other side, mostly.

    For example, we have done all the standard political things that stress the limits of what the prags are willing to do. Yet we find ourselves forced to deal with situations that the Prags refuse to touch. For example, David Olofson gets busted for a malfunctioning semi-auto rifle, his trial is a farce, and the appeal is worse. The “prags,” being “pragmatic,” view that as his fault. We do not. Hence, what to do? If it is impossible to get a fair federal trial any more, and you do not wish to go to prison, then what course does such unlawful conduct leave you? If the rule of law no longer protects us, is it so far beyond the pale to point out that it doesn’t protect them, the law breakers acting under color of law, either?

    It seems to me that given the facts of Olofson’s subsequent fate. the only way we can deter the other side is to point out that defensive bullets may be fired in their direction. We don’t go around to their houses. We don’t seek to push them around. We merely wish to be left alone. The same goes for our attitude to the gun-grabbers themselves. Telling someone that they are driving on a road where, around the next bend a bridge is out, is merely good manners. Yet it was saying that message bluntly to the other side that caused Snowball to wet his pants and call me insane, among other things. Kindly recall that the name-calling originated there, not here.

    But using the rattlesnake’s rattle isn’t the only thing we’ve done. It is our side who helps support the lawyers in Olofson’s case. It is folks on our side who have made sure his family does not suffer economically. For all their jaw-jacking about traditional methods, can the Prags say the same?

    But we don’t stop there. When Olofson was railroaded, we also took the further step of identifying the federal criminals (and if someone breaks the law, even in what they think is the federal government’s interest, they are still a criminal) and embarrassing them, pointing public fingers, collecting rumors that leak out into the law enforcement community about them and spreadsing them about. This is gently bringing the consequences of their own actions back to them. A “Do you love it? Do you hate it? There it is, the way you made it” thing.

    Out of control ATF agents are unimpressed by the Pragmatists when they excuse their own inaction by blaming the victim. Threeper behavior, however, makes them nuts. This is good. This a payback for misbehavior.

    The other thing that I meant about different playing fields and different rules is in cases such as the death threats that were issued against a person who merely makes the ATF mad because of his opinions and his legal activity. This is what occasioned my letter directly to Eric Holder reminding him that there are no more free Wacos. He will be getting one later this week reminding him that there are no more free Oklahoma City Bombings, either.

    There is a limited number of useful plays in the tyrannical collectivist’s playbook. There’s the Reichstag Fire, the attack on a German Radio station, the Beslan school horror and the purge of officers in the police and military among others. Any of those would also be a casus belli. The letter will remind Holder that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, but point out that we on the other hand do know what he doesn’t know, both about us and his subordinate agency, thanks to our long study of him and his agencies. This is a field that the “pragmatists” fear to acknowledge that it exists, let alone wish to tread. Heck half or more of them are uninterested in playing such a dangerous game. Yet somebody must.

    We are willing and able, so it must be us.

    What initially sent the Prags into orbit, though, was the prospect of being dragged unwillingly into our game. They were made uncomfortable by the mere existence of declared lines. I can understand this, from their perspective. It doesn’t mean I agree with it.

    As I have said many times, were the Prags truly interested in stopping further depredations of our rights and even shoving our tormenters back a bit, they would play the game more like the Sons of Liberty and less like Quakers. They accuse us of being antipolitical but where were they on 12 September? Were any of them in DC? We were.

    Of what good is some alleged right if it is not exercised?

    I don’t know. I tire of the argument as well. They will not be there when we need them, and we will be first into the field. As we say to the GOP, the NRA must either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way. Just don’t pretend they are the front-line in the protection of firearms rights in this country. They stopped being that a long time ago.

    Mike Vanderboegh

  26. Thoughtful, Joe. You missed some points and over-stressed others, but on the whole, not bad.

    Part of the divide is that both the self-described “pragmatists” (shortened to “prags” and the Threepers (usually called other things by the Prags) are playing the political game on two different fields with different rules which are set by the other side, mostly.

    For example, we have done all the standard political things that stress the limits of what the prags are willing to do. Yet we find ourselves forced to deal with situations that the Prags refuse to touch. For example, David Olofson gets busted for a malfunctioning semi-auto rifle, his trial is a farce, and the appeal is worse. The “prags,” being “pragmatic,” view that as his fault. We do not. Hence, what to do? If it is impossible to get a fair federal trial any more, and you do not wish to go to prison, then what course does such unlawful conduct leave you? If the rule of law no longer protects us, is it so far beyond the pale to point out that it doesn’t protect them, the law breakers acting under color of law, either?

    It seems to me that given the facts of Olofson’s subsequent fate. the only way we can deter the other side is to point out that defensive bullets may be fired in their direction. We don’t go around to their houses. We don’t seek to push them around. We merely wish to be left alone. The same goes for our attitude to the gun-grabbers themselves. Telling someone that they are driving on a road where, around the next bend a bridge is out, is merely good manners. Yet it was saying that message bluntly to the other side that caused Snowball to wet his pants and call me insane, among other things. Kindly recall that the name-calling originated there, not here.

    But using the rattlesnake’s rattle isn’t the only thing we’ve done. It is our side who helps support the lawyers in Olofson’s case. It is folks on our side who have made sure his family does not suffer economically. For all their jaw-jacking about traditional methods, can the Prags say the same?

    But we don’t stop there. When Olofson was railroaded, we also took the further step of identifying the federal criminals (and if someone breaks the law, even in what they think is the federal government’s interest, they are still a criminal) and embarrassing them, pointing public fingers, collecting rumors that leak out into the law enforcement community about them and spreadsing them about. This is gently bringing the consequences of their own actions back to them. A “Do you love it? Do you hate it? There it is, the way you made it” thing.

    Out of control ATF agents are unimpressed by the Pragmatists when they excuse their own inaction by blaming the victim. Threeper behavior, however, makes them nuts. This is good. This a payback for misbehavior.

    The other thing that I meant about different playing fields and different rules is in cases such as the death threats that were issued against a person who merely makes the ATF mad because of his opinions and his legal activity. This is what occasioned my letter directly to Eric Holder reminding him that there are no more free Wacos. He will be getting one later this week reminding him that there are no more free Oklahoma City Bombings, either.

    There is a limited number of useful plays in the tyrannical collectivist’s playbook. There’s the Reichstag Fire, the attack on a German Radio station, the Beslan school horror and the purge of officers in the police and military among others. Any of those would also be a casus belli. The letter will remind Holder that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, but point out that we on the other hand do know what he doesn’t know, both about us and his subordinate agency, thanks to our long study of him and his agencies. This is a field that the “pragmatists” fear to acknowledge that it exists, let alone wish to tread. Heck half or more of them are uninterested in playing such a dangerous game. Yet somebody must.

    We are willing and able, so it must be us.

    What initially sent the Prags into orbit, though, was the prospect of being dragged unwillingly into our game. They were made uncomfortable by the mere existence of declared lines. I can understand this, from their perspective. It doesn’t mean I agree with it.

    As I have said many times, were the Prags truly interested in stopping further depredations of our rights and even shoving our tormenters back a bit, they would play the game more like the Sons of Liberty and less like Quakers. They accuse us of being antipolitical but where were they on 12 September? Were any of them in DC? We were.

    Of what good is some alleged right if it is not exercised?

    I don’t know. I tire of the argument as well. They will not be there when we need them, and we will be first into the field. As we say to the GOP, the NRA must either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way. Just don’t pretend they are the front-line in the protection of firearms rights in this country. They stopped being that a long time ago.

    Mike Vanderboegh

  27. Joe, If one of the camps was weathermen, then I would accept your claim the weathers actions hurts politics. Laws do not determine right and wrong, morality does. I don’t see that one camp hurts the other, yet.

    In your post you said “… perhaps the best of both sides can be synthesized into something better than either”. Any more on that?

  28. I knew about the “No Fort Sumpters”. I should have mentioned that. Sorry. That is a crucial point. But Ruby Ridge and Waco weren’t exactly a “Fort Sumpter” and still the press and a LOT of people blame the victims and sympathize with the government. Do your own little survey on that and see what sort of response you get. It’s going to be very tough to get public sympathy for action against a government that is widely believed to be the equivalent of “Mommy”.

    Actually, I’ve been doing this for a long, long time, and there is a trend.

    15 years ago, when it was still fresh, very few people entertained the idea that the government precipitated the standoffs and was the actual bad actor in these cases. That has slowly changed. By the end of the Clinton administration, you could pretty reliably tell whether someone leaned left or right by how they reacted. If you were some sort of conspiracy nut in their eyes, then they leaned left. It it was something to keep an eye on, they leaned right.

    Then, there was Sept 11 and about three years of GWB. After that, this was no longer a reliable indicator. Now, a good portion (30% on the interwebs, 50%+ here in Texas) either consider it something to keep an eye on, or an outright crime by the FBI and the US government.

    Overall, between Clinton, GWB, and Obama, people on all sides are realizing that the government is not their friend. A lot of lefties think that they can ride that tiger as long as their guy is in charge, but enough of them haven’t forgotten GWB (and I remind them as much as possible that they won’t always be in charge.)

  29. “If you were some sort of conspiracy nut in their eyes, then they leaned left. It it was something to keep an eye on, they leaned right.”

    And the intelligent person evaluates the situation on a case-by-case basis.

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