Special interests

I don’t think organizations representing just a few people are any less legitimate than those representing millions. I fully believe in minority rights and the smallest minority is the individual. But the situation changes when just a few people (or an individual) attempt to infringe upon the rights of the many. Hence the right of an innocent individual with dark skin to be left alone trumps the interests of 10,000 KKK members who wish to lynch him or her.

That said there are those that effectively use the phrase “special interests” to denigrate organizations and people who attempt to affect legislation through campaign donations or lobbying efforts. I don’t really understand the power this phrase on the population at large but it does seem to be effective in swaying public opinion. Why don’t people think in terms of the merits of the points made by each side rather than vague catch phrases like “special interests”? I don’t get it, but if those are the rules for this game then I would like to try my hand at playing the game for a few minutes.

I find it “interesting” that the VPC uses the phrase “special interests”* to describe pro-gun organizations. The NRA has several million dues paying members and hence their money comes from millions of members and they represent those millions of members and to a somewhat lesser extent 80 or 100 million gun owners who are not NRA members.

How many members does the VPC have? They don’t tell us. We do know a little about their gross income and income sources though. In 2006 they had an income of $700k. Would anyone like to take a guess on how many donors they had 2006? If it was a grass roots organization like the NRA they might receive an average of perhaps $50 per member. This would translate into 14,000 members. Compared to the multiple millions of NRA members who are they to call the NRA a “special interest”? Isn’t an organization with only 14,000 members much more of a “special interest” than an organization with nearly 300 times as many members?

Even handicapped with the assumption above I think I could successfully defend the position that the VPC is the actual “special interest” group in this debate. But that assumption of the VPC being a grass roots organization with 14,000 donating members is wrong. What if they only had 1000 donors? What then? Or what if they had 100 or just 10 donors? Now we are talking about a really special interest group attempting to influence laws and policies that affect many millions of people for each of one of the donors. If they had that few of donors the Westboro Baptist Church is a better representation of the citizens of the United States.

But in 2006 the VPC didn’t have just 10 donors. It had one donor. Yes! ONE donor.

The Joyce Foundation gave them a grant of $700K for 18 months on July 20, 2006.

Another game of “Special Interests” anyone?

Update: The link to the Joyce Foundation may not work. From some IP addresses it does and from others it doesn’t. Try my save of the grant page (the year selection doesn’t work, go to “Page 5” instead).

Update 2: See also Howard Nemerov’s post on the same topic.


16 thoughts on “Special interests

  1. Frankly, I don’t believe either group (gun owners or anti-gun people) deserve to be called “special interests.” Both populations are large. The pro-gun people are more organized than the anti-gun people are — but like one of the other gun blogger posted recently, what could an anti-gun group possibly get together to do? Shoot anti-guns? Have a “Nothing Carried” picnic and clean-up?

    I don’t donate to anti-gun causes. Why should I? I’m not against all guns in all places. I think guns are perfectly acceptable in a lot of places. If I lived in rural North Dakota, I’d own a gun. If I lived in the town that just shut down it’s police station, I’d own a gun. I’m not against guns in general. I’m against liberal CCW laws in big cities.

    I think gun laws should be local, not national. I don’t see a national group I can join since it’s either “Love Guns” or “Hate Guns.” There is no middle ground.

  2. ubu52,

    To make Weer’d Beard’s point a little more clear–Do you think the First, Fourth, Fifth, and 13th Amendments should be optional with local governments too?

  3. Wonderful catch, Joe! And really, since the NRA is one of the largest membership organizations out there, wouldn’t it be more accurate to call it a “general-interest group”?

    ubu52, I’m not sure why you think “cities cause people to do bad things they wouldn’t do if they lived in rural areas” is a winning argument for anything.

  4. There are plenty of restrictions on the First. Why do you believe there shouldn’t be any restrictions on the Second?

    Weer’d Beard’s post totally lost me.

  5. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any restrictions on the Second Amendment. I’m saying laws that restrict the specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms in some form (concealed or openly is a topic for discussion on another day) is an infringment. And as an infringment it cannot be an option for state or local governments to infringe it.

  6. Ubu, you’ll also note that the free speech restrictions are ALL punishments for ABUSE of the right. Mostly things that harm people in a marked way. Stuff like slander, libel, inciting a riot, causing a panic (the old “fire in a crowded movie theater” analogy), threatening somebody’s life.

    On this page there are no words I can’t type. There are no public places where I go where I cannot speak. There are no words in the dictionary that are illegal.

    We do have plenty of laws that protect against the abuse of the 2nd. I cannot murder anybody with a gun, or any other weapon protected by the 2nd Amendment. I cannot threaten somebody’s life with a gun. I cannot use a gun in a manner that would endanger people’s lives. You babble about guns in urban environments, but fail to note that most cities its illegal to discharge a firearm unless you are defending your life.

    Nobody is arguing about these laws. What you are arguing is restricting rights for people to peacefully own and carry guns, which is no different that restricting people’s right to peacefully communicate, practice religion, or assemble, ect ect.

    That’s wrong, and frankly quite disgusting.

  7. I agree with this judge: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202446926709

    Weer’d — I never said I was against the rights of people to “peacefully own” guns. You are trying to put words in my mouth I never said. Please stop doing that.

    I am against CCW in urban places (particularly my urban place) and I hope “urban” will eventually be defined as “population of X per square mile.”

  8. “Weer’d — I never said I was against the rights of people to “peacefully own” guns. You are trying to put words in my mouth I never said. Please stop doing that.

    I am against CCW in urban places (particularly my urban place) and I hope “urban” will eventually be defined as “population of X per square mile.”

    Direct contradiction. And not said without a HINT of irony.

    Sorry, that’s EXACTLY what you’re for, and either you’re a liar, or have mental issues.

  9. What is so wrong about owning a gun in your house? What is so wrong about owning a gun that you take on hunting trips or to target practice? I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.

    I don’t even see a problem with people who want to play with explosives in Idaho.

    I do see a problem with people playing with explosives in Times Square in NYC.

    If you can’t see the difference between the two, I can’t help you.

  10. Ahh, caught so you change the subject. Nice try.

    There’s nothing wrong with owning guns in my house, or for target practice. And nobody but you is talking about explosives in time square.

    What’s wrong with carrying a gun for self defense on my person?

    Its a nice day out today, so I walked through Boston to my subway stop (I’ll walk back that way if the weather cooperates) I had my carry permit in one pocket, a .38 Special in the other. What was I doing that wasn’t Peaceful?

    Keep the strawman arguments for people dumb enough to fall for them. Let’s you and I have a grown-up debate.

  11. ubu52, you’re directly comparing lawful gun-toting citizens trying to defend themselves to terrorists. A woman that carries a .38 spl J-Frame in her purse while she shops is as guilty of a crime as someone attempting to bomb Times Square?

  12. Weer’d — I never said I was against the rights of people to “peacefully interact with” blacks. You are trying to put words in my mouth I never said. Please stop doing that.

    I am against blacks in urban places (particularly my urban place) and I hope “urban” will eventually be defined as “population of X per square mile.”

    So, tell me, ubu52, why is it acceptable to discriminate against one right, but not another?

  13. Ubu,
    Since you and I both agree there is nothing wrong with owning a gun in my house or me carrying my gun to go hunting or target shooting, let’s see what else we have in common.. We are on a roll here!

    I still haven’t seen any reason you have listed for why you do not think guns should be in city centers. What is your fear exactly? And yes, it is a fear.

  14. You know, rereading the original post, it appears that we all read this with such an open mind, we forgot what “special interest” group means.

    It doesn’t matter if the group has 20 million members or one member. The only thing that matters is the number of issues the group lobbies for. Both the NRA and the VPC are special interest groups since they are only concerned with weapon politics. The NAACP and the ACLU would also be special interest groups since they have a narrow issue focus.

    If everyone wants to know why I believe CCW can be kept out of urban areas, read this: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/07pdf/07-290.pdf. Concealed weapons are mentioned more than once.

  15. The funny thing? Yes, concealed weapons, and the prohibitions against individuals carrying them, are mentioned repeatedly throughout the DC vs. Heller opinions. However, in almost every single instance wherein it is mentioned, the judges only go so far as to say that previous decisions have upheld that prohibitions against concealed carry have been legitimate under the Constitution and state constitutions. Up until the end, none of them provide any evidence, facts, figures, statistics, or information as to why such a prohbition is a good idea, only that it is permissable under the current arrangement of laws and judicial history.

    Only one Justice takes the time to examine those prohibitions on their merits, and it is, surprisingly, Justice Breyer in his dissent. His conclusion, however, is quite unsurprising:

    These empirically based arguments may have proved strong enough to convince many legislatures, as a matterof legislative policy, not to adopt total handgun bans. But the question here is whether they are strong enough to destroy judicial confidence in the reasonableness of alegislature that rejects them. And that they are not. For one thing, they can lead us more deeply into the uncertainties that surround any effort to reduce crime, but theycannot prove either that handgun possession diminishes crime or that handgun bans are ineffective. The statistics do show a soaring District crime rate. And the District’s crime rate went up after the District adopted its handgunban. But, as students of elementary logic know, after it does not mean because of it. What would the District’s crime rate have looked like without the ban? Higher? Lower? The same? Experts differ; and we, as judges, cannot say.

    He throws the “empirical argument” right out the window simply because he does not agree with it (because, you know, “whether or not I agree with the outcome” is part of the Scientific Method), and then proceeds to say that we should continue to allow the bans on concealed carry because we do not know what the outcome is if we permit it, and we can never really know what the outcome will be.

    I admit to never having bothered reading through Breyer’s nonsense before, but good God that man is stupid (or just ignorant, but willfully so, which still falls under “stupid”).

    So, in short, ubu52’s argument against concealed carry in cities apparently boils down to, “because it is legal”, “because it is allowed under the current legal system”, and “because I want a ban to be in place”. No facts. No figures. No statistics. No historical documentation. In fact, her role model for this particular argument threw those things out because he did not like what they said.

    So, I will ask again: how is discriminating against one right any different than discriminating against another, or would you agree with a blanket prohibition against blacks in urban centers, as your position seems to indicate you would?

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