This is something I wrote for the gun email list at work. Most of the people on the list live in California so I slanted it a little bit in that direction but I think it has application for a much broader audience.
I realize the situation is much different in California than in the states I spend most of my time (Washington and Idaho) but we are winning. We have been winning a bunch of court battles. We have been winning some political victories (carry in National Parks and in checked bags on Amtrak, carry in 49 states, fines for cities and elected officials in Florida who violate state preemption, etc. etc.). The anti-gun organizations are in financial trouble. And probably most importantly we are winning public opinion (see the most recent Gallup poll on guns).
As much progress as we have made elsewhere California and a few other states are still are a cancer that can spread if not treated. Don’t think that those of us in the free(er) states are unaware of the importance of these trouble spots or that we are neglecting the situation. And we are making progress in California. As you folks are probably even better aware than I SAF and CalGuns are making progress in the courts. I’ve spent a lot of time with Alan Gottlieb and Alan Gura and I am convinced they are more than competent and have plans that have a reasonable chance of success.
The blogosphere is also doing what it can to change things in California. Through the cooperation of Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned I was interviewed by a reporter for the Los Angeles Times yesterday. I was a bit apprehensive as the LA Times has been far from friendly to gun owners in the past. This report was fair and did not take advantage of some things I said which could have sounded poorly out of context. Although she didn’t mention it in the article her mother has even been to Front Sight!
I suspect California gun owners can make a difference by “coming out of the closet” now. I understand the risks but the rewards can be significant if done correctly.
One thing I would like to suggest is that gun owners/clubs reach out to traditional media. Boomershoot has had some remarkably good coverage (the KING5 Evening Magazine video on Boomershoot was even nominated for an Emmy). Boomershoot has some draw and some PR talent (not me) that most gun organizations can’t take advantage of but they can help gain public acceptance of gun owners without too much effort.
Find local news outlets that have a local events sections and get your IPDA/USPSA/Cowboy-Action/Steel-Challenge/Bowling-Pin/Bulleye/High-Power/whatever match listed. After the match write up a story (my PR person says, somewhat cynically, “Reporters are lazy. If you want their support do their work for them.”) about the match results and send it to the local news organizations. If you have something a little different you might even get them to send a reporter. Cowboy Action frequently qualifies as “different” enough. Action Pistol (IPDA/USPSA) matches provide an opportunity for this as well. I created stages for a USPSA match that addressed a visit by Fred Phelps to the area and made it into the local newspaper and the AP. That led to an interview for an article in the Seattle Times. A YouTube video of a Gabby Giffords themed concealed carry side match to a USPSA match generated nearly 8000 views and the rage of anti-gun groups and even got the attention of a Brady Campaign Board member who said, “These folks could have just sat back and shut up.”
If a news article has errors about guns (.357 caliber Glocks and 40mm handguns are my favorites) contact the reporter. Ask if they would like to attend a “media day”. Invite a number of media organizations and if you get a decent response set up a ½ day class (Keep it short! They won’t want to invest a whole day) to teach them the basics of gun types, gun vocabulary, gun myths, and gun safety. Print and bind some nice copies of the NSSF writers guide to give them (NSSF may have some for sale or distribution, you might check with them before printing your own). Include some range time with a .22 with options for larger calibers for those that are interested.
Carefully select your media guides. Good looking professionals of both sexes and various ethnic backgrounds will help dispel the stereotypes they may have of gun owners. Train your people! Prepare them for loaded questions. When media is expected at Boomershoot we have designated media contacts and since our people are spread all over the country do training via email discussions. We have a media guide FAQ (with our own inside humor) to help prepare our people. And except for those in the media who we know are gun friendly (I.E. Michael Bane of Shooting Gallery) we have a media guide with them at all times. We successfully handled a Newsweek reporter who, as near as we could determine, exclusively reported on terrorism, both international and domestic.
If you decide to head down this path let me know if I can help. My Boomershoot PR person currently has some health issues that sometimes prevent timely responses but if anyone thinks they could benefit from some help I will be glad to share what I have learned and pass on the tougher problems to an expert.