The imminent political battle over gun rights is for very high stakes. A decisive victory for either side will change the course of history.
The timing of this showdown is particularly bad for us. The most anti-gun president in history was just elected for his final term. He does not fear a voter backlash. The next federal election is nearly two years away. Gun voters have long memories but they do fade and politicians are shortsighted. Gun owners ripped huge gaping holes through the opposition at the polls following the passing of the “assault weapon” ban in November of 1994. But that was less than two months after the signing of the bill in mid September. This time threats of vengeance at the ballot box are at their weakest point in the election cycle.
In the lead up to the legislation of 1993 (the Brady Bill) and 1994 (the “assault weapon” ban) there were no events that compare in magnitude to the Newtown tragedy for the other side to exploit. In fact we had events that worked for us. We had Ruby Ridge and Waco as clear and explicit examples of government running amok that were effective calling cries for our side.
Sebastian said, “This is not our last stand, it is theirs.” It certainly could be their last stand. I agree with him on that. But if we lose in a big way we could reenter the dark ages of the mid 1990s. That obviously wasn’t our last stand but some people very high up in the gun rights community believed there was nothing left but a series of holding and delaying actions until we lost everything within a decade. I can see that being a possible end result of the next few months. Only this time we likely won’t have a sunset provision to keep us in the game with a Heller decision ace up our sleeve. In the next few years the Supreme Court may very likely have an anti-gun majority that could last for decades.
We would like to believe that the “in common use” protection of the Heller decision protects semi-auto firearms. But there is also the “dangerous and unusual weapons” caveat which the other side will try to leverage. We all know judges will frequently “hang their hat” on anything available. Even if it should not apply because the “unusual” requirement is not met there will be judges perfectly willing to claim that because an AR-15 doesn’t look like a traditional hunting rifle that makes it “unusual” to them. And with “six-shooter” probably being the most common image of a handgun your 17-shot double stack handgun becomes “unusual” as well.
While we have some severe disadvantages working against us this time we also have big advantages we did not in the early and mid 1990s.
The Heller and McDonald decisions were and are huge for us. Even the most deranged Brady Campaign Board member or crafty VPC strategist knows that to publically dismiss the Second Amendment as inapplicable is just as politically dangerous as someone on our side ranting about detention camps. That was not the case 20 years ago.
There were no blogs, Twitter, or Facebook in 1993. Even email was sparse. Television, newspapers, magazines, and to a certain extent radio were the dominant forms of mass communication. They were even more opposed to us then than they are now. From first hand experience I can tell you stories of a local TV film crew telling me that the four protestors to our 3000 people strong rally (I-676 in Washington State) would get equal time on the news. They didn’t. Our side barely got a mention. The national TV news talked about the “grass roots” activism for more gun control with background video of an assembly line of people stuffing door hanger plastic bags with printed materials. That assembly line was composed of CCRKBA volunteers with pro-gun materials. The stories I could tell would go on for hours.
While those type of outrages have not be eliminated they are close to being canceled out. Our side has a much louder voice than it has in decades.
How we play our cards in the next few days and weeks will have a much greater impact than what we do or say we will do a few months or two years from now. The earlier, more coordinated, and more forcefully we engage the more easily the trajectory is affected.
If we play defense the best we can hope for it to hold our current position. The other side gets to control the debate and attack at our weakest point. If we go on the attack we have a lot more control. We make them defend their weak points. If that does not go well we can still play defense as Plan B.
SAF and CCRKBA have made their position clear. It is an attack on the premise of the anti-gun position. I do not believe the other side expected or even imagined that we could attack from our current position. Their mindset does not allow them to consider the elimination of “gun free” school zones as being anything other than crazy talk. We know it isn’t crazy talk. We know gun free zones don’t and can’t work. But is that politically viable? Some would have you believe it isn’t. I can see that if it is package wrong it could fail. But perhaps it can be packaged correctly.
There are very few people more politically savvy than Alan Gottlieb. I have spent many one-on-one hours with him. I don’t know for certain in this case but my guess is he had the poll results in hand before he placed his bet on this strategy. Read what he says carefully. He doesn’t say, “Arm the teachers.” He says, “You cannot stop criminals and mad men with laws, you can only stop violence with the fear of armed victims.” The message is about allowing an armed response instead of forced defenselessness. Sometimes very subtle wording changes make major differences in acceptance. This is probably one of those times.
The anti-gun people started this battle and probably expect to win. But if we follow through on this strategy this could be their last viable fight. It is unlikely they will get another opportunity as good as this one for decades—if ever. This is it for them. Either they win and they stay in the war or they lose and they get swept into the dustbin of history for the foreseeable future.
The NRA is the major battle group in this fight. We will discover their plans on Friday. I like to think they have used their moment of silence to do their own polling and came to the same conclusion as SAF and CCRKBA—go on the attack rather than play defense. That they said, “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again*” gives me great hope they are on the attack as well.
Take no prisoners in this battle against the enemies of freedom. Neither accept nor offer a compromise that gives up anything. It is their time to compromise. It is their time to minimize the damage. It is their time to face political extinction.
*I love the double meaning of this statement. No more mass shootings at schools and no more attacks on our specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms.