[The following was written by Brian Keith and posted here for the first time.—Joe]
Carrots Vs Sticks?
Or, why other gun rights activists make you so angry and what you can do about it
I spoke at the December 13th I Will Not Comply rally. As the first speaker, I encouraged thousands of armed citizens to shout “I Own Guns!”
At the January 15th rally, I was behind the scenes. I helped organize the I Will Not Comply people for some of the photos that were taken, and went with them through the Capitol to smooth feathers.
In both cases I was surrounded by people whose idea of the good life is roughly similar:
All peaceful adults should be allowed to defend themselves as they see fit.
(I say “allowed” because I am discussing our vision of the future and the specific reality we want to see happen. “Allowed” refers to the choices of the government and not to the nature of our unalienable rights.)
And yet, quite a few people at the Dec 13 rally are angry at the people at the Jan 15 rally. Many boycotted Jan 15.
And the reverse is true as well. Plenty of people didn’t go to Dec 13 for reasons ranging from the organizer not getting a permit to the planned civil disobedience to a disregard for Washington’s organized gun groups.
I met some good people Dec 13. And I met some good people Jan 15. And we all share the same stated goal.
So why are some of us at each others’ throats?
We see this same theme throughout history. A political minority wants more acknowledgment of their rights. Some people want to work within the current political system, while others take a more hard line approach.
I call these groups the Carrots and the Sticks.
The Carrot says “I’ll work with you on your terms, follow your rules, and in exchange you’ll give me more political power.”
The Stick says “Your rules exist to keep me powerless. I will break them and I dare you to try to stop me.”
(When I say rules, I speak of the political process as it is. Mentioning that the US Constitution or the Washington State constitution guarantee the right to keep and bear arms does us no good. It is true that they do, but what of it? We do not actually get to practice that right. So I speak of what actually is, now, and not what ought to be.)
Carrots usually achieve victory when they have Sticks backing them up. Alex Haley, Malcolm X’s biographer, referred to this in regards to Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK had some power through nonviolence. But the organization Malcolm X gave much of his life to had the numbers of trained men ready to do damage to earn freedom. And that bolstered MLK’s cause. The powers that be would much rather deal with Carrot than Sticks.
This is not to say that the Carrots like the Sticks that help them win. Simply to say that, in the absence of Sticks, the Carrots have little back up plan.
One Carrot that did win without Stick support is Gandhi. But he also said he would choose violence over cowardice if those were the only two options. Perhaps if his team had more guns they would have also pursued a Stick strategy.
In the American Revolution, many people tried the Carrot strategy for many years. Read the Declaration of Independence and you can see the transition of those men from Carrots to Sticks.
We have Carrots and Sticks in the gun rights movement.
Alan Gottlieb is the quintessential Carrot. I’ve never read him advocating breaking the law. In a conversation with him on Jan 15, I asked him why he wasn’t trying to stop background checks. I acknowledged that he had done more than any other individual in my lifetime to further the cause of freedom. So why was he compromising on background checks?
To paraphrase, he responded that politics is the art of the possible, and that repealing 594 was not politically possible at this time.
Fight political battles you can win. That’s the Carrot point of view.
Mike Vanderboegh is the quintessential Stick. He advocates breaking the law. He smuggles illegal magazines in to states that have banned them.
His tagline is “When freedom turns to tyranny, the armed citizen still gets to vote.”
Carrots get mad at Sticks when the Sticks make noise and rock the boat. The Carrot needs the boat steady, so he believes, so that he can get more political power.
Sticks get mad at Carrots when they compromise and value popularity or wealth over freedom. Sticks want freedom now, because compromise is what got us in this mess!
The Dec 13 rally was the biggest armed civil disobedience rally in the history of our country. The thousands who attended effectively nullified the Transfer prohibition of 594. When confronted with thousands of people not following the law, the State Patrol decided not to enforce the law, and many other law enforcement agencies have followed suit. Sticks: 1.
But a law enforcement organization choosing to not enforce a law at an event is not the same thing as protecting people at other times and in other places from that law. Matt Shea introduced a bill to repeal 594. And many other Carrots are on the move- from Gottlieb’s court case to get some parts of 594 thrown out to a law enforcement group’s attempt to make having your Concealed Pistol License count as your background check. None of these efforts have born fruit yet, but they are the only way we can continue to experience the freedom we claimed on Dec 13. Carrots: 1.
Gottlieb & the Carrots may have been able to get an injunction for the Transfer prohibition of 594. But Gavin Seim & the Sticks demonstrated that the law is unenforceable in a way no politician can ignore, and they did it fast. We are more free for their efforts.
Gavin and Mike could, in theory, introduce legislation repealing 594. But it’s Representative Matt Shea who actually did that, and it is he and his non-offensive demeanor that people can rally around. Few politicians can rally to the cause of a man who talks on the radio about how everyone should own tanks. When Matt Shea & the Carrots win with this bill, we will be more free for their efforts.
I titled this essay Carrots Vs Sticks? because I don’t think we have to be as angry at each other as we are.
Carrots: The Sticks are the only way we’ll ever get more free. It is only the threat of armed resistance that has stopped law enforcement in California, Connecticut, New York, and now perhaps Washington from enforcing clear laws banning guns and magazines. Sticks may embarrass you, but their principled stance is what buys you political capital as well as fundraising money. By all means keep trying to talk your way out of bad laws. It might work now, and it is almost always talking it out that eventually secures a state of liberty for the people. Stop badmouthing the people who have the guts to live free and demonstrate to the nation what freedom looks like. Remember, there were ten times as many people at the I Will Not Comply rally as at the Let’s Use The Political Process rally. Respect the courage of those who demand their rights.
Sticks: Don’t hate the Carrots for being politicians. It’s really rare for the people as a whole to get more free simply as a result of violating unjust laws. Rosa Parks didn’t write any laws. Nor did Malcolm X. They just resisted. Stay principled yourself, and by all means call out corruption when you see it. Stay professional in your demeanor as you commit felonies and make people uncomfortable. Be unfailingly kind and polite. Keep on doing what you know is right. And respect those who work in different ways to achieve freedom. (And wear suits and professional clothing when possible. I know you are more comfortable in your Carhartts- so am I. But you are the front lines of liberty. Dress like it.)
So what happens now?
Sticks will get angry at me for defending Carrots. And Carrots will get angry at me for defending Sticks.
And both will get angry at each other for being irresponsible short-sighted jerks.
And Bloomberg, Gates, and the rest of the anti-freedom crowd will grab the popcorn and laugh themselves silly.
Because every ounce of energy we direct at denigrating a fellow gun rights activist is energy we’re not directing at winning.
Carrots and Sticks have different tactics for winning.
If you really want freedom, take a page from the other guy’s book.
Are you a Carrot who puts your energy in to the political process?
Awesome- now go to the next rally at the Capitol with your long gun and demand to be heard. It’s February 7th at 10am. Don’t think the I Will Not Comply people are reasonable? Great- go and talk with them. Convince them of your point of view. https://www.facebook.com/events/1547594748829848
Are you a Stick who puts your energy in to demanding your rights in a public way?
Great- now go call your Legislator and schedule a meeting with them to talk about Matt Shea’s bill to repeal 594. It’s House Bill 1245. Find your legislator at http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/
We need Carrots and Sticks working together full throttle to win back our rights. We all want the same thing. Let’s go get it.