I find it telling that no mention of any anti-gun organization is made. When 54 percent of those surveyed have a favorable view of the NRA what percentage could possibly have a favorable view of the Brady Campaign? And what percentage has even heard of the Violence Policy Center or Coalition to Stop Gun Violence?
For those that don’t read comments, my definition of endzone was, when we get our opponents to the point that they are no longer at all relevant in the public debate, and are unable to seriously influence public policy. I think we’re heading in the right direction, but I don’t think we’re all that close, for a couple of reasons:
- Our opponents still have plenty of allies in traditional media that are willing to raise awareness of their issue.
- Our opponents still have plenty of politicians that are willing to be leaders on their issue, though their old die hards are getting up there. Lautenberg is so old he’s starting to fossilize on the Senate floor.
- Our opponents mine tragedy for political gain, and the law of averages says there will eventually be one they can be successful at exploiting if they can hold on long enough. Assassinations and murder of public officials or high profile celebrities are among the kind of tragedy they are particularly prone to exploiting.
Even if our opponents strongest leaders retire and are replaced by new leadership that don’t have enthusiasm for gun control, and the media collapses or loses interest in the subject, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to buy a submachine gun, cash and carry, at the local Home Depot, for a couple of reasons:
- The vast majority of the public, including gun owners, do not support legal machine gun ownership.
- The vast majority of the public, including gun owners, support background checks.
- The vast majority of gun owners only understand gun ownership in a very broad sense. There is a lot of rational political ignorance among gun owners, even when it comes to firearms public policy.
- Politicians are going to be wary of enacting laws that to a majority of voters, are going to seem extreme. Politicians mostly care about getting re-elected.
I would even wager this would apply to a majority of NRA members as well. Most gun owner organizations have a small number of people who are remarkably dedicated, but the vast majority pay their dues, read their magazines or other literature. Many do not even vote regularly. These are people who are willing to rise when there’s real danger, but they are not day to day allies, and you generally won’t get anything out of them unless our backs are to the wall.
The people reading this blog are actually quite remarkable within the firearms community, because you pay attention and care enough about the issue to read regularly, semi-regularly, or at least be reasonably informed about what’s going on. Ilya Somin’s writings on rational political ignorance apply every bit as much to gun owners as they do any other group of people. The vast majority of gun owners are rationally ignorant about the debate on firearms policy and gun control that’s raging on around them.
Just looking at NRA members as a more engaged subset of gun owners, if I had to wager, based on what I understand from polling data various people have done, your average NRA member doesn’t much like the idea of banning guns (that are not machine guns), and is generally with us on most of the contemporary issues in that regards. They don’t want government to make it difficult or impossible to buy guns and ammunition, or generally make gun ownership a hassle for the law abiding. They also, by and large, support right-to-carry laws.
But when you get to specific policy they are relatively ignorant. They don’t really understand our guns laws. They don’t understand NFA issues. They don’t understand the private sale issue. They definitely don’t understand the “terror watch list” issue. In fact, if you look at the history of gun control, our opponents have only been successful when they either manage to confuse gun owners into inaction (in the case of assault weapons bans in the 90s, cop killer bullets, etc) or win their outright support (background checks).
Boiled down to the essence, the equation is simple really: most people don’t want gun control that will affect them. Legalize suppressors? Most gun owners, even NRA members, don’t have them, have no experience with them, and don’t understand why they need to be legal. Even if they wouldn’t complain if they were legal, it’s outside their current experience as gun owners. Same for machine guns. Same for SBRs and SBSs. These are just not issues they understand or care about. Some gun owners and NRA members are outright hostile to the idea of legalized machine guns as suppressors, which was evident when NRA posted on their Facebook about gaining ground on suppressor use, when a minority of FB followers of NRA protested.
In conclusion, even if we eliminate our opponents from the public debate and political sphere, we are still our own worst enemies. Some my respond that this is why we can’t rely on NRA, but they are what we have. There is no pool out there of 4 million gun owners champing at the bit to legalize machine guns and suppressors. GOA has minuscule membership in comparison. NAGR and JPFO even less. SAF has many, but doesn’t participate in politics, and is highly unlikely to be able to do much against the NFA in court any time soon. You have to make the most out of what you have to work this, and this is reality. We can still accomplish much, but miracles require more gun owners on board with the program, and at least being educated, voting and communicating with lawmakers. This is not the end zone, it is merely the beginning of the end zone.