There is No Us or Them

Michael Bane makes the argument that Mike’s letter to the editor was merely asking the age old question “Who Will Bell the Cat”.  As much as I want to put this whole thing behind us, I do want to address some points Michael made in his post:

The first is that there is a huge disconnect between us and them, us being the gun culture; them being the more amorphous “majority” of our society.

The problem with this outlook is that the gun culture is also quite amorphous.  At what point are you part of the gun culture?  Does merely owning a gun count?  Do you have to shoot it?  How often?  Do you have to buy in to lawful machine gun ownership to be part of the gun culture?  There are almost as many opinions on what the second amendment means in the gun culture as there are people in it.  There’s a reason this is funny, because it’s true.

There is no clean line you can draw and say people with beliefs X, Y, and Z are part of the gun culture and everyone else is not.  To the extent that you try, you only end up making your tent smaller.  In electoral politics, the size of your tent is directly proportional to your political power.  There are plenty of folks out there who would like to purify the movement; to drive out the hunters, the sportsmen, and the sunshine patriots.  That is a recipe for electoral ruin, and makes the inevitable terrible consequences more likely.

The reason I get uppity when it comes to crafting the gun rights message is because the gun culture has to overlap into the mainstream culture.  Subcultures do not fare well under electoral governments if they become unpopular.  Just ask smokers.  The larger impressions the general public has of gun owners and of the gun culture is of great importance in both the acceptance of gun ownership among the general population, and in recruiting gun owners and non-gun owners from the mainstream culture to join the fight for the second amendment.

As a hypothetical example, I give you Bob.  Bob is a pretty ordinary guy.  He’s married, has two kids, lives in a quiet suburb outside a metropolitan area.  Every day Bob gets up, and goes to his professional job.  He’s active in his kids’ sports league, and participates in a few other community groups.  He follows politics.  Not in detail, but votes in every election because he thinks it’s his civic duty.  Bob also keeps a shotgun in his closet, because he wants to be able to protect his family, and every once in a while, he likes to go to the range and break a few clays.  Bob believes in the Second Amendment, but is not active in the issue.

Bob keeps his ownership of a shotgun, and his beliefs to himself.  He is afraid of what his peers will think.  You see, Bob’s neighbors, friends and colleagues only have exposure to the parts of the gun culture that’s shown to them by the main stream media.  In that world, the NRA is extreme and crazy, and then there are those scary folks preparing for revolution.  Bob doesn’t want to be seen as crazy by his peers, so Bob shuts up.

Bob overhears a few coworkers talking about a letter to the editor they saw in the paper, and hears them speak of “gun nuts” and “whaked out extremists”  Bob disagrees, because he is a gun owner, but figures he better not speak out, for fear of being painted with that brush by those around him.

Many folks would say Bob is a coward, because Bob is not willing to stand up for himself or his beliefs.  They would say Bob is useless, worthless, and not good enough for them.  But you know what?  There are a lot of Bobs out there.  A lot of them.  And I want them all to start speaking.  Because what happens when Bob speaks?  Many of his coworkers, perhaps aghast at first, suddenly realize “Bob is a normal guy.  I like Bob.  Maybe all those things I see on TV and read the papers about gun owners aren’t always true.”

That is how you start to break down image the media has built of gun owners.  There is no inside the gun culture, or outside it.  The gun culture is not an insular community that doesn’t participate in the greater national community.  It can’t be.  Not if we want to win the battle for gun rights.  Given that, I see no reason for gun owners to provide the media with more tools they can use to create an image of gun owners are being dangerous, and far outside the main stream.  In fact, we need to work very hard to foster the opposite impression in the media.  You and I, who are neck deep in the gun culture, understand what we mean when we talk about lines in the sand.  Bob and his peers do not, and if Bob is afraid to speak, we’re finished.

38 thoughts on “There is No Us or Them”

  1. Given that, I see no reason for gun owners to provide the media with more tools they can use to create an image of gun owners are being dangerous, and far outside the main stream. In fact, we need to work very hard to foster the opposite impression in the media.

    And precisely because Michael has worked on these efforts before, I pose these three assumptions about the nature of the post:

    A) A completely emotional response that didn’t consider what he was really condoning in terms of media strategy;
    B) A complete 180 from the nice, friendly guy image he’s cultivated in media outreach to a new strategy of embracing assholes and public rants of civil war; or
    C) A show in order to appeal to an angry baby boomer gun owning market that he either wants or needs for various media ventures online and off.

    I’d like to think it’s choice A, but I do confess that the wording of much of it truly bothered me. That he seems to shed the strategy of wanting to show people that we are really the nice folks who are their neighbors and friends seems to contradict so much of what I know he has done in the past.

  2. Yeah, but no matter how badly you want the Bobs of the world to speak up, damn few of them ever will – except to bad mouth those of us who own those “evil black rifles”. And that’s because most of them have bought into the idea that their beloved Perrazzis(sp), 101s, and other high-end firearms will somehow be exempted from confiscation if/when the antis get their way.
    As the old saying goes, after they have thrown the rest of us overboard, they’ll just be the last eaten by the wolves chasing the sled.

  3. Emdfl,

    I think many of the Bobs will speak up; IF the issue being discussed in the right one. That is the problem with the extremes, it alienates so many willing to speak up.

    I think that if the conversation about the newspaper letter had been about carrying on campus or how the local club had just ran a youth day with 50 kids shooting sporting clays, Bob would have spoken up. I know because literally, I am that Bob.

    It’s the Bobs and their friends and co-workers that we have to win over to active support of the issue. If not active support; we need to be able to show the issues they read about affect people they know and people just like them. People might be willing to throw strangers under the bus, but neighbors who help repair a fence before heading out to the range are another matter.

    The other aspect is getting the Bobs comfortable in making statements, phone calls or emails. If the Bobs hear their co-workers talking calmly and acceptingly of the letters; the Bobs are more likely to speak up or ask others to sign a petition.

    I’m reading a book called American Creation by Richard Ellis. This same issue of the firebrand/radical versus the moderates was a large issue during the revolution. Both have a purpose and use in life, but the moderates were the ones that won the population over to the cause. It wasn’t until there was a large ground swell of popular support for the cause that the British truly lost. That was the real fight, not the battle field of arms, but of hearts and minds. Which do you think we truly need to win now?

  4. I agree that we need to get all the ‘Bobs’ speaking, but the very nature of ‘Bob-hood’ (Bob-ness?) is that they will demur until it’s clearly safe and at least somewhat popular to do so.

    And the very notion that gun owners are some insular group that doesn’t otherwise participate in the greater society is an endorsement of the canard that the media has long tried to impose on us. For every individual who, what was it, hides in a hut in Minnesota, presumably surrounded by ammo cans and cases of MREs, there are literally thousands of gunnies who live in houses with running water who vote, pay taxes, keeps the lawn neat (without shooting the mower), and all that regular person sort of stuff. The folks who write articles for the Huffington Post, for instance, desparately want us to be latter day Randy Weavers, but continually saying so doesn’t make it true.
    We normally bear such slander with good cheer, we respond by pointing out the logical fallacy of their claims and debunk their fantasy statistics with actual facts.
    Pointing out that there might be a limit to that even-temperedness isn’t some fit of crazy. It fits squarely within our culture. It is part of the basic plot line of that most American of art forms, the Western: an otherwise normal guy who is pushed beyond his limits goes from Gary Cooper and John Wayne all the way to 1976’s “The Outlaw Josey Wales”. And retorting that the Western is a stylized expression of that culture doesn’t make it invalid, the same way that Kabuki or Noh isn’t invalidated by the Japanese culture that spawned it.
    We should present ourselves as Nice People, not only because we are, but to give the Bobs of the world a chance. However, if the gun culture gets shut down before Bob can work up his gumption, just what have we accomplished?
    If the only chips on the table were marked ‘Bob’, you’d be right, and without argument. But there is also the Other People With Guns, ie, the Government, who clearly have an agenda that doesn’t include being particularly nice to people who disagree with them, whether they own guns or not. Unless you’d care to argue that the peace activists who found themselves on the No Fly List got there by accident.

  5. You still seem to be operating under the rather optimistic assumption that people who care, even a little, about gun rights are ever going to be anything but a minority. In fact, if every gun owner who cares about gun rights gets on board with the polite, politically correct, don’t dare offend anyone plan, and no one ever launches into foul, vitriolic invective, except at those nasty gun rights advocates who don’t get the message (but I forgot, I’m assuming there aren’t any of those, so the BC’s of the world won’t have anyone at whom to fling their juvenile profanities), people who wish to defend gun rights–or even who don’t wish to further attack them–will be in the minority.

    That’s fine. That’s what the Constitution is for. As Ayn Rand said:

    Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

    If you want to “win hearts and minds,” fine–but the objective needs to be bigger than just gun rights. We need to restore the idea that society is only empowered if the individuals of whom it’s comprised have power.

  6. I personally agree with Mr. Vandenburg’s feelings, but I think saying such things to the general public is beyond stupid.

  7. Do we agree that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect the means to resist tyranny?

    Do we further agree that the use of that means would involve, to put it bluntly, the killing of would-be tyrants and their agents?

    Finally, do we agree that no sane person wants it to come to that, and that it would be vastly preferable for the deterrent value of an armed, determined citizenry ensures that it never does come to that?

    If we can agree on those things (and I hope we can, but am making no assumptions), how does it make sense to shriek “Shhh!” whenever someone brings it up publicly? How does deterrence work if we keep it a secret from those whom we’re trying to deter (I wish I could find a transcript of the relevant section of Dr. Strangelove)?

    If we’re not allowed to talk about ever using the Second Amendment, no matter what, we had might as well scrap it.


  8. Oops.

    The third paragraph should have been:

    Finally, do we agree that no sane person wants it to come to that, and that it would be vastly preferable for the deterrent value of an armed, determined citizenry to ensure that it never does come to that?

    A way to preview comments before submission would be nice for the proofreading-challenged types like me.


  9. I think we agree on the pourpos of the second amendment. But where the disagreement is on whether in the current climate it’s time to use threats of civil war as deterence rather than threats of defeating politicians who support such measures.

  10. There has been so much discussion of Mike Vanderboegh’s “revolution” letter it’s hard to ensure all has been read.

    But given that, what seems clear to me is that many readers/commentators appear to equate “revolution” with individual acts of resistance to tyrrany (in the case of Mike’s letter, violent resistance to forced registration of privately held arms at the hands of government agents).

    But those readers and commentators are gravely mistaken, woefully naive, or both. An individual act of resistance is not revolution. At a minimum, armed revolution is a movement of many people (perhaps even a majority of the people) and a just revolution is one that is undertaken only after all other avenues to correct the wrongs have been exhausted, and after excruciating pains have been taken to formalize the events, past, present, and future.

    I think it would behoove us to, at a minimum, review the Declaration of Independence of our very own nation. In fact, the first two paragraphs speak exactly to this notion of dissolving old governments and forming new ones … but of course that act is conditioned on a variety of very grave, and well-considered, circumstances.

    For more on this issue read generally John Locke and similar thinkers. But a good place to start is reading the paper by Polsby and Kates, entitled “Of Holocausts and Gun Control” (Washington University Law Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 3, Fall 1997). They give a pretty fair overview of what just and righteous revolutions are.

    But I must admit that to me, even theoretical discussion of revolutions and “cold dead hands” is something to be considered carefully, and quite preferably after one has informed themselves on such matters. Keyboard commandos are just that … but they also have the ability to plant the seeds that just might lead certain individuals to commit criminal actions that they “think” are justified and revolutionary.

  11. I think we agree on the pourpos of the second amendment. But where the disagreement is on whether in the current climate it’s time to use threats of civil war as deterence rather than threats of defeating politicians who support such measures.

    I still maintain that to try to make a secret of the purpose of the Second Amendment (and if excoriating people for publicly mentioning its purpose doesn’t qualify as “trying to make it a secret,” I don’t know what would qualify) is to, in effect, utterly remove its deterrent value.

    I’ll also mention again that the people we’re supposed to be so worried about frightening are almost certainly paying vastly less attention to that letter than we are.

    Hopefully, we’ll soon find a new molehill out of which to make Mt. Everest.

  12. Sebastian;

    Other than the forum, what is the difference between Mike’s letter to the editor and your statement directed at Dan Simpson of the Toledo Blade:

    “Dan, buddy. If it ever comes to that I’m turning in my ammunition first. I suspect many of my fellow countryman would too.”

    It seems that even you agree that there are times when a reminder of the potential costs of disarmament is in order. Your line in the sand is further back than Mikes, but your resolve appears to be similar.

  13. If anything will be, disdain for the common man is going to be the undoing of the gun rights movement, just like disdain for the common man has been the undoing of so many other cultures and movements throughout history.

  14. “Subcultures do not fare well under electoral governments if they become unpopular. Just ask smokers.”

    Yes, and the reason smoking isn’t actually illegal is that the govt. knows that a fair percentage of todays smokers would become just as ruthless and violent to satisfy their habit as other addicts, same reason prohibition didn’t work. Don’t believe that would happen? Ask people involved with POWs in Germany after WWII. Officers, intelligent educated men were trading their wedding rings, and in some cases their gold bridges for a pack of cigarettes. You can get a man killed in prison today for a couple of cartons. It wouldn’t be any different on the streets if they were outlawed.

    One of the things gun owners have to do, if they wish to continue to be gun owners is to convince the govt. that one gun law too many could put perhaps 0.01% of gun owners, not in they attics waiting to fight agents for their guns, but on the streets actively hunting govt. employees.
    Is it true?
    Who knows?
    It doesn’t matter as long as it keeps legislators cautious.

  15. The Heller decision was a such a success in so many ways and has been supported by the mainstream of our country is the reasonableness of its idea. Many people who do not own guns can see how someone would use them to defend their family or use them for sporting purposes. One is practical and the other is social/cultural. We have to remember that “gun culture” is really not the thing giving us momentum, indeed it could be thing that will be our undoing if we are not careful.
    We are the people as much as anybody else, but if we start to isolate ourselves in cliques and little schisms in society we can end up alienating the people. I agree with Bitter; I think if we do not represent ourselves as responsible friends and neighbors, and go around half-cocked. We are only cutting own throats. When we make our points, they must be framed not just in the spectrum of our rights, but also in the practical aspect of why it is necessary.

  16. Kurt, we all ( I think) agree on the true meaning and intent of the second amendment. Anyone looking at history should understand the founders were a bunch of radical revolutionaries that just threw off the rule of the superpower of their day. Resisting tyranny was the whole point of the 2nd amendment. Problem is, the majority of the population doesn’t consider these matters much. If the subject of resistance against tyranny from our own government comes up those people tend to assume it would be a hopeless quest and that anyone who brings it up is a nut job. Nevertheless, there are a still a fair number of potential activists in that crowd, and appealing to them is something to consider. I agree that most of them aren’t paying attention to this stuff. They aren’t activists. There was a time for all of us when it started up though. We all didn’t drop off of the turnip truck yesterday with our ideas fully formed. They developed over time, and through experience.
    As for the gun control favoring folks, well I’m all for taking a leak in their corn flakes, and the somewhat milder cold dead hands expression of this idea is wide spread and well known thanks to it being used by a mainstream and popular guy like Charlton Heston. I don’t think the people here on various sides are as far apart as they might think they are.
    Don’t you think it is at least legit to wonder what practical level of deterrence we get out of it though? Just look at the bigotry and stereotyping coming from the anti gun crowd. Many already think we are a bunch of knuckle dragging KKK types as it is. Statements of if you pass X law I’m going to do Y might not surprise them, it fits their stereotype, and the anti gun people at newspapers probably delight in having a radical letter like that to print . It could have a solid chance of convincing gun control oriented folks that X law is absolutely necessary as it does stopping them from considering it. Remember they know they aren’t going to be the ones that have to enforce the law in question, so the chances of them being afraid of any trouble resulting from it seems slim to me.
    It has been an exceptionally long time in this country since the last revolution. Long enough for most to think it will never or could never happen again. Even if you vehemently disagree with the random ramblings above, I think you could at least see where people arrive at the logic in thinking that approaching the Bob’s in a way that will get some of them on our side might be a good idea.
    What we have in all this is a disagreement in tactics. The back and forth got personal, and clouded things up. Naturally you object to folks saying shut up, ( not something I did the few times I posted ) On the other side there was an idea that anyone who disagreed with the notion that nothing is working, revolution is virtually inevitable etc. was essentially a piker, or delusional, or just as much of a problem as the anti gun guys.
    Most of the vitriol needs to be checked at the door. We have a common cause, and common political opponents to deal with.

  17. What we have in all this is a disagreement in tactics. The back and forth got personal, and clouded things up. Naturally you object to folks saying shut up, ( not something I did the few times I posted ) On the other side there was an idea that anyone who disagreed with the notion that nothing is working, revolution is virtually inevitable etc. was essentially a piker, or delusional, or just as much of a problem as the anti gun guys.
    Most of the vitriol needs to be checked at the door. We have a common cause, and common political opponents to deal with.

    Agreed, and about the only area on which I disagree with Mr. Vanderboegh is his contention (somewhere) that Sebastian isn’t a committed and effective gun rights advocate.

    If the main thrust of the gun rights advocacy movement is to politely court the fence sitters, I won’t object.

    A few of us are going to play the “bad cop” role to the mainstream gun rights advocacy’s “good cop”–and the two roles can work in a complimentary fashion.

    I’m not trying to silence the folks who want to try to recruit the “Bobs,” but we won’t be silenced, either.


  18. Just an aside.

    I do not own, have never owned, and do not expect to ever own, a firearm.

    But I believe people have a right of defense, of themselves and family and if [questionably] to a lesser extent friends and neighbors.

    And i’d rather have a 110lb woman explaining to a jury why she used her CCW handgun to fend off a 215lb rapist than said rapist explaining why he killed a woman rather than take the chance she might point him out in court.

    So, do you mind if I consider myself included in “gun culture?”

  19. Ah, nice to be loved!

    First, if I may quote from the Ninth Circuit’s Judge Alex Kozinski’s brilliant dissent on the Second Amendment from a few years back:

    “All too many of the other great tragedies of history — Stalin’s atrocities, the killing fields of Cambodia, the Holocaust, to name but a few — were perpetrated by armed troops against unarmed populations. Many could well have been avoided or mitigated, had the perpetrators known their intended victims were equipped with a rifle and twenty bullets apiece, as the Militia Act required here. See Kleinfeld Dissent at 5997-99. If a few hundred Jewish fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto could hold off the Wehrmacht for almost a month with only a handful of weapons, six million Jews armed with rifles could not so easily have been herded into cattle cars.

    “My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees*. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.”

    I have been on the front lines of the RKBA fight for a long time, and many times I was neither nice nor friendly. In fact, the reason that I and people like Paul Erhardt, Scotty Moore and others were so successful in media outreach — and the industry is still benefitting from the contacts we made — is that we flatly refused to compromise our beliefs to make members of the MSM “feel” more comfortable…and we won, again and again.

    A quick example….when I designed SHOOTING GALLERY, several highly placed people in the industry cautioned me about presenting black rifles, full auto weapons and other “inappropriate” content. You may have noticed that I ignored them. This year, the show won two Tellys, essentially cable Emmys, for our coverage of the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. Heck, I thought the Hollywood judges’ heads would explode. SHOOTING GALLERY now sets the agenda for the rest of the gun media.

    As I pointed out in my blog, we have made great strides culturally, but ONLY because we have largely abandoned the “invisible good guy” image we cultivated for so long. Much of my thinking on media and cultural outreach has been influenced by my interviews with the media strategists of the gay movement…essentially the exception to everything Sebastian stated in his very articulate reply to my post. They started with no “tent” whatsoever with a culture that the majority of Americans were in extreme disagreement with…30 years later, the issue isn’t gay acceptance, it’s gay marriage…a wholesale cultural change perpetuated by a once-despised minority. Hmmmm, how did that work? I thought it was a question worth asking, and I was surprised at the answers…a combination of in-your-face radicalism coupled with relentless backroom arm-twisting.

    Tell me about that “tent” thing again…we allied with the Republicans because we embraced that bigger tent concept. We put a President in office not once, but twice. This would be the President that did his best to sell us out on Heller, who has appointed a raft of antigun administrators and who, as near as I can tell, gone to great lengths to pretend we don’t exist. In last year’s battles on recreational shooting on public land I was urged by some of the Powers That Be to NOT take the fight to Washington because it would “embarrass the Bush administration.” We took the fight to Washington and that gave us the leverage we needed to win. That “big tent” doesn’t seem to do us much good.

    Do I think we’re on the verge of some “Unintended Consequences” revolution? Of course not. But I have learned somewhat painfully over the years that I do not own a crystal ball. I tend to agree that most personal vitriol needs to be checked at the door…as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a bit less willing to brand people as assholes, perhaps because I’ve been called that myself by so many people.

    Michael B

  20. GeorgeH: I would think the reason smoking isn’t illegal today is because the government makes huge sums of money off the tobacco industry. If we had been able to establish that kind of money for other legal drugs, there’d be no way the government would get rid of it because it would be such a cash cow.

  21. JR & Kurt:

    I’ll try to answer these together, since you sort of bring up the same thing. I think there’s a difference between discussing controversial topics on a blog, where the audience can be assumed to be largely along the same lines of thinking, and that other people would have to actively seek out to find, and sending something to a newspaper, that a lot of people who are not immersed in the gun culture read. The main stream media are still a lot of people’s primary exposure to this topic. I’m not at all suggesting that we never talk about these topics, or be quiet about them. But I do challenge the wisdom of having a discussion about civil war in front of your average newspaper reader.

    I think at some point or another we’ve all suggested we have a line in the sand. I have no problem with that. If Mike V. had said what he said on his blog, it wouldn’t have given any thought to it.

  22. Michael,

    I’m absolutely not suggesting we find a comfort zone and never push out that. There’s a big difference between showing people there’s nothing especially scary about black rifles or machine guns, and suggesting in a public newspaper that you’ll kill anyone who dares impose licensing and registration, when that’s not even on the table right now politically. That’s not what Kozinski’s eloquent dissent in Silvera says. Not even close.

    There’s no reason to threaten those things publicly when few are seriously suggesting that such a thing is politically feasible. Most people in this country are not prepared to do violence, or even threaten to do violence, against their government for misgivings. That’s way outside the mainstream.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t talk about purposes for the second amendment, including a deterrent against government getting out of control, but I can think of far less brazen means of doing it than “I’ll kill anyone who further restricts my liberties” If you’re going to push the envelops on the the second amendment as a “reset” button, one has to tread very carefully.

  23. This post brings to mind one thing I’ve written about several times – Emily Yoffe’s “Human Guinea Pig” piece, How I Learned to Love Firearms. In that piece was this pertinent bit:

    So anathema are guns among my friends that when one learned I was doing this piece, he opened his wallet, silently pulled out an NRA membership card, then (after I recovered from the sight) asked me not to spread it around lest his son be kicked out of nursery school.” (My emphasis.)

    What we’re dealing with here is FEAR.

    The public fear of guns and gun violence. The gun-owner’s fear of ostracism. The government’s fear of an armed citizenry.

    It’s all FEAR.

    And Vanderboegh, in a public forum, threw gasoline on the fire.

    Personally, I don’t think it was more than a popcorn fart. “Oh, look dear, another gun-nut.” The members of government who have PSH over private gun ownership already fear what Vanderboegh threatened. The general public knows that there are extremists in the rights movement and aren’t particularly surprised or frightened – the media has done a bang-up job of making the various “militias” into keystone-kop laughingstocks.

    Face the facts: If they were really that afraid of us, would they say and do the things they say and do?

    But gun owners have a very real fear of, say, having their kids kicked out of nursery school if anybody finds out they belong to the NRA.

    Mr. Bane, I made the same point about Judge Kozinski’s dissent in a comment thread at my own blog. It’s all in how you say it.

  24. It’s unfortunate but we’ve got a long way to go in “deprogramming” the general populace in their thinking that your average gun rights person a fanatical nut-job.

    Mike’s essay doesn’t help that. Now, I don’t disagree with anything he said in it, just where he said it, but I’m not going to dwell on that issue.

    Instead, I have a little story that shows how acting a little more like a “Bob” can help.

    Back in 2003 I was working for a rather large international company. It must have been a Friday because I wandered by my boss’ desk to ask what his lunch plans were. The news story of the day was of Scott Woodring. Dude about 50 miles north of us holed himself up in his house and shot policemen when they tried to enter. Oh, and he had ties to the Michigan Militia.

    So, with the group gathered ’round his desk he presents the story to us in a “holy crap I can’t believe this shit” tone. One of the guys that worked in a different group than I did piped up, “Well, probably one of those crazy NRA members.”

    My boss’ eyes get walnut sized as I reach for my wallet. He’s not afraid, he just knows what’s coming and trying to hold off the laughter. PLUNK! There’s my NRA membership card on his desk.

    Now, I’m a pretty quiet guy in real life. I might come off like a blow-hard online sometimes, but that’s just not how I operate in meat space. I speak when spoken to. That kinda thing.

    I’m not sure I actually had to say anything after I dropped that card down. I don’t believe I did either. That dude’s view of NRA members just got shattered right then and there. I honestly think he really thought they were all holed up in remote areas of the country awaiting another civil war. But there it was, a honest to God shirt and tie wearing NRA member working in IT not more than 60 feet from him every day.

    This was sometime around July of that year if my memory serves me correctly.

    Come October I figured I’d be a little bit of a “goof” around the office. Since it was the month of Halloween and my boss had a tendency to snatch Starburst candies from one of my team members that always had a bag of them on his desk I figured I’d make a candy jar of large proportions. Problem: I’m a bachelor at the time and I don’t have a candy dish. Well, I just emptied out an ammo can, cleaned up it up real well, and packed the thing full of candy and set it on my desk.

    I remember the dude that made the original “NRA member” comment stopping by one day to grab some candy. We got to chatting and eventually we got onto the topic of how to clean an AR-15. He was from Singapore and served in their military. Seems they just strip off the plastic and toss them all into a big vat of kerosene-like substance when they’re due for cleaning. Good to know.

    I’m going go wager that I managed to shatter the “they’re all crazy” stereotype with him.

    Fast forward 3 years and I’m no longer working for the same company. My former boss isn’t either. He calls my cell phone to inform me that he’s currently living in Nevada and just purchased a Glock 22. He couldn’t think of anybody that would really appreciate such news besides me. Of course I was rather positive about it and gave him a verbal thumbs up on the whole matter.

    I can only imagine the positive response if I’d simply run around the office yelling at people that I’d kill them if they ever tried taking my guns.

  25. The first mistake you’re making is to use the term ‘gun culture.’

    This is our ENEMIES’ term. Using their terms put your ball in their court. They have many terms and phrases they have and still do use against us, but not as many as a few years ago. The reason many of them don’t work anymore is because we started getting in their faces and telling them “NO! You will not do that to us anymore.”

    No, you don’t act the same way in people’s faces, well not most of the time, as you do online, or in other forums. But allowing our ENEMIES to set the tone for this war puts them in control. Allowing ourselves to be pacified, toned down, shut up, let’s them win.

    I remember well when one didn’t dare mention in polite company what you say ‘ Bob,’ the eternal dumbass sheeple, still hasn’t the courage to say. This has changed, because enough people, not sheeple, have been saying what needs to be said.

    We need to get in their faces, the percentage of our enemies who understand they are waging war against us and against human liberty, and tell them “NO, Hell NO!” loudly enough, with the force at the ready to back it up, that they might not try what they plan if their current savior, McCommie or Obamacommies, lies their way into the White House.

  26. Well, I need a term to describe the gun community, shooting community, second amendment community. What do you call it then? And no, we don’t need to get into anyone’s face and say “No! Hell NO!” We need to get out there and persuade and educate. If you don’t have any arguments other than that, no one is going to listen to you.

  27. Great post. It really highlights the divisive nature that is common to most people. We must overcome this and band together if we are to win the battles that lie ahead. Educate fence sitters, train new shooters, one at a time, all the time.

  28. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and, gosh-darn it, people like me.”

    Not sure which gets up my nose most, the louder line-in-the-sand types or the “If we’re nice, people wil come to love us,” folks. I suspect both approaches may have a flaw or two.

    Tell ya this for true: when we spat, Sarah Brady smiles.

  29. Sebastian, while your point about mainstream society’s role in opinion making it well taken, e.g. I read some time ago that NRA members opinions of the organization were more strongly influenced by the MSM than anything else, I think that in general you are mistaken:

    A) While there’s long term promise in e.g. “new media” and the Decline and Fall of the MSM, to expect the following will make any difference is fatuous:

    “[…] I see no reason for gun owners to provide the media with more tools they can use to create an image of gun owners are being dangerous, and far outside the main stream. In fact, we need to work very hard to foster the opposite impression in the media.”

    It doesn’t matter what we say, the media will with very rare exceptions continue to present their narrative. They have after all have shown themselves to be quite eager to make up things out of whole cloth, rewrite letters to the editor, etc. etc. At least Mike’s letter had the advantage of being generally accurate and true, ***as well as morally necessary***, in terms of telling our enemies the consequences of their actions and giving them fair warning.

    “Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn’t you tell the world, EH?” (Kurt, the the Internet Movie Database ( is your friend :-).

    B) “Bob” is in general not going to speak up for all the reasons outlined above, often for no other reason than that he wants to preserve his job and career. We *might* get his “active support” (say in terms of voting—there are downsides to requiring the publishing of campaign donors names…), but it will be silent except to a trusted few until “it’s clearly safe and at least somewhat popular to do so”.

    Peter put it best: “[…] if the gun culture gets shut down before Bob can work up his gumption, just what have we accomplished?”

    The thing that most concerns me here is that while our enemies are on the run in the larger scheme of things, they are still focusing on the long term where they can win by aborting the next generations of gun owners.

    And a final point about deterrence, one I haven’t figured out how to present in anything less than very ugly ways, which is probably inherent:

    Dave: “[A radical letter] could have a solid chance of convincing gun control oriented folks that X law is absolutely necessary as it does stopping them from considering it. Remember they know they aren’t going to be the ones that have to enforce the law in question, so the chances of them being afraid of any trouble resulting from it seems slim to me.”

    For that reason, you have to make it absolutely clear they are in this game as well. That such a “revolution” will in truth be that, as ugly as any modern one, let alone our American “Rebellion” (for the French shortly afterwards redefined the term).

    I most certainly don’t want the country to get to a point where a slogan like “Have you killed a liberal today?” is popular, but I’d be a fool to entirely discount it.

    How we present this ugly “Doomsday Weapon” truth is very open to debate (especially the thresholds, although ambiguity there can be useful), but trying to hide it is unwise and certainly immoral.

  30. “Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn’t you tell the world, EH?” (Kurt, the the Internet Movie Database ( is your friend :-).

    Thank you–although I feel a bit foolish for not having thought of that myself. Anyway, that is precisely the passage I had in mind.

    Thanks again.

  31. For what it is worth I don’t think anyone intends to hide anything. The crux of the matter is what method would be most effective. Going back to Heston for a moment.The cold dead hands talk coming from him didn’t seem to bother anyone very much except the dedicated anti-gun folks. He was mainstream, charismatic, and an eloquent advocate that I am sure converted a lot of people over to our side.
    Given the fact that it has been 143 years since the last major conflict, the idea that any kind of resistance or revolutionary activity is even possible is just outside the thoughts of most people. Saying explicity that in response to X law I’ll Kill who you send and then I’ll kill you will do what? What is more likely? That they will believe you and refrain from supporting X law, or will they think you are a nut job, a keyboard commando, or something similar, and use you as an example why that law is necessary.
    Like I said early on in the original commentary, I don’t have a magic eight ball that gives the magic answer. I think there is a spot in between just sending off your $$ to the gun rights group of your choice, and shouting I’LL KILL YOU FOR THAT.

  32. The media aren’t a monolith who are out to destroy gun rights. Journalist, largely, come from a culture that’s totally ignorant of guns, which combined with the fact that Journalists tend to come from the left, make them biased against guns. But a bias isn’t a conspiracy. We can overcome bias.

    Part of the reason we haven’t is that the other side knows and plays the media game far better than our side does. One of my big complaints with NRA is that they don’t really have an overall strategy for media. ILA has a media group, and general operations has a media group, but I don’t think they have any grand vision for trying to change their relationship, and for getting positive stories out there. The Bradys are not afraid to put their bullshit in front of ignorant reporters, who will gladly print it, because it confirms their biases.

    Still, our media coverage these days is a hell of a lot better than it was in the 90s, and I think that has something to do with our increasing success. The media is one of those fundamental things that has been killing us. If we could turn it around, that would be the end of gun control. Turning it around is tough though. Michael has done a lot of work with his show in that regard, which is why I’m surprised he doesn’t see the problem in writing a letter to the editorial board of a newspaper which just basically confirms the biases of the journalists.

  33. Well, I need a term to describe the gun community, shooting community, second amendment community. What do you call it then?


  34. They don’t have to agree on anything except that the 1st spells everything out and the 2nd gives it teeth. Everything else flows from there….and millions already know and understand these concepts.

  35. Sebastian et al, I can only request that you go read the rest of my columns:

    We at war. Wars are fought by ignorant 19 year-olds, lackeys, prostitutes, ignorant idealists and the minority at the top who understand what the real stakes are. It doesn’t matter which one of those pulls the trigger on you. You are just as dead.

    If I had all the answers maybe I’d be leading the group of 3 million or so that should advance on D.C., arrest, try for treason and execute all the members of the socialist caucus, then focus on the numerous Marxist foundations based in Virginia and New York City. Then of course, look at who is really funding them.

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