Michael Bane makes the argument that Mike’s letter to the editor was merely asking the age old question “Who Will Bell the Cat”.Â 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.Â At what point are you part of the gun culture?Â Does merely owning a gun count?Â Do you have to shoot it?Â How often?Â Do you have to buy in to lawful machine gun ownership to be part of the gun culture?Â There are almost as many opinions on what the second amendment means in the gun culture as there are people in it.Â 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.Â To the extent that you try, you only end up making your tent smaller.Â In electoral politics, the size of your tent is directly proportional to your political power.Â 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.Â 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.Â Subcultures do not fare well under electoral governments if they become unpopular.Â Just ask smokers.Â 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.Â Bob is a pretty ordinary guy.Â He’s married, has two kids, lives in a quiet suburb outside a metropolitan area.Â Every day Bob gets up, and goes to his professional job.Â He’s active in his kids’ sports league, and participates in a few other community groups.Â He follows politics.Â Not in detail, but votes in every election because he thinks it’s his civic duty.Â 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.Â 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.Â He is afraid of what his peers will think.Â 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.Â In that world, the NRA is extreme and crazy, and then there are those scary folks preparing for revolution.Â 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”Â 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.Â They would say Bob is useless, worthless, and not good enough for them.Â But you know what?Â There are a lot of Bobs out there.Â A lot of them.Â And I want them all to start speaking.Â Because what happens when Bob speaks?Â Many of his coworkers, perhaps aghast at first, suddenly realize “Bob is a normal guy.Â I like Bob.Â 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.Â There is no inside the gun culture, or outside it.Â The gun culture is not an insular community that doesn’t participate in the greater national community.Â It can’t be.Â Not if we want to win the battle for gun rights.Â 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.Â In fact, we need to work very hard to foster the opposite impression in the media.Â You and I, who are neck deep in the gun culture, understand what we mean when we talk about lines in the sand.Â Bob and his peers do not, and if Bob is afraid to speak, we’re finished.