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The Left Alone Problem

Problem is probably not the right word, but I mean to talk about what makes organizing gun owners a lot like herding cats, and makes a lot of the traditional types of activism the left uses ineffective when applied to gun owners.

In my experience, the overwhelming sentiment among gun people is this: “Leave me alone!”  I don’t care how you cut your activism, for most people, that pretty much what it boils down to.  Many of us would pay little attention to politics if it wasn’t for the understanding that there are a lot of politicians out there who would take every last gun and cartridge out of our closet if given half the chance.

For a bunch of cantankerous individualists, we’ve actually done pretty well.  I would argue far better than most left wing groups have been able to do.  The left are out to make their mark on the world — to mold it, to perfect it, and to eliminate its sins.  Purging perceived evils from the world is far more emotionally satisfying than “leave me alone,” and the types of people who are out to change the world are more likely to be emotionally rewarded through collective action.  For us, the “leave me alone” strain is as likely to make our rank and file get as annoyed with activists as they do with politicians.  Most would rather hit the woods, raise families, shoot matches, ply their trades, tinker, read a book, or do any number of things rather than spend a nice spring day in some (often far away) city known as D.C. (which they’ve heard really sucks anyway).

But even if our folks could be convinced to join protests, is it really effective?  For all the hewing and hawing about the Iraq war, it seems we’re going wrap that job up rather than leaving the embassy on the last helicopter out.  For all the near riots that surround any meeting of the IMF, World Bank, or WTO, those institutions don’t appear poised to disappear or recede quietly into the sunset.  Did protests end the Vietnam war?  Or was it bringing the war into people’s living rooms every night?

Gun owners could do better, but I don’t think we’ll do better by adopting the most ineffective tactics of the left, and methods where we start out at a disadvantage due to the psychological makeup of most of our people.  Let the left stick to trying to change the world.  We need to stick to methods that will work for organizing cantankerous individualists.  I’m not convinced that’s protests.

19 Responses to “The Left Alone Problem”

  1. Jim says:

    The first thing that crossed my mind when I heard some were thinking of a million gun owner march: if one person less than a million showed up the media would report it as a huge failure and proof that the gun lobby is dead.

  2. NMM1AFan says:

    Not least of which is that protest marches are something only unemployed commie scumbags do….

    Seriously, though: don’t protest marches, sit-ins, the whole signs and chanting thing seem kind of not how serious thoughtful people get their point across?

    Regards,

  3. These people would be much better served trying to have one million gun owners try and redouble their efforts to make one million more. Nothing would more effectively shut down the anti-2nd people then to turn so many people into gun owners that further gun control measures would become unfeasible.

  4. “Purging perceived evils from the world is far more emotionally satisfying than “leave me alone,” and the types of people who are out to change the world are more likely to be emotionally rewarded through collective action.”
    But this is an argument for recasting the argument against gun control in terms that appeal to those who are looking for an emotional reward. I think that’s one of the reasons that emphasizing gun ownership as a protection for minorities and women has been an effective political strategy (along with being accurate).
    That’s one of the reasons that I think we need to more strongly emphasize gun ownership as a defense against tyranny–if things ever get that bad. (A lot of gun owners, especially those who are hunters, get very skittish about this.) It emphasizes that gun owners aren’t just looking out for their selfish interests, but are thinking of the interests of the society as a whole.

  5. MPA says:

    Rather than participate in a truly zero ROI “million gun owner march”, the Second Amendment community would be better served by going out and buying more ammunition, going to the range, and honing their skills.

    Nothing says, “Leave me alone!” more than being a skilled rifleman or pistolero!

  6. Sebastian says:

    But this is an argument for recasting the argument against gun control in terms that appeal to those who are looking for an emotional reward. I think that’s one of the reasons that emphasizing gun ownership as a protection for minorities and women has been an effective political strategy (along with being accurate).

    I would agree with that Clayton. I didn’t mean to make it sound as if I was arguing against doing this where we can.

    That’s one of the reasons that I think we need to more strongly emphasize gun ownership as a defense against tyranny–if things ever get that bad. (A lot of gun owners, especially those who are hunters, get very skittish about this.) It emphasizes that gun owners aren’t just looking out for their selfish interests, but are thinking of the interests of the society as a whole.

    I think that a lot more than just hunters who get skittish about the idea, but I don’t think it’s the idea, so much as how it’s often presented.

    As an ultimate check on the government doing really evil things, I think people can understand it. I doubt too many people would argue that the Warsaw Jews were wrong to violently resist the Nazis. I think what makes people nervous is when it’s suggested that violently resisting Democratic outcomes is what the Second Amendment is all about. I tend to think of the Second Amendment, like Alex Kozinski said, as a “Doomsday provision,” and I think it needs to be presented to the public as such. As a set of outer boundaries to defend against lawlessness on the part of the government, or in the absence of government, people can understand the second amendment. I think they understand it far less as a means to solve the boiling frog problem.

  7. Jdude says:

    I don’t have the desire or funds to spend a few thousand dollars to go to D.C, hoot and hollar to limited effect, and likely not get noticed because the media needs to urgently report about Hanna Montana being pregnant or something.

    I would much rather send votes and a few hundred dollars in donations to the politicians I support (You’re welcome Ron Paul) and the NRA (You’re welcome too, guys) and write a letter on the issues to my representatives.

    We then come into the job issue. I do have people that depend on me (my family and millions on welfare) and I can’t just take a week off unless I know that I will make a difference.

    So – Let’s stick to the things that politicians notice and therefore work. Votes and dollars are what they care about. A march in D.C, unless there is nudity or shooting, just gets the blinds closed.

    That said – had we lost Heller, THAT would have been the appropriate time to march. My plan was to no call/no show work then drive to the local state house to hoot and holler and maybe chuck a few rocks.

    Barring Heller being overturned, I just can’t see enough people being able or willing or angry enough to pay the high cost of a march at a distant location.

    -Jdude

  8. Kim du Toit says:

    Problem is, we gunnies are too busy reloading or practicing IDPA drills, when we should be making giant puppets.

    What’s a decent protest march without a few giant puppets?

    Let others protest. I’ll be at the range, showing a non-shooter how to shoot and helping them buy their first gun.

    Time will tell which of the two approaches is more effective.

  9. Bitter says:

    Not least of which is that protest marches are something only unemployed commie scumbags do….

    Heh. That reminds me of a visit to one of McCain’s campaign rallies. There were students outside protesting, but they got tired and decided to just sit down under the shade of a tree and hang out occasionally yelling something out or taking the time to pick up the signs they had leaning on their legs.

    At the end, they screamed at all of the professionally dressed people, “Don’t you have jobs or something better to do?” I do believe most people left the college campus thinking far less of the quality of the education than when they arrived.

  10. Tom says:

    So which ones of you have emailed them saying “we know better, don’t waste your time”?

  11. Sebastian says:

    I’m not sure what you mean Tom. I’m not all that concerned that a group in Michigan wants to organize a march in Washington. I won’t try to stop them. I’m just explaining why I think it’s not going to be effective, and why I’m not going to get on board with the idea. If MCRGO wants to have a go at it, they can knock themselves out.

  12. Kim du Toit says:

    “So which ones of you have emailed them saying ‘we know better, don’t waste your time’?”

    Don’t have to. When only a few dozen people actually show up, they’ll figure it out all by themselves.

  13. Oldfart says:

    KDT said:
    “Don’t have to. When only a few dozen people actually show up, they’ll figure it out all by themselves.”

    You may be right but wouldn’t it be better to try? Just think, we might avoid a violent confrontation by putting together a non-violent one. Of course, everyone continually saying it will fail is a sure recipe for failure — which, of course makes all those naysayers appear very wise.

  14. Bitter says:

    OF, just how many grassroots political events have you planned? The “try” argument typically only comes from people who have not taken the responsibility to turn out bodies to an event like this. Those of us who have actually “tried” it argue from experience. That doesn’t mean we denounce every effort, it means that we can look at the initial release and see major flaws in the plans.

    If you would like a sample that you could bill as a predecessor to the national event, try to organize a statewide protest at your state capitol. Aim for a fraction of the national goal – just 10,000 gun owners. That’s 1/2 of what every state would need to turn out to a national event.

    Since they aren’t planning the national event until some vague “Spring of 2010” time, make your national preview in the fall or winter. I’d say October if you have any state elections this year, or maybe September for better weather.

    Now, when you say, “That’s insane! I’m one person! How can I find 10,000 people?” Well, you’d begin to see the problem. A small group in Michigan won’t find 1,000,000 easily, either.

    When you argue that you don’t have the money to spend on resources, I would ask where their money is coming from. Ted Nugent’s speaking fee alone is $40,000, then there are his travel costs. Then there’s the cost of buses – they will need to pick up the cost of at least 1/2 of the buses brought in. Other speakers will have to be paid and brought in, the sound system requirements would probably requiring clearing out almost every rental company in the DC area, the staff to run them, and then stage and video requirements.

    When you consider how much less it takes to draw and appropriately serve 10,000 people, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for one gun owner and his contacts to take on and consider it comparable to one small state group (does it even have any professional staff?) trying to draw out and entertain 1,000,000.

    If you are willing to take on this challenge – perfectly comparable in every way to what the organizers of the national event are trying to do – then I will be happy to consult and give you all the advice from my background in grassroots organizing for political and educational events alike. I will even donate time to help with flyers and web ads. I will be happy to do reasonable support from afar to help you. I will help you “try” so you can see what happens.

  15. Tom says:

    “Don’t have to. When only a few dozen people actually show up, they’ll figure it out all by themselves.”

    ZOMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THINK HOW BAD GUN OWNERS WILL LOOK THEN!

    wasn’t that one of your arguments AGAINST it?

    Well, it certainly can’t end poorly at all now, what with uncles “the DC police will break all their skulls and look inside for illegal guns” or whatever the hell he was “worried” about them doing to a million gun owners. Now the few dozen who do show will have that AND the anal probe.

    pathetic. Gun control, there because we let it be with attitudes like this. Imagine if slavery had opponents like you. Or if women’s suffrage had supporters like you.

    Bitter, that whole thing you just typed is meaningless. (see people DO know who types things here) Grassroots is grassroots. Period. Bottom up, you decide to take responsibility for your own position in life, not rely on someone else to do things for you after you give them money.

    How many people read this blog? Uncles? Gun boards? The people have ALREADY heard about it, you guys who are dismissive have already decided it CAN’T work because you don’t want it to. You’re not going to go to avoid making the NRA look like they’re weak, yet you will not go GUARANTEEING they appear weak. How intelligent.

    If you’re as concerned about it going bad do the community a favor and give them no coverage. You’ve given the antis a huge opportunity on a platinum platter here. All they have to do is bus in the goons at $5 a pop or whatever the current line of crap to defend their turnouts is, bring their media buddies and they’ve got free publicity. EXCELLENT JOB GUYS!

    Maybe that’s what some people need, a nice swift kick in the balls that they brought onto themselves through inaction. Much like the “republicans”

  16. Sebastian says:

    Tom,

    You should consider Bitter’s challenge too. This isn’t said out of fatalism. It’s experience with grassroots organizing. How many times have you felt dissapintment being asked to gather 100 people, not be able to get even half that many people interested, and not even getting ten people to show up?

    The fact is, Tom, you care about this issue more than 99.7% of your fellow gun owners. Most just aren’t willing to give up an afternoon to act politcally, especially if it resembles something hippies do. That’s why I’m skeptical, both of this protest and the whole III thing. If we can’t get more than a few hundred, out of several million gun owners in this state, to give up an afternoon to travel a few hours to Harrisburg to lobby politicians and hear speakers, how are we ever going to get a million people in Washington, let alone start a revolution?

  17. Tom says:

    I completely get that. I’ve said either here or at uncles my desire to do something like this in the past.

    “Most just aren’t willing to give up an afternoon to act politcally, especially if it resembles something hippies do. ”

    That’s what I’m talking about. Apathy and excuses.

  18. BadIdeaGuy says:

    I’m not in favor of anything resembling a “pride” or million-something march. They come off as publicity stunts, and the only publicity you’ll get is when a small but vociferous group of mothers of urban gun violence show up- that’s where the cameras will be.

    In Harrisburg, I believe Sebastian was part of a group who went and dressed professionally, met up with their legislators and held a rally on the steps of the capitol. You know what got coverage? The guy holding the sign saying “Hang Em From The Tree of Liberty” and the legislator(s) named got a bunch of airtime to proclaim how they were being threatened with lynching. To me, it seemed like a net loss, despite the best efforts of those who participated.

    I tend to think that each of us who takes a new shooter to the range for a safe, enjoyable range experience does more than can be achieved by publicity maneuvers.

  19. Roberta X says:

    Real, lasting change does not happen quickly — look at the slow growth of carry laws in the States, where we now have only two states left with an absolute ban.

    …Just how many “million-man marches” happened during the run-up to the Revolutionary War? To the War Between The States?

    “…What a field-day for the heat
    A thousand people in the street
    Singing songs and carrying signs
    Mostly say, hooray for our side…”

    Fat lotta good it did ’em.

    Keep the pressure on in credible ways. And don’t telegraph your punches — you may not ever need ’em.

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