Over the past decade, we’ve seen a lot of lame and mostly lame attempts by gun control advocates to try to repackage their failed agenda into a form that would advance in an public opinion environment that’s not been in any mood for more gun control. We’ve seen the Million Mom March come and go. We’ve seen Andrew McKelvey’s Americans for Gun Safety pop onto the scene, and effectively disappear. American Hunters and Shooters Association, started by gun control advocates, tried and failed to attempt to capitalize on a divide that they felt existed within our community, and could be exploited. We’ve seen a lot of these organizations come and go.
I don’t think Mayors Against Illegal Guns is in the same category, and is already a more active threat than any of these other groups managed to make themselves. This is especially true if you live in Pennsylvania, where MAIG has paid staff dedicated to recruiting and keeping mayors, and has been very successful in doing so. Let me outline why MAIG ought to be taken seriously.
- They are the first gun control group to embrace a post-Heller mentality. They’ve wisely jettisoned much of the baggage of previous gun control efforts, particularly in advocating for gun bans. They’ve readily embraced the post-Heller realities. This doesn’t mean they like the result in Heller, but their mission and messaging are all in line with pushing a gun control agenda in a post-Heller world. In contrast, I think, with the Brady Campaign and other groups that are having a difficult time coming to terms with what doors Heller closes to them, making it hard for them to continue forward.
- Their messaging is slick. The trick in getting the public to accept a more radical agenda is to wrap it up in something that’s non-controversial. That illegal guns, what the public thinks of as guns in the hands of criminals, are bad isn’t something there’s much disagreement on. On the surface, they package largely the same agenda as the Brady Campaign, as a policy package to combat guns in criminal hands. Anyone willing to look at the specifics can clearly see it as hogwash, but most people don’t bother to look at specifics.
- Their strategy is novel. In recruiting Mayors, they are essentially borrowing the credibility that mayors have within their own communities in order to provide cover for their agenda. This also represents a novel attack on NRA. NRA is very adept at working state houses and Congress, but NRA hasn’t had to do much work at this local a level. It’s not clear NRA is weak here, but it’s an unknown. No one ever thought to attack us this way until MAIG. It is a novel strategy, and if I may say so, a brilliant strategy. I’m not sure whether it will work or not, but they deserve credit for trying something truly new. MAIG is probing what could be a weakness.
- They understand the traditional strengths of the gun control movement, and are adept at playing to those strengths. Once NRA counter-attacked MAIG, they opened up with a broad and intensive media blitz in order to give the mayors political cover for their continuing membership. The media is traditionally very fertile ground for anti-gun groups, and not very good ground for NRA. In the past week MAIG has demonstrated they have as much of a command of this as Brady does, and have very adeptly been working the media.
- They’ve shown they understand the politics of the issue. Whether it’s true or not, MAIG takes credit for defeating federal reciprocity for the bearing of arms. They understood the position Specter was in and knew how to exploit it. They’ve shown they know how to play the game in Congress, and managed to come up with enough votes for the amendment to fail.
- They are realistic about where they fight. A lot of people regard Pennsylvania as a pro-gun state, and for the most part, it is. But it’s not as pro-gun as a lot of people think it is. We are, essentially, a pro-gun state under siege. The vast majority of our state is bordered by states who’s laws demonstrate little or no respect for the Second Amendment. Gun control activists in those states have long wanted to turn this state to their side, and have been willing to put a lot of work into changing the political landscape in their favor. MAIG, so far, is the most successful anti-gun group I’ve seen in that regard. Every single illegal “Lost and Stolen” ordinance or resolution that’s been passed in Pennsylvania has happened in a city or town with a MAIG mayor. MAIG didn’t choose to go after preemption in its entirety, but chose to try to change the landscape so they could take one little piece, and weaken it just a little, and presumably open the door to a wider discussion about preemption.
I could probably come up with more reasons why I think MAIG is a lot more dangerous than anything we’ve seen in the past decade, and why gun owners shouldn’t brush them off as just another joke of a group funded by Joyce, not to be taken seriously, or to be mocked. It might be a while before MAIG tries pushing a major piece of legislation through a state house or through Congress, but in terms of laying the groundwork for a more ambitious future agenda, they’ve been very successful. Dangerously successful. The only thing that’s going to stop threat in its infancy is coordinated grassroots action against the Mayors who are lending their credibility to Bloomberg. NRA has sounded the bugle call, but will the troops muster? I hope so, but we must be relentless in going after MAIG if we’re going to stop Bloomberg before it’s too late.