Richard Feldman’s Middle Ground

There’s a few ways you can look at Richard Feldman’s middle ground. SayUncle thinks Richard Feldman needs to take a closer look at the media, and that’s certainly true, but I also think Feldman, perhaps as a public relations tactic, or perhaps out of a desire to appear reasonable, often makes the assertion that both sides are extreme, and can’t we all just come to a middle ground and this issue? I can understand the sentiment, and agree that Feldman’s position can be useful in persuading people who are perhaps a bit tired of the issue. But as Feldman, who has a background in lobbying ought to know, there’s nothing about the political process that involves people, in good faith and with honest, sincere intentions, coming together to fix a problem.

I’ve read Feldman’s book Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, which I enjoyed, even though I have disagreements with him on a number of things. One of the areas I disagree with him, and that he hints at in his LA Times article, is that both sides in this issue want to keep things going for the sake of fundraising, and that is preventing us from bringing this issue to a reasonable conclusion. Both sides use some shameful methods of fundraising. I’ve criticized NRA for it in the past, and have done so privately with staff in Fairfax as well. But fundraising is a necessary and vital function of every interest group out there, and I wouldn’t say our issue is alone in that. We do it, the Bradys do it, ACU does it, ACLU does it, NRLF does it, NOW does it, and all of them, at one point or another, will use scare tactics to get you to open up your wallet, because scare tactics work. But as much as Feldman might want to believe that’s what’s keeping the issue from resolving, he’s kidding himself. Let’s take a look at his article:

The bottom line is this: We must stop debating the polemics of guns and instead show wisdom and maturity to begin to resolve the problems of the negligent misuse of guns. Though a cliche, the following is nevertheless true: Guns aren’t ever the problem; guns in the wrong hands are always the problem. How we address this problem will determine the future of gun safety in America.

The LA Times aside, I think that’s the direction the debate is actually moving in, largely because the Supreme Court has settled the debate over guns in our society by taking prohibition off the table. But is that going to resolve the issue? Are both sides going to suddenly come to an agreement and find Congress completely willing to broker the deal for us, no tricks or subterfuge? Hardly. I don’t think you’d find any fundamental disagreement between Richard Feldman, most of us, and many gun control groups, over the statement above. It’s the details where you’ll find the devil, not in the intransigence of either side. As much as I think Mr. Feldman will seem the reasonable one for looking for a middle ground, I think it cheapens the legitimate disagreements and concerns of both sides in the debate, which I will talk about in the next post.

5 Responses to “Richard Feldman’s Middle Ground”

  1. Countertop says:

    The fundraising issue will never go away for a very simple fact: money talks.
    In DC, the importance of an issue – and therefore it’s priority – is judge more times than you want to know, simply on the amount of $$$ that can be raised on it.

    Everyone knows polls are meaningless. But fundraising dollars are real, and lots of dollars (from lots of sources) is a clear indication an issue is important.

    Total $$s are important too. But the ability to show x# of people actually opened up their wallet and invested in an issue carries far more political weight than some bullshit NY Times poll or Brady Google search study.

  2. Carl from Chicago says:

    Compromise seems inherently reasonable, even to rights advocates.

    Yet, the devil in the compromise of rights is that doing so always, and necessarily, leaves one with fewer rights at the end of the day.

    An analogy, too, is what is happening regarding health care, financial reform, and so forth. Compromise. At the end of the day, and after the accumulation of days, such compromise necessarily leaves us with a larger government with a greater reach.

    Compromise can do little but diminish rights.

  3. John Aquilino says:

    During my decade working at NRA we created the advocacy model now common in the legislative process and truly believed a statement by colleague James O.E. Norell who said,
    “We are not in the business of fundraising. We fundraise to stay in business.” We also said quite publicly we were in business to put ourselves out of business…meaning we were working towards that day when there was no longer any dispute over the right to keep and bear arms meaning exactly what the Founding Fathers believed and lived. Then what we did and said meant something. Now whether it’s an animal rights group, environmental group or anti-gun group the opposite seems paramount. Of course that has to be tempered with the other political reality…at the bottom of fundraising today is a raw quest for political influence and power.

  4. ctdonath says:

    One rhetorical tactic is to declare a position reasonable and frame it as the only viable starting point, putting alternate views completely outside the realm of debate as “unreasonable” by definition.

    Both sides indeed would deeply disagree with his “reasonable” starting point, because in their axioms they hold positions fundamentally inconsistent with his “reasonable” position. Who decides what constitutes “the wrong hands”? are those hands _always_ the problem? what really IS the problem, or has hysteria overtaken all involved (even the “moderates”)?

    As for hysteria-driven fundraising, the only way to attract enough money is to state a position starkly enough to stand out enough to invoke enough emotion to empty wallets accordingly.

  5. SVI says:

    Carl, not necessarily,

    for example, “Why yes senator, we agree that it should be a felony to commit a felony with a firearm. Now how about that Hughes amendment?”

    The tide has begun to turn, now it is the anti-gun side’s turn to compromise.


  1. More on Richard Feldman’s Middle Ground | Snowflakes in Hell - [...] Yesterday I talked a bit about Richard Feldman’s LA Times editorial where he tries to bring he.... As I…