Don’t Be Like I Was

On November 17, 1993, I was not yet 20 years old. That was the day the federal assault weapons ban was voted on (See my History of the Assault Weapons Ban). I had a lot going on in my life then. My mother’s cancer had just been deemed terminal, and she would die shortly after the ban went into effect. I was also a sophomore in college. While I was aware of the debate, and definitely opposed to any ban, I did not think anything like that could pass in this country.

“How could they pass that? It’s clearly a violation of the Second Amendment,” I thought.

I knew enough about guns to know the difference between a semi-auto rifle and a machine gun. I had attended gun shows with an uncle in the late 80s, and was corrected when asked about the machine guns.

“No, those aren’t machine guns. They are civilianized. They only fire semi-automatically.”

“You should get one.”

“No, that’s a commie rifle, boy.”

It was a Chinese Norinco, which can’t be imported anymore. He was looking for M1 Carbines, which I recall were a cheap and plentiful back then. My Uncle got a few M1 Carbines during the last hellish period gun owners went through, and he wasn’t buying them strictly for defense against criminals, if you know what I mean. The supposed “insurrectionist” theory of the Second Amendment is always how I understood it growing up, even though I came from a house that did not have firearms.

I spent most of that time believing it just couldn’t be passed, and even if it was passed, surely it has to be unconstitutional. I had no idea that it could be, and that it was a reality in California already. I was wrong. When the Assault Weapons Ban passed, and went into effect, that was the point that I became concerned about this issue to start paying attention to it, and the more I learned, the more angry I got. This culminated in my first purchase of a semi-auto Romanian AK-47 variant in 2000 for about $300. I bought 1000 rounds of ammo with it for 80 bucks. I joined the NRA for the first time. After that, I learned there were people who did not believe the Second Amendment was any individual right at all. Then I learned of the lies and deceptions on the part of gun control advocates. I read a lot of papers and publications by Dave Kopel, Dave Hardy, Steve Halbrook, and Don Kates, all of whom I have subsequently met since I took up blogging. Their scholarship was instrumental in bringing me to where I am now.

My journey from concerned citizen to activist took from 1994 to 2006 or so. We’re not going to have that kind of time today. It took a serious loss in 1994 to wake me up to the fact that the Second Amendment was actually controversial, and that there were forces at work who wanted to see it redacted from the Constitution, and it’s true intent ignored. The threat we’re facing today is more severe than in 1994. Confiscation is being openly discussed. Don’t think it can’t happen, and spend twelve years to really get involved. If gun owners today, especially people who like black rifles, are as complacent as I was, we could be facing a meltdown, and one which will take decades to fix, if it can be fixed at all. Don’t be like I was.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention Clayton’s scholarship, which I didn’t find until I was already pretty deep in the rabbit hole. Probably somewhere around the 2003-2004 timeframe.

25 thoughts on “Don’t Be Like I Was”

  1. Hmmm, not from a gun owning household and not a gun owner … do you have any suggestions how to reach such people right now? Well, besides the social media and new (Internet) media, plus I suppose Fox (launched 1996), which have changed the landscape from its previous monoculture?

    This may be an example that “you go to war with the gun voters you have” … not that each of us ought not try to e.g. sway any people we know to the right path. And since then we have had a national AW ban and the courts didn’t help us, a posture they’re likely to return to … how many of the people who might help us believe that Obama will nominate RKBA justices? Especially when we can point out his first lied to the Congress about that during her nominating process?

  2. Reading so many of the comments here over so many posts, I’m struck by how many folks don’t think about the fact that this political fight is the first serious one that most gun owners are facing and they are thinking the same kinds of things that Sebastian mentioned. Only now, these people are working under the assumption that Heller will save them, or that politicians will somehow take the widely publicized cleaned out gun racks as all the sign they need.

    I was 12 years old when that passed. So, no, I can’t tell you first hand accounts of what the fight was like back then – at least any fight that wasn’t between my Barbies or with my frienemy down the street. Yet, plenty of gun owners are younger than me and far less involved in civic life to know what to do – or, more importantly, to have that buddy from the club or the bowling league who can pester them with a personal plea to actually make that phone call to their lawmaker.

    1. Yeah I don’t get it either. This is serious. Its a serious movement. Kids dying make people change their mind, rightly or wrongly. This is the gun control movements dream. Just look at how their are pushing closing the “gun show loophole” when even they agree it wouldn’t have stopped Newtown. That’s all you need to know right there.

      I’ve had gun arguments with people who’ve never expressed an opinion on guns before. Its crazy.

      1. I’ve had gun arguments with people who’ve never expressed an opinion on guns before. Its crazy.

        I wonder how much of this, of everything we’re seeing, is from pent up [fill in the blank] due to gun control being off the table from November 2000 to last December, a dozen long years?

        OK, it took a while to die down as it settled in to the Democrats and much of the Left that they were losing catastrophically because of their support for gun control, and that if they punt on it—see Obama’s incessant 2008 promises—they could get a lot of the rest of their agenda accomplished, such as nationalized health care.

        Well, they’ve done a lot of that, got sufficiently reelected to count as a plebiscite in their minds, nationalized health care is a roach motel of national politics, and now many of them feel free enough to speak out after it’s been simmering in the background. My goodness, how it must have galled them when the Arizona and Aurora shootings happened and there was no movement towards gun control…. Virgina Tech was also ultimately a dry squib.

  3. You remember things differently than I do. There was plenty of talk about confiscation in 1993. Gun control was THE topic on the opinion pages of the Daily News.

    1. If you’re older than me, you’re probably remembering things better than I do. I wasn’t that engaged at the time. I remember it being a big issue, and the stories run featuring machine guns, then talking about banning semi-autos, and thinking they were mistaken.

  4. I came to firearms in this country afte the 1994 ban expired. I was ineligible to own them for the years I was here mid-ban. I have learned a great deal in the 8 years since I started buying guns.

    Heller and McDonald may save us in the end. I’m worried about the interim. The courts may strike down such laws but how much irreparable damage to firearms owners and the industry at large can be done in the intervening years? Very pyrrhic for us in the end.

    However, I do think politicians are paying attention to the state of acquisitions in this country at the moment and their implications. I think it scares them for the possibility those sales represent. I suspect not a small percentage of those going crazy right now aren’t so much in the “getting mine while I can” crowd but them “don’t make me use it against you” crowd.

    This is a very serious fight. I have never seen lawmakers talk so openly of confiscation and similar articles stating so plainly the true purpose of the 2nd Amendment and the fact that some percentage of the population would turn them in the event of such an order: one round at a time at high velocity. That’s new. Never thought I’d see talk of insurrection or resistance so openly discussed.

    It is that possibility that has me frightened. While I don’t think it would like Syria but rather a slow burn, hidden behind propaganda by the MSM of law enforcement arresting “domestic terrorists” (since they would not longer be law-abiding gun owners), word will get out short of Internet martial law and seams will come apart. By the time it is recognized we’re across the Rubicon, it will be too late. The Republic as we know it right now would cease to be and I feel we have a dystopian future to look forward to.

    This is supposed to be the stuff of fiction. Not the first chapters in the history book of “The Fall of the American Republic”.

    1. I have never seen lawmakers talk so openly of confiscation

      My memory is fuzzy on this. I can state I don’t find any of these statements shocking, although Bloomberg’s “3 rounds ought to be enough” is … particularly special.

      and similar articles stating so plainly the true purpose of the 2nd Amendment and the fact that some percentage of the population would turn them in the event of such an order: one round at a time at high velocity. That’s new. Never thought I’d see talk of insurrection or resistance so openly discussed.

      This, on the other hand, is absolutely spot on. Having been in this fight since the mid-70s, I can say there’s never been anything like this before. I suspect the Internet has made the big difference here, both in providing soapboxes that weren’t available before and in providing mutual opinion support (any of this playing on Fox News?).

      And of course you can’t remove this from the context of a President who promised to “fundamentally transform” the country and made some good first steps towards that and who’s brought Chicago politics into the Oval Office. He’s rather different than Bill Clinton, Nixonian even.

  5. Old enough to remember the first ban. But it was such a different time …

    I believed in gun ownership in 1994, but I tended to be fairly liberal (a Clinton voter — sorry friends) and while I shook my head in disgust at the AWB I also shrugged my shoulders and figured it was inevitable. I’m afraid after Sandy Hook we have a lot of people doing that — “yeah, it was horrible, I guess it’s just natural we’ve got to give ’em up.”

    And looking at specific issues, I’m amazed at how many generally pro-gun friends are of the mind “I support the right to bear arms, BUT as to these 30 round clips — we don’t need those. Why would you need those?”

    But on the flip side … it’s a whole different world now. Back in ’94 bumper stickers that said “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” had no meaning to me, because since I could NOT have a gun outside the house, everyplace I went ONLY outlaws had guns anyway. Guns for self protection just wasn’t a meaningful concept. Now that’s changed with widespread CCW (though not in the highly populous ultra-blue states), and we have women looking to them for day-to-day protection. Huge difference.

    The other huge difference is that in 1994 the guns I saw at the few high power rifle matches I went to were all M1A1 and Garands. AR-15’s and commie semi-autos were only owned by a fringe group of gun guys — not a big group to screw over with legislation, so not a lot of people who’s oxes got gored by the AWB.

    But now … when I got to the firing range over half the rifles are semi-autos. Every store sells them in huge numbers. Most serious shooters own one. And love them.

    So to me, I think the libs are so intent on this because they realize this is their last stand. They still have a large part of their base living in anti-gun states thinking, like I did, that gun control is inevitable and not understanding the day-to-day empowerment of gun ownership because they can’t carry anyway. But if we use the courts and laws to open up those states to CCW and wider gun ownership — they’ve lost the anti-gun battle forever. Or for a generation or two, anyway.

    So when I look around I don’t understand how this anti-gun movement has suddenly gained so much momentum. We’re SO MUCH stronger than in 1994 in so many ways. semi-auto rifles are widely owned and loved.

    I keep thinking there’s no way they’ll do this at the Federal level (in terms of NY and other anti-gun states forget about it — they’ll beat up on you no matter what until we save you through the courts or federal laws) but Obama seems to believe he can make it happen. And that will make him the ultimate hero of the old school libs — bringer of socialized medicine AND gun control.

    Sorry for the long post. But I just can’t believe we’re about to have something taken away that is such a mainstream item in a very, very large community. I mean … seriously. We’re big enough to stop this IF we can pull together. And we should be big enough to badly punish the Dem’s in the next election if they ram it through. But as successful as the Dem’s have been with the whole “class warfare” meme — will people angry about losing their AR’s be angry enough to vote Republican?

    Obama’s a smart politician. He’s got me scared. And it’s brutal how he’s controlling the meme. i.e. putting police in place to protect children= more guns in schools. But something tells me every Sandy Hook parent wishes a police officer had been there that day.

    1. I appreciate your long post and have two facts to add to it: 42 states now have de facto or de jure shall issue (although one wonders if Connecticut will stay in the the former category), plus much of Update NY, rural California and even Massachusetts (!), and Rhode Island is confused.

      And this summer Clayton Cramer and the GAO each came up with about the same estimate for outstanding concealed carry licenses, 7.5 and 8 million respectively.

  6. Wow, you guys make me feel old. . .

    The first major anti-gun event in my life was GCA ’68. But, I had been writing pro-gun screeds in high school, 5 – 7 years earlier. I guess my first “activism” was taking my township to court to (successfully) challenge an anti-hunting ordinance I’d been busted for violating; but it never occurred to me to not challenge it, even though that cost more than ten times the nominal fine.

    Listening to some of the spirit of what was said above, I think one thing none of us ever get over is the shock at learning for the first timer that “law” means nothing, and that everything is a question of money and power. Anyone who thinks the Second Amendment is ever going to make any decision a slam-dunk for gun rights advocates is due to be very disappointed.

  7. I sent an email to all my friends who own guns telling them they need to join the NRA and pay attention to what is going on with the anti-gun groups. Only one person signed up with the NRA. I explained that the NRA was the primary group fighting for their rights and to set aside any apprehension they may have about joining.

    A lot of people think the 2nd amendment will prevent our rights from being taken away. I also think a huge number of people have this “I got mine” attitude (AR-15, AK, etc) so they don’t care about the future and don’t want to get involved. Very shortsighted thinking.

    1. It’s only made worse by Heller, in a lot of ways. People really don’t pay much attention. Just because it’s obvious to you that pistol x or rifle y ought to fall under Second Amendment protection doesn’t mean it’s obvious to federal judges. And even some federal judges, even if they know better, don’t think it’s their job to interfere with the prerogatives of legislators. And legislators certainly don’t give a shit about your rights or the law… they care about being re-elected.

  8. Biden was talking today about “executive actions” the president can take. They may not give the house or senate time to do anything. I stil cannot believe these two were reelected, but they were, and calling your congressman will have little effect if Obama decides to rule by decree.

    1. Drudge is not exactly being subtle in response to this….

      Echoes Matt’s comments above about our never seeing such open talk of resistance before. Of course, the MSM is way too staid and respectable to engage in such rabble rousing. Which is in fact what put Drudge on the map in the first place, a story about Clinton that was spiked by Newsweek.

    2. This is something that scares me: If Obama decrees by Executive Order, I suspect that many people will consider that an act of Civil War. I, for one, am not ready for Civil War, so I wouldn’t quite know what to do. At the very least, I will be contacting my State House and Senate Representatives, and my Governor, and request that Utah secede from the nation.

      1. No one is ever really ready for civil war, and I share your concern. These people have no idea what they are doing. They think the animal hissing at them from down the hole is a bunny rabbit, and it’s really a badger that’s going to tear their fucking balls off if they keep poking at it.

        I really believe any push back has to happen through the states, as it did during the last civil war, but I’m not sure there’s enough civic virtue left in our society for people to push back in a republican manner.

        1. Wyoming has passed a firearms freedom act with teeth (criminal penalties for people violating it). They are considering an upgraded version that would protect any semiauto rifle possessed inside the state borders, and would make any attempt to enforce federal weapons laws passed in 2013 a FELONY.

          They can mess around in Kali and Illinois and New England and gun owners will leave and/or the courts may or may not protect some vestigial right. That is the safety valve of federalism. When they mess around on the federal level that safety valve goes away.

      2. Secession would be considered an act of civil disobedience/war. It would also need to be done. Chicago politics uses as legal of a means (or facade) to push the agenda and force the others to back down after they are in a corner. Unfortunately in this case, I don’t think they (Chicago/politicians) realize how dangerous this game really is. That only works when the other person doesn’t want trouble. If they decide they are going to give their aggressor all the trouble they can handle, it’s a whole different ball game. I agree with Sebastian- this is a badger (at a minimum, if not grizzly) that they are poking at. Either way, as long as we stand together, we have a better than even chance of winning this, and probably for a long, long time. If we pick at each other, we will all fall, one at a time.

  9. Sebastian,

    I will be honest in saying that I’m utterly confused as to how the “Assault Weapons” ban in 1994 helped motivate you to join an organization that was….in favor of it. The NRA cared not one iota about scary-looking black rifles during that time.

    I was shooting 3-gun matches in the early- and mid-90’s. I remember how much the NRA people that ran all the gun clubs absolutely hated the black rifle crowd. It wasn’t until the mid-2000’s (when big companies figured out that they could make a giant ton of cash selling AR-variant rifles) that the NRA cared at all about them. From top to bottom, the overwhelming majority of the NRA didn’t want AR-type firearms to be legal.

    The NRA completely sold out gun owners in 1994 on the AWB. That has been known in tactical shooting circles since that time. I am honestly unsure of how they feel about them now, but from the perspective of historical precedence, I’m skeptical as to what, if anything, they can/will do.

    1. Strange, this is the first I’ve ever heard of this (not counting “the NRA people that ran all the gun clubs” … and when did the CMP allow AR-15s in High Power matches?). Aside from Heston going off script/floating a trial balloon one time on radio (and he was a gun grabber going back to the GCA of ’68), I know of not one bit of support NRA the organization gave to the Clinton “assault weapons” ban. If you have specifics to refute, I’m all ears.

      You’re also using the “NRA does the bidding of the gun manufacturers” trope….

    2. All that footage I’ve seen of Wayne in front of cameras trying to explain the difference between machine guns and semi-automatic firearms is something I imagined? The NRA opposed the assault weapons ban. If you choose not to believe that, I can’t help you.

  10. One of the things that sticks in my mind about ’94, was attending the SOF 3 gun match, and seeing the majority of vehicles in the Vegas area with the bumper sticker “Is your church ATF approved?” Another version was “…Gov approved?”. Word was ATF had set up to photograph all vehicles entering the range. We stopped under the sign and posed for photos. SOF banned ATF agents from competing. Maybe some other 3 letter agents, also. Not sure, now.
    Semi’s, especially AR’s, got hard to find. Think they were going for around $1600 for Colts and equivalents. This is all looking very familiar, unfortunately.

    1. That would be $2,500 in 2012 dollars according to the BLS. Although weren’t there a lot fewer AR-15 pattern rifle makers back then, plus Colt had a higher relative reputation for building the best?

      And, yeah, you can’t separate this from the other culture wars of the time than often impinged on the RKBA; this came after Waco and the Ruby Ridge trials, which the government lost badly. The Federal government had lost a tremendous amount of respect, and Obama’s governing has “built” upon that, so to speak. In between we have things like the media’s portrayal of Katrina and the reality of the police disarming and shooting and killing innocents in it. Or Bush’s message to us after 9/11: you can help by going shopping to prop up the economy.

      I.e. a strong message that “You’re on you’re own”, where as our host observed, assault rifles are for when “The police are days away”.

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