On Getting Rid of Gun Control

Lyle notes:

You cannot claim to defend the second amendment while supporting or openly accepting the NFA of ’34 and GCA ’68. Or background checks. It makes absolutely no sense.

I think it depends on what you mean by “accepting.” When every expert in the field tells me that fighting the National Firearms Act, or most provisions of the Gun Control Act in court are fruitless endeavors, I can’t really find much ground to disagree with them considering we can’t even get the courts to agree we have a right to bear arms. Legislatively, I’ve never talked to a gun lobbyist who thinks that NFA or the many regulatory aspects of GCA are repealable in the current political climate, or in a foreseeable political climate. The current situation bears this out; if we’re worried about a ban on semi-automatics, because too many people think they are machine guns, how do you expect to find the votes to ease restrictions on machine guns themselves? I think it’s a waste of the community’s energy and political influence to fret over battles we lost years ago and can’t win now. It’s talk of storming the castle, when we aren’t even half way up the hill the castle is on yet.

Joe has a good post on the fallacy of the effectiveness of background checks, and I agree with him that’s true. An old study by the Bureau of Justice Statics bears the facts out for all to see. It shows in a simple table where criminals obtained their guns. It’s pretty clear that the decline in guns obtained at retail after the enactment of the Brady Act was nearly perfectly replaced by straw purchasers, most of whom are friends and family of the criminals who have clean records. The reason we got background checks is not because the NRA or gun rights advocates caved on the issue. NRA caved on the issue because the vast majority of Americans agree with background checks, and it was going to be a choice between instant background checks and background checks with a lengthy waiting period. As I said in the last post, sometimes it’s a matter of having to pick your poison. Most people have no inclination to dive into the data and find the truth, and if background checks feel emotionally satisfying to them, they’ll dispute your claim of ineffectiveness even without bothering to look at the evidence themselves and make up their own minds. They have no dog in the fight, so why should they?

If you want to eradicate the current gun control regime, you have to first deal with this: a majority of Americans do not own guns, know nothing about the gun culture, shooting, hunting, or anything involving firearms. About 100 million Americans live under state or local governments who have enacted enough strict gun control as to effectively destroy their shooting culture. That’s 1/3rd of the population of the United States we can write off, just starting out. Unless we get strong enough protection from the courts to make it possible to rehabilitate the shooting cultures in these places, that population will effectively remain among the people we can’t ever reach. The only way you’re going to make strong advocates for the Second Amendment is to give people a personal stake in the fight. One reason I often advocate people getting over the NFA is because, to be honest, it’s going to be necessary to concede those issues, for now, in order to get stronger protections for everything else. You have to reach into the areas where that 1/3rd lives, and start changing minds before a conversation about NFA or GCA, or the Brady Act, is even going to be possible. That is the fight right now, and the current backlash your seeing is because the elites in those places know we’re being successful, and it frightens them. We may one day get to storm the castle, but that will likely belong to the kids being born now. It’s incumbent on us — those in the fight now — to get them to the top of the hill.

36 thoughts on “On Getting Rid of Gun Control”

    1. And that, of course, is a very big way in which we’re encroaching on their territory.

      Maryland is losing (their posture is legally insupportable); as I recall it’s now in the hands of their Federal Appeals court. Illinois lost at that level and was ordered to implement shall issue in 180 days; stayed while they appeal, but that is big, coming from an anti-RKBA judge. And Newtown doesn’t necessarily change the political calculus of these cases.

      If we start cracking open the states and cities to shall issue our enemies are going to be in a very bad position. As in, to date has any shall issue regime been reversed? Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Connecticut’s de facto one is lost, although with most of their RKBA.

      Taking that away from people is … unwise. Very possibly was a factor in ending George Allen’s political career through loss of support outside of No.VA. and the Virginia Beach areas where the licensed lost their ability to go into restaurants that serves alcohol.

    2. Incrementalism is how the Left got to where they are, and it took them a century to do it. (Although there’s an acceleration effect lately as more and more areas of daily life come under government control and regulation, so the process of subverting the constitution is going faster now.)

      Still, our best political strategy is to work on shall-issue everywhere, and as a social strategy, to talk about recreational shooting among non-gunowners we know. But this has to be done in a very low-key, non-threatening manner.

      The “100 million” are terrified of guns, which is a result of media messaging, political restrictions, inexperience, and not knowing personally anyone who does recreational shooting.

      Media we can’t do much about at this point, and political restrictions need work via the political process. But all of us can talk about target shooting as a sport — and I’d confine any discussions entirely to target shooting at first. (Hunting raises possible negative issue for some people.) Then try to take a newbie shooting. These folks need to see by experience that shooting is enjoyable.

      Sometimes I wonder if the “gateway drug” could be archery with simple equipment. Anybody have experience with that?

      Back to firearms. There’s another matter that can be pursued under the right circumstances. If any segment of the population should be highly receptive to gun rights, it’s your basic 5’3″, 110-lb woman.

      Many women have entirely legitimate fears of being attacked, but they’ve been led by the media and general culture to believe that their best course is to be completely unarmed and to submit and hope for the best.

      This is where women shooters can do a lot of good education. (Sorry, guys, many of you fit too well the profile of an aggressor (large, powerful, male), so your usefulness in this educational effort isn’t as good as that of your shooter wife or girlfriend.)

      Again, any success stories to share?

      1. All my kids are ‘guney’, 2 girls and 2 boys, the wife is accepting and supportive of the RKBA but I can’t get her to go shooting, she grew up in a gun free home, never met her Mom, but her Dad was anti-gun, so it’s an uphill battle!

        Gotta win the war for our children’s minds that’s going on in the anti-gun atmosphere of our schools, they are the future.

  1. It is all about the matter of controlling the conversation. As leaders in the field, we need to understand that. You say the NFA is lost, and I say that that is a self fulfilling claim. It is lost so we don’t talk about it, so therefore it is lost. No one talks about the NFA because no one talks about the NFA. See?

    For a while, no one talked about concealed carry either, until they did, and then it started to change, and then it cascaded in our favor.


    I’m saying we need to be very clear on the difference between short-term tactics (which battles to fight today) on one hand, and the (I maintain) more important process of getting hold of and maintaining control over the conversation.

    Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

    If most or all of the theses are ours (and based on Original Principles such that anyone can look it up), if we lead the way on that, we are then in control of the conversation. In that case most or all of the syntheses will be ours. Act rather than respond. Propose rather than counter propose whenever possible. It’s just that simple. It is a very subtle and yet all-important point. It starts here. Only after we get the conversation going can legislators, the NRA and our friends in media make use of it.

    You want to bend and sway with the polling data? Groovy. You want compromise? Fine. Start by demanding the whole enchilada (the second amendment as written – what a crazy thought) then we’ll meet half way. Then we’ll do it again…

    You all know how it works, because the left has been doing it for generations, and yet we don’t really see how it works. The crazy, wild, non-sensical ideas of the 1960s have become accepted and written into law today. Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

    BE that crazy fool who advocates something so nutty, so far-fetched as restoring the second amendment to its original meaning (Thesis). People will recoil from it. Perfect! (Antithesis) That means we have them. We’re now controlling the conversation. A few years later you’ll see your favorite TV or radio host advocating it (Synthesis), and we’re winning.

    1. I have to agree with Lyle on this one. There is no doubt that legal challenges to the NFA would be difficult, especially since it is mainly levied as a tax. But to lobby for suppressors to be removed from the NFA I think is honestly doable. Especially if people start talking about it and trying to control the conversation.

      Do not tell me it isn’t, because if it wasn’t how did we get states to legalize them recently, including Washington, a blue state.

      As Lyle points out, you go over the top and cause them to “compromise”. OK, we retain the Tax Stamp, but they must be issued within 24 hours and no more of this LEO sign off crap. Bang, you just won a point for normalcy. Now more people will be willing to get suppressors since they will not have a year wait, they just pay and it’s done.

      Then over time you do it again, and eventually you find yourself at the point where you walk into the hardware store and pay 25 bucks for a replacement after you had a baffle strike.

      Currently we are letting the enemy control the conversation on the legislative front. We are letting them dictate the terms and compromises. Why not take control of the conversation and change it on them? When you concede something is a lost cause, you have fulfilled that prophecy by your attitude. When you find a cause worth fighting for, you at least take the first step towards achieving that victory, no matter how long it takes.

      There were some who considered guns a lost cause in the early 90s, they thought the game was over. Look at where we are today. Fight dammit and don’t consider any of your rights out of the ball game.

    2. ” It is lost so we don’t talk about it, so therefore it is lost. No one talks about the NFA because no one talks about the NFA. See?”

      The analogy here in Pennsylvania is that for decades now most of our erstwhile RKBA leadership has taken that position about Constitutional Carry; it can’t happen so don’t even discuss it; just talking about it would cost our “friends” in the legislature too much political capital; blah-blah-blah. I haven’t followed his blather too closely for some years now, but that argument was frequently put forward by Daryl Metcalfe, alleged to be “the best RKBA legislator in the state.”

  2. ” You have to reach into the areas where that 1/3 lives”. But how? How do we change their minds? Maybe i am confused because I cannot or do not understand the type of people who willingly elect politicians who trample their rights.

    1. Easy, they have no problem with the rights those politicians trample because they are not rights they exercise.

      For instance many vote to continue the failed drug war because they don’t do drugs so why does it matter? It matter because it’s a waste of money and what someone does in the privacy of their own home is their own business.

      Many do not use empathy to see if something is really a good idea, all they think about is themselves.

      1. Exactly; the current strategy, per the above, is that we use the courts to restore concealed carry to these states. These very crime ridden states, I might add.

        Look at Wisconsin when it turned Red and got concealed carry after the non-police and firefighter public sector unions were broken. They had to set up barrels to put the applications in, and hire temporary staff to keep up with the demand.

        Won’t be so easy in states that will engage in Massive Resistance to court rulings, but we’ll see.

      2. Barron is exactly right. As a former liberal, let me pitch in here that most liberals have no real experience being government’s adversary aside from maybe smoking pot, which is consequence-free if you’re white and middle-class.

        As soon as I got my first gun, I saw the many stupid ways I could become a felon and started to notice the reach of government. That was the gateway drug, and soon I began to see it everywhere, in places I used to ignore. Many liberals truly have no frame of reference for how government infringes on rights, and most have never felt its sting themselves.

        Every encroachment of government in other fields of life sort of perversely helps us, because it harms more liberals who have never been personally harmed by government before. Once they feel it, many want to stop it but cannot, and sooner or later they are well on the road to conservatism or libertarianism.

    2. When I speak of “we” I mean the movement, not necessarily any one individual. One example would be opening a shooting range in Chicago or New York City, if we could get some of the laws eased. Having places to shoot is one of the most important things. I think there’s one private range left in NYC. I think there’s one gun shop left too. In Chicago, I think there are no ranges or gun shops. That would be the first toe hold.

  3. Making guns part of public schooling. Mandatory firearms education classes and must pass firearms proficiency exam in order to graduate.

    Turn the canons around.

    1. When it comes to gun education and schools, the NRA, with the age-appropriate, politically neutral Eddie Eagle program, is in the position of the “pro-sex ed in schools” position.

      Sensible people acknowledge that kids are going to be exposed to guns, better to have good education on how to make that exposure safe. Particularly given the known consequences.

      The anti’s position is essentially “abstinence-only”, they are representing that the only safe way to deal with “kids and guns” is to, contrary to reality, expect the two to never interact. At least outside of parental control.

      I don’t want to kick off a sex-ed digression, but simply to note an angle of attack that will resonate with a -huge- portion of the electorate, especially the young. Particularly if presented as pointing out how out of touch and hypocritical those who claim to want kids to be safe, but deny them the knowledge to do so, are.

      These are cultural things we can play on to get folks to identify with us as the “normal folks” and the anti’s as the extremists.

  4. I disagree with Lyle in that today’s battle isn’t the NFA or the GCA of ’68. We need focus and messaging. And the message to the public about how much we want machine guns again is not the message that wins today’s fight.

  5. How about we just get sneaky and underhanded about it and insert stuff into bills like they did with the Hughes amendment?

  6. I disagree. If you aren’t attacking, you’re defending. Instead of waiting for the left to attack, gun rights activists should always be on the offensive. They should have spent the years since the ban sunset trying to repeal all the pseudo-legal infringements on the books.

    This way, they would have at least made the attempt to decide the battleground, instead of waiting passively for the enemies of freedom to decide it for them.

  7. Incrementalism can be our friend, too. Case in point would be that Texas still prohibits open carry, while having a robust CHL environment.

    How to get open carry on the books? The Texas State Rifle Association is the state’s largest 2A lobbyist, and they’re worth less than cold piss on the issue. They don’t even want to talk about it.

    But, what if we get a law on the books that authorizes open carry during any “Declared Emergency” by the Governor? Hurricanes on the coast, wildfires on the High Plains, tornadoes, etc. Such a law could authorize open carry for the duration of the declared emergency, plus one week.

    Give the frequency thereof of such in Texas, it would only be two or three years before people noticed that there was no “blood running in the streets”, that crimes such as looting decreased as compared to previous disasters, etc.

    Wouldn’t be too long before open carry was understood to be effective, safe and beneficial to society and communities as a whole. I think then, normalizing it through Statewide legislation would be a cinch.

    Why aren’t we using incrementalism more frequently in our RKBA battles? We should be using every means to press our cause, and I think this is as good as any.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  8. That would require our cause having serious support in the Congress, which it simply doesn’t. I gather most national level politicians just wish the issue would go away. That was Bob Dole’s excuse for letting the Brady Bill pass, he was tired of fighting it.

    The Hughes amendment also wasn’t sneaky, and was only underhanded in that it passed by a questionable voice vote, but that’s a price of having the party of gun control in control of the House. No less a gun grabbing criminal than Charley Rangel ignored the calls for a recorded vote and waved it through; the House is something of a dictatorship.

    The problem with all of the ambitious suggestions in this discussion is that they demand resources, a societal situation, that we simply don’t have, not now and not in the foreseeable future. Heck, outside of this one thing, there is no culture war it’s a pacification effort, and when I step back I’m truly amazed we’re doing so well with the RKBA. America is still exceptional.

    I mean, gun control, ignoring the earliest bit that was part of trying to ban duels, is a 135 year old campaign. The Jim Crow prohibitions on carrying handguns, outside of unique states like Arizona (open carry by culture) and Vermont, only really started getting reversed in 1987 with Florida.

    The Progressives have vigorously using a wrecking ball on US society, fundamentally transforming it, and generally for the worse, for well more than a century.

    I don’t like being pessimistic, but these are the end times for the American Republic as we know it, even in this very diluted New Deal revision of it. Our ruling class is in a total war on arithmetic and there is NO constituency with enough power for reducing spending before the crash (abrogation of the social welfare promises, one way or another).

    Yeah, economic growth, or a revolution in technology like that promised by nanotech could change this, but we’ve built up so much “structure” as Jerry Pournelle puts it while wearing his polysci hat that I don’t see them happening (in the US nanotech was strangled in it’s crib by establishment scientists who appropriated it’s hype for their usual activities). As Rick Santelli, the catalyst for the TEA Party, put it after our GDP just went negative, we are now Europe, except I add that our ruling class is vastly less competent than the average Western European one, and significantly more malevolent.

  9. “That’s 1/3rd of the population of the United States we can write off”

    Don’t write us all off. Just because a majority of people in those states are in favor of gun control doesn’t mean everyone is. As one of that 1/3 I support rolling back gun control wherever we can and applaud every victory in the hope that, eventually, it will spill over to my state (New Jersey). And I know I am not alone. Two nights ago I was having dinner with some old workmates when the discussion turned to gun control. Three of the four were opposed to gun control. The only gun control supporter worked in NJ, but lived in PA. Even more interesting was that of the three gun control opponents I was the only one that actually owned a gun.

    1. Just because a majority of people in those states are in favor of gun control doesn’t mean everyone is.

      Pardon me if I’m getting a little harsh tonight, but so what?

      You votes don’t count for anything, not at the state or national level (and I don’t think local makes much difference in these sorts of things, even assuming there might be majority pro-RKBA pockets).

      Unless you’re e.g. sending serious money to the NRA-ILA, or getting people to join the NRA to add to its numbers, or creating some great propaganda or the like, or otherwise affecting things outside your captured by the gun grabbers states, you’re entirely irrelevant.

      Well, you can move, but as noted a continuing sorting of the nation along these lines is going to be very bad for the nation. But for you, perhaps not as bad as staying in a doomed Blue State (i.e. one of the ones that will go bankrupt early).

  10. Forget NFA and GCA.

    We need a bill to reinforce support for ‘Letters of Marques and Reprisal’

    Makes a Thompson SMG look like the peepee hip spray hose it, relatively, is.

    YES, the Constitution presumes what could be construed as ‘warships’ can be owned by private individuals, maybe even subordinate legal constructs such as ‘corporations’.

    BTW, who builds and sells those scarey machine guns, tanks, fighter aircraft, and vessels to the US Military… and if the military refuses delivery because the paint ain’t quite right, who still owns it?

    1. In Colonial and Early Republic days, private citizens owned cannons. As far as I can see, private citizens can *still* own cannons like these! Yet you don’t here about all the massive crimes committed by these weapons.

      Indeed, I would propose that weapons that need crews to operate are *less* likely to be abused than the personal arms that the Second Amendment protects, because when you go crazy, you would have to convince one to five or more (and the more you need, the more you have to convince) to go along with your craziness.

      Not impossible, of course, but if the first one clearly has some form of schizophrenia or manic depression, not likely, either.

      This “You can’t own nuclear weapons or F-16s so you shouldn’t own guns, either” is a stupid argument, and it drives me nuts when it is brought up. Who cares if upstanding citizens own these things? They aren’t going to randomly blast things. Who cares if they are legal or not? They are so expensive that, chances are, if you have the money to purchase something like one of these things–particularly if you have the money to make one–and you decide you want it, chances are, there isn’t any law on the books that’s going to prevent you from getting it.

      For that matter, if you’re rich, and you’re intent on mayhem, there’s really not much stopping you…which is why terrorist organizations, to some extent, are somewhat scary (at least to the extent that they are well-funded, sometimes by governments that sympathize with said organizations…)

  11. The trouble is that it is tough to make progress even with ostensibly “pro gun” legislators.

    A lot of legislators want the issue to go away. Even the ones who are vaguely interested in helping seem to lack specific information on how to tweak the laws.

    For example, I had to explain to a rep who was at a CCW course why CWP reciprocity was important. He legitimately had no idea why as he had never left the state and never planned to.

  12. There are important things that individuals in the movement can do to get a a budge on the BFA issue now. If people in our community started coming up with arguments against the NFA, and having the conversation among themselves first, and then gradually growing support for this issue, maybe it could be tackled in 10-15 years.

  13. The tendancy of the liberty-minded to “reject the good in pursuit of the perfect” never ceases to astound me. We see it every election cycle, for example, when they reject the moderate center-right candidate that emerges from the primaries because he or she isn’t John Galt with a Gadsden Flag birthmark.

    1. ” “reject the good in pursuit of the perfect”

      Some of us just fail to see the “good”, as others apparently are so adept at.

      It’s too bad that with elections, we don’t have the opportunity afterwards to see what was behind Door #2, i.e., how the current scenario would be shaping up if the losing candidate had won. It is very easy to imagine that life would be better had we married the other woman or elected the other candidate, but that doesn’t make it true.

      I suspect that had “the good” been elected in the last presidential election, we’d be in pretty much the same position we are now; except we might be worse off, because so many who were responsible for it would be denying that such a thing could be true, and (still) be burying their head in the sand. But of course we’ll never know, so we can create a fantasy land of how things might have been.

      1. That’s “good” is in “good enough,” not “good” as in virtue.

        I’d like to see the NFA repealed, of course. But I’m pragmatic enough to realize that it won’t happen anytime soon. Without a lot of incrimental steps towards that goal and some serious shifts in the cultural landscape.

        I’d like to see a Larry Corriea/Tamara Keel presidential ticket. But I’m pragmatic enough to accept that that’ll never, ever happen. That means my best bet is to work within the existing major parties, trying to shift the national GOP in a more libertarian direction and trying to minimize the damage my local Democratic powers-that-be can do. (I live in suburban Detroit. Our only local political parties are the UAW and the NEA.)

  14. Incrementalism is the way to do it. Start with suppressors. Then get rid of the Hughes amendment. Then the NFA all together.

    Mind you this will be a 20 year fight. Its starts with education. We need to talk about it. Maybe we work through the courts, or maybe we work through Congress.

  15. I should clarify that I am not saying machine guns should be a taboo subject, never to be spoken of or mentioned. It’s an important part of changing the culture. But before that issue is going to be on the table either legislatively or in the courts, a lot of culture is going to have to be changed.

    1. A few years back, LawDog wrote his excellent Gun Rights Cake Post, and I think the analogy works just as well in reverse. Currently, we’ve got ourselves a pile of crumbs and a receipe card (Heller). We’ve also got some flour (liberalized carry in most states), eggs (widespread popularity of AR-15s), sugar (record sales, incresing numbers of women, etc.). We’re going to have to mix all of those ingredients together and bake them for a while in order to get a NEW cake. Once that cake is done, then we can do things like repealing the NFA — it is the icing on the cake.

  16. ” Unless we get strong enough protection from the courts to make it possible to rehabilitate the shooting cultures in these places, that population will effectively remain among the people we can’t ever reach.”

    For many of those places it’s not courts that are standing in the way. And, as a lot of us were saying -before- the election, the courts are due to become a chicken and egg problem very soon now, given that we RE elected President Obama.

    Ironically one of the best places to move this freedom forward is in a forum where political discussion is (pretty much) banned: instruction. Far and away the best place to meet potential new shooters is at the front of an NRA home firearms safety class. As someone who organizes those (see my website link on every post I’ve ever made here) let me tell you we are severely limited by one single critical resource: volunteer instructor hours. So, if you want to impact the shooting sports & draw more people into activities that powerfully connect them on a personal level with RKBA activism then -become- -an- -instructor-.
    Anyone who enjoys the idea of passing on information and is already a proficient shooter, can learn how to teach NRA material in a long weekend, maybe two. If you’re not a proficient shooter then the same organization and web page can help you out: http://www.nrainstructors.org/searchcourse.aspx
    Student classes (to become proficient start there and then join a sport like DCM hi power or IDPA) are on the left. Instructor courses are on the right. If you’re in western Washington then http://www.wcwinc.org/club/educ4.htm will have details of instructor development that I volunteer in every January and July. Meet new people, increase their interest in and commitment to shooting sports, get more freedom. Not a bad deal. -Boyd Kneeland NRA TC

    PS Obviously we do have to work the top and the bottom of this problem. We certainly have to be involved in politics but more and more I’m seeing work put into the lowest levels at “the grassroots” as more certain to pay off.

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