As I mentioned in an post yesterday, if you give skittish lawmakers more excuses to drag their feet, it won’t help anything. This article outlines the trouble that’s being created in Texas for the open carry bill from the sponsors themselves:
â€œI have told the groups that I have talked to not to do this right now. This could be harmful in getting it passed,â€ Lavender, who has twice failed to pass open-carry legislation, said of open-carry demonstrations breaking out around the state. â€œAt this point, when we have everything lined up to pass, why take a chance on bad publicity to set us back?â€
Patterson, one of the state’s most ardent gun aficionados, said of the armed demonstrations: â€œIn certain cases it’s not helping, it’s actually probably hurting.â€
You have to get to know legislators. Like I said inÂ yesterday’sÂ post, you will tend to a very small number of real friends in any legislative body. The rest will only go along to the extent they think your issue will help them win more votes than it will cost them. For most lawmakers, it is entirely a political calculus; they could actually give a crap about your pet issue if they themselves don’t have a personal stake in it. Sure, many mightÂ abstractly support your pet issue, as a sort of vagueÂ concept (which they will speak to you about at lengths, enthusiastically and vaguely), but when the chips are down, all of them have breaking points. Under the bus you will go if things get too dicey, and you risk losing them entirely if the lawmaker perceives he or she can get moreÂ votes or money from the other guy.
You have to push politicians; they’ll happily speak platitudes about your issue all day long otherwise. You need aÂ keen ear for when sunshine is being blown up your back side. But you definitely need to know, or at least get some instinct for where their breaking points are. You can’t push beyond that point. When you hear lawmakers who are sponsoring these bills talking like these Texas lawmakers, it’s a warning that the coalition needed to get your bill passed is fracturing.
Politicians are a lot of things, but they are not courageous. Some of them might we war heroes, and other heroic types in a different life, but politics is a different context. Lawmakers who make a habit of taking “courageous” votes are what we typically call lobbyists and consultants, who catch a lucrative gig influencing their old allies after getting booted from office. Your average voter doesn’t appreciate courage or conviction. They appreciate a firm handshake, a smile, and who says the right things about doing something about X, Y, and/or Z that is bothering them.
It is a difficult situation to operate in. Pennsylvania already has unlicensed open carry, but I’d like to see constitutional carry in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, I’m nearly certain I’d lose all but perhaps one or two of our local lawmakers if that issue came up, and if the FOP went against it, probably all of them. Maybe unlicensed carry in a vehicle would be a workable next step? I’m fairly certain our side could work up several more votes against, say, an assault weapons ban, but moving forward is more baby steps. Our side is much better at the stick than the carrot. The stick, unfortunately, is a defensive weapon. You need to carrot to move forward. I’ve asked Bitter to write up an article about the use of the carrot with lawmakers today, since I’ll be in the office.