The Future of the Gun Rights Movement

It’s a good time, in the New Year and entering the 12th year of blogging, with 11 now behind me, to take a look at where we stand, and where we’re going. I am not as optimistic as many people, and I believe in some ways we’ve lost ground since I started blogging. Here are some observations:

  • When I started blogging, the gun rights movement owned the Internet. This is no longer the case. If you go into any gun related thread, you’ll find madness and ignorance screeching pretty loudly on both sides.
  • Reasonable people have given up arguing on the Internet. That’s been left to the crazies.
  • Back in 2008, this was an eminently democratic medium. Literally anyone could start a blog, and sometimes it feels like almost everyone did.
  • Today, in 2018, the Internet is controlled by a handful of large corporations. Those corporations have, whether deliberately or not, killed the democratic nature of the Internet that existed in 2008.
  • In 2008, there was no social media. In 2018, social media has driven a good portion of the American Population, especially those who follow politics, quite literally crazy.
  • Social media favors those who spend money to seed the population with memes. While money wasn’t useless in 2008, you didn’t build an audience by spending money. Remember all those successful gun control blogs that got started a decade ago? We already had the networks in place to build a community, and we did. They didn’t, and their attempts were comical. Social media allows micro targeting, and to reach people who are most prone to be open to your messaging. In 2008, the new media favored those who already had horizontal interpretive communities in place. In 2018, social media lets you build those communities if you’re willing to spend the time and money.
  • In 2008, the gun control movement was nearly bankrupt. It is now being largely funded single handedly by Mike Bloomberg, who has the money to outspend our movement for years if he’s willing. Additionally, that money will probably expand the donor base of the gun control movement beyond Bloomberg, because having that kind of money to spend is bound to be able to rake a broader donor base. I would be surprised if even absent Bloomberg’s money, Everytown doesn’t have a substantially larger pool of donors than Brady et al had in 2008.
  • We bloggers were all out to crush the mainstream media in 2008, and we should pat ourselves on the back for succeeding. Unfortunately, I believe it’s been replaced by something far far worse.
  • The wild west days of the Internet are over. Regulation will be coming. For years we fought Congress on what I would call crusty old people regulation, mostly along the lines of “Do you know what this Internet thing is doing to the children?” Same thing happens with every new technology that frightens people ignorant of it. We were right to fight off that. But I believe that after many years in the wilderness, eventually both parties are going to come to agree to Make Antitrust Law Great Again. Alphabet (Google) will be the big target, but once it becomes fashionable again, I don’t think it will stop there.
  • I believe Facebook will either burn itself out, or our sense of etiquette online will adjust. I think the former is more likely. I gave up Twitter entirely. I don’t miss it. I’ve curtailed my Facebook activity substantially, and don’t regret that either. It was inevitable that, like Trash TV, we’d eventually get Trash Internet, and Facebook and Twitter are, if you ask me.

So where does this leave the gun rights movement?

  • We haven’t had a real high level success in the federal courts in nearly a decade. This probably won’t change unless Trump gets one or two more court appointees. Trump’s court picks, so far, have been quite good. But we might have a very limited window to pack the courts with pro-2A judges. I don’t think any of the current SCOTUS justices are planning on retiring, and Ginsburg and Breyer will hold on to their seats until their dying breaths. Heller and McDonald are effectively meaningless without another SCOTUS ruling smacking down the lower courts. Much like Lopez and Morrison, the lower courts resisted and effectively rendered those rulings without substantial meaning.
  • National Reciprocity will struggle to pass the Senate. I don’t think after 2018, it will be easier to pass. Again, I think we have a limited window here.
  • I think we need a substantial victory to take the wind out of the sails of our opponents. Understand that National Reciprocity is effectively federal preemption for handguns. It’s limited, but it will make a difference. If we’re going to move forward rather than backwards, it will take a combination of federal action under the 14th Amendment, and favorable court decisions.
  • The “bad” states will continue to get worse. Additionally, some blue states that are not bad will start going bad. Washington State and Oregon, just to name a few. Nevada might not be far behind. Colorado Dems got punched in the face, so to speak, after the magazine ban, and I don’t think will try anything again for a while. But eventually that lesson needs to be retaught, and at some point you won’t be able to touch them. California is now in the position where gun rights proponents can’t mount any meaningful legislative opposition.
  • Polls are consistently showing that if you’re a Republican, you don’t favor gun control, and if you’re a Dem, you do. The Dems are more uniform in their pro-gun control beliefs than Republicans are in their pro-gun beliefs. Independents tend to lean a bit toward the pro-gun position, but this issue has become very very partisan, and it’s probably not going to get better.
  • Our power has always rested on our ability to swing close elections. If gun rights become baked into the GOP numbers, that will mean Democratic control will be disastrous for us, because the perception will be that they already beat the gun vote. If we are to keep earning success, we have to continue developing a large pool of single-issue or near-single-issue voters. That actually gets harder, I think, the more polarized the country gets.


Context for the BAR WWI Field Reports

Like commenter waltons and some others, I also wondered what modifications, if any, were actually made to the BAR in response to the not terribly favorable reports from the field prior to the expansion of its use in later conflicts. Sigivald notes that most of the complaints in these weren’t every really addressed beyond maintenance and “not doing week-long trench assaults.”

That reminded me of a picture we scanned that gives context for the kind of terrain where you would find these rifles. This picture is dated September 11, 1918, so it is about a month before the memo was issued requesting feedback on the guns, but about two weeks before the 79th Division (which included the 316th) would be arrive here.

The caption gives no estimate of altitude of the plane taking the photo. Regardless, you can see how small the trees appear in comparison to the shell craters. Oh, did you even notice the trees and trenches among all of the craters? Look closely at the full size by clicking on the image. Now think about all of that being mud, given that some of those reports mention days and days of rain.

While there were pretty universal complaints in these reports, this photo gives very important context that we weren’t exactly using them in any kind of conditions regularly experienced during the design process. Honestly, I don’t see how most guns would stand up to such extreme conditions and work particularly well without people focused on their maintenance nearly 100% of the time.

This is certainly not the first battlefield photo I’ve ever seen from WWI, but still, just wow. How does France even exist today after all of this destruction in WWI and so much again in WWII? I guess it’s a handy reminder that both mother nature and people are pretty damn resilient.

In related news, if NARA would allow me to bring my sleeping bag past security, I could move into the Still Pictures Research Room for at least a week and never get tired of exploring. They have giant card catalog files that are divided by topic, and excellent finding aids for an amazing variety of topics. Want to find photographs of WWI anti-aircraft guns? Oh, just flip through the card catalog and you’ll find all sorts of photos to pull and peruse. (These are on the list for a next visit since one of Sebastian’s great grand uncles served in an anti-aircraft unit during The Great War.) The Matthew Brady collection? They’ve got that, too. I just wanted to pull open each drawer and go through every topic imaginable. I didn’t even make it to the Motion Picture floor to see what exciting things can be discovered there.

WWI BAR Field Reports

I’ve spent a few days cleaning up photos and document scans from our recent trip to the National Archives at College Park. We only had about a day and a half there, but enough time to do several pulls of both pictures and documents related to Sebastian’s great grandfather’s service in World War I, as well as that of his two brothers.

Now I was well aware before we went that the records in College Park are unit records, not individual records. I’ve heard from genealogists who recommend not researching there because they are bigger, broad records rather than individual records. But I don’t agree with that view of researching. Because you know what I found there? Hand-drawn maps from the fields of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive showing his great grandfather’s company location shortly before the time he suffered his “severe leg wound.” One of those maps had a large splatter, and it wasn’t mud or coffee. It was a humbling moment where you say a quick prayer that the person next to the map’s custodian didn’t suffer or, miraculously, survived and came home to a happier life.

I found promotion documents for his great grand uncle that explained why he was promoted (the previous Sgt was killed in the last battle), and the documents that showed he likely would have been promoted again if not for being gassed and landed in the hospital for a while. These records include the list of every place companies were transported or marched from their arrival in France to the day they left. No, these aren’t records that promise to have a relative’s name on every page, in every folder, or even in every box. But they are the bigger picture documents that put the experiences of our relatives in context. Without that context, we don’t really have much of a story.

But, such research can also lead to unexpected finds. Because when I find out that the 316th Infantry put out a memo asking for feedback from the field on the BAR, you know I’m going to snap photos of every document in that folder (with approval from an archivist, of course). (Links below go to the original documents.)

Let’s start with the Machine Gun Company’s take since they appear to have tested them first based on the dates of the memos and action reported:

1. During the period September 26th to September 30th while this Company was attacking about 25,000 were fired. All the active guns of the Company were in action at one time or the other. No stopages were reported due to malfunctions of the mechanism or to breakage of parts.

2. Attention is directed to the inadequatcy of the supply of spare parts furnished with the guns and of the lack of suitable containers for small spare parts such as springs, etc.

There was nothing from Company A, so it was either lost or never filed.

Company B did pipe up:

1. In compliance with memorandum Hq 316th Infantry, A.E.F. October 11th 1918. Would advise that the Browning automatic rifle is a very good weapon for defensive warfare, but when used on the offensive it will not stand up. In the recent operation where the men were compelled to lie in shell holes and go through the brushes and barb wire the rifles would get clogged up and become useless.

2. One night the Company was on observation in continuous showers and the rifles got wet and rusty during the night which prevented them from working in the morning.

Company C filed a similar report as the previous company:

1. The Browning Automatic Rifle for clear weather are considered very satisfactory.

2. During the recent drive, we found them to be very unsatisfactory, owing to the enormous amount of rain and much which we had to content with. The Automatic Riflemen complain of their jamming and lack of feeding properly. They require the greatest amount of care to be kept in a working condition.

Company D was also silent, or their records were lost.

But for the next few companies, they didn’t find their reports were even worth full sheets of paper. Company E had the following report:

1. In compliance with Memo: No. 48 Hdq. 316th Inf. dated 11 Oct. report that the functioning of the Browning Automatic Rifle in the recent battle was good in-so-far as we have had occasion to use them, which was very little.

Company F, well, I have questions.

1. Complying with Par. 3 Memo 48. Hdqs. 316th. Inf, AEF, October 11th. 1918, have nothing to report.

First, there are so many questions about the structure of this memo. The strange and inconsistent use of punctuation and abbreviations. Is this passive aggressiveness for not wanting to file reports when you could be fighting? Is paperwork a pain? Are you pissed or happy you may have missed out on some fighting? Questions, I have them. Unfortunately, I was scanning for Company M, not F, but now I want to know more about the abruptness of 1st Lt. Large. Nothing to report? I get no details, but absolutely nothing?

Company G, while slightly more cooperative than Company F, still files an interesting report, but not for the report content. Rather for the document on the back of the report. It seems they just grabbed a random Private’s file and typed it up. At first I worried that it was because the file was no longer of use, but it turns out that Pvt. Americo DiPaolo did survive the war and came back to his new homeland in the US to continue his work as a stone mason. He passed away in 1963 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The gunners, using the Browning automatic rifles in the recent engagement, report that these rifles functioned correctly.

Company H, well, they were less than pleased with the gun and couldn’t be bothered to find a typewriter. Or maybe their typewriter was shot while they were trying to fix their BAR.

In compliance with par 3 Memo 48. report 1 Browning Automatic to have been defective due to loose mechanism. Suggest that breech covers be furnished these rifles

Perhaps the detail behind 1st Lt. George Bliss’s response on behalf of Company I may be why he was continually promoted and ended up retiring from the New York National Guard after serving in WWII and even into the Vietnam era.

1. In compliance with Memo. 48, the following report is submitted on the function of the Browning Auto-Rifle in the recent action.

2. This action, lasting for five days, gave every opportunity that could be desired for trying out this Rifle. In fact the severe weather conditions made it a very severe test.

3. In general, it was noticed that after the first two days most of the Rifles had jams caused by rust, due to exposure, or by mud clogging the working parts. In several cases this was alleviated by industry on the part of the individual soldier in utilizing his spare moments to clean his Rifle. However as the actioncontinued and the fatigue and excitement became more intense it was increasingly difficult to make the soldier look after his Rifle when he had the opportunity.

4. It is believed that the shooting qualities, when the rifle is in condition to shoot, are sufficiently good. Emphasis should be laid upon the fact that to shoot it on “Automatic” is wasting ammunition unless the rifleman has had very special training. Very effective fire can be had if used as a single shot rifle.

5. It is recommended that a Breech cover be devised and issued to keep dirt and mud out of the working parts.

6. A great disadvantage was found in the amount of ammunition which was loaded on the carriers. It is believed that the majority of the carriers threw away their extra bandoleers before they ever got into action.

Company L gets back to short and sweet reports.

1. Several of the Browning Rifles jammed, probably due to lack of oil and mud getting into the breech.

Again, more company reports are missing or were never filed, so we jump to Sebastian’s great grandfather’s group, Company M. This is where more documentation would be awesome. Did his great grandfather get one to test? If only we had a time machine and could go back and ask. His great grandfather was still in the fight at this date. He would only obtain his severe leg wound a few days before the armistice.

1. It is the experience of the gunners using the light Browning Automatic Rifle that they become useless as soon as they become dirty or get particles of dirt in the mechanism from the gunner being in a prone position.

2. It is suggested that some sort of cover be devised to protect the rifle when not in use.

I hope you readers enjoyed a least a little insight into 99-year old records with firsthand accounts of newly issued firearms. I know I enjoyed going through every one of these documents, even when I was having moments of repeating “please don’t tear, please don’t rip!” while separating folded up pieces of onion skin paper.

Happy 2018

Blogging to continue shortly. Just getting back into the swing today. Will have something soon.

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