The one thing to bear in mind right now is that no politician is your friend. It doesn’t matter the party nor their past support for gun rights. They will throw gun rights and gun rights supporters under the bus if they think it could impact their chances of reelection. One merely need look at Florida where many supposed gun rights supporting legislators threw gun rights under the bus in their haste to pass SB 7026.
Great lesson in politics there. If you’re Marion Hammer, what do you do now? The problem is that the other side is crazy. Many Florida Dems actually voted against the Florida gun control package (3 day wait for all guns, GVROs, 18-21 ban on purchase for all guns, meaningless Armed teacher program concession) because the Republicans would go along with outright bans. The Republicans are going to be happy to say, “Your favor was the no on bans after a mass shooting at a school, but we’re going to do something.”
Here’s the problem: once you start losing, it’s hard to stop losing.
“Take no prisoners! Primary them all!” the hardliner would say.
Say you give every one of those A-rated Republicans who voted for this shit (and there were a lot of them) and changed their grades to an F and backed every primary challenger you can find.Â That might feel good, but do you think it’s likely that politician is going to try to get back in your good graces, or just write you off? Sure, you can back a primary challenger, but in most cases, that challenger is likely to lose. There’s a lot to be said for the phrase, “If you take a shot at the King, you had better not miss.” If you’re not smart about it, you’re just going to piss away all your influence with these people. The purist solution to this problem is just to take your ball and go home. Well, you can do that, and it might feel good. It might also be a lot less work. But that pretty much means everyone elected to office will ignore your interests entirely.
If I were Marion Hammer, I’m not going to forget that vote. I’ll look for targets of opportunity if someone looks vulnerable, and I think I might have a shot. But I’m going to be most concerned about preserving my influence and not losing even more. While I would argue priority number one going forward is ending that waiting period and repealing the 18-20 prohibition on sale, neither is a culture killer. The waiting period is a hassle, and the universe of 18-20 year olds buying guns is pretty small. The ban on 18-20 year olds from purchase is a culture frustrater, but not a killer. Gun bans are culture killers, and at least so far, Florida Republicans have held the line there. In any sell-out like this, there are going to be leaders and followers, and it’s some leader scalps I’m going to want if I’m the lobbyist, but I’m not going to aim recklessly or indiscriminately. I’ll choose my time and opportunity. But taking the occasional scalp is how you build political power, and the lesson isn’t so much for the scalpee — he or she is irrelevant once they are sent packing — it’s the implicit threat to his or her replacement that you can do the same to them, and also to every one of the previous worm’s followers.
Here’s another truth of politics: whether you like it or not, when the political opposition is entirely opposed to your interests, your political allies will start to believe they don’t have to be perfect on the issue, they just have to be a more palpable alternative to the opposition. There’s no getting around this. You can take your ball and go home, but then neither side will care a whit what you think. Influence isn’t a binary proposition. Think of it more as a garden. Marion Hammer now has a weed problem, and it’s threatening the crops. The hard-line approach, such as advocated by GOA, is just to take a flamethrower to the garden. Some weeds are a bigger problem than others. Weed selectively. We can live with some of them and still have a good harvest.
The key right now in Florida is going to be organizing. Marion Hammer has power because ordinary, every day gun owners give it to her. Without organizing at the grassroots level, we are nothing. We have to build. Bloomberg can outspend us all day long, and money can buy awfully impressive astroturf, which we laugh at, but it’s no joke. Look what it just did in Florida.