I share the frustrations of the hardline crowd that the GOP is feckless and not willing or able to accomplish anything for us. But what got us here isnâ€™t that we didnâ€™t shout â€œnoâ€ loud enough. We didn’t end up here because we’re not pure enough. That’s always what religious zealots turn to when disaster strikes. It’s a natural human reaction. But it usually leads to doing the wrong thing.
Our opponents are very wealthy and effectively have unlimited monetary resources at their disposal. A commenter pointed out, “Personally I think that anti-gun groups are going for small wedge issues like bump stocks and ghost guns, precisely to drive a wedge into the gun rights movement.”
That’s exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it very well. The trick to quashing gun culture is to extinguish new trends before they have a chance to take hold. This is basically what they did with Machine Guns back in the 30s. If you want to understand why I’m not big on fighting tooth and nail for bump stocks, it’s because it’s an extension of a fight we lost almost a century ago. If we’re honest with ourselves, bump stocks were a way to say, â€œHa, ha, your machine gun restrictions are now meaningless.â€ Well, the powers that be decided they wouldnâ€™t be, and started to take action that would put whole new classes of firearms that were not previously under regulatory threat under regulatory threat.
Ghost guns are another thing entirely. The law has usually (foreign parts counts, etc aside) not touched on people working on their own guns and making their own guns. This has long been something dedicated hobbyists have done. But while 3D printing and computer-controlled milling are not all that new, the technology being within reach of casual hobbyists is new. They need to kill that before it takes hold, and before the more casual gun owners start seeing it as territory that needs to be defended at all cost. Your average person’s rights calculation is, “I don’t do that, don’t know anyone else who does it, so it must not be important.”
If they successfully ended up squashing every new trend, they’d succeed in making the gun culture moribund, which eventually would kill it. That’s exactly what they were doing with machine guns, and I’m sorry my great-grandparents didn’t fight it back then.
Weâ€™re here now because Mike Bloomberg dumped more money into the gun control movement than itâ€™s ever seen, and he has been rallying other super-rich to his cause. His people are using that money very intelligently, and understand their own (and our) strengths and weaknesses better than any of our previous opponents.
Here’s an unpleasant truth: when monied elites decide they want something, they usually get their way.
The problem with NRA right now is they are largely stuck on what â€œworkedâ€ before that pressure came to bear. I used worked in quotes because a lot of NRA’s game the past decade or so are probably more like someone wearing garlic around their neck, and convinced it works because they’ve never seen a vampire.
I would also argue that NRA has, for a long time, been withdrawing from a bank that was filled up by a strong grassroots game before Ack-Mac really got their hooks in and convinced the powers that be that overpaying them for video content no one would watch was as good a strategy as any. That bank is now empty, and they need to go in a new direction. I’m sure Ack-Mac will be happy to overcharge NRA for more Angry Dana videos in order to goose membership. But if the membership is disengaged, uninterested, and disorganized it won’t matter. You’d be better off with 3 million passionate, engaged, and organized members than with 5.5 million who are happy to watch Angry Dana, yell at clouds, and otherwise do nothing.
Strong grassroots are the only way NRA is going to defeat Bloomberg. It’s something money won’t buy him. Passionate grass roots will self-organize, but they have to understand how to do it. NRA will not succeeded in outspending Bloomberg. They will not succeed trying to outcompete him in top-down strategies. NRA need to play to our strengths, and our strength is in honest-to-god motivated, passionate grass roots. Even the slickest of PR firms can’t deliver that.