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Gun Control 2.0

In our community, there’s a lot of talk about Gun Culture 1.0, representing the more traditional shooting sports culture, based around traditional shooting sports like hunting, shotgun sports, bullseye shooting, etc, and Gun Culture 2.0 which revolves around gun culture based on self-defense. As the argument for this division goes, Gun Culture 2.0 is more evangelic and politically engaged with the issue, having more dog in the fight than just their hobby. Gun Culture 1.0 was more passive, sometimes willing to defend itself when attacked, but reluctant to rock the boat and challenge the status quo, as long as their sports weren’t directly threatened.

I don’t think we should make the mistake of presuming our opponents are obstinate about change, or are somehow incapable of reinventing themselves. I propose what we’ve been witnessing, since Bloomberg’s outfit changed its moniker and subsumed Shannon Watts’ organization, is an attempt  to bring about a transition to Gun Control 2.0, in direct opposition to Gun Culture 2.0.

Gun control 1.0 centered around attempting to ban handguns, or at the least heavily restrict access to the chosen few. It was largely a movement of elites, and depended heavily on traditional media. Gun Control 1.0 was a colossal failure by the 1990s, and nearly everyone knew it. Gun Control 1.1 was brought about by Josh Sugarmann, who floated the idea that the public were more open minded about banning things they thought were machine guns, and the movement could take advantage of that confusion in order to build momentum for further regulation. Gun Control 1.1 was not so much a failure. With rare exception, most of the gun bans and onerous gun regulations we’ve seen in a small handful of states are a product of the past two decades. We also saw significant new federal regulations, though we’ve regained some of that ground. Nonetheless, by the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it had become apparent that Gun Control 1.1 was out of steam to anyone who had an ounce of honesty. It was still a movement of elites, and still dependent on the power of traditional media to influence public opinion and prompt people to action. Those institutions are in decline.

Up until the Everytown transition, Bloomberg’s efforts were very much in the Gun Control 1.1 mold, though the idea of using Mayors is something no one had ever tried before (and for good reason, if you remember all the black eyes they took every time a MAIG mayor was convicted of this or that). We won the political fight after Sandy Hook because our opponents were still fighting like it was the 1990s. It would be difficult for anyone but a delusional fanatic to view outright defeat after the worst mass shooting in the country as anything other than abject failure, calling for the movement to reinvent itself. If there is to be a face for Gun Control 2.0, it’s Shannon Watts. I don’t think she should be lightly dismissed, and believe she is very dangerous to our rights. We underestimate her at our own peril. I see a number of trends that are worrying to me.

The first trend is that many gun owners who have only been in the issue while we’ve been charging up the hill probably don’t realize for most of that time our opponents had virtually no money. They were more in the “trying to save our phony baloney jobs” mode, rather than “fight the enemy at all costs” mode. You’re not going to undertake any major new or risky initiatives that could change the dynamic of the fight if your primary concern is whether you’ll still have a job next year. That all changes when you have a wealthy billionaire patron who can well-fund your organization with relative ease. When the survival of your organization is a given, you have a lot more room to try new things.

And trying new things is what Shannon Watts is busy doing. She’s trying to make her own horizontal interpretive community to match ours. That’s clear as crystal with all the information she’s been gathering under various guises, and if she has decent data analysis tools, she’ll get an idea of which people are most ripe to push for further action and deeper involvement. She could also get a pretty effective GOTV (Get out the Vote) machine going with what she’s been collecting if she’s smart enough to mine the data in an intelligent manner. There’s a lot of options when you have money to burn, and have the technology to micro target in a manner similar to the methods that swept Obama into power.

I see evidence that they are having some success. Not blow away success, mind you, but there’s plenty of evidence that she is indeed being at least partially successful at building an organization. The thing that should scare everyone reading this post is we probably won’t have any idea how successful she’s been until there’s another pretext similar or worse than Sandy Hook. We could be in a position where we’re forced to surrender ground. Even if that ground is minor, it’s going to be spun as a huge victory. It will convince supporters that gun control is possible, and once that floodgate opens, it might not close again, or if we’re lucky will close only after we’ve been badly bloodied.

This is not to say Shannon Watts and Everytown is going to become an unstoppable force; it’s not to say that her efforts are going to pay off in legislative victories and we’re helpless to stop her. The next time we face in battle we might sweep her from the field again. But we might not. From my point of view she’s doing all the right things. She’s doing what I would do if I were a leader on their side of the movement. Granted, a lot of things stand in her way. For one, her patron is an immanently dislikable megalomaniac who can’t keep his mouth shut. Everytime Bloomberg opens his mouth, it writes the next NRA fundraising letter. For two, the politicians like Feinstein, who don’t know what century this is, can’t help but to overreach and say things and introduce bills and amendments that cause our side to rise to the occasion. But fools like Feinstein won’t be around forever, and while I get the impression that Gun Culture 2.0 types on our side are, on balance, more passionate about the issue than both our opponents and those gunnies who came before us, we’ve seen the tremendous downside to having passion without any discipline, common sense, or any idea about how to engage oneself in civil society. This goes broader and deeper than the jackasses OCing rifles into restaurants and retail stores.

So how do we counter this terrible thing? For one, we have to bloody their noses in both the 2014 and 2016 elections. We have to set the perception early that Bloomberg and Watts’ organization is a paper tiger, before she really has a change to get some momentum going. We have to convince their volunteers and donor base that it’s a lost cause; that they won’t win no matter how hard they try. We have to demoralize them. But in order to do that, we need to be out there on the ground, and using the best tools at our disposal to ensure that the gun vote turns out. We need to ensure politicians see action and signs of life from our movement. We can’t stay complacent. We can’t keep focused on our old enemies, like CSGV and Brady who are now irrelevant and I believe soon to be on life support. If Shannon Watts is even half as successful as I fear, we’re going to have the kind of fight on our hands the likes of which most of us have never seen in our lifetimes, and we ourselves need to be realistic about what we could be facing.

Mobilization

Thirdpower notes that the local gun show near him broke records. This weekend around here, the Oaks gun show was absolutely swamped. I just hope all these people panic buying are planning to join the fight, because there’s no guarantee you’re going to get to keep what you panic buy if you don’t. Voting with your wallet is part of the picture, but only part.

But we also need to make the Obama Adminstration sorry they decided to fuck with gun owners, and make sure lawmakers and policy makers can’t take a dump without running into some gun owner asking them to vote against more gun control. We have to hold feet to the fire, of Democrats and Republicans alike. So what do we do?

  • Know the facts.
  • Communicate with lawmakers. Communicate with them now. Communicate with them when we have an actual bill, and keep the pressure on.
  • Show up at rallies and protests when asked.
  • Give them idea of things to do (Something must be done!) that doesn’t involve more gun control.
  • Talk to neighbors, friends co-workers and family. This can often be more productive than shouting at people on the Internet. Use some of the same idea you use with lawmakers.
  • Do you belong to a gun club? Get them involved.
  • Sign people up for NRA. I know a lot of people don’t like them, but they are who the politicians pay attention to, and a surge in NRA membership would make them pay attention.

I believe our opponents response was planned and coordinated, and they were ready to execute the moment the awful news hit the airways. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure where I would have found professionally made signs late on a Friday ready for noon Monday delivery. I don’t know how so many of the same outlets were right on message. We were told by anti-gun groups in the weeks approaching that change was coming, and that the writing was on the wall for our day in the sun being soon over. That smacks of someone who knows of a brilliant plan, and who were just waiting for a moment to execute.

Our side is not quite so coordinated. We are composed of a great many more people than our opponents have ever given us credit for. We take time to mobilize, but the Powder Alarm has sounded, and we’re seeing signs of it. The petition at the White House is getting close to 40,000 (it was 18,000 when I posted yesterday about it). The NRA’s plan was radio silence. We did this without them. If Joe Manchin, who is backpedaling a bit, think what they are facing right now is scary, well, sir, I think you ain’t seen nothing yet. Today I’ve been focusing dark clouds on the horizon, and make no mistake, we’re in the fight of our lives. We emerged from the 1994 AWB beaten up, but our strength renewed. If we fight them back now, this will be it for them. They will no longer be able to keep up the narrative of the NRA, and gun voters as a paper tiger. But that depends on what we’re willing to do.

Looks Like Corbett Gets His Endorsement

It’s hardly a surprise that NRA is planning events to announce the endorsement of Tom Corbett for Governor. Normally Bitter would have attended and reported, but we haven’t gotten around to getting her car inspected yet. Onorato is trying to make gun control an issue in the campaign, and he’s on the wrong side. It’s really important that gun owners punish the Democrats for this. I’m convinced Rendell has the state party convinced NRA is a paper tiger in Pennsylvania. This is the election we show them that’s not the case.

Keep Talking Bill

Barack Obama might have done more than any other President to help boost the firearms industry, but it’s hard to argue that he beats Bill Clinton when it comes to boosting gun rights organizations. Every time Bill says something like this

“They have a lot of advanced notice now. I think the biggest problem that the president’s got is that the lifetime — it’s the — the danger that people who want health care will be disappointed and stay home; that happened to me,” he said.

Clinton added that the National Rifle Association also played a bigger role than it’s credited in turning over Congress during the 1994 Republican revolution.

They were mad about this whole weapons ban and the Brady Bill, and they probably took 15 of our House members out. That was their number, they said between 15 and 20, and I’d say, at least on the low side, they were right,” he said.

… it just adds to our political reputation. Obviously Clinton wasn’t our best buddy. Sometimes I wonder if senior Brady Campaign people don’t have a picture of Bill on their desks, next to the wife and kids, which they stare at wistfully, thinking of better days. No President has ever put more on the line for them than Bill Clinton. But Bill Clinton’s willingness to be honest and forthright on the backlash from gun owners has helped our political reputation immensely, and destroys the credibility of the gun control groups when they try to argue we’re a paper tiger — a ghost story that Democrats like to tell their kids, “Don’t support gun control, or the gun lobby will get ya!”  All I can say is, “Thanks Bill!”

Hat Tip to Dave Hardy for this one.

Is CeaseFire New Jersey Defunct?

How the mighty seem to have fallen.  I first wondered when a few months ago a friend of mine noticed that their domain was in redemption, basically meaning they hadn’t renewed it, and the registar was giving them a grace period where they could get the domain out.  We had designs on grabbing it and using it to promote a pro-gun message.  Alas the folks at New Jersey Coalition for Self-Defense got it before we did.  We’re happy it at least ended up in the hands of a pro-gun group and not a domain farm.  Their previous page can be found here, in case you were wondering.

Of course, this could just be some carelessness on the part of a volunteer, or on Bryan Miller’s part.  I know he’s been rather busy lately losing in Trenton on his gun rationing scheme, so renewing the web site might not be much on his mind.

But a quick look through GuideStar shows they haven’t filed a form 990 since 2000, which means they are below the $25,000 income threshold for years.  A quick search of New Jersey’s public charity search turns up nothing.  The last address listed for CeaseFire turns out to be a church in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

But a quick check of their incorporation status turns up something interesting.  From 2003 to 2008, their incorporation status was listed as suspended.  They reincorporated last June, using a law office as their agent and mailing address for the corporation.  Bryan Miller is listed as the incorporator.

I now believe CeaseFire New Jersey to either be entirely the creation and pet project of Bryan Miller, or very close to it.  This likely means that CeaseFire is, in fact, effectively defunct as a political entity, even if it remains incorporated in name.  In short, there is absolutely nothing backing up Bryan Miller, except perhaps his relationship with the media.  For the “Garden State’s leading organization devoted to reducing gun violence,” their grass roots look an awful lot like a barren field of dirt.  Legislators in New Jersey fearing Bryan Miller can threaten their seats should fear not.  CeaseFire New Jersey truly is a paper tiger.

The Holder Battle and the NRA

I would probably be remiss as a so called pragmatist if I didn’t explain my take on the political situation surrounding the Holder confirmation.  I should note that it is very important that folks contact their Senators and express their concerns about Holder, and ask them to oppose his nomination.  The reason it’s important is because it lets our representatives know we’re out here, and that we have a lot of concerns about the upcoming administration.  I also don’t think there’s any harm in NRA members calling NRA to tell them what they think.  I would welcome the NRA getting involved in trying to defeat the confirmation of Eric Holder for Attorney General, but I believe that involvement unlikely.  What I will try to explain is why this is unlikely, and why it’s not unreasonable, lazy, or cowardly for NRA to decide the upside to opposition might not be worth the downside.

It’s not unheard of for a nominee to be rejected by the Senate, but it’s rare.  Even rarer from The President’s own party.  If you look at how large the Democratic majority in The Senate is, it is extremely unlikely that Eric Holder will not be the next Attorney General, short of him being caught with a dead girl, or a live boy.  You can call me defeatist all you want, but that’s reality.  Republicans and the braver blue dogs can ask tough questions, hew and haw, and rake Holder over the coals, but they are not likely to have the votes to outright defeat his nomination.  Late in 2007, we had a similar issue with the Sullivan nomination, and I would note that the Bush Administration is now ending with Michael Sullivan still director of ATF.  He was never confirmed, because allies in the Senate put his nomination on hold, but he remains Acting Director of BATFE to this day.

The NRA is probably in the most precarious political situation it’s seen itself in since 1994.  We have the mother of all battles coming.  If you look at things from their point of view, you would look at the risk/reward equation in the following manner:

Rewards

  1. Getting the grass roots fired up over Holder, who appropriately makes a good villian.
  2. Letting politicians know NRA’s membership is not happy with Holder.
  3. Letting Holder know NRA and their membership are unhappy with his record, and are skeptical of his appointment.
  4. Pleasing membership who expects NRA to fight everything.
  5. Very remote chance of defeating the confirmation.

Risks

  1. Holder will try to get back at NRA for their public opposition to his confirmation.  NRA will be shut out from working with anyone, even friendly people who might be holdovers, in the Department of Justice for the next four years.
  2. NRA throws its political weight behind defeating Holder, is ultimately unsuccessful, and signals the Obama Administration that NRA can’t oppose it.
  3. Distracting membership from bigger fights looming on the horizon, like a new Assault Weapons Ban, Gun Show Loophole, and other gun control wish items, which might be winnable.
  4. By not getting involved, upsetting membership who wants Holder defeated.
  5. If against all odds, Holder is actually defeated, the strong likelihood Obama will nominate someone just as bad.

It’s perfectly reasonable to believe NRA should get involved with the fight against Holder, but it’s also perfectly reasonable for NRA to see a lot of risk for not much chance of benefit too.  When you and I act against Holder independently, it has no downside, because we are not creatures of DC, and don’t have to worry about perceptions of our political capital. The National Rifle Association does not have the same luxury.  They have to very carefully weigh which fights they need to wage.  There will be times when it is necessary to fight with no hope of victory, but members should ask themselves whether they’d rather have NRA go down swinging trying unsuccessfully to defeat Holder, enhancing the paper tiger meme, or whether they’d prefer NRA preserve its political capital to defeat gun control bills?

Before someone suggests, “But all we’re asking for is a membership alert,” the other things NRA doesn’t have the luxury of is half measures.  It will become known that NRA alerted its members, and NRA will incur many of the risks outlined above.  They either need to poop, or get off the pot.  This is actually an area where GOA, JPFO, Firearms Coalition, blogs, and forums can be of tremendous help, because they can speak on issues, like this, that are very risky for NRA.  Like I said, I would welcome NRA’s involvement, if they decide the risk is worth the reward, but I won’t blame them if they don’t see it that way.

The Meme Continues

NRA is a paper tiger, and the time to pass more gun control is now.  You’d almost believe that the gun control groups are pitching these editorials.

The Spin

Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence reports that the NRA is a paper tiger:

Obama proved you can talk about having reasonable regulation of firearms without fear of a backlash at the ballot box. The fact of the matter is that Obama is where most Americans are on the gun issue, which is supporting a person’s ability to own a firearm while also supporting policies like criminal background checks on all gun sales.

Voters are tired of hearing the same old rhetoric from the NRA, and the election results proved that its bark is worse than its bite.

And it’s worth noting that Obama ran from groups like ICAHV as fast as he could once he secured the nomination.  Gun control was simply not an issue in this election, and that plays against the NRA as much as it plays against gun control groups.

Right on Cue

A few weeks before the election, I posted this:

I can promise you the Brady Campaign is frustrated they are being stuffed in steerage for the entire election, but the Democrats are not abandoning gun control.  If they win this November, it will tell them they don’t have to actually support the Second Amendment to win.  It will tell them that all they have to do is pull the wool over those bitter, gun clingers eyes enough that they won’t check to hard to see what’s really behind the curtain.  It will make them think NRA is a paper tiger if they can’t defeat the most anti-gun presidential candidate in American history.

Now we get this:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iv1zEok3J50[/youtube]

They know how to spin the results in their favor.  But we shall see whether the Brady Campaign really carries any weight with the new administration.

What About McCain?

NRA Grades and Endorsements for 2008 are out.  Conspicuously absent is the presidential race.  Three possibilities here:

  1. NRA has decided to endorse and is waiting for a better press cycle where the endorsement will make a bigger splash.
  2. NRA is still not decided on endorsement and is wavering based on McCain’s record.
  3. NRA is still not decided on endorsement and is worried McCain won’t win.

I’m really hoping it’s number one.  The base is on board.  I’ve yet to show up to an event and not had a rush on McCain/Palin items.  Even if NRA is not yet on board the McCain train, gun owners most certainly are.  Palin is that good, and Barack Obama is that bad.  I’ve made clear to people that he’s not endorsed yet, but I give the people what they want, and what they want is McCain.

NRA would be understandably concerned about their record on endorsements, which is perfect.  NRA’s first endorsement was Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter, Reagan won.  They endorsed Reagan a second time, and he won again.  George H.W. Bush was endorsed, and won.  Then his endorsement was withdrawn, and he lost re-election.  Dole was not endorsed, and lost.  George W. Bush was endorsed twice, and won both times.  Some might thing this doesn’t mean anything, but it does.  If NRA endorses and the candidate loses, the meme around Washington will be NRA has lost its clout.  Heller took away their scare mongering, and they are now a paper tiger.  Hunters will feel safe because they know we can’t take their guns, so lets go after the guns we can take, like those dangerous people who buy evil assault weapons.  And you know, all that lead is bad for the environment, so we better ban it.

The stakes in this election are high, so high I think NRA is nuts if they don’t endorse McCain/Palin.  McCain himself is nothing to write home about, but it’s a ticket now, and his selection of Plain is a good signal that he doesn’t think we gun folks have cooties.  I understand NRA wanting to preserve their perfect endorsement record in presidential races, but we can’t afford that this election.  All stops must be pulled out to defeat Barack Obama.  This is one of those cases where you fight, even if the chance of victory is remote.  As it is, I don’t think it’s remote; it’s going to be close… and NRA owes its membership to get behind the candidate they are already behind.

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