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Gun Control is a Proxy for Class Struggle

Americans have never historically liked to admit we have class struggles. I guess it sounds a bit too Marxist, even though now we love ourselves some socialism now. Well, at least we love it to the extent the kids these days even know what socialism is. I don’t really hear too many young people singing the praises of Marx. Socialism has come to mean Scandinavian-style welfare states (which are not very socialist anymore). Do young people who dig “socialism” even know who Marx is? I’ve never had a young person tell me they are socialist and want to discuss Marxist theory. Anyway, I digress.

We don’t historically like Marxist-sounding class struggles, so we use proxy issues. Gun control is one of those fights. For the most part, the monied elite of Silicon Valley and New York City don’t like the idea of ordinary people being armed, and don’t much like the kind of people who insist on it. When I started blogging, we were enjoying a lot of cultural success. What were the elements at work then? In no particular order:

  • We developed shooting sports that didn’t require large amounts of open space.
  • We had found new ways to self-organize on the Internet.
  • We were introducing a lot of people to shooting and promoting an evangelistic gun culture.
  • Gun control forces were disorganized and out of money.
  • The Supreme Court blessed our long-held viewpoint of the 2nd Amendment being an individual right. This worked! Even the reinvigorated gun control movement isn’t talking handgun bans. They want to ban semi-auto rifles now.

The question that I’ve been mulling around in my head is whether our current predicament is a backlash to our earlier success. Back then we were making a lot of noises about bringing our culture to New York City and preaching to the heathen there. We were optimistic. Then the Supreme Court toppled Chicago’s handgun ban, and further guidance from the 7th Circuit forced the establishment of a shall-issue regime. I think there’s a good argument for the idea that our success put people like Bloomberg, and a lot of his very rich friends, into an utter panic about the idea that they might end up living near those kinds of people. The idea that the courts might start letting the wrong kind of people exercise some semblance of personal dignity and autonomy, why, they might start getting the idea that their opinions ought to matter. We might have to endure *gasp* gun talk in our social circles. Wouldn’t that just be the worst?

I understand that Mike Bloomberg is an aviation enthusiast, and I’ve never understood how enthusiasts in anything don’t instinctively get other enthusiasts, because it’s all the same. But aviation is a good way to signal status, I suppose. Not guns. I know plumbers who have collections that put mine to shame. Can’t use that. In this day in age, there isn’t much to signal status for the wealthy. You basically have what? Houses, cars, yachts, and aircraft? I guess if you’re really wealthy, you can signal with your own space program, but I’d say that’s a subset of aircraft. I don’t think jewelry and furs do it much anymore. The rich have stopped signaling with dress in the 21st century, and signaling being very important, they have to make some distinction, right?

The difficult part for us is a small handful of wealthy people deciding to fund a backlash can accomplish quite a lot. Because there’s a lot of people who want to be upwardly, socially mobile, and will imitate the attitudes and behaviors of the Right Kind of People. The rise of the twin evils of the Google search monopoly and social media has had a powerful effect at amplifying elite opinion. Google has been a search monopoly for a while, but I think only recently they’ve started to understand they can use that monopoly to shape public opinion and started using it to that effect. I would argue the elite have never had such an effective toolbox for manipulating public opinion. William Randolph Hearst could have never dreamed about having the kind of power the Silicon Valley elite now wield.

Glenn Reynolds says about gun control, and I think he’s completely right about this: “It’s meant to humiliate the flyover rubies and show them who’s boss.” We don’t like class struggle in American politics so we couch it in other issues. A lot of people I know have gotten more strident about gun control because they are getting a lot of reinforcing signals on Social Media and the Internet that the Right Kind of People support gun control, and the Wrong Kind of People, a Bad Kind of People who want dead children, oppose it. Also, the Orange Man, who is Very Bad, sides with these warped gun people.

So what do we do? One thing is for sure, we can’t just shut up. We have to keep doing what we were doing that built on our initial success. But I have to admit, I don’t really engage in open political discussion on Facebook, and I deleted my Twitter presence a while ago. I have taken a course of disengagement with Social Media, except for a handful of communities that are carefully cultivated. It’s not that I shy from debate, or want to live in a bubble. I miss intelligent disagreement. I’m happy to advocate for things I believe in. But I can’t tolerate the mindless conformity, self-importance, and virtue signaling social media promotes. I’m always willing to discuss an issue. But I’m not willing to subject myself to being called a monster for disagreeing, or to waste my time watching other people preen for their peers. Social Media is full of that. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by disengaging? What is a winning strategy in today’s world? Is there one? These are things I wrestle with.

We Were Better off When the Parties Competed for our Vote

Trump has come out and announced he will save us from HR 8 and HR 1112. That is assuming the Senate doesn’t save us, which all indications suggest it will. So we at least know what the Dem priorities are:

  1. Ban all gun transfers between non FFLs except with narrow exceptions.
  2. End default proceeds, or at least get to as close to ending them as possible. This means they can deny gun rights to people just by refusing to conduct or finish background checks.
  3. Restrict magazine capacity.
  4. Ban assault weapons. I’m curious to see if Pelosi pushes this.

I keep saying, these people are not strategic dummies, and should not be lightly dismissed. Bloomberg didn’t make his fortune by being a moron. For the first two, I have to do a lot more education to make sure gun owners understand the issues. Most have no idea what a default proceed even is. But PICS outages they are well familiar with. So you have to put it in that context. This is just an example.

The latter two gun owners are already well-educated on. At this point there are more AR-15s out there, I’d wager way more AR-15s out there, than there are Mini-14s and M1 Carbines, two firearms that were exempted in the 90s bans because there were just too many owners out there who would raise hell.

Most gun people, even people who shoot a lot or own a lot, and therefore have something to lose, don’t really follow this stuff or know the ins or outs of the law. They will happily go through life blissfully unaware of the maze of laws that surround them like a pride of lions waiting for them to drift from the herd. Their goal is to “create a culture of compliance” among us. You will bend to their will, or else.

A Discomforting Thought

I think a lot of folks are deeply uncomfortable with the notion that a handful of rich guys can essentially buy their preferred policy. Perhaps so uncomfortable that they don’t want to admit it’s the case. But they can. In our type of democratic system, they at least have to convince voters. But unfortunately that’s not all that hard.

Caleb has a great article about the future gun control fight. Also see what Miguel had in reference to my comments from yesterday. I don’t mean to come off as a pessimist. Bloomberg has picked a hell of a fight with us. That money of his would have steamrollered over other issues. But we do have our own advantages. What I would say to our people:

  • The time for division is not now. We need a strong NRA. If you quit NRA over bump stocks or red flag laws, you aren’t helping. I’m not saying we can’t have disagreement, but we all need to be rowing in the same direction and understanding what’s important. Miguel notes that activists in Florida are concentrating on Open Carry. I would advise concentrating on stopping the ballot measure Bloomberg is going to foist on you in 2020. NRA has to have money to fight that. We cannot write off the third most populous state. We will never be able to outspend Bloomberg, but we sure as hell can out-organize him. We have a blueprint, and last I heard the dude who pulled off defeating the Massachusetts handgun ban is still alive. The odds were stacked against him too.
  • Forget about the fucking bump stocks. It’s not where the fight is. That’s over. The fight is preserving the right to own semi-automatic firearms. That’s ultimately what they want, because they are well aware no state’s gun culture has ever come back from an assault weapons ban. Gun bans are a death blow to the culture. If you want to get the hard-core activists worked up over saving an impractical range toy, or in some misguided effort to (badly) get around the machine gun restrictions, you’re not paying attention to where the actual fight is.
  • Be prepared to go to your capitol in protest. Start organizing that with local resources now. It will be needed.
  • Set up communication channels that can’t be shut down or censored by Facebook and Google. The achilleas heel of blogs is that they depend on search traffic, and search traffic can be manipulated. The elite basically have the ability to completely screw us if they decide to start shutting down pro-2A groups and pages on social media, and manipulate the search results so that no one ever finds our arguments. As a community, we need to get more sophisticated about manipulating search results. But good old fashioned e-mail lists will end up being valuable. These monstrosities are powerful, but they are still big systems that no human could possibly look after. So we have to get good at getting around the barriers they can throw up.
  • Recruit young people. If you’re worried about this issue, you’ve already lost. I’m not as worried we’ve lost the youth, because there are cultural indicators that are quite positive there. We’re becoming the new counter-culture, and I wonder if we should start marketing ourselves that way.

How Did We Get Here?

I don’t think gun rights has been this precarious since the 1990s. Why? I would propose:

  • Bloomberg’s infusion of cash has made a huge difference. We self-organize, as a movement. If the NRA didn’t exist, we would have to create it. I’ve always known we were good at this, but even I’ve been blown away at times at just how good we are at self-organization. The gun control movement does not self-organize. There needs to be an external force to organize a gun control movement. But the people are out there if you have money to pay people to organize them. Bloomberg has that money, and he brought that to the table. It’s starting to pay off.
  • The Supreme Court gave us Heller and McDonald and then went radio silent on the 2nd Amendment. This emboldened the lower courts to engage in full court resistance to those rulings. Culturally, I think Heller and McDonald were a huge boost to the pro-gun movement, and I would say the peak of our power was the 2008-2010 time frame, before Bloomberg really got started, and before it became apparent the lower courts were going to successfully engage in mass resistance. Having the courts abandon the Second Amendment was demoralizing for us and empowering for them.
  • People cheer flight from blue states, but that flight has consequences. Californians have successfully ruined several states of the mountain west. Where’s all the flight from New Jersey and New York going? Where are people from Massachusetts relocating to? And what is happening to those states? This is altering the political landscape of nearby states in fundamental ways.
  • A lot of the old 2nd Amendment warriors are continuing to get old, and wearing out. There aren’t the young people to replace them. Young gun owners have no idea just how bad it can get. Most of them don’t have the experience of having lived through the 1990s and early aughts. They were kids. They came into the issue around the time we were flying high. They don’t remember the assault weapons ban. It’s a theoretical threat to a lot of the young people. Gen Xers are not joiners. Millennials are better than us about that kind of thing, but as gun owners they strike me as still being less engaged politically than older gun owners. Hunting is in decline, but despite people throwing “Fudd” around, in my experience most hunters are pretty passionate about the 2nd Amendment. Shooters have been unwise to dismiss hunting. It was a huge mistake we’re going to pay a price for down the road.

What else? I’m sure there are other factors, but these strike me as big ones.

What’s on the Dem Agenda? has the rundown:

  • Assault Weapons Ban of 2019.
  • No time limit on background checks. All a hostile President would need to do is shut down NICS.
  • Rifle caliber pistols to the NFA.
  • Semi-Auto Rifles that accept detachable magazines to NFA.
  • 80 Percent Lowers are Lowers.

Right now they are pushing HR 8 hard, but this is the shit that’s coming if they manage that.

Hope at Last

About 1/3rd of my club are residents of New Jersey. We’re a stones throw from the river, and so we’re convenient to all of Central Jersey and even have a contingent from North Jersey. It’s been utterly depressing watching them go through everything with Murphy’s last batch of gun control laws knowing that more is probably coming. Also, when they ask “What can we do?” Having to answer, “Nothing, unfortunately. Only the courts are going to save you. If you’re voting, writing to your reps, you’re doing what you can. But the fact of the matter is you’re outvoted. Moving here [PA] is the only way you’re getting your gun rights back quickly.”

I’m hoping the Supreme Court will give them some welcome news. I’d like to be able to tell them things are about to get better. I want them to have hope. If Roberts wants to play his minimalist games he should come talk to these people and tell them in their face it’s not the court’s job to save them, as he did in NFIB.

Just as an aside: the people who say the immigration issue is tied to gun rights aren’t really out in left field. I still advocate NRA should not take a position on immigration as other gun groups have done, but the fact is that of the worst states for gun control, California has 27% foreign born. New Jersey and New York are is 22%. They are among the top 5 states with foreign born populations. In contrast, Pennsylvania is 6%.

Of course not every immigrant favors gun control, and I don’t think immigrants as a group are clamoring for more gun control. But I believe they are on balance more likely to tolerate it, which allows progressive elites to impose it on the deplorables without suffering much for doing it.

That’s not to say you can’t have large number of immigrants and still win on gun rights. Florida has the highest foreign born of the gun rights leaning states at 19%, with Texas following up at 16%. So it is possible to absorb a large number of immigrants and still maintain gun rights. Maybe once you cross the 20% mark, it’s pretty much over. But it probably helps that both those states started pretty opposed to gun control in the first place. That’s not true of New Jersey. Though it was once true of California. I don’t think immigration explains all of it, but the correlation can’t be ignored.

Pelosi’s “Background Check” Bill Eliminates C&R Transfers

Are you a type 3 FFL, Collector of Curios and Relics? John Richardson has some preliminary language. By my reading, transfers have to go through a dealer, importer, or manufacturer. So if you have a C&R, you could buy from Century or a dealer at a gun show, but you couldn’t buy from another C&R license holder. This renders the C&R considerably less useful, since you’re most likely to find good pickings in the hands of other collectors.

I’m beyond believing they just don’t know how to write legislation. I don’t know, maybe they don’t, and don’t really care who they impact. I’m sure if you asked Bloomberg he’d happily eliminate C&Rs entirely. So why would he care if his lawyers who wrote this shit are clueless?

If they were willing to work with us, they’d already have some kind of background check bill. But background checks are not their goal here. Sneaking other shit into the bills is their goal. De facto registration, even if not de jure, is the goal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this has jack shit to do with background checks.

Civil Disobedience on Assault Weapons

Boulder residents are standing firm on not complying with the city’s ban on assault weapons:

Boulder’s newly enacted “assault weapons” ban is meeting with stiff resistance from its “gun-toting hippies,” staunch liberals who also happen to be devoted firearms owners.

That’s great. Why don’t you try to send a message by not voting for anti-gun Democrats. You see, because if you keep voting for assholes who want to do this to you, they will keep doing it.

“That was a neat protest because it really brought out people from Boulder,” Ms. Hollywood said. “People you would never expect to be gun owners were standing there, the gun-toting hippies, basically, saying, ‘Why are you guys doing this to us? We didn’t do anything wrong, and now you’re coming after us.’ “

Stop voting for them.

Happy 2019

I am back from a prolonged trip, and have gotten caught up with a lot, except for getting the blog going again. I hope you all had a nice Christmas, or whatever you might celebrate. We’re getting close to my 12 year blogoversary, which is Sunday. I’ll be busy that day, so will not be blogging again about it. I’ve slowed down a good bit from when we started this venture, but in 2019 I’m going to try to post more in the coming year. I’ll never be able to get back to what I used to do, but I don’t wish to hang it up quite yet.

To start off the year, I recommend reading Kevin Creighton’s post at Ricochet: “Gun Owners are Being Othered, And We’re Letting it Happen.

I’ll offer some observations for 2019, because I think this is going to be a challenging year for us. In my mind gun people are suffering from a number of maladies:

  • Everyone underestimated how much Bloomberg’s money would make a difference for the gun control movement. It’s made a huge difference. Our biggest asset historically has been our ability to self-organize. There have always been a sizable number of people who would support gun control, but the movement won’t organically provide the money and organizing talent to make them a force. But with Bloomberg’s money, and the money from other elites he’s bringing along, that’s no longer an issue for them. With the money a given, it will buy them a movement.
  • We surrendered the “horizontal interpretive communities” that got us where we are to top-down social media which are centrally controlled. I can remember seasoned activists from the 80s and 90s tell me they got their message out using informal fax networks to organize back when that was a new technology. We’ve always been on the bleeding edge of self-organization. But our community doesn’t have an answer yet for the problems being caused by Google and Facebook, who would rather see us disappear and largely have the power to accomplish that if they really wanted.
  • Too many people insisted on bringing unrelated culture war issues along with gun rights, which has made it difficult to expand our base, and has completely removed us as a force in one of the two major parties. I’m not saying that means we support anti-gun Dems: the damage has already been done. Our only hope is keeping the Dems confined to a minority of states to keep them from power until they come to their senses. There is some hope we can accomplish this with the Senate.

Not all of this is our fault, or a result of people sitting on their laurels. We gun owners didn’t surrender the distributed Internet of the 90s and 00s to a handful of Silicon Valley elites. Society as a whole decided centralized control of the Internet was desirable, and we’re being dragged along. I suspect before too long a technology will come along to disrupt Google and the social media companies. When that happens, we have to be ready to dominate it and start self-organizing. It’s what we do best.

There’s No Possibility Getting National Reciprocity During Lame Duck

Why does everyone in the gun issue think a Lame Duck passing of National Reciprocity is possible? It’s not. Not happening. Wasn’t going to happen in any known universe of possibilities.

Lame duck sessions are when you might get an outgoing party to do something for an important constituency they didn’t want to otherwise do if having to face re-election. It’s not a magical time where you can get anything you want. First, the Lame Duck House has already passed National Reciprocity. They weren’t the problem.

The problem is getting 60 votes for cloture in the Senate. The votes for that aren’t there, whether it’s a lame duck session or not. The only option would be to eliminate the filibuster, and while I do think the filibuster should be taken back to what it used to be prior to the 1970s, I have a bad bad feeling if we did that now, we’d very much come to regret it in the not too distant future.

The only way we’re likely making progress is to have the courts firm up the 2nd Amendment a bit, and make Bloomberg reel some. Strategically, I think the number one goal should be to get gun bans off the table. You cannot ban handguns, rifles, and shotguns, no matter what they look like, and what ergonomic features they have. Semi-automatic firearms are categorically protected. We also need some kind of protection for common accessories, like magazines. If those are off the table, we’re on much better ground for moving carry forward. I’ve never agreed with putting carry first on the priority list. We need bans off the table, first and foremost.

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