Le Gun Lobby C’Est Moi

Jeff Knox wrote an interesting piece the other day titled Attention Lamestream Media: I am the ‘gun lobby’. It was positively cheerworthy. I, too, get irritated with the way the nefarious “Gun Lobby” is portrayed in the media. I personally know several of the people in the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance (GOCRA) who were instrumental in getting the Minnesota Citizens’ Personal Protection Act (our “shall-issue” law) passed, and I met some of the opposition, including Heather Martens, the Executive Director of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota (CSM)…

There were a couple of big differences between the GOCRA folks and Heather, the primary one being that Heather was supported by a nice salary from CSM, thanks to her sugar-daddy, the Joyce Foundation. The GOCRA folks had to take time off work to speak to legislators. CSM was funded to the tune of $122,000 by the Joyce Foundation in 2004, the year the PPA was being challenged in court. I, however, worked the tables at the gun shows. I saw the $1s and $5s in the basket being given to support GOCRA.

Another major difference between CSM and GOCRA; when the Minnesota Court of Appeals threw out the 2003 PPA, outraged gun-owners (not lobbyists, not paid press flacks, but everyday men and women) flooded the Legislature with so many calls that staffers literally could get no other work done. Inside one and a half months, a virtually identical bill was passed (breakneck speed as anyone who’s been worked on legislation knows). This is the major difference between grass-roots groups and AstroTurf® groups; when push comes to shove, grass-roots groups can put large numbers of feet on the ground while the best AstroTurf® groups can do is throw money around and hire the occasional professional protestor.

Another stark difference is in what I would call moral courage. The willingness to stand up for your beliefs, even when it is not convenient or comfortable. When the PPA first passed, the antis talked about boycotting anyplace that didn’t post a sign banning guns. Until, that is, they realized that a lot of places weren’t posting the signs and it would be kinda inconvenient for them to stick to their principles. So their campaign changed from the hardline “No sign, not a dime!” to a decidedly more squishy “Please post.”

We gun-nuts, however, mostly have the courage of our convictions and are perfectly willing to go out of our way to avoid a posted business. Or an unposted business, for that matter. My wife and I had just spent an hour and a half shopping at a warehouse store. We paid a few hundred dollars for our goods, but as we were leaving, the manager said that it was their policy to ban guns, so he would appreciate it if I would leave my (legally, openly carried) weapon in my car in the future.

I asked if there was a sign that I hadn’t seen and was told there was not, but that it was corporate policy, and the manager even provided me with a copy of the policy which contained the interesting statement that “guns do not add to the HugeCo shopping experience.” So I smiled, thanked him for the information and asked if we could please get our money back. He tried to demur, saying that my business was welcome even if my gun was not, but I pointed out that he had just told me that he thought I was a danger to him and his customers, and I would never ask him to compromise his principles by accepting my filthy lucre.

So we got our money back, cancelled our membership and started shopping at a different company. It was a less convenient location and there were some products we could no longer get, but if a company tells me they don’t want my business I will be happy to honor their wishes.

A similar thing happened with my college (except I was done with it so I didn’t have to switch schools). I read in an article that they banned guns on campus, so I contacted them and asked if that was just for students or if it included alumni as well. I was told that the policy applied to everyone, so I wrote a nice letter to the alumni office explaining that since they had such a low opinion of either my integrity or my stability I would no longer donate to the Alumni Fund (as I tried to do every year even if I could only afford a few dollars, because participation counts a lot).

It took a few rounds of letters before they finally accepted that I took their distrust personally, and that I don’t give money to people who insult me. Family get-togethers were a little sticky for a while, since all four of my siblings and three of my six nieces all went or are going to this school and my siblings (like the alumni office) had a hard time figuring out why I felt the policy was insulting. Eventually they accepted it, though.

Another illustration of the vast difference between us and the antis was the Jim Zumbo affair. Briefly, Mr. Zumbo referred to AR and AK rifles as terrorist rifles and said they had no place in hunting. Within 36 hours he had lost most of his sponsors, his TV show and his job with Outdoor Life.

Many media outlets and anti groups laid the blame for this at the NRA’s doorstep, saying that the NRA had “blacklisted” Mr. Zumbo and destroyed his career. But Mr. Zumbo’s experience was only an example of the purest form of grassroots activism. Tens of thousands of people – individuals – thinking for themselves, decided that Mr. Zumbo’s gaffe could not go unchallenged,  So, individually and thinking for themselves, they contacted his employers and sponsors to express their displeasure. The AstroTurf®ers just could not fathom the idea that this happened spontaneously because in their world, these things just don’t happen spontaneously. They take coordination and phone-banks and auto-dialers.

Jeff is absolutely correct that I am the ‘gun lobby’, and as long as we don’t lose track of that we cann’t lose in the long run.