Here at the Gun Rights Policy Conference there has been quite a bit of speechifyin’. Most of it is stuff we already know — the various gun rights organizations generally do a good job of keeping us in the loop, so I’ve been spending most of my time browsing Reddit and schmoozing with the other attendees rather than paying close attention to the substance of most of the speakers. But there’s been one notable theme I have picked up on while browsing amusing cat pictures: Michael Bloomberg . . .
In general things are going quite well. Even Calguns’ Brandon Combs was reporting progress in getting traditionally anti-gun populations to see the light. We seem to be gaining more ground than we are losing. But every single speech has referenced Michael Bloomberg as the one unknown quantity that has the possibility to reverse all the hard work these (real) grassroots movements have accomplished. They refer to it as the “Bloomberg problem,” but it goes much further than that.
Michael Bloomberg is definitely an issue. One filthy rich individual who feels the need to force his opinions on the American people using lies, deception, and more money than anyone else can bring to bear can have a significant impact no matter whether we’re talking about Bloomberg’s anti-gun jihad or the Koch brothers’ allegedly conservative agenda. All in all, the impact of Mayor Mike’s actions has generally been negligible on a national scale, but there have been some recent victories in local ballot initiatives that have revolved around using paid staffers to accumulate signatures and pulling bait-and-switch scams on those signing the petitions (for example, using a pro-marijuana petition with a gun control petition on the back side).
While that’s definitely an issue, the bigger fight that people are alluding to (without actually talking about) is that gun rights folks are getting the shaft in general when it comes to the PR game. Michael Bloomberg has tons of money to throw around on this one issue, but even if he wasn’t fabulously wealthy, his gun control lapdogs would still get more than their share of air time. That’s how Moms Demand Action started — one photogenic “mom” that the media latched onto and kept providing free press without any thought to a counterpoint.
True grassroots organizations like the Second Amendment Foundation or the Virginia Civil Defense League have huge followings and broad support, but they rarely appear on national TV. It’s much more appealing for those in charge of the media to invite paid spokespeople from the astroturf gun control movements rather than actual grassroots spokespeople who represent the views of the majority of Americans because those same views conflict with those in charge of the TV schedule.
There’s no doubt that gun rights folks still have a tough road ahead, but I think focusing completely on Michael Bloomberg is missing the point. Bloomberg is merely a symptom of the disease, a representation of the system of wealthy gatekeepers who prefer to try and force their own opinions on the American people rather than listening to what Americans have to say and possibly changing their own backwards views. That system isn’t likely to change overnight, but given the fact that the opinions of average Americans keep shifting in favor of gun rights we might see that tide start to turn among even the wealthy “elites.”