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Grassroots Gun Rights. GunNews Magazine

Promoting freedom is a uniquely American quality. Millions of Americans promote freedom everyday. They do this through participation at some level in grassroots activism to protect and defend our Second Amendment rights. While Michael Bloomberg and his fellow anti-gun billionaire buddies have big bucks, we have plenty of people on the ground working on the just and noble cause of defending our gun rights.

Every state has its own unique ground game. Thankfully good guys run the show in most states. But even the most gun rights-freindly have those who don’t like guns. The good guys keep them on defense, promoting RKBA advancements like constitutional carry or campus carry. Meanwhile, gun-hating radicals have completely taken over states like Massachusetts and California. But progress is possible, even in deep blue states dominated by politicians who are hostile to Second Amendment rights.


Until the November election, Democrats have had super-majorities in the House and Senate here in my home state for as long as I can remember. Until the previous election we had a gun-hating governor too. What’s more, we earned the dubious distinction as being the last state in union to get right-to-carry.

We fight hard though, and we do it well considering the well-entrenched opposition. Each year we face a constant battle in a deep blue state to fend off the latest gun control schemes. Simultaneously, we fight publicly and work privately to get pro-gun measures passed.

How does that happen?

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action works as the foremost political muscle in Illinois. Fortunately, they retain a contract lobbyist, Todd Vandermyde, who works in Illinois year-round. Todd and his boss Shannon Alford do magnificent work. Vandermyde’s work and political strategy border on brilliant…and that’s on a bad day.

The NRA commands respect in Illinois, and Todd has become well-liked by many, even respected by most who vote against gun rights. In the end, politicians respect voters.

State-Based Organizations

Illinois has two powerful local gun rights groups working to back up the NRA’s efforts. The Illinois State Rifle Association serves as the NRA’s state affiliate in Illinois. ISRA has political clout here second only to the NRA. They’ve earned honors from both the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association for excellence.

Guns Save Life, another Illinois-based gun rights group, specializes in grassroots activism and public education. We hold well-attended monthly meetings in six cities across Illinois from Chicagoland down to Charleston. Each month in these cities, we meet and share a good meal, great camaraderie and to keep up to date on gun rights the the grassroots level. We have a lot of fun, too.

Stronger together: Illinois State Rifle Association’s Executive Director Richard Pearson, center, with Guns Save Life’s President Steve Davis, left and GSL’s Executive Director John Boch at the most recent Champaign County GSL meeting.

Our famous Burma-style highway sign program is read by over a half-million people each day. One of my favorites reads:

DIALED 9-1-1

We’ve got a successful, well-trafficked gun rights blog. We also print 20,000 copies of our monthly journal GunNews MagazineClick here for a .pdf of our latest issue.

GunNews gets created and distributed by our member volunteers.  Our members put up and maintain the signs.  And yes, sign repairs await us now that the crops are out.  We also have a lobbyist-in-training in Springfield as well.

Why participate?

People get involved because helping and volunteering with grassroots gun rights groups greatly amplifies their voices. It helps us reach more people to influence and educate them. Ordinarily, most people’s spheres of influence involve only their friends, family and neighbors. But grassroots groups like ours reach hundreds of thousands of people each and every day, friends and foes alike.

We plant brushfires of freedom in the minds of everyday Americans. Our messages bring them around to our way of thinking. Each time we win someone over, Michael Bloomberg loses another voter.

Working through a grassroots gun group allows you to reach exponentially more people. Your work has influence, bringing fence-sitters and undecideds around.

Bloomberg’s money can’t buy the kind of dedication of ISRA or GSL members. I’ve seen Bloomberg’s people on the ground here in Illinois. Take away the paycheck and you take away what little dedication they have. (Secret: many of them actually own guns.  How ironic, right?)

If we can fight and hold the line in a deep blue state like Illinois, it can be done in by other like-minded gun owners where you live. It just takes a willingness to get involved and make a difference. If you’d like more information about bringing Guns Save Life’s template to your state, email me at [email protected]. As a friend once told me, “Freedom is not a spectator sport.” Don’t just sit on the sidelines! Get involved and get active.


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  1. I tend to take part more in internet activism…. Which is basically arguing in the comments section of various websites with people. Partially because it’s cheap and fast to access, but mostly because I’m a socially awkward nerd and am unsuited for such grass roots work. I’m fairly confident online but in person I’m just this quiet socially awkward buffoon who trips over his own words and loses track of his thoughts. Really, the last thing people think when they meet me in person is “I bet he’s packing heat.” I like to think I make some small contribution though arguing with people on the internet… If not, at least it’s fun and I am glad for the grass roots groups who do.

  2. Active member of GOAL – Gun Owners Action League (Massachusetts)
    We run a never ending battle against our anti-gun AG Maura Healey and a RINO governor.

    • You lost me at “never-ending”. While it is understood that, while humanity exists it will continue to sh_t-out the occasional fu<ktard interested in "governing" his fellow man into some type of slavery, and that person will not be able to do it while his fellow man is able to stop said fu<ktard. NEVER confuse dogged watchfulness and hunting of those fu<ktards with the union-style "organization" that "lobbies" for your "cause". We don't need a conversation, we need people interested in making the interdiction of actual Constitutional Rights (no, abortion does not qualify FU) difficult and costly (if not painful and fatal). Anything else is self-promotion and job security.

      • How about mind numbing grind? I live in Western Massachusetts surrounded by Liberalism up to my eyeballs, with Smith college, Hampshire “hate the flag” college, UMass etc. Trying to get progun laws passed out here is …… Unless you live in a communist state like MA or CA or DC it’s hard to explain. It’s almost as if everyone around you has blinders on. Intelligent people tow the Liberal line even when presented with facts.
        It’s a mind-numbing grind that feels never-ending.

        • Ya. Make sure your horns are not fully retracted. Let your POS neighbors know what a bunch of POS’ they are on a regular basis, and how they risk everything fing with your (and others) Constitutional rights.

          Conservatives lose too much by exercising their normal mode of ‘quiet’ conservatism. Others need to feel like the outcast.

  3. Short of major social upheaval on the way-beyond-The-Great-Depression scale, attempting to fight Chicago is Quixotic, at most generous. Realistically, a foolishly irresponsible deployment of funds.

    Downstate is easy and a no-brainer, most folks don’t even need to be converted. But the only hope one has is attempting minimize and marginalize Chi-town’s influence, and I wish them the best of luck tilting at that windmill. A century and a half of The Chicago Way isn’t going to be swayed by some silly proles and their “rights” – there is a machine that works as it always has, reinforced by bigger salaries and even more (un-payable) pensions.

    One can stand in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. It’s only slightly likely that you get to keep living, and your actions make absolutely no difference regardless.

  4. I applaud the grassroots efforts in Illinois and encourage them to expand their efforts.

    Let’s be honest here. Grassroots efforts only work when:
    (1) At least 45% of a state’s population leans conservative
    (2) Most Progressive adherents are lower-middle class or below

    Where do grassroots efforts fail miserably? California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Why? Because Progressive adherents are well in excess of 60% of the population in those states. And, in the case of California, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, many Progressive adherents are upper-middle class if not outright members of Big Money.

    Politicians only care about money and enough votes to keep their office. Virtue thus plays no role in their lives and politicians ignore grassroots efforts that fail to command a LOT of money and votes.

    • No, it seems like California and Chicago’s only hope is the courts. Hopeful some good cases, some good appointments will get freedom back.

  5. “…it can be done in by other like minded gun owners where you live.”

    this reads as counter productive to me, comprehension is not my strength.

    • The “in” shouldn’t be there. I assume a draft read (or was going to read) something to the effect of “it can be done in other states, as well” and was changed to reflect action by the people, rather than an action in a location.

      Regardless, proofreading and proper grammar aren’t exactly strong points of the writers here.

  6. No, but I offer my moral support to those who do or I make fun of/troll/criticize their opposition. Usually I accomplish these things with offensive, glib and vacuous comments on the interwebz but… sometimes it’s in person. I kinda treat the whole thing like a virtual game of hockey complete with a lot of slashing, hooking and cross checking from behind.

    I’m not really the person you want knocking on doors since my sense of humor isn’t one most people get. People usually end up offended or scared. Sometimes both. I’m also terrible with children. For some reason “Here kid, smoke this cigarette, drink this coffee and shoot this gun. Why? Cause ‘Merica! Now, let’s see if you can disable that Prius with your first shot… hold on, let me put some whis… cough medicine in that coffee for ya” being said to someone’s six year old doesn’t go over real well and it gets worse when I follow it up by talking about eagles doing freedom [barrel] rolls while shitting red, white and blue.

    Sooooo yeah… sending me to talk to fence-sitters would be like sending Serge to attempt converting Commies to Capitalists, or sending Ralph out to do… well anything serious. It’s not likely to end well. In fact, both of them would have much better odds at success than I would.

    Oh, and I pay my NRA dues for whatever that’s worth.

  7. My activities are limited to:-

    1- Being a member of, and donating extra (when funds allow) to NRA, GOA & SAF
    2- Obtaining Texas LTC (adding one to the stats!)
    3- Purchasing firearms, have bought 6 in 2016 (Ruger AR556, Mossberg 500, CZ P-07, Sig P938, Ruger Redhawk .44 mag and an AR lower for an as yet undetermined build (adding more to the stats!)

  8. Courts are only a limited way to help California and Massachusetts. The culture of those two states has changed. Only the people living there can change the culture.

    Court rulings did not change the South. A civil war did not change the South. It only slavery ended. Racist gun control laws prevented newly freed black people from owning and carrying guns.

    Will president Trump shame California and Massachusetts in public speeches about the loss of civil rights in those states???
    He did make statements on how bad gun free zones are during the campaign.

    Will senator Cruz or Governor Kaisch speak up about civil rights being denied to a large part of the American citizenry???
    I hope they do.

    Public shaming of California and Massachusetts elected officials needs to happen just like it did in the 1950s and 1960s with southern politicians.

  9. Political: Funding of legit civil rights organizations (so, not the ACLU & similar), selectively petition / call / letter on particular issues to specific overlords, occasional donations to particular campaigns, candidates, or issue advocacy.

    Social: In social engineering, I do occasionally engage in conversation on the issue, about specific aspects of specific legislation, policy, regulation, or enforcement actions. I’m meticulous about never stating my own “position”, rather noting features and consequences of whatever’s under discussion.

    For example, re the SAFE act: “Well, I’m kind of uncomfortable with our state administration declaring something that’s been around for 600+ years to be an emergency, to ram through something with ‘expedited’ procedures that they can’t get through the legislature. How many corruption investigations & convictions are we talking about lately, not counting the perennial calls by everyone in state politics for ethics reform? I’m uncomfortable with the judicial review of those shenanigans, too — independent of policy the procedure was BS. Do we want these people free to declare anything they want badly enough to be an emergency. (Because ‘I wants it.” said Gollum.)”

    I did completely piss off one “freelance journalist” who apropos of nothing injected gun politics into a meetup about a new coworking space in town. He’d spoken with some “pro” folks and declared himself to be “uncomfortable.” I asked why. He said he felt “threatened.” So, just looking for dirt, of course, asked what they did. Name calling? Threats? Fronting off and getting in his space? Somebody keyed his car? What? “Oh, I’ve heard people say they feel uncomfortable, but I haven’t previously heard about threats. If they did something to make you feel ‘threatened’ that’s a big deal.

    Most recently, I did address one distraught true believer post the Presidential Election. “Obama can still do a bunch of executive orders, before he gets in.” said the grasper at straws. “Well, a Presidential administration can’t bind a later administration — an incumbent executive can undo a prior order just as easily as it was made. Same with congress: one congress cannot bind a later congress. They can make a law, that the next guys can undo the same way with another law.”

    After digging through how the current Administration is as much the wellspring of the nature of the next one, she did ask “If that doesn’t work, how do we do these things? (Presumed good, social engineering things – ed.)” “Be admirable.” said I.

    Messaging: My (recumbent, pedal) bike sports a Gadsden flag under the reflective, high-vis one.

    I do have a crafted reply to the “Oh, you’re one of those Tea-Partiers.” diss. “No, actually. Gadsden was a guy — look him up. Gadsden is a revolution era flag that stands for something very specific, that the Tea Partiers only partially adopted. It’s far from anti-Obama, or even ant-welfare state democracies … they didn’t exist yet. It’s not even specific to “constitutionally limited government”, per the Tea Party platform. The US Constitution didn’t exist yet.”

    They inevitable had no idea. Some will ask some form of: “So, what does it mean?”

    “Well, it’s about people working together to stand-off other, bigger folks who would tell them how to live, and take their stuff. It’s sort of about a co-op, which is one way to look at republican, small-‘r’ government; meaning we citizens governing ourselves (to our own advantage, one would hope.)”

    “The parts are about different people otherwise doing their own things, differently. Let your freak flag fly, people.”

    I don’t need to convince them the whole way, just allow them to understand that some of the opinions of the irredeemables have some thought behind them. Even better if I can Trojan-horse in that these particular conclusions are grounded in (small-“l”) liberal notions. (“Libertarians: Diligently conspiring to take over the world and leave everybody alone.”)

    In a cynical, self-serving calculation, I remove the Gadsden flag when I’ll be on one particular campus. No need to give them an excuse until I get what I want.

    For on campus, I have standard replies to all the standard invitations to get wrapped into admitting wrongthink, topics where someone of my demographic can only lose, submit to ritual scapegoating, or consciousness raising. “Well, as a white hetero male of a certain age (who has worked in industry for decades, and worse, grew up among folks who were apparently bitterly clinging), I have no standing to express an opinion on that.” God they hate that.

    I’ll let them antagonize themselves over my existence after I get what I want from them.

  10. Yes, I participate. I volunteer to take anyone and everyone shooting for the first time. I participate in virtually all rallies in my state. I have contributed money to state level advocacy groups fighting lawsuits to defend our right to keep and bear arms. I have written to my state legislature. I have even taken my children to rallies … and provided brief interviews to journalists covering the rallies.

  11. Illinois isn’t a deep blue state. The Chicago-land area is. Most of the rest of the state is red or purple.

    • Geographically, you’re correct. Only eleven of Illinois’ 102 counties voted for Hildebeast last month, and we managed to elect a Republican Governor two years ago.

      That Republican Governor, however, hasn’t been able to accomplish anything of significance because the Democrats still control the legislature with a Stalin-like fist.

  12. Conspicuously absent from Mr. Boch’s otherwise thorough rundown of the freedom movement in Illinois, is the annual Gun Owner Lobby Day (IGOLD) that GunsSaveLife (GSL) used to participate in.

    Also unmentioned in Mr. Boch’s article is another group, Illinois Carry, which has been and continues to work with ISRA (as far as I know) to promote and execute the IGOLD event.

    Something happened at IGOLD a few years ago that created some hurt feelings and GSL hasn’t participated since then. And it’s too bad. And I really don’t care what happened or whose fault it is, we need to rise above that, get along, and work together. Here’s hoping that fences can be mended lines of communication opened in the future.

  13. I’m not sure if there are any in Florida. I’ve called my congressman enough the guy who does the phones dreads talking to me because I don’t believe the lies I’m told (New Years Resolution: Get them to admit their newest “reason” for refusing my requested bill was a lie like they have admitted the previous 3 “reasons” were) if that counts

  14. NRA and ISRA member. Proudly display stickers of both on my truck. And on my motorcycle. And on my helmet. Low profile be damned.
    Attend local ISRA meetings whenever possible.
    Did attend couple of IGOLD’s.
    Trying to bring my friends into the fold by inviting them to the range.

  15. “Don’t just sit on the sidelines! Get involved and get active.”

    Activism also requires leaders. John Boch and Todd Vandermyde are leaders. Outstanding leaders.

  16. I am an active member of the VCDL (Virginia Citizen’s Defense League). It is a model for state gun groups. The president, Phil Van Cleave, has been asked to advise other state groups and is frequently interviewed be national media. He did have one famous media “fail” early in his tenure, but he has bounced back strongly. Now he amazes me with how well he tells the pro-gun story and thinks on this feet.

    The VCDL is the group suing Katie Couric for defamation about her intentionally misleading documentary “Under the Gun.” We always have suits and campaigns against state and local governments. Tonight I’m attending a pre-brief on our biggest event of the year: VA Lobby Day. This is a day where the VA legislative office building is open to any special interest groups who want to show up and see their representatives. The VCDL is by far the largest group that shows up every year.

    Last year 1,200 VCDL members showed up on a brutally cold day, all OC’ing and wearing big orange “Guns Save Lives” stickers. There were so many of us in the building, it was hard to move through the hallways. I have no doubt we violated some fire code for occupancy! We were split into teams and each team had target offices to visit. At each legislator’s office, we presented the VCDL legislative agenda document, which is a very thorough and well written briefing on current and proposed state gun laws. We were always polite, but firm.

    Afterwards, we had some great pro-gun speakers in the Capitol Commons area, all covered by the media. The VCDL had a big truck circling the Capitol all day with a giant blow up of our poster of the year on its sides. That poster is the result of an annual contest.

    What does this accomplish? Every member of the VA state government realizes that they are going to face major opposition if they pursue gun control measures and they realize that not through polling or backroom conversations, but by visceral, in-your-face personal contact.

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