In any war, each side seeks to lure their opponent to a battlefield where the adversary will be disadvantaged and operate on what I’ll call the home field advantage. In the war for the Second AMENDMENT we, the People of the Gun, have failed to appreciate this doctrine.
This realization was brought home to me by Christopher F Russo’s article “Critical Race Theory: What Is It and How to Fight It” appearing in Hillsdale College’s ‘Imprimis.’
. . . [A]ctivists who have had the courage to speak out against critical race theory have tended to address it on the theoretical level, pointing out the theory’s logical contradictions and dishonest account of history. These criticisms are worthy and good, but they move the debate into the academic realm, which is friendly for proponents of critical race theory. They fail to force defenders of this revolutionary ideology to defend the practical consequences of their ideas in the realm of politics.
Most of us are Old Fat White Guys, stuck in our heads, beating the same spot on the same drumhead…“Shall not be infringed!” We fail to realize that that particular argument doesn’t resonate much in the hearts and minds of the softer popular culture.
Many of our unworthy opponents are academics, skilled at marketing in the political arena. For the most part, we are not. They have been overwhelmingly successful in taking over academia, from graduate studies through the education colleges and down through K-12. They have captured this market and we have failed miserably.
Similarly, they have largely captured minority and poor voters who live in dangerous precincts. They have successfully sold this audience on highly processed agitprop comprised of the planks in their political platform, one of which is gun-control.
We have mostly failed in imparting the message that the right to armed self-defense <em>shall not be infringed.</em>
As a result, we have conceded the home field advantage. Why? And more importantly, what can we do about it?
I want to emphasize that each of our habitual arguments does have its proper place somewhere in the theater of war. We need to work hard to develop our arguments on the meaning of the word “infringe” so that academics can present briefs to the five sympathetic Justices on the Supreme Court. There is no doubt that the <em>Heller</em> and <em>McDonald</em> decisions turned on the body of Second Amendment scholarship in the preceding couple of decades.
Yet other arguments have no place whatsoever. Defining the term “arms” is important with respect to “assault weapons” and magazine bans, but it’s utterly pointless to take the bait on whether nuclear weapons are protected by the Second Amendment. Neither soccer moms nor politicians are interested in that question other than to leap swiftly and irrevocably to the conclusion that gun rights advocates are insane.
We need to tailor our rhetoric to each respective audience. Arguments over the meaning of the key terms of the 2A will be formulated by academics. That’s not to say we laymen can’t make contributions.
Every new insight has potential value. Some novel insight will inevitably occur to one or another of us and make its way (e.g., through someone such as Clayton Cramer) into the body of academic literature and finally reach the Supreme Court. But these arguments should only make the occasional appearance in debates before politicians and voters.
Politicians are concerned with votes and contributions. Nothing much else registers with them. Your argument to a politician must either promise him votes or threaten to take them away. Promise him campaign resources, or threaten to deprive him of them.
Unless you’re independently wealthy you can make almost no individual impact with a politician. You have to win the hearts and minds of voters…persuade them to vote their personal sentiments and interests…and open their checkbooks.
Ultimately, no right can survive the juggernaut of statism unless it’s backed by a supermajority of voters. The war for the Second Amendment will ultimately be won in the bleachers of soccer fields and on stools in bars. That’s where we, the People of the Gun, can have an impact.
We aren’t those who are equipped to write amicus briefs for judges. Few of us can fly to Washington to lobby our Congresscritters. What we can do is lobby and persuade our neighbors. But to do that effectively, we have to choose our talking points strategically and tactically.
The COVID crisis and some ill-chosen tactics of leftists have opened a that’s battlefield ripe for our us. Government has demonstrated its clear ineptitude in managing and mitigating a public health crisis of pandemic proportions.
How can a voter believe these same people could make any impact on reducing “gun violence?” Point to any accomplishment government gun control has achieved since the landing on Plymouth Rock. Americans began buying guns in earnest at the beginning of the pandemic, when they feared they might have to defend their stocks of staples from marauding scavengers.
That, though, was just the beginning. BLM and Antifa rioters turned major metropolitan centers into riot zones. Americans, many of them first-time buyers, overwhelmed gun stpres. BLM/Antifa, enabled by local politicians, then doubled down with defund the police campaigns and cops rushed the retirement application office. Those who remained retreated to the peaceful neighborhoods, abandoning inner cities to gang violence.
We have two sub-audiences here. One is the inner city resident who fears for his life, home and shop. Life was risky enough in these areas before 2020, but she could still call 9-1-1. When seconds count, a first responder was just minutes away.
Now her only reasonable expectation may be to leave a message on an answering machine. She and her neighbors have elected Democrat councilmen and mayors for decades. This probably won’t change.
Cops are quitting. Those remaining are retreating to outerwhitelandia. The inner city resident has been abandoned. Her future is in her own hands. Will she defend her family, home and shop or will she be disarmed…not un-armed, but dis-armed by her political choices.
Our second audience is typified by the metaphorical soccer mom. She doesn’t have to live in a gated community with 24/7 securitym but she probably lives in a bucolic suburban-like neighborhood. She rarely has occasion to be in or travel through anywhere she considers “dangerous.”
Violence is a statistical improbability for her. She will never invest in a martial arts training regime. The idea of using a gun is far outside her self-image. Yet she is aware of the plight of her minority single-mother counterpart in the inner city.
The question for the soccer mom is, ‘Would you disarm a disadvantaged mom in the inner city? Will you leave her helpless from attack? Will you allow her to only dial 9-1-1 while you simultaneously contribute to the BLM/Antifa defund the police campaign?’
In each case, as illustrated by these two examples, we can ask plain-spoken, practical questions which bring to mind some obvious answers. We need to avoid taking the bait like, ‘Do you advocate that every woman carry a gun?’ It’s not a binary, all-or-nothing choice. It’s an option for those who want to and can legally exercise their right to arm themselves for self-defense. Those who would do so if not arbitrarily forbidden by ill-conceived gun control laws.
These are personal decisions. None of us, individually, can do anything to influence policing, prosecution, sentencing, incarceration, not in our municipalities or states and certainly not at the national level.
Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the 40+ shall-issue states have an option to arm ourselves outside the home. Will we decide and vote to keep those in the remaining states dis-armed against their will? Will we deny them that choice? This too is a personal decision, one which we make at the ballot box.
What do you – the inner-city resident or soccer-mom – make of the argument about ‘keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them’? How does that resonate with your sense of equality, fairness, justice? How can you distinguish between those who should versus those who shouldn’t have them? Do you measure by net worth or income? Education? Your need versus her need?
Granted, you might not feel a need to be armed, but how do you evaluate the need of an inner city resident? Will you advocate to de-fund the police where she lives while re-funding the police in your own area?
Such arguments are much more likely to engage a voter as compared to the constitutional rights drumbeat. The voter is far more interested in the possibility of using a shotgun for home defense or a handgun for carrying outside the home.
They can’t relate to the nitty-gritty of “assault weapon” cosmetology and just aren’t very interested. Carry rights in schools or courtrooms fascinates us, but the soccer mom drops her children at the curb. She’s more interested in whether she is un-armed in Walmart while a mass shooter or stalker can’t be disarmed when she’s there.
As rhetorical combatants on these fields, we have a choice: take the gun-controllers’ bait or apply the the best tactics we can to choose our own best battlefield. It’s time to decide.