I have a “McGovern ‘72” tattoo on my arm, if that is an indicator of where my political ideals fall. Fell. Still sort of fall. The gun control debate has truly rattled my previously stout and proud liberal foundation, and left me alone and wandering in the ideological desert. I’m a man without a party . . .
How does a guy whose vanity tags once read “GOP SUX” and who worked nearly for free getting Democrats elected stray so far from the party line? For me, it really boiled down to guns. Granted, asinine concepts like Bloomberg trying to decide what size soda I could drink exacerbated the situation, but really it was the gun-grabbers and their reactions that solidified my giant step back from the Democratic Party.
It started a year before Newtown. I had recently gotten back into target shooting and had acquired a few new firearms, and was enjoying the relative freedom that living in Virginia provided. On moving back to New York, all of that began to change starting with the fiasco that is applying for your NY State Pistol Permit.
For people not living in New York, here is the quick and dirty of the application process. Each county is somewhat different, but they are fairly similar. First, there is a fee, just to get the application. Ten dollars. And then fingerprints, $105. After that, you fill out a very lengthy form, and must find three references. In my county, those references have to fill out forms vouching for you, which they must have notarized. On top of that, there is a form you need to bring to your employer that tells them you are applying for your pistol permit, which they have to complete and sign.
In my county, your permit lists your place of employment and occupation.
After all of that is submitted and reviewed I had to schedule an hour-long interview with a Deputy Sheriff who wanted the details of every gun I owned, my complete work and residential history, and a general assessment of why I wanted a pistol permit. To get to this point in the process takes about seven to ten months. Part of it is waiting for the FBI fingerprint results, while most of it is waiting for New York State to check you in their mental health databases. (This is undoubtedly a throttle point by design, because they are more than willing to allocate millions of dollars to an ammunition database, so there is funding for firearms form processing out there.)
After everything is filled out and approved, your permit goes to a judge for review. Thankfully, in my county both of our judges are pro-2nd Amendment and generally approve unrestricted (concealed carry) permits. If I go 10 miles east of my house, they do not issue CCW, only range and home permits. It is a county-by-county decision left up to the judges, so it pays to do some research on where you live in upstate New York. A few miles closer to my job and I’d have lost my Constitutional rights.
Once your permit is approved, you must take a 10-hour NRA-certified course to keep your permit ‘unrestricted.’ In my case I had that requirement waived by the judge because I had a CCW from Virginia.
Now you are ready to purchase a pistol. Sort of. Your choices are to get a ‘coupon’ from the county clerk, which is good for 10 days and go shopping, or to purchase the pistol first, present the clerk with the S/N and bill of sale (and your $3) and get your coupon then. Either way, FFLs will not release your pistol to you without a coupon. Every pistol you carry must be listed on the back of your permit.
Now on top of this, when I moved back to New York, we already had the tightest restrictions on modern sporting rifles outside of California: 10-round magazine limit (grandfathered pre-’94 mags OK), no bayonet lug, no muzzle device (suppressor or compensator.) Handguns were also limited to a 10-round maximum capacity. I knew all of this when we decided to move back to New York and I was grudgingly willing to live with it.
And then Newtown happened and suddenly our Governor, whose eye rarely strays from what he views as his path to the White House, raced to make New York the first state in the nation to totally over-react. And thanks to New York City Democrats and some spineless Republicans, he was successful.
I won’t go into the details of the “New York SAFE Act” because that has been hashed out here many times, but suffice it to say it sent a shockwave through upstate New York. There was a run on all things firearm, similar to what happened nationally but here it happened faster and more violently. Gun shops, Wal-Marts, sporting goods stores, literally had empty shelves. A few rounds of .270, a few stray shotguns, but rifles, handguns and anything that might be going on the banned list were scooped up.
I was as guilty as anyone of rushing out and contributing to this madness. I bought anything I could get my hands on. I paid $1 a round for .223. As someone who follows New York state politics closely, I had real concerns that the other shoe was going to drop and eventually ammo and even fairly standard firearms would no longer be permitted.
I realize that seems a little paranoid, but our governor had just classified a Ruger 10/22 with a thumbhole stock as an “assault weapon,” so anything was possible in my mind.
The passage of the SAFE Act alone was enough for me to take a hard look at my political party. Nearly unanimously they had voted for passage of this abomination. And then the drumbeats started again, locally and nationally, for more. More gun control, restrictions, micro-stamping, registration, limits…anything and everything other than addressing the one thing that every mass shooting has in common: mental health.
Governor Cuomo is not an advocate for mental health, mental health funding, or mental health services. So he has no interest in having mental health as part of the discussion on gun violence. And, it turns out; neither do the rest of the Democrats, right on up to President Obama. It is always about the inanimate object, the tool, and never about the shooter and why they did it, or where we failed to identify a person in need of mental health services until it was too late.
And then A Million Moms and Bloomberg got all frothy and really set to work demonizing people like me. I’m a hunter, a firearms enthusiast, and a CCW holder who has never had anything worse than a speeding ticket, but somehow according to them I am a paranoid radical extremist and I am the source of the problem. And as they continue to say ‘no one is going to take away your guns’ out of one side of their mouth, the other side is actively doing just that. It reminds me of when I was a kid and had a loose tooth, my grandfather used to say “C’mere and let me see that. I won’t pull it out, I just want to see how loose it is.” Yoink! Every time, that is what he said, every time I fell for it, and every time he yoinked out the loose tooth on me. It took me a long time, but finally I have learned not to fall for that trick anymore.
So, back to politics…who am I now? I worked for a Blue Dog Democrat congressman and we had Remington in our district and an A+ rating from the NRA. Proudly. Lately, those same Blue Dogs are under fire from the extreme left of the party who seem intent on pushing them into a corner on things like gun control. More than ever I feel like a man without a party, and it is in large part because what was a dormant issue in our party platform has taken center stage again.
When will it end? Thankfully, and you can quote me, I think it will settle down quite a bit after this November when the Democrats get their asses handed to them in the congressional elections. That will take the piss out of a lot of these folks whipping the gun issue into a frenzy. It will re-emerge in the 2015/16 presidential primaries just as a matter of course, but by that time any candidate with half a brain will touch on it and move on to something else.
And how will I vote? Well, I’m not ever going to vote for anyone who I suspect could threaten my 2nd Amendment rights. Period. But I’m also not interested in voting for a pro-life or anti-marriage equality candidate. In 2012 I voted for the Libertarian candidate for president simply because I could not stomach either a Romney or Obama vote. And until I see some sanity start to creep back into the Democratic Party, I will take everything on a case-by-case basis and apply my litmus test.
So for now I refer to myself as a left-wing libertarian or a Blue Dog Democrat and I search for candidates who share my views. Unfortunately, they are few and far between in the State of New York.
** Note: Yes, I realize that McGovern’s 1972 platform called for a ban on handguns. Aside from that one issue with him, I still feel he would have been a fantastic president. I don’t expect a lot of agreement from the TTAG community on this, and that is OK. Agree to disagree.