I asked myself a lot of tough questions this election year. What will I go to the mat for? What do I want the country to look like in 20 years? Who am I willing to stand with, and against? In the aftermath of the presidential election, it’s time to ask another question: what direction should the gun rights movement take in this new era of Trump?
We know our legislative agenda. We have a general sense of what our priorities are (recently outlined by John Boch): ensuring the appointment of a pro-gun rights Supreme Court judge. Passing a federal National Concealed Carry reciprocity bill. And removing hearing protection from the NFA list.
The next question: what political price are we willing to pay to enact our agenda?
Even though it ran the table this year, the GOP still only has a bare majority in the U.S. Senate. Assuming we could automatically get all GOP Senators on board for, say national reciprocity or the Safe Hearing Act (which may or may not be a good assumption, as we’ve learned in the past), any legislative accomplishments will require at least SOME Democratic support to achieve the 60 vote margin needed to end a filibuster.
[Note: The political calculus would change if the GOP Senate nukes the filibuster. Not likely or advisable. The filibuster in recent times has protected gun rights more than it has weakened them, as the thankfully ill-fated 2013 vote on the Manchin-Toomey universal background check bill demonstrated.]
We have to be careful, though. The history of legislative compromise with the anti-gun lobby makes for depressing reading.
In 1986, we got the Firearms Owners Protection Act — we lost post-’86 machine guns in exchange for creating an affirmative legal defense that law-abiding gun owners driving through New York City with an unloaded .22 pistol locked in their trunk can raise…after they’ve had their property confiscated, been frog-marched to jail, strip-searched and held for trial on $1m bond. In 1994, we hammered out the Federal Assault Weapons Ban; the “compromise” being the ten-year sunset clause.
Despite the record of those Faustian bargains, I say that the pro-Second Amendment people should move forward with malice toward none and charity toward all to ensure the success of our legislative agenda during the Trump Administration. As I alluded to last year, the gun rights movement does not have to limit itself to only working with the people who self-identify as “conservatives” or even “libertarians.”
Pro-gun rights legislators might consider compromising with others on something non-firearms-related, something that might swing enough Democrats without turning off too many Republicans. A little horse trading might do the trick. What about these compromises?
– To get national concealed carry reciprocity protecting the right of law-abiding gun owners to carry in heretofore verboten areas like New York City, San Francisco, and the great state of Hawaii, would you back a bill that reformed Obamacare instead of ending it?
– Would you fund Planned Parenthood to get hearing protection and SBRs off the NFA list?
– Let’s go bat-poop crazy for a moment: would you support a one-time payment of “slavery reparations” for Black Americans in exchange for the whole enchilada? I mean: concealed carry license holders essentially having the same rights as they would under LEOSA, hearing protectors and SBRs off the NFA list, new machine guns back, Constitutional Carry in Washington, DC, and abolishing the ATF?
My name is (not actually) Johannes Paulsen and I don’t approve the above deals — especially not the last one, which veers into odious straight-out ethnic identity politics (though the cognitive dissonance all-around would truly be epic.) But I am saying that this is the moment to think outside the box in terms of what we’re willing to do and who we’re willing to work with to secure the blessings of the Second Amendment for our generation and beyond.
Maybe the best bet is to adhere to the old conservative/libertarian axis and build outward from there. But let’s at least consider what our options are when it’s time to move forward. We won’t always have the opportunity that we have now.