Sunday, September 18, 2005

Who's doing the "heavy lifting"?

Next to target shooting and hunting and arguing the merits of the .223 vs. the .308, the favorite activity of hard-core gun enthusiasts is without a doubt NRA-bashing.

For those Warren readers not familiar with the Gun Nut subculture, that's not a typo. The NRA catches as much grief from the right wing of the gun owner community as it does from the left wing of the gun control community ("the entire community is "left wing"; there is no such thing as a "right wing gun-grabber" -- Ed.). And leading the charge is the much smaller but much noisier Gun Owners of America.

Not without justification, of course. The NRA has often "gone along to get along", especially when the Congress was controlled by the Democrats. Back then their philosophy seemed to be "we can't stop it, so let's make it as gun-owner friendly as possible". Since 1994, they've stiffened their spine somewhat but their reputation as compromisers has lingered.

The GOA has exploited this to portray the NRA as perfidious turncoats and they themselves as the only "true" defenders of the Second Amendment. While it is true the GOA never compromises, they also never advance. The GOA will often kill a good pro-gun bill because it isn't "pure" enough. They seem to be under the delusion that the only reason all gun control laws were not repealed years ago is because of the spinless Republicans and their greedy NRA masters. An exaggeration, to be sure, but not far off the mark.

An example I am personally familiar with is Utah's concealed carry law, passed in 1995 with NRA support and GOA opposition. A representative of the Utah GOA affiliate branded it "gun control" because it required fingerprinting and background checks (necessary for it to even be considered) and refused to support it. Thankfully, they were ignored, and now after a decade some in the Legislature are seriously considering passing Vermont-style concealed carry, something that never would have happened back in 1995. Had we listened to the GOA in 1995, Utah would still have a "may issue" system, and there would still be only 3,000 permittees in the state as opposed to 65,000 today.

Even now, they are hoping to kill the important lawsuit pre-emption bill that recently passed both houses of Congress because it might be interpreted to require trigger locks. Their lack of foresight is astounding.

In the wake of Katrina, we see the same dynamic at work with individual members of the GOA. Because the NRA didn't file an immediate lawsuit after the gun confiscation order went out, some NRA-bashers accuse the NRA of lassitude or timidity or cowardice. The GOA is touted as the more dedicated defender of gun rights, even though they didn't respond any differently than the NRA, other than to issue a press release a few days earlier that was largely ignored by the MainStreamMedia. In their alert for that day on their website, they only dedicated a few lines to the confiscation after several paragraphs describing how to stop the lawsuit pre-emption bill.

But let's put last week behind us, and consider what each organization is doing now. The NRA has announced that they have sent an investigative team to New Orleans in order to interview the victims of the gun confiscation. The GOA has set up an information page and is promising to draft new legislation to prevent this in the future. Quite important, but the NRA will undoubtedly do the same thing and their bill will be far likelier to pass Congress.

Consider also the lawsuits that will be filed over the confiscation order. The GOA states it will only take gun confiscation reports from their affected members; the NRA is hoping to interview all confiscation victims. The GOA understandably wants to save its limited resources to help its members. The NRA is willing to help any citizen affected by the confiscation order. So which one is helping the average gun owner more?

Honestly, I really don't have a beef with the GOA. I appreciate the fact that sometimes they help keep the NRA honest. But I've seen enough of their backward tactics to decide that they don't deserve my support. They're kinda like the Democrat party, still living in the past, following the same outdated paradigms. They fail to realize that it's now time to move forward with steady, realistic steps, instead of standing still because something might go wrong in the future.

To put it simply, if you want to stop a gun control bill, join the GOA. If you want to pass a pro-gun bill, join the NRA. And if you're a gun owner in New Orleans, the NRA is your best friend right now. Unless you're a member of the GOA, you can't count on them.

UPDATE: More thoughts here.


At 1:42 PM, Blogger The Great El-ahrairah said...

Um, for the less-informed (moi), what is a Vermont-style concealed carry law? How does it differ from ours in Utah?

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Tam said...

In Vermont, no permit is required to carry a concealed firearm. If you can legally own it, you can legally tote it.

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Captain Holly said...

It's important also to consider how that came about. The permitless system wasn't voted in by a the Vermont legislature; it was imposed by the Vermont Supreme Court over 100 years ago.

The only state to actually pass permitless carry is Alaska, and that was only after several years of having an NRA-model "shall-issue" system in place.

At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Standard Mischief said...

I'd like to buy this argument, but we've had a “pro-RKBA” congress for years, even during Clinton. Lots of gun control BS has been “snuck-in” to bills and was passed, but, as far as I know, there are ZERO incidents of the reverse ever happening.

How many “must-pass” bills have there been? Bills like the military appropriation bill that REAL-ID got snuck-in on? Why absolutely zero results? Anyone got a good answer?

It took a long, long time for the country to get to this level of disgrace with the maze of gun control laws and regulation. It's actually OK by me if it takes a while for the reverse to happen, but it's not. It's not. happening. at. all.

So Bush II came into power with the backing of the NRA. He also had a “pro-RKBA” congress. If he had tossed me ONE FREAKING BONE during his first term I would have voted for the maggot. Saying he will pass the re-up of the AW Ban while begging the congress-things to not send the bill to his desk does not count as a bone.

I'm still waiting for the feds to arrest Ed Compass and crew. I'm not holding my breath.

The chant “I want Vermont” means “We want Vermont style carry laws” which mean, basically no laws, or at least no laws that effect non-felons. that means no fscking forms, no fscking fees, no fscking paperwork, and no fscking government issued “permission slips” to exercise your rights. There might be permit issued, if desired, because they might be useful when the free person travels to other less free states.

The best place to read about stuff like this is over at (payola free plug)

At 1:04 PM, Blogger EgregiousCharles said...

I agree with everything Captain Holly said about the value of the NRA, and the GOA keeping them honest. Something else going on here, though, is that the GOA stakes out what we really want and the NRA actually gets us a workable compromise. Without the GOA, the NRA had to compromise from the NRA's position; with the GOA, the NRA is in a position to suggest compromises from the GOA's position. Even for those of us who think the NRA is the one that gets things done, the GOA no-compromise lobby is essential, and the more we support GOA, the more the NRA can get done. But the GOA can't do it alone; in Washington "no compromise" means "no action".

The AWB expiration is actually a significant step forward. A lot of people sneer that it just expired when it should have been revoked instead. Military appropriations expire every five years, but we've got a standing army that's looking pretty permanent. Non renewal is a victory. Lawsuit preemption is another victory. Both small victories, perhaps, but victories; and government trends don't turn on a dime. Our old "RKBA" politicians were the ones that didn't offer much support to our enemies; now we work on getting politicians to actually support us.

I suggest elimination of the "sporting use" import/made of imported parts restrictions, exemption of silencers from NFA on grounds of lower noise pollution (quote complaints from people trying to get ranges shut down; also, if the Europeans allow them, why don't we?), and elimination of the Hughes Amendment as the next steps.

At 1:13 PM, Blogger Publicola said...

What I think it boils down to is how much gun control you're comfy with. Most (but not all) NRA defenders usually don't mind some forms of gun control (CCW Permits, NICS checks, etc...) while most critics want less gun control than the previous group seems comfy with.

The NRA is the 900 lb gorilla on the hill. GOA isn't. Hence when it's a choice between the two usually the gorilla wins. It's unfair to say that GOA isn't effective at getting legislation passed w/o remembering that they're not just working against gun grabbers & a reluctant congress, but the NRA as well.

It's true the NRA (along with the SAF) is pursuing lawsuits in New Orleans. But the nature of thos elawsuits is still questionable. The NRA has a nasty habit of avoiding direct Right to Arms questions & relying more on technical or regulatory arguments. The DC gun cases (Seegars v Gonzales & Parker v DC respectively) do a good job of highlighting the differences in approach, with the NRA relying on non 2nd amendment questions whereas the two CATO attorneys are more direct about things.

Locally the NRA pushed a "Shall Issue" law through Colorado a few years back. It was more restrictive (in all but two ways) than the "May Issue" law it replaced. Furthe a year later the NRA had the state house kill a Vermont style bill. Add to that a nice little "guilty until proven innocent" law that they pushed & I feel prefectly justified in "NRA Bashing". It's not that I don't think they're pure enough or perfect but that they're working against me. (The "guilty til proven innocent" law basically denies a sale to any person with an arrest that was not determined to result in an aquittal, thereby making a person go through much paperwork to prove that they meet the unconstitutionally imposed requirements of the background check.)

The NRA does some good things, like hunter's ed & general gun safety courses. They promote certain shooting sports well & have done some good work helping out shooting ranges. But politically they want more gun control than I'm comfy with. I'm not just talking about mandating trigger locks with every sale (which on principle should be enough to get upset about instead of dismissing it as a mere inconvenience) but actual gun control. Background checks, permits, rigirous enforcement of the unconstitutional disqualifications for legal possession, etc... are all things they have supported in the past & present.

What I think it comes down to is perspective; if you look at the NRA as a pro-gun absolutist org you're going to be disappointed. If you look at them more as a sportsman's club with strong industry ties (hell, the GCA of 68 was more or less a trade protection bill which the NRA supported on behalf of the ndustry) then their actions make more sense.

The GOA - they're right most of the time. They're not as succesful as I'd like, but look at what they're up against. I cannot blame folks who lose when they're in the right & facing overwhelming odds. & to blame their strategy - not compromising - is folly. If a no comrpomise org compromises in order to when then they defeat their own purpose & become just a smaller, less powerful shell of the NRA.

Want a small, realistic step? Repeal the NFA. Want a smaller realistic step? Get Bush to rescind the executive order that forbids me from carrying a firearm in a National Park. Industry protection from civil lawsuits is a good thing, but not the most pressing at the moment, nor in the long run. Now of the two orgs you discussed, which do you think would even attempt either of the two realistic steps I mentioned? & since GOA will likely not get those things done, would you say it's because there are too many gun grabbers in the republican controlled congress, or because the NRA would silently oppose them?

At 2:58 PM, Blogger EgregiousCharles said...

"What I think it boils down to is how much gun control you're comfy with. Most (but not all) NRA defenders usually don't mind some forms of gun control (CCW Permits, NICS checks, etc...) while most critics want less gun control than the previous group seems comfy with."

I think the usually perceptive Publicola is missing the point entirely here. The difference may not be in what we want, but how to get it. Or then again it may. Publicola says repeal of the NFA is a small, realistic step. I don't see that as being realistic at all, but my question is, what would a large step be? I will cheerfully admit that I don't favor legalization of NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) weapons. I favor legalization of the weapons needed to overthrow an occupying army, including foreign or domestic tyranny. I'd certainly include armor-piercing ammo and guns up to and including man-portable GPMGs, but I am fuzzier about anti-armor weapons, mortars, and anti-air. There's a big difference between stopping an invasion and making occupation impossible; my dream goal is the arms needed to resist an occupation being unregistered, untaxed, and unindicated to potential domestic tyrants by other means such as permits or potentially recorded background checks. On the other hand, shall-issue with permit is usually better than may-issue with permit (except in this Colorado instance, I guess), and NICS is better than Brady.

Of course there are too many gun grabbers in the Republican controlled congress. They're politicians. They became politicians because they think we're better off if they tell us what to do. Letting us have effective arms is not helpful to achieving that. It's always going to be an uphill struggle. Lots of people are dissappointed with the NRA because what they're working on compares poorly to what we ought to have; look around the world, though, to see what politicians would like to give us. What the NRA is trying for is pretty poor on a logical, theoretical, or moral comparision with 2A and the intention of the Founding Fathers; it's pretty good by practical comparison with what everybody else ended up with.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Sigivald said...

Like the Libertarian party, GOA seems to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If they give NRA some room to compromise from the GOA position, that's good. But as a force in themselves... meh.


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