Optimism

[Originally posted on Tumblr November 30th]

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving. I’m not up for talking about the end of civilization, and I’m pretty sure you aren’t either. In addition, the year is winding to a close, and Congress is deadlocked on other things besides guns.

Also a friend on Twitter who goes by the name Armed And Studious and I got into a conversation about the future of gun rights, and I felt motivated to get an archive together.

This week, we look back at where the gun rights movement has been, where we are now, and what the future looks like. This is by no means an exhaustive look at every minor event in the gun world (to be blunt….is RECOIL/Guns And Ammo really THAT significant?), but rather a look at some of the major stories this year, and how they relate to one another.

1.) Newtown Baseline. I’m not going to reboot the madness regarding Newtown. At this point, we’ve basically memorized.the details. Allow me to go on a brief tangent on this before we get started to get it out of my system.

As I discussed with Studious, this is one of the few topics I track that makes me genuinely and physically angry. We’ve all seen the images of children bolting out of Sandy Hook, a place they believed to be safe. We’ve seen the images of children being led out hand-in-hand by their teachers; walking out of a situation they can neither comprehend the scale of, nor what actually is happening.

And the teachers, who as adults fully understand the basics of what is happening on a level the children cannot hope to, are as defenseless as the children are.

In a speech at a prayer breakfast posted on YouTube, Lt. Col Dave Grossman puts the difference between Sheep and Sheepdog this way:

When the Sheep heard about the 9/11 hijackings, they said “thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” When the Sheepdog heard about the 9/11 hijackings, they said “I wish I was on there. Maybe I could have made a difference.

How many of us felt a sort of burning desire to have been there? To have been able to at least have the chance to stop this guy.

And how many wargamed a similar situation in their own hometowns?

Newtown represented a clear-as-day division between anti- and pro-gun. It caused the fundamental tenants of both to be blatantly obvious. One side chose to believe that future mass murderers would follow “new” laws (but never explained how that would deal with the pre-existing market), the other felt it was time to defend those who cannot defend themselves with something more direct than a sign that essentially said “we’d rather you didn’t but we can’t stop you if you do.” Over time, it has been impossible for the anti-gun side to prove their point on a tactical level; where emotion gives way to hard logic and person-to-person interaction.

While I have more than a few words on the concept of CNN and other “journalists” shoving cameras in the faces of elementary school students (maybe it’s because I’m not a “credentialed” journalist, but that was just repulsive), that rant is a different matter altogether. We will come back to the mindsets of both movements later on, however.

So, with that in mind, let’s get rolling.

2.) Permits, Sales, and Classes. I don’t need to remind fellow gunners that the summer saw a spike in ammo and gun sales, so I ask for forgiveness in advance for treading well-worn ground. An illustration of the progress the gun rights movement has made is impossible without noting that an event antis hoped would make the “difference they wanted it to make” and make pushing gun restrictions incredibly easy, instead gave the firearms world a boost that even those in the industry weren’t ready for.

After Newtown, permit applications surged nationwide. Reports from Georgia, Colorado, and yes even Newtown described the surge as “unprecedented.”  In Pennsylvania, the backlog for background checks was such that the Commonwealth planned a major upgrade of the system while local law enforcement agencies hired new staff to try to speed up the process.

With the climb in gun permits came a climb in gun sales. A report in the Baltimore Sun this October states that Maryland gun dealers sold more guns in 2013 than in 2011 and 2012 combined. This pattern was especially felt in areas that were already seeing a rise in crime, such as after a spike in home invasions in Indianapolis.

Recent surveys suggest that one in four American women now carry firearms.

Of course, this is not just buying a weapon for the sake of having one (mostly, it is impossible to figure out everyone’s exact motive). Classes for gun safety……that is ACTUAL gun safety (The Four Rules, etc.) have also seen a rise in interest this year. One could rationalize that the climb there is merely because it is required. The obvious problem is that states where it isn’t, like my home state of Georgia, are also seeing this increase.

3.) Right-To-Carry. Outside of the surge in gun sales/permits/classes, it is worth noting the expansion of Right-To-Carry laws across the country, and even a few major advancements in reciprocity.

West Virigina announced reciprocity with Colorado and Georgia, A bill in Ohio is working on making reciprocity with Georgia and PA possible, and Alabama basically allows everybody with a permit to carry regardless of whether the person’s home State returns the favor.

And then, of course, there is the news regarding the Stand Your Ground laws. The main focus there is the failure of attempts to change the law in Florida, and the possible expansion of SYG in Ohio. There is a lawsuit here in Georgia from Jesse Jackson’s group to stop the law, but I’m not entirely sure that is going to get anywhere.

As a final point before moving on, let us recap the action in Colorado. We have the successful recalls of two State lawmakers, the resignation of a third who was facing recall, and a governor who is facing a rough re-election campaign. Gun laws in the State are so popular that politicians responsible for them either were recalled or are seen as vulnerable.

Legally, one would be hard pressed to claim that the fight for gun rights isn’t going remarkably well.

4.) Looking ahead. There are two things I would like to close with this week. The first is a look at the action in 2014, the second is a look at the community as a whole.

2014 is expected to see a re-focusing on guns nationally. Democrats are determined to revive efforts for gun control in 2014, and are even going to be campaigning heavily on it come election time. There’s one issue….while Dems are going to be really pushing for it, polls suggest that gun control is not that much of a priority among Americans. In addition, the Federal government’s own data states that “gun violence” has collapsed in the last 20 years, running directly counter to the “blood in the streets” and “Wild West” narratives we’ve been dealing with for equally as long. Even the UN doesn’t have that much ground here, with more than half of the Senate stating its opposition to the UN Arms Treaty.

The purpose of this week’s Run has been to illustrate that the gun rights movement has been defying virtually every media narrative. The narrative that “fewer people are buying guns” doesn’t match up with the surge in CCW Classes or CCW Permits. The narrative that “gun control is popular” doesn’t match up with the CO Recall or the spectacular fashion in which the Federal legislation failed. Stand Your Ground has survived a case the media hoped would end it nationwide, and has infact expanded to other States.

But there is one narrative we haven’t tackled, and that honestly we are in the best position to disprove. That is the narrative that all gun owners are either A.) sociopathic, B.) paranoid, or C.) remarkably arrogant.

In my opinion, one of the main strengths of the gun rights movement is how we welcome newcomers. We show them how to operate the weapon, the Four Rules of Gun Safety, and the mindset required to use a gun safely and within the boundaries of the law. All of which is done fully understanding that they won’t be sharpshooters on Day One. Regardless of the reason; whether it is curiosity about guns, self-defense, or just the fun of target shooting; gun ranges have become fixtures in the community, and we’ve even seen them referred to as the “New Bowling Alleys” in NPR, which I’m fairly sure none of you would suggest is pro-gun.

But there’s a deeper level to this that makes it so powerful. We are, in essence, offering a practical toolset, skillset, and mindset for people to use. Whereas the anti-gun movement is based on the fear of a threat AND the tool, the pro-gun movement is based on the acknowledgement of a threat and the tools needed to deal with it. We don’t ask for them to always be reliant on us or any third party, it defeats the entire purpose of training. In short, the pro-gunner works to ensure others can stand on their own, the anti-gunner works to restrict their defense in the name of safety.

We are in the best position to disprove the “psychotic” narrative, and yet I don’t believe we put much effort into it. Speaking for myself in 2014, I would like to see more emphasis on the difference between pro-gunners working to empower the person next to them, and anti-gunners working to force them to rely on someone who everyone knows cannot physically be there when that person needed most (a concept which is misguided at best, and flat-out evil at worst).

But, despite all that, if I have failed to illustrate the state of the gun rights movement. If, despite all of the above, you still disagree that the gun rights movement has made incredible progress in the last two years, I can only suggest to you an article in the Huffington Post (which I’m also sure nobody would call “pro-gun”) that claims that the buying of firearms after Thanksgiving has become a new American tradition.

2014 is going to be an amazing year for the gun rights movement.The expansion of pro-gun laws, the backlash against anti-gun State lawmakers, and the surge in the popularity of firearms in general give the movement an extreme momentum going into next year. Enjoy the (relative) break, because there is going to be a lot of work to do leading up to the elections.

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