[The following was posted July 4, 2013. It was an experiment to use footnotes instead of hyperlinks in the Midnight Run in an attempt to formalize the report. It will not be repeated in Motivation.]
How much bad news is too much? Here we are entering Independence Day, and all anyone who runs through the news can think about is the gun control fight, the possibility of yet another distraction of a war, the political intimidation brought onto the Tea Party, and lest we forget, the fact that everything we do on the Internet is being recorded “for our safety.” Recent events have even led to a few discussions with friends of mine about whether the country is “lost.” (Indeed, recent polls suggest Americans are less optimistic about the direction of the country than back when Carter was in office.1) For Blowback this year, I’ve decided not to focus on the events, but rather the reaction to those stories.
The protests in DC are all fine, but that’s not what is going to make any major difference in the long run. As it should have been during the 2012 election, we’re starting to see a lot of resistance from the ground level….and it’s starting to make those in power (in both parties, assuming you still think they are two parties) pretty nervous. Nowhere is this more evident than in the gun control debate which dominated the first half of 2013, and is likely to be restarted over the summer.
The Federal gun rights debate is almost irrelevant, since no gun legislation has any real chance of getting through both chambers. The State battles are far more interesting to watch. Some states are passing limits on the number of rounds in a magazine (though some aren’t quite sure what a magazine actually is, admittedly), others are going a totally different direction, with bills to expand concealed-carry rights and even nullify Federal gun control efforts (rationalized under a mix of the Second and Tenth Amendments). The media is focused on a few highly-publicized victories in Connecticut and Colorado, with the goal of painting a rather hopeless picture for pro-gunners; that gun control is extremely popular, and that those standing in the way of the legislation “side with the criminals.” 2
The working thesis tonight is simple; that narrative of the “inevitable” success of gun control, and everything it entails, is running into something that those carrying the narrative never expected. Despite media reports, there is a noticeable resistance to attempts to restrict gun rights. Tonight we look at the surge in gun sales, reports on gun violence, and even recent polls of Law Enforcement. Blowback has always focused on the grassroots, and this year’s edition will continue that pattern. Far from painting a bleak picture for gun rights (and, frankly, individual liberty in general), this year’s edition aims to prove that the real story is far brighter, and points to a resistance that cannot be stopped.
PART 1: BACKGROUND
Let’s set the stage. Of course (and for reasons both obvious and disgusting) we need to start with the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. 27 people were killed on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary. The gunman then killed himself as police arrived. It was later discovered that the perpetrator shot and killed his own mother, and stole the weapons she had. As with every major school shooting since Columbine, this reignited a debate about gun control (though the debate about mental health went almost nowhere, and neither did the debate about “violent video games,” which hit a massive roadblock when the Supreme Court declared that the medium had First Amendment protection).
With the news came calls for the renewal of the Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban (from here on, AWB), and more extensive background checks1. The “commonsense” background checks led many to believe that it would lead to a national registry, whether explicitly or through a backdoor measure.2 Being a gun owner, at least in the eyes of the media and many in government, was either something to be attacked or demonized. This was made all the more evident when a New York newspaper published an interactive map of Concealed Carry License holders in the state, complete with names and addresses.3 The paper eventually took it down, but not before one of the people on that list was robbed.4
In Congress, the debate focused on a Senate bill called the “Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013.” A host of amendments ranging from a revival of the AWB (which Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) had proposed) to limits on magazine size (proposed by Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ). In introducing the Assault Weapons Ban, Senator Feinstien referred to the rifles as “personal pleasures,” and suggested that owners of such weapons should put their enjoyment behind the “general welfare” of the country.5 Supporters pointed to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, claiming that “90% of Americans support expanded background checks.”6 A common theme at press events in support of the bill was to have the families of Newtown victims present behind the podium, which was criticized by opponents as using them as “props” to rally support for the bill.7 Receiving far less attention were people who lost family members in Newtown, but were against gun control. In an appearance on Fox News, Mark Mattioli, who lost as on in the shooting, said that he didn’t see more gun control laws as the right response to the shooting.8 Instead, Mattioli argued for enforcing existing laws, and increasing “mandatory minimum sentences for gun-related crimes.”
The debate in Congress culminated with an amendment introduced by Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) that, they claimed, would make background checks online and at gun shows mandatory, but stressed that it was not a path to a gun registry. Critics of the bill as a whole saw the amendment as the backdoor registry they had claimed the bill was from the beginning.9The amendment failed, as did almost every other amendment for the bill, when brought for a vote on April 17, 2013.10 In a speech at the White House Rose Garden later that evening, President Barack Obama blamed the “gun lobby”, specifically the National Rifle Association, claiming they “willfully lied” about the bill and the Manchin/Toomey amendment in particular.11He stressed that the bill passed despite the poll claiming 90% of Americans had supported it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would shelve the legislation the next day.12 Sen. Reid, and others like Vice President Joe Biden, have promised that while the Safe Schools Act failed, that they intend to continue pushing for gun control. On July 1st, Examiner.com picked up news of the “Modernized Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act”, which essentially looks to ban virtually all rifle ammo from civilian use.13 Interestingly, news hit the wires the day before Independence Day that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ardent supporter of gun control would host a fundraiser for Manchin later in July.14
PART 2: SCHOOLS
The Sandy Hook shootings also changed the debate on how to protect elementary and middle schools, as well as the debate on allowing guns on college campuses. The National Rifle Association proposed a plan to put armed guards in schools.1 The proposal was roundly mocked by critics as adding more guns to a situation that clearly didn’t need any more. It was also suggested that the presence of armed guards would make children more fearful. Oddly it was around this point that bulletproof backpacks, which hadn’t really been a thought until then, saw a spike in sales as well.2
In colleges, where many students are old enough to both join the military and own their own firearms, the idea of CCW on Campus was back in the spotlight following the shootings at Sandy Hook. In Georgia and Texas, especially, the prospect of allowing licensed individuals to carry guns on campus has come within inches of being legalized. In both States, it was more a matter of being unable to pass before the close of the Legislature’s session than any lack of support. To demonstrate, we will look at the battle in Georgia as an example. Before we do so, please note that Georgia has one of the shortest legislative sessions in the nation, lasting from January into early April.
The debate over CCW On Campus in Georgia is largely fueled by the crime that occurs around Georgia Tech, located in downtown Atlanta. The bill that came through the State Legislature would have allowed GA Weapons License holders to carry their guns onto campus, save for dorms and stadiums. The State Senate (and Gov. Nathan Deal) pushed to make training mandatory as well. The USG (University System of Georgia) strongly opposed the bill, saying that current law was working, and allowing guns would be disruptive to other students and staff in addition to making the environment less safe. (Although they almost never touched on the crime happening around areas like Georgia Tech.)
The bill for Campus Carry ended up being merged into a much larger pro-gun bill that also opened bars and churches to CCW holders. It should be noted that Ohio has allowed guns in bars for about two years without incident.3 The concept of mandatory training became a huge sticking point between the House and Senate. The bill was brought to the floor of the House about ten minutes too late to do anything, and was shelved until the 2014 session. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article shortly afterwards, claiming that the bill would likely pass in 2014, owing to the USG Board’s waning influence, election year politics, and the fact that the previous bill is already filed and ready to go long beforehand4. A similar situation is happening in Texas, although right now there are no plans to bring a CCW On Campus bill to a vote during the current special session of the State Legislature.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, where Campus Carry was already legalized, there were efforts to ban it in the wake of the Newtown shooting. (Note that it was not due to any shooting on a Colorado campus, which is largely the criticism used to slow down CCW on Campus in other States.) This led to some fairly interesting solutions from critics of campus carry, specifically their ideas for female students. Most infamous among them was Colorado Democrat Joe Sallazar’s idea of using a “rape whistle”5 (for which he later apologized).Aside from proving the adage of gun control as “seeing a raped woman as morally superior to a dead would-be rapist” correct, the clear ineffectiveness of that idea, and others that were proposed helped defeat the legislation, which was eventually killed by the bill’s sponsor,6 After a slew of gun control laws passed through Colorado’s Legislature, universities also suggested that women should urinate, vomit, or claim to be diseased to deter an attacker.7
PART 3: SURGE
The greatest irony of the last seven months has been that the rush to exploit the Newtown shootings has led to one of the biggest spikes in gun and ammo sales in recent memory. This invariably led to a spike in prices too, in some cases leading to prices twice that of what they were before the spike1 (sometimes more, as shown when Cheaper Than Dirt started getting hit with accusations of price gouging),which wasn’t enough to keep stores from selling out their inventory.2 Ironically, despite the surge in revenue, some stores decided to halt sales of assault rifles, such as Wal-Mart and Dick’s.3 This was seen by pro-gunners as a weak-kneed caving to PR pressure for no solid reason.
With the increase in gun sales comes the increase in background checks. Backlogs reached a point where states like Pennsylvania started looking into ways to upgrade their systems to process the requests from both CCW permits and gun sales faster. In Colorado, the surge was called “unprecedented” by the CO Bureau of Investigation; which told the Denver Post that a process that usually took minutes ended up taking upwards of 68 hours.4 Similar spikes were reported in Alabama5 and elsewhere.6 The surge in gun sales and background checks have only recently started cooled off, and people are now starting to see a reduction in price as supply gets back to normal levels.
Looking at background checks and how law enforcement is responding to the surge also gives us a chance to see how law enforcement is reacting to the gun control debate as a whole. It is often said by anti-gunners that law enforcement has always and will always support “commonsense” gun control laws. (With the definition of “commonsense” seeming to change every other week.)While going virtually unreported by the media (except to invite them on to be browbeaten and guilt-tripped), several individual sheriffs like Milwaukee County’s David Clarke,7 and in some cases entire sheriffsorganizations8 have basically said that they will not enforce what they see as unconstitutional gun control legislation. In addition, a survey of15,000 people in law enforcement by PoliceOne (essentially a trade magazine for LEOs and those in the law enforcement community) found law enforcement to be both skeptical of current gun control legislation and supportive ofconcealed-carry.9 The survey went practically unreported by most major media sources.
PART 4: ENDGAME
So, with all of that in mind, where does it leave us? The reality is that it leaves the pro-gun movement (and, by association, the Liberty Movement as a whole) in a very strong position. The combination of a record-breaking spike in gun sales and background checks, the spectacular failure of gun control legislation at the Federal level, and the emerging pro-gun sentiment among law-enforcement is quite powerful. In addition, the reality is that, despite the constant need to drum up Newtown, gun control simply isn’t seen as the massive threat proponents want it to be.1 In States that have gone decidedly anti-gun, we are also seeing a backlash there and in some cases even civil disobedience. A perfect example of this is in New York. The State’s SAFE Act was a mix of a weapons ban, a magazine ammo limit, and a mandatory gun registration program. There is a movement now to essentially break that law, and refuse to register anything.2 In an echo from 2010 we are starting to see impassioned speeches at town hall meetings against the bill One such individual is Aaron Weiss, an Iraq combat vet who delivered a short speech in Dutchess County, NY on the SAFE Act, focusing on the repeated and hypocritical attempts by supporters of the Act to use “dead babies” as a “battlecry.”3
Perhaps most telling, however, is the reaction coming from gun control proponents and their increasing candor both about their ignorance towards guns, and their hopes for Newtown as a blood-stained springboard for gun legislation. For example, Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge told National Public Radio that “We had hoped the killing of those babies in Newtown would make a difference. I’m not so sure that it has made the difference that we wanted to make.”4 Finally, as mentioned earlier, gun control proponents have begun taking a “with us or against us” tactic, especially with law enforcement. On May 17, Colorado’s Senate Democrats responded to State sheriffs, who had joined a lawsuit to overturn the State’s new gun-control legislation.5 The official Twitter account stated that “2day CO sheriffs stood in opposition of CO’s new gun laws, but not w/law-abiding citizens, but with criminals #coleg#Sheriffs4Criminals.”6
In Colorado, US Rep. Diana DeGette told a Denver Post forum that ammo magazines were essentially one-time-use. She told the forum “these are ammunition. They are bullets. So the people who have those now, they’re going to shoot them. So, if you ban them in the future, the number of the high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won’t be any more available.”7 Leaving aside the rather obvious bonus of saying outright that the goal was to deplete supply of the magazines entirely (and perhaps the ammo as well), Rep. DeGette’s comments and others (such as Joe Salazar’s baffling comments on rape whistles as an alternative for shooting an attacker8) showed that some of the people supporting the bans aren’t entirely sure of what it is they are banning, nor the impact of such bans.
The argument between the anti- and pro-gun movements is not complicated. It comes down to a difference in mindset. The anti-gun movement is focused, essentially, on fear. It is predicated on the idea that criminals are everywhere, and the only way to prevent events like the tragedy at Newtown is to place more restrictions on firearms regardless of the damage it does to those who have done nothing wrong. The solution, apparently, is that you need someone else to protect you, as civilian ownership of guns is dangerous and will only perpetuate the cycle of violence. In short, it is predicated on a fearful, defeatist, and disempowering mindset. You are expected to rely on someone else for protection unconditionally, regardless of whether other people can actually get to you in time to make any difference.
Pro-gunners go in a far different direction. They accept that there are people who seek to harm others (for numerous reasons) and that they do not pay attention to laws that most people in civil society follow. (Note that the Sandy Hook shooter shot his mother with her own gun.) But rather than react with calls for laws that such people have already proven they won’t follow, pro-gunners offer a skillset, a way to at least have a chance if, God forbid, a person is attacked or put in a situation similar to Sandy Hook. And along with that skillset, many pro-gunners offer training on the tools and the mindset needed to master it. In short, the pro-gun mindset is predicated on accepting that there are “bad people” in the world, and empowering people with the ability to defend themselves from such individuals. It is, by default, a far more optimistic mindset than one predicated on fear both of an inanimate object and the “potential” everyone around a person has to kill.
And that is why Blowback suggests that the expansion of gun rights (and, by association, liberty in general) is inevitable. The efforts to attack firearms as the source of violence, demonize gun owners as being directly responsible for such shootings, and constant Wild West imagery have only amplified people’s interest in firearms. What people are discovering is a world far different than what they have been told. Add to that the Federal government’s admission that gun violence has actually decreased over the last two decades1 and there is simply no longer a logical argument for gun control proponents to stand on (assuming there ever was one to start with). Only an emotional one that is itself becoming tired if not insulting.
As more people get educated on firearms (and, more importantly, how to use them), respecting a firearm will become more widespread, and the ominous mystique around firearms will be diminished. Those who choose to use a firearm either in an activity like range shooting or for their own self-defense become increasingly protective of their right to use the firearm. (Those who do not, for whatever reason, will at the very least walk away with a firm understanding of firearms, and their place in American society.) As those numbers grow, the self-reliance and pro-liberty movements that gun rights are inseparable from will grow with them. The end result, combining all there of those movements, is a massive section of the country that is well-armed, well-trained, self-reliant and extremely protective of their rights. Attempts to infringe on those rights will be seen as insulting, and will be impossible to get through. The people the media wants everyone to believe are destroying the country will instead be the ones who save it.
Happy Independence Day.
Over and out.
PART 1: FEAR
PART 2: SCHOOLS
PART 3: SURGE
PART 4: REACTION