Editor’s Note: Liberal Resistance dot Net is firmly committed to the principle of gun control and regulation. In an age of automatic weapons and mass violence, it only makes sense. That said, however, we also acknowledge that many, many gun owners are reasonable, rational, and willing to compromise. Jay Chambers is one of these. A thoughtful and insightful man of libertarian bent, Mr. Chambers thinks that idealistic firearm owners and liberals can find a common ground where gun ownership by sane people would be protected while every effort was made to keep weapons out of the hands of potential murders. In hopes of achieving such a compromise, this publication is delighted to present this, the first of Mr. Chambers’ essays on the subject.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from bad fiction books, it’s that audience selection matters. Any message will be well received if it’s crafted for the right audience.
That’s why it’s vital to understand the difference between gun lunatics and gun owners. Far too much time and effort is wasted saying the wrong things to the wrong people in the gun legislation arena.
First, there are gun nuts who will oppose any new gun legislation simply because it’s gun legislation. When we hear sentiments like, “Why won’t they compromise?” it’s the gun nuts that we’re talking about.
Fortunately, they’re the minority of gun owners. It may not seem like it, because organizations—mostly the NRA—cater to this minority in their messaging and lobbying demands. But, these organizations haven’t represented the majority of gun owners for a long time.
Currently, the NRA is undergoing a much needed overhaul, with several high ranking members moving to more reasonable Second Amendment organizations. But, the important takeaway here is that the majority of gun owners are reasonable people who are willing to compromise.
These gun owners have compromised before.
That’s how the National Firearms Act was passed in 1934, which made fully-automatic firearms illegal. And, that legislation was expanded in 1986 to effectively stop the production of new fully-automatic firearms.
The Gun Control Act was passed in 1968 to restrict interstate transfer of firearms.
Then, the Brady Law was enacted in 1993, which required background checks for any firearm purchased from a licensed dealer, and implemented waiting periods in states where there adequate background checks weren’t available.
Most recently, the Bump Stock Ban passed with relative ease (there were lawsuits, mostly supported by the NRA. But, they mostly amounted to nothing). In fact, by the time the ban went into effect, there was only one manufacturer that was still producing them. The rest had voluntarily ceased production by late 2018.
The point is that there is a huge contingent of gun owners who are willing to make these compromises and have the reasonable conversations that we all want.
However, it’s the most extreme gun owners who are the loudest, and who have the largest organization representing them. So, it’s easy to assume that that’s who we’re talking to whenever we encounter a pro Second Amendment individual, and create messaging intended to combat the rhetoric of extreme organizations and gun nuts.
This is problematic because it alienates the people who would be receptive to good ideas if they didn’t feel like they were being incorrectly labeled as gun nuts. And, consequently, further gun legislation is stalled because a significant voting population is being left out of the discussion.
It might be tempting to simply disregard those people. But, that’s a pretty bad mindset for democracy. But, it’s estimated that about 30% of U.S. adults own one or more guns. That’s about 62.7 million people. Only 5 million of those gun owners are NRA members (according to the NRA. It’s probably fewer than that).
That leaves about 57.7 million people who don’t need to be served anti-gun nut rhetoric. That’s a significant voter base.
These gun owners don’t need to be browbeaten. They just need to understand why they’re not actually the target of new legislation.
The 1934 National Firearms Act was probably a pretty easy sell, because the vast majority of gun owners didn’t own fully-automatic weapons. Most civilians didn’t even notice the new legislation.
The Bump Stock Ban probably would have received even less opposition if somebody had taken the time to point out that a very small percentage of gun owners actually owned bump stocks. And, that a bump stock made a rifle impractical, anyway.
Ultimately, most new laws aren’t restricting privileges that normal gun owners care about. New legislation really does target items that can be destructive in the wrong hands, and that the average gun owner isn’t really interested in.
But, you wouldn’t know that from listening to the NRA. And, if the people who support these laws aren’t pointing that out, then nobody is saying it. Then, everybody is arguing, because we let the gun nuts ruin the conversation, when we don’t even need to talk to the gun nuts.
In the long run, that doesn’t help. Because we’re catering to the minority of gun owners just as much as the NRA. Leaving the other 57.7 million gun owners feeling unrepresented, and probably supporting the side that they perceive will have the least negative impact on their lives.
And maybe that’s not the best way to be. But, are we trying to make model citizens or get people to support good ideas? 57.7 million is a lot of votes to leave on the table. There’s nothing wrong with putting things in terms that people can agree with, rather than fighting with them to change their mind.
To the original point, we need to draw a clear line between gun lunatics and gun owners so that we know who exactly we need to speak to, how they use their guns, and what’s going to have the greatest impact (read: what’s most likely to get passed. Because an enacted law is worth a hundred that get shot down).
With a clear picture of who we actually need to talk to, we can articulate a clear message which addresses the actual issues gun owners have with new gun laws. That way we can target the 57.7 million gun owners that might be receptive to change, instead of the (maybe) 5 million who will stick to their guns, no matter what.
Jay Chambers is a pro free speech business owner based in Austin, Texas. Having lived through several natural disasters and more than a few man-made ones, he believes that resilience and self-sufficiency are essential in this increasingly unpredictable world. That’s why he started a business. Jay writes over at Minute Man Review.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.