Saturday, September 16, 2006

Confessions of a Former Gun Grabber

"Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms. This is not to say that firearms should not be very carefully used, and that definite safety rules of precaution should not be taught and enforced. But the right of citizens to keep and bear arms is just one more guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against a tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible."
That was Hubert H. Humphrey, liberal icon and failed Democratic presidential candidate in a 1960 interview with Guns magazine. I wasn't born when he uttered those lines which is appropriate; they belong to an age before mine, when guns weren't a wedge issue and the Party of justice and civil liberties accepted more diversity of opinion.

What do we know about the Democratic Party and the RKBA? To begin with, it cost us the Senate, the House and the Presidency. Tom Foley's ill-considered ramming-through of the Assault Weapons Ban is directly credited with confirming the worst fears of gun owners, causing them to jump ship for the Republicans. This isn't just the paranoid ravings of a gun-nut. It's the considered opinion of the former Speaker and former President Clinton. John Kerry should have taken West Virginia. It's pro-union and doesn't have much reason to love George Bush. It is also home to a lot of firearms owners who may have - a tip of the hat to Zak for pointing this out - provided the crucial margin to the current occupant of the White House.

When the Democrats were the dominant force in American politics they relied on the old Franklin Roosevelt coalition of the industrial heartland, the Northeast and the solid South. As it broke up and the Boll-Weevils underwent metamorphosis into elephants the Party was more in the hands of people from areas where gun rights were alien. South of Mason-Dixon and West of the Mississippi became increasingly important in national politics. A core freedom cherished by people in those areas became absolutely identified with the Republicans. Now gun prohibition is a solid plank in the platform. Obligatory shots of Presidential candidates awkwardly handling over-and-under shotguns at duck-killing photo ops do nothing to convince the formerly Democratic otherwise.

My Party can not regain anything like its former stature until it comes to term with political reality and changes its position significantly.

How is this a former gun-grabbers confession and not just a gun-owning Democrat's screed? Well now, that is a story.

I grew up in a liberal Jewish Democratic household. My grandparents, all immigrants, never owned guns. My father was qualified as a marksman and sharpshooter during WWII but never touched a firearm before or after. He was from New York City where such things are rarer than an honest fisherman. It was a matter of unarticulated faith that guns were strange bad things that good people didn't own. They belonged to people who kill things for fun, political extremists, criminals and the paranoid. They were incompatible with the values of justice and liberty that decent folks supported. By the time I was in my mid 20s I had seldom seen and never handled a firearm and knew almost nothing about them except that they were dangerous things to be feared.

There was a crack that admitted some light. I've been a martial arts student and self defense teacher for quite a while. The idea of using force in legitimate self protection, even deadly force, was not all that novel. Hands, yes. Sticks, yes. Knives, yes. Archaic Oriental weapons, yes. Guns, no.

Eventually I drifted into the orbit of a Colorado redneck Silat teacher. He thought I was absolutely wrong on this subject but didn't push the point. He did insist that I learn basic firearms safety which went a long way to demystifying them. Later there was a trip to the range. I was able to see guns as potentially dangerous special purpose tools. When the emotional ground had been prepared things that addressed the intellect like Point Blank and The Samurai, the Mountie and the Cowboy could be viewed and their message accepted with an open mind. From there it was a pretty small jump to being pro Second Ammendment.

That's the key to this, really. As long as firearms are something that Those People use they will be mysterious and frightening. Let your friends see firearms as something that normal folks have and use. Remove the superstitious fear. If you take just two hoplophobic Democratic friends out shooting (.22 only, no human silhouette targets) you will go further towards reuniting the Party with its natural constituents than any number of pictures of candidates looking uncomfortable in Mossy Oak camo and blaze orange.


Zak J. said...

That's a great starting quote. I hadn't heard it before.

I agree that photo ops with firearms often do more harm than good. I really wanted Kerry to win in 2004, and I was furious that his campaign staff was so politically tone-deaf as to let him do that hunting photo op using anything less than a semi-automatic shotgun. For those who aren't familiar with firearms and fireamrs, it looked like a pro-RKBA stance; but to those in the know, seeing Kerry with a 2-shot shotgun (I forget the exact type) was their "Aha! I told you so" moment that confirmed their suspicions.

Dems would do well to do a little snooping on the pro-gun blogs, not to mention blogs or other online forums for issues not traditionally seen as being supported by Democrats.

Anonymous said...

You can "snoop" all you want in pro-gun forums, but if you are, even a tiny bit, anti-gun, translated .. anti-american, then your true colors will always show through. One organization that has tried this "snooping" and failed is the American Hunters and Shooters Association, or AHSA for short. The pro-gun community knew this the same day they launched their website. You'll have to do better than they (the AHSA) did.

Dan Gambiera said...

The difference between the AHSA and BSD is that AHSA was a paid attempt to whitewash anti-gunners records by giving them a fake pro-gun seal of approval. It was classic astroturfing. BSD is a caucus within the Oregon Democratic Party dedicated to electing pro-RKBA Democrats and making the Party more gun friendly.

Anti-gun == Anti-American? Depends on what you mean. There are plenty of otherwise good people who fear or dislike firearms. That doesn't make them traitors. By the same token there are perfectly decent people who believe that we should get rid of the Eighth Ammednment. That is just as much a cause for concern if not more so. But to call someone "anti-Amrican" because of that is foolish.

Nimrod45 said...

I think you're going to have to do a whole lot more than just allaying the irrational fears that most liberals have when it comes to guns. You're going to have to distance yourself from several high-profile gun haters like Streisand, Baldwin and Moore, too. But you guys won't do it, because they are money in the bank for you.

As for Anti-gun = Anti-American, perhaps a better term would be "anti-gun-ownership" - you can be as anti-gun as you want, as long as you don't try to take mine away, we'll be OK.

Everybody has a right to their opinion, no matter how wrong it may be...

Sailorcurt said...

Dems would do well to do a little snooping on the pro-gun blogs, not to mention blogs or other online forums for issues not traditionally seen as being supported by Democrats.

That comment makes it appear as though you are saying that anti-gun dems need to figure out how not to appear anti-gun. You seem to be saying that Democrats need to learn how to dupe gun rights advocates into voting for them.

I'm pretty sure that's not what your group is about...but that's what democrat politicians have been about for years...hence the "pro-gun photo op" phenomenon.

As long as the Democrat's strategy is to fool gun owners into voting for them they are spinning their wheels.

As long as the party extremists have control of the Primary process, the anti-gun agenda of the Democrat party will remain unchanged because the only democrat candidates acceptable to the party extremists are anti-gun.

Zak J. said...

Thank you, Sailorcurt, for the chance to clarify my muddled earlier comment.

No, the point isn't that Dems should snoop in order to figure out how to dupe anyone. But those Dems who don't know anything about the issues should definitely snoop in order to educate themselves ABOUT THE ISSUE.

It's strange, but there are any number of "hot button" topics--guns, gay marriage, abortion rights, alternative energy to name a few--where people with no information or experience feel fully able to form opinions on without pursuing further information.

The point I was trying to make is that we should all strive to be informed, and try to genuinely understand why when we encounter those with a different political outlook.