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Eating Our Own

As I sit to write this the greater gun community is again up in arms over statements made in a video on a so-called news program. A 22 year Special Operations veteran and was recently portrayed as favoring  universal background checks and waiting periods for firearms purchases. There is also an uproar over comments made on one of his social media accounts. I’ve seen people say all manner of derogatory things about him in reaction.

This individual is not one I would consider as being even a little bit anti-gun. He has gone on record saying the interview was heavily edited to achieve a certain goal. He also stated that the social media comment was made flippantly in response to provocations. Knowing just a little bit about the world he lived most of his adult life in (no I wasn’t a SOF guy but have been around many), I can tell you integrity is near or at the top of the list of desired personality traits. If that’s what he says, I accept it at face value.

What if he were to say, “yeah I said it and yeah I support it”? That makes him no less a patriot. I would disagree with anyone espousing those views but I must respect their right to hold and express them. It would certainly spur conversation if it were someone I had regular contact with. And yes, I would attempt to convince them that their views may be misguided. In the end however, individuals have the right to hold and express opinions even if they differ… and possibly especially if they do. That’s part of the beauty of being American.

I will say right now I hold opinions some others, even other gun owners, won’t like. I would love to see a full repeal of the NFA. However, there may have to be a balance because criminals will leverage the availability of firepower. Another unsavory reason for balance may be that I don’t want Bubba blindly launching mortar rounds off over his treeline on Independence Day and New Year’s Eve. We have all heard celebratory gunfire even here in the States so it’s not tough to imagine. At the very least I want to see removal of SBRs, SBSs, and silencers (the name on Hiram Maxim’s patent) from the NFA registry. I support permitless carry and believe training to be a personal responsibility rather than a precondition to firearms ownership or right to carry. I see licensing schemes and safety tests as conditions to firearms ownership in much the same unconstitutional light as poll taxes and literacy tests applied to voting rights, especially knowing gun control was initially enacted for the same purposes as the poll tax and literacy tests. That said, I have no issue with mandatory firearms training becoming the norm if properly executed. My model would be executed through making it a part of the curriculum in our schools. Those who graduate prior to the year of full implementation would be grandfathered. I don’t support the Hearing Protection Act bill that’s currently working its way through Congress because I see flawed logic that could lead to any firearm accessory that’s restricted by ITAR becoming subject to a NICS check and 4473. I don’t support the national Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act bill that’s working its way through Congress because of similar concerns for further federal regulation on CCW. Does expressing these views make me deserving of a late night visit from folks bearing torches and pitchforks, anxious to cover me in boiling pine pitch and chicken plumage? If so, let’s get it over with.

What I see is troubling. We in the gun community tend to eat our own. I will likely face harsh criticism from at least a few for that last paragraph. Some talk extremely poorly of those who open carry. Others freak out at the mention of a gun owner supporting background checks. Others yet argue over black rifles and rates of fire allowed on ranges. Some talk with bravado and a false sense of security saying things like, “if it takes more than 7 rounds you don’t need to be carrying”, while downplaying whether magazines holding more than 10 rounds are even needed.  Some call each other “tactards” or “fudds”.

Some talk about never supporting the NRA because of the organization’s past support of legislation that is unpopular with the greater gun community, or because of perceived failures to fight everywhere every time. Some don’t like the in-your-face no compromise stances of the GOA. Some don’t like the FPC. The fact is, these organizations stand between liberty and those who would regulate and legislate our freedoms away, whether every official stance is one you or I agree with. Joining these organizations isn’t an either/or solution; we should support all of the above including state and local organizations. They provide the lobbying force and widespread influence that individuals would be hard pressed to do even with combined efforts among groups of friends.

Besides, what have you done to help improve the organization? Have you contacted the leadership to ask why a particular stance has been taken or to request a change in position or tactic? What have you done with regards to legislation or regulation? Have you contacted your representatives at either the federal or state level? To both questions I will say that silence is consent. If you haven’t voiced your opinion in a more meaningful way than spouting on social media or in an internet forum you have no room to piss and moan. This is because you have chosen to make no impact on those who are able to support your opinion through governmental policy. Of course, you have every right to go on and on about what should be but remember your words are hollow because you gave consent through silence when it counted.

In the end, we lose legislative and regulatory battles over guns by incremental measures. This happens because we are far less organized and focused than those lobbying to curtail our freedoms. We are ineffective at policing our own quietly and tend to lash out against people that step out of line. We collectively aren’t all that adept collectively at using civil discourse to educate people. Instead the loudest voices from our side of the gun argument are often the voices screaming “MUH RIGHTS!” While those voices are often correct, many come from uneducated positions and lose steam as arguments are put forth.

We wonder why gun control supporters tend to look at our freedoms as threats to society yet many among us portray ourselves with bumper sticker slogans. “I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6”. “The Second Amendment is my carry permit.” “Body piercing by Colt”. Guess what- that’s your right and I support freedom of expression. However, let’s explain how the Dick Act describes the citizenry as the unorganized militia. Counter with how the Militia Act of 1792 required male citizens to keep a serviceable firearm and ammunition for militia use. Point out how depictions of the Wild West are historically inaccurate when it comes to gunfights at high noon. Highlight Patrick Henry’s statements at Virginia’s conference to ratify the Constitution- “…Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined….”

I’m not a constitutional scholar or an attorney, but I am intellectually curious by nature. I’ve read Hobbes, Locke, and Paine. I’ve read English common law that set legal precedents for firearms ownership in what was then the 13 Colonies. The Federalist Papers, Antifederalist Papers and many other writings left for posterity by the Founders are easily accessible and provide much insight. I feel I have a pretty good understanding what the Founders intended when writing the Second Amendment and where their thought processes (at least on this subject) came from. Being able to explain it in that context makes a huge difference instead of merely quoting Charlton Heston’s famous line, “from my cold dead hands”, or shouting “Come and take them!”

 

As we bicker over who is more correct in preserving gun rights we face a dogged set of political foes. They don’t fight over how far to push when legislating or regulating freedoms away. Our freedoms die the death of a thousand cuts. A small tax on every round of ammunition here, another “crime” tax on firearms there. A mother-may-I policy, add gun-free safe zones at this list of locations, and a capacity restriction to make sure you can only fire X rounds without a 2-4 second pause to reload. Let’s enact a ban on effective defensive ammo over there, add a written exam, add an identification card you must pay for and keep renewing (paying each time). Yeah make that guy wait 10 days to go home with the property he just paid for. Tell that young lady she has to prove she is in imminent danger before receiving authorization to carry a handgun outside the home. The list goes on and on. Not all of these are valid in all corners of America, but all (and many more) are restrictions on law-abiding Americans today. They have succeeded in legislating and/or regulating preexisting, constitutionally protected freedoms to the point of being treated as privileges. Why? Because we are fighting each other.

They evoke emotional responses (“It’s for the children!”) while spreading half the story or false information (gun show loopholes). Meanwhile we quibble over semantics and technicalities (think about assault rifles). While they’re pushing for “common sense” restrictions on top of other laws, we talk about “sporting rifles” and “standard capacity”. We can’t even agree on those.

I remember being a young trooper in the Infantry a couple decades ago. We had arguments in the platoon that sometimes escalated to physical confrontation but they stayed within the family. If anyone from the outside came in with hostile intent they dealt with the whole dysfunctional family- even though we may not all like each other otherwise. While we may have fought among ourselves, the dirty laundry stayed in house and we supported each other externally. We sometimes knew the guy we jumped in to help was wrong but jumped in anyway. Maybe we as a gun community should follow a similar modus operandi. Let’s start policing our own without trying to burn each other as heretics while working together to preserve our freedoms.

Mike Lewis
Retired Senior Noncommissioned Officer of Infantry with 20 years of active service in the United States Army.

"During my tenure, I was blessed to serve in some of the most storied units in the Army, including the 82nd Airborne Division and the 506th Infantry Regiment (AASLT) (Band of Brothers), and with some of the finest human beings one could know. I have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan in support of combat operations, served on deployments to Egypt and Saudi Arabia in support of peacekeeping and stability operations, and served on the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). My final assignment in the Army was as the 82nd Airborne Division Small Arms Master Gunner, developing and instituting weapons training, conducting force modernization activities pertaining to small arms weapons and enablers, and consulting with the Maneuver Center of Excellence (Fort Benning, GA) on said subjects. I have attended both shooter and instructor level classes from some of the best trainers in the industry, am an NRA certified instructor, and have conducted firearms training on the civilian market for concerned citizens since 2007."

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