As of the date of this writing, March 8th, 2018, owing to a confluence of political factors in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre on October 1st, 2017, and the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, our 2nd Amendment-guaranteed freedoms to keep and bear arms are greatly imperiled. Those rights, codified in the Bill of Rights, are under attack by cohesive, motivated and well-funded opposition groups and political actors. It is my hope this essay will serve as both a briefing on the situation at hand, a guide as to where best to apply one’s efforts in opposition to restrictive legislation, and a strong call to action. A sweeping U.S gun ban is more possible than it has been in over a decade.
Historical Gun Control Successes
Gun control is best defined as political effort intended to curtail citizens’ rights to both own and acquire firearms, any related or necessary ammunition, parts or equipment, and the use and transport thereof. Gun control that is recognizable to today’s gun owners began back in the early part of the 20th Century with the National Firearms Act of 1934 (commonly referred to as the NFA), followed by the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA), Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Law) in 1993 and the now defunct Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, which expired in 2004 thanks to a “Sunset Clause.”
The analysis and effects of each of these pivotal pieces of legislation is beyond the scope of this article. I would encourage you, reader, to become familiar with each of them, as well as crucial trial cases involving 2nd Amendment rights and case law. For such cases, see United States v. Miller, United States v. Emerson, Parker v. District of Columbia, and District of Columbia v. Heller.
The lesson is this: slowly, steadily, and in many cases gently, our 2nd Amendment Rights have been taken away for decades. This will not be a philosophical debate over which guns are really suitable for civilian hands or not. The point is there is an obvious precedent at federal, state and local levels for further infringement of rights, and, indeed, complete disarmament. These efforts continue, reinvigorated, right now, this very second.
Gun Control Today
In very short order after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the cries for comprehensive disarmament and confiscation went up at state and federal levels. California lawmakers immediately pushed 10 new gun control bills on a populace already crushed by some of the most draconian regulations in the U.S. The Illinois House of Representatives passed 4 gun control measures, itself another state already plagued with ineffectual gun control laws.
Other states, among them Florida and several in New England, introduced legislation to curtail or ban the ownership of both semi-automatic rifles and magazines exceeding an arbitrary capacity. Several major, nationwide retailers decided to unilaterally raise the minimum age to purchase a rifle to 21, exceeding the federal statute. The 45th President changed his stance on gun control overnight, and has publicly said he is amicable to making a deal with prominent, powerful anti-gun members of congress. Whether or not he is “serious” or “playing them,” this has certainly both chilled and horrified his base, sowing further discord amongst nominal 2nd Amendment allies. The opposition needed only the reaction mass provided by a visceral, heartbreaking tragedy like the aforementioned high school shooting to “flip the table” overnight.
The current crown jewel bill of gun control legislation today is HR 5087, authored by Rep. David Cicilline. The bill has in it firearms regulatory terms concerning “semiautomatic pistol,” “semiautomatic assault weapon” and “semiautomatic shotgun.” Other terms include “large capacity ammunition feeding device,” “barrel shroud” and “detachable magazine.” It would outright ban, by specific name and model, a tremendous number of firearms, enact a total ban on “assault weapons” unless already possessed, and enact a total ban on “large capacity ammunition feeding devices.” Adding insult to injury, it would also mandate storage requirements, gun transfer requirements, fund confiscatory and treacherous “gun-buyback” programs, and generally criminalize a swath of constitutionally-protected 2nd Amendment rights. This bill is live today.
Historically, Conservatives, and ergo 2nd Amendment proponents, always lose politically over time. “If I can just hang on to what I have..,” that is the cry of Conservatism. It is not enough; our opponents control too much critical social and political capital. If we keep fleeing their strongholds back to the comforting enclave of like-minded society we will eventually be driven into the sea. Defense will not win a fight. We must be proactive and unified at the regional and national political level. We must go on the offensive, with vigor, to halt the rising tide of Progressive Leftism that would wash away our rights.
This is happening now. The stakes are high. Now is the time for action.
Apply Effort Where It Matters
These are the days that separate the real believers from the pretenders, for both sides. Your time is limited, your financial resources are probably also limited. It is time to assess the hierarchy of needs, and act accordingly. Much of so-called Pro-2A activism is nothing shy of self-aggrandizing tough talk. That must end, and be replaced by effective, concentrated political action. Period. Before you congratulate yourself for shooting your mouth off on the internet, or posting memes on an anti-gun social media page, remember this maxim:
“The true adherent honors the path with deeds, not words.”
Arguing with our opposition, in person or on the internet, no matter, will not bring one, single ally to our side. It will not change a single mind. It will not stop a single bill from becoming law. Your encyclopedic knowledge of AR-15 nomenclature is impressive, as is your sly rhetoric on the definition of “assault weapon.” It feels good to tell the “antis” off, correct them and belittle them, and your hot meme got 400 likes on the Tons-o-Guns page. You pat yourself on the back for being such an outspoken defender of the 2nd Amendment. In reality, you fiddle while Rome burns.
The only people that should be hearing from you are your elected representatives at all levels of government and the gun-rights organizations that form the vanguard of the effort to preserve our liberties. The way you contact your representatives matters: form letters are merely so-so, but a personally written and signed one, outlining your expectations, and repercussions come election day should they fail to be met, is going to get attention. Send them, to all your elected reps, whenever there is even talk of introducing a gun control bill, of any kind. Send them letters when legislation is introduced, and when it comes up for a vote. Contact your federal congressmen through the Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) and tell them to oppose any new gun control legislation. Be vocal, be heard from, constantly. Pay attention. It takes effort, and time. Effort and time that you do have, if only you would stop squandering it by bickering with our enemies.
Likewise, become a member of, involved with and donate to political gun rights advocacy groups. Debate rages among gun owners which one is best, or traitorous, or ineffective. The fact is the National Rifle Association is the most effective, period. If you only have the resources to donate to one, make it them. I do, however, firmly believe you should be a member of all the major ones, and your local and state organizations. The Gun Owners of America and Firearms Policy Coalition are two more good organizations. Pay attention to what they are saying about the political and legislative situations. Get involved, participate.
Do Not Be Deceived
I have seen a curious phenomenon simmering among certain gun owners over the years. It has been described with various euphemisms, but always boils down to a sort of hostility, or apathy, between sectors of gun ownership. Call them the Hunters, or Sporting Gentry, and the Tacticals, or Black Gunners. The result is a schism we can ill afford.
What occurs is the disdain by one group for the plight of the others. The Sporting Gentry may be indifferent, or even hostile, to the guns and activities of the Tacticals, going so far as to privately wish for the confiscation of the self-same guns that the Leftists want to ban. They think that their fine hunting rifles and elegant shotguns represent, truly, what the 2nd Amendment is all about, and, what is worse, the way “those guys” dress and train is just too aggressive. What should they expect? Conversely, the Black Gunners could not care any less about further regulation of hunting, laws affecting bullets and shot for the taking of game, licensing fees and the limiting of public land for hunting. And why should they? Those Hunters have only ever mocked our concerns.
The fact is both parties will be gravely affected by any successful, ongoing efforts of gun control. The 2nd Amendment serves both tribes alike, and the belief that if one or the other was sacrificed on the political altar, the remainder would be saved, proof against infringement is, at best, the very summit of wishful thinking, and at worst, utter betrayal of principal. What affects one will affect all. If you don’t give one iota of care about AR’s or modern pistols, you had best care about legislation affecting them: wholesale bans of those guns could see yours affected, or taken. If you don’t hunt and don’t care to even see a blued steel and walnut stocked bolt-action rifle, you should surely start paying attention to them: legislation affecting public land for shooting will surely curtail your opportunities for training and competition.
The “black guns,” “assault weapons” and sleek, scary firearms will be the first to go if anything happens, that much is probably true. But let us say they were all gone, confiscated down to the last, lonely magazine. How long before a hideous tragedy is perpetrated with a more genial looking gun? The drums sound again for action, and a deer rifle has much in common with an evil sniper rifle to the frothing Leftists. How long after that would an autoloading shotgun be used in a gruesome crime and the drums sound again? They inflict far too much carnage at so close a distance, and besides, why do you want to shoot all those nice birds? Now passes the era of waterfowling. When all that is left of pistols are revolvers, evil people will once again put them to use for evil works, and then even the humble revolver will eventually be taken from us.
We must come together as gun owners. Our opponents will not stop. There is no “enough,” whatever they might say. History shows their intent, and there is no mistaking it. Do not be deluded. To them, compromise is giving them what they want now, and they’ll come back for the rest a little later. I say no more. No arguments, no excuses. Involve yourself where you will make a difference.
A sweeping gun ban is possible in the United States. The deciding question is who, for or against the 2nd Amendment, is doing the most good with their actions? The anti-gun rabble assembles, courts attention with noisy cries and so rouse law makers to action, however wrong they may be. Many of us on the pro-gun side take to our keyboards and sling master-crafted discourse and insults at our opponents, and do little else. That must stop. When you see someone blathering about gun control, inform them that you will be making a donation to a gun-rights group. Let them understand their professed ideas have moved you to action. Stop wasting time arguing with them, and with each other. Call your representatives, and then write them. Urge your pro-gun family and friends to do the same. Nothing else will make any difference.
Let them all understand, really understand, that the meaning of “Shall Not Be Infringed” rests not on a yellowed piece of parchment, but in the beating heart of American citizens.