Ban Gun Bans
19th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
September 26, 2004
"So we can't just say that somebody who does something that we don't do isn't in the club..."
'Hearts and Minds'
Jeff Snyder, author of A Nation of Cowards and a columnist in several gun and opinion journals, offered something of a keynote address for the Sunday audience, noting, "We have to keep in mind that while we need to fight these legislative battles we need to change the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens."
"Unfortunately today the values embodied in the Second Amendment are not considered virtues, in contemporary America," he lamented.
Snyder said there is a cultural war raging in America, and he pointed to film maker Michael Moore as representing one extreme in that battle. Snyder lauded the efforts of Kopel and author David Hardy for "exposing the lies and manipulation," that were evident in Moore's anti-gun "Bowling for Columbine."
He stressed that important virtues underlie the Second Amendment: self-reliance and self-defense. Many Americans, however, have adopted an attitude that "public safety can be packaged and delivered to us."
"Unfortunately," he said, "I think the war on terror is solidifying this concept. I don't want to oversell and I don't think we should oversell the ability of an armed citizenry to protect against terrorism."
He suggested that most Americans are being conditioned to "watch" terrorist acts, instead of prevent them.
"You are training to watch (violence)," he said. "They sit at home and watch it as a form of entertainment."
Acknowledging that he has "no great magic to offer," Snyder went on to suggest that gun activists learn to emphasize safety. Gunowners should remind critics that the number of children dying each year from gun accidents has been falling.
Snyder also argued that gunowners move beyond the safety issue and responsibility to a philosophy of "attitude training."
"When we handle guns and talk about guns we need to act in a dignified manner," he stated.
Snyder reminded the audience that in Japan, martial arts participants have moved training beyond the warlike aspects to an art form where they concentrate on posture and demeanor. Armed citizens must do likewise, he suggested.
"There is no concept of playing around with weapons, no flippant remarks, no jackass stunts," Snyder said. "You need to be in the best frame of mind possible and you need to be concentrating on what you are doing. Dignity is what you need and that's got to be our message."
He also said gunowners should emphasize that people should get training in firearms safety and use. However, he does not believe that it should be mandated by law.
He said gunowners should avoid putting suggestive or provocative bumper stickers on their vehicles. "They all help us identify one another as members of the cause (as) true believers," he observed.
"But I'm going to suggest that it doesn't serve us well in society."
He concluded by noting, "I'm urging a new attitude of seriousness. You need to be better than those around you."
The final panel of the conference focused on a little-explored subject, the mistaken belief that all hunters are pro-gun rights activists.
"Over the years we've sort of assumed that if somebody was a hunter, they were pro-gun," said SAF President Joe Tartaro. "They're not. Being a hunter doesn't necessarily make you pro-gun."
Tartaro, executive editor of Gun Week, noted, "You have shotgunners who really couldn't care what happens to pistol shooters, rifle shooters, black powder shooters or anything else."
There are more divisions within the shooting fraternity. Tartaro recalled one of his former writers who was "extremely pro-gun" at one time had a problem with Gun Week running stories about paintball. Yet, today, many police agencies and some branches of the military use paintball for tactical training, he said.
"So we can't just say that somebody who does something that we don't do isn't in the club," Tartaro explained. "In the political field it's been assumed that if a politician was a hunter, he was going to be pro-gun and if he wasn't a hunter he wasn't going to be pro-gun."
However, many pro-gun politicians do not hunt, and occasionally there are politicians who do hunt, or at least portray themselves as hunters, who consistently vote for gun control legislation.
Tartaro said some hunting organizations avoid the gun rights issue. It is not unusual, he intimated, to find that some people in leadership positions of those groups favor such things as bans on semi-auto firearms and bans on so-called "Saturday night specials." They might also favor closing gun shows.
"You can't count on even your gun club or hunting buddy to be with you on this issue," he warned. "Even within our own clubs and our own associates, we have to be specific and we've got to explain that the Second Amendment isn't about duck hunting."
'Don't Need AK-47
'Gun Week Senior Editor Dave Workman followed Tartaro's comments, noting, "You don't need an AK-47 to hunt deer. You don't need an AK-47 to shoot ducks."
He had recently been a guest on a radio talk show in which a caller said that, Workman explained.
"He's right," Workman said. "You don't use an AK-47 for that stuff. It's not that you need those firearms, because we've never talked about a Bill of Needs in this country, it's a Bill of Rights. And I think this gentleman was effectively shut down in mid-stream.
"There is a perception on the part of a large number of hunters and shooters in this country that you don't need those ugly black guns," he continued, "because they've bought off on this argument and when we convince enough people in this country that you don't need something it's going to be damned easy to ban that.
"We're lucky that the ban on these ugly black guns sunset," he said, "because people were getting used to the idea that it's okay to ban a certain type of firearm. It's not okay to do that, because if it's okay to ban that type of firearm today, tomorrow it's going to be okay to ban your type of firearm."
Workman called the firearms community "a big tent" into which people with wide ranging interests are welcomed, or should be. It is not always the case, however.
The division between those who consider themselves hunters and outdoorsmen and women, and gun rights activists is best exemplified, Workman said, by the chasm that has developed within the ranks of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, which has been reported in Gun Week.
Nearly 80 of the nation's most prominent gun and hunting writers have quit OWAA, and supporting companies and organizations have dropped out. This breakdown within the outdoor writers' community illustrates the broader dilemma that spans the entire shooting fraternity, he indicated.
"The only way that we are going to protect our gun rights is to protect the gun rights of all of us," he observed. "I have likened this battle to protecting the realm. At the gates of my castle are the Berettas, Perazzis, the Remingtons and the Winchesters, and way out there on the outskirts of the realm are the AKs and the ARs and some of these goofy looking little black guns. Now if the Huns are approaching and you know they are coming, would you rather stop them on the outskirts of the realm or do you want to wait until they're knocking down the gates of the castle?"
Tom Gresham, host of the syndicated "Gun Talk" radio show, weighed into the discussion, advising gun rights activists that they need to be more diplomatic at times, especially when speaking to fellow shooters or to people who have not formed an opinion about gun ownership.
In a debate, he challenged, "Do you want to convince them you are right, or do you want to win, because the two are not the same goals."
"A lot of us unfortunately in the gun rights movement are like a guy who is invited to go play football and he shows up on the soccer field with a bat and ball," Gresham noted. "He doesn't know where the game's taking place, he doesn't know what the rules are, he doesn't know what the equipment is, and he wonders why he keeps getting beat.
"A lot of us in this room don't know where the game is taking place," he continued. "Every time we have a 'fight crime shoot back' bumper sticker, we lose. Want to lose a debate? The first person to mention Hitler loses. The battle here is to win public opinion, period. Without it, you lose."
Gresham contended that too may gun rights activists are poorly skilled when it comes to dealing with other people. They may be too confrontational, too combative, and too aggressive.
"We don't have to convince them that we are 100% right," he stressed. "We just have to convince them that we're not crazy."
Gresham contended that the gun rights effort has lots of room for expansion.
"Are you willing to invite in liberal Democrats to our big tent," he challenged. "Because you know what, there are a bunch of liberal Democrats who are really good on gun rights. They're not going to agree with you on gay rights. They're not going to agree with you on abortion. They say gun rights people don't make them feel comfortable."
He reiterated the importance of demeanor, concurring with other speakers on earlier panels. He said winning means getting public opinion "on our side." This is more difficult, perhaps, within the shooting community.
The conference ended after the body approved the Resolutions Committee report.
C-SPAN taped most of the Saturday afternoon session at the GRPC at which more than 400 gun rights activists participated. Major support for the GRPC co-sponsored by CCRKBA and SAF came from National Shooting Sports Foundation, Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Foundation, Glock and the NRA.
Next year's 20th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference will be held at the Los Angeles International Airport Marriott Hotel the last weekend in September 2005. Updates will be posted on the organization's websites: www.saf.org and www.ccrkba.org.