By Jeff Knox : Opinion
Buckeye, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- I’ll warn readers at the outset: this column falls pretty squarely under the heading of “preaching to the choir.”
Nonetheless, it is a sermon that the choir needs to hear, because right now, too many of our folks don't know the lyrics, and may not even be humming the right tune.
Our crowd-sourced, often leaderless advocacy faces two dangers.
First, is the assumption that while anti-gunners rely on emotions and feelings for their arguments, gun rights advocates – pro-rights advocates, as friend Alan Korwin likes to put it – operate on cold logic and historic truth. The second, is that in our advocacy, whether in letters, op-ed pieces, or online discussions, we attempt to sway the wrong audience.
We all “know” that supporters of gun restrictions operate on emotions and “gut feelings” over facts. But the fact is, many supporters of the Second Amendment and individual rights are also operating on “gut feelings.” Too many of our most ardent advocates on social media, in article comments, internet forums, and letters to the editor, etc., just repeat bumper-sticker slogans, or devolve into personal attacks.
Those are habits that need to change, and the only way it will change is if you change it.
Those of us who follow politics, study issues, and read political commentary like this article, are the exception, not the rule. We are odd ducks in this world of selfies and pop-culture, but even among this small subset, factual information is often woefully lacking. Our guys – and let's face it, most of us are guys – often grasp the basics, but they frequently can't explain what they know in their heart of hearts to be true without falling back to arguments like: “Because the Second Amendment says so.”
Although we know that the arguments don’t matter to the radical gun control extremists, a solid understanding of basic principles, and practical arguments, can make a big difference when dealing with people who are basically ambivalent to our issue, or more importantly, those who basically support our position, but don't understand why we oppose laws that seem pretty innocuous to them. This includes many gun owners, and these are the people that we must educate and bring over solidly to a position of knowledge and strength. We're not going to accomplish that by quoting the Second Amendment.
That's why we provide these columns every week, and why we try to go beyond the “rah-rah” rallying cries that are all too common in the gun press and “conservative” media. Our mission is to report on current events and explain how they impact you, why it matters, and what you can do about them. We want to be your reliable source of useful information on gun issues, but more than that, we need you to be able to use our information to educate your friends and family.
If you don't understand that background checks on gun buyers waste hundreds of millions of dollars every year investigating innocent, law-abiding citizens, and divert those precious resources away from programs that focus on criminals, and have a real impact on violent crime, you are never going to convince people not to vote for expanding background checks to private transfers. You must understand that states with no training requirement, and low fees for acquiring a carry license, have no higher rate of licensed carriers doing stupid or criminal things with guns than do states that require extensive training and charge high fees.
You must be versed in the practical arguments of the issues, or you won't be able to make a cogent case for firearms freedom – in opposition to new restrictions, and in favor of liberalizing existing laws – and that case must be made, and won.
Just because you support gun owner rights and try to vote for pro-rights politicians, doesn't mean that your support is effective. You have influence – probably more than you realize – and that influence can be positive or negative. We – your fellow gun owners – need you to exercise your influence whenever and wherever you can, and we need to be sure that the influence you are exercising is positive for the cause of liberty. To do that, you have to have reliable knowledge and understanding. That's what we try very hard to provide, and we need you to use the information we provide to improve your talking points, and educate those around you. Silly declarations about “cold, dead hands,” might elicit a cheer from the choir, but they do absolutely nothing to broaden support.
Look closely at the gun magazines, gun blogs, and gun-oriented YouTube channels that you like. Notice how little attention most of them give to educating their audiences about the issues affecting your rights. Sure, they will make expressions of support, but are they actually providing useful information, or are they just cheer-leading and/or trying to raise money for an organization?
Too often we see really poor arguments, or obviously erroneous information put forward on forums, in comments, and on question and answer sites like Quora.com. That needs to change, and only you can change it. First, demand better from yourselves. Read, study, learn, and be a reliable resource to the people who fall within your sphere of influence. Second, demand better from your favorite publications and media outlets. Thank outlets like AmmoLand News, Guns Magazine, and Firearms News for providing useful rights information, and challenge those sites and magazines that give short shrift to rights issues. Finally, share this article, and others that get more into the details of specific rights issues and arguments, save them on your phone or computer so you can easily reference them when needed, and urge your friends to actually read them and share them in social media.
Writers and advocates have limited reach and influence. You can expand that reach and influence, and by doing so, you can help change the culture and re-frame the debate.
You are the gun lobby. Be well-armed for the fight, and always be recruiting.
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.