Dan Gross, Former President of The Brady Campaign, spoke at the recent 2A Rally in DC on Nov. 2nd as a surprise speaker, on the willingness to put aside some differences & work together to save lives.
Washington, D.C. –-(Ammoland.com)- Dan Gross is the former president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He became an anti-gun activist after a gunman shot his brother at the Empire State Building in 1997. He once believed all handguns should be banned.
He chose to leave the Brady Campaign, and his ideas started to evolve. He saw that most gun owners in the country weren't dangerous criminals. He began to respect the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
In 2016 Gross gave a Ted Talk where he stated he no longer wanted to keep some guns away from all people. He decided he wanted to keep all guns away from some people. Some of those people are violent criminals and the mentally ill.
In the talk, he spoke about universal background checks. He still believes in background checks but doesn't think that a background check is needed if a person is selling a gun to someone that they know.
Gross's views on smart gun technology have evolved, as well. The more he learned about the technology, the more his views changed. He no longer believes that people should be forced to use a technology with a high failure rate. He also believes that Congress should not legislate any technological requirements. Gross wants the market to decide for itself, the same view support by our National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Gross was also a surprise speaker at the Second Amendment Rally in DC on November Second. I had a chance to talk to him before the rally to find out why a former president of the Brady Campaign would want to speak at a pro-gun rally.
Dan Gross agreed to sit down with me and speak about his ever-evolving views about guns. We do not agree on everything, but if he is sincere, then it is a good start.
John: First, let me say I'm sorry for what happened to your brother. We have differing stories. When I was a baby under a year old, my mom was able to defend herself, me, and my sisters successfully with a gun against a home invader.
Dan: That is great
John: You were the president of the Brady Campaign. Why did you leave that role?
Dan: I got kind of exhausted after 20 years of devoting myself entirely to the mission of preventing the loss of innocent life from guns. A big part of that exhaustion was due as much to disagreements I had with many on “my side of the issue” or who believed that they were on my side of the issue as I did with people who believe they were on the other side of the issue.
The reality is my mission from the moment I arrived at Brady, and even before, was to demonstrate the common ground that I've always believed existed between people who come at the issue from the perspective of the Second Amendment right and people who come at the issues from the perspective of not necessarily caring as much about those rights, and that we could find that middle ground that would have a big impact on actually preventing gun deaths.
That Fundamental disagreement that I had with too many people on that side of the issue just became exhausting. I felt like there had to be a different way, and that's kind of led me to where I am now.
John: Do you think that you had a change in position, or do you think it's more of a perceived change from the people on the anti-gun side?
Dan: Overall, if you look back at my entire journey on this issue, I certainly had a change of position.
After my brother was shot, I did a number of media appearances I said things along the lines of nobody except for law enforcement and Military should have handguns in our country. I have definitely changed my opinion on that as I've learned about the issue and come to appreciate what Second Amendment rights mean.
The overwhelming majority of people who own handguns do it legally and responsibly. I've been consistent in looking at common ground and coming at it with a fundamental respect for the Second Amendment and for people who own guns safely and legally and responsibly.
On everything that I've done, whether it was through the organization that I founded that is called PAX that became the Center to Prevent Youth Violence that was entirely non-political to the things that I did at Brady that included policy came at it from that perspective. Fundamental respect of the Second Amendment for the people who own guns and looking for solutions that represent the common ground, and an openness to learning and listening to people who own guns to figure out where that common ground is.
I think the biggest evolution that people will note coming after they hear me speak on Saturday will be the willingness to put aside some differences that may still exist in terms of policies. This is the biggest opportunity to prevent the loss of innocent life, which is the responsibility that responsible gun owners can take to make us all safer.
If there's any difference with any of the things I said when I was running Brady to the things that I am saying now, it is putting aside any conversation around policies to focus on what I've always believed in. The big opportunity of gun owners taking responsibility for themselves not what the government tells them to do.
John: I want to commend you for being open to evolving your ideas. I think that a lot of people are closed off and they don't want to modify their views. Why do you think that there are people out there that will never change their beliefs, no matter what the evidence?
Dan: I think there are a lot of people out there that don't respect the Second Amendment and gun owners and a lot of people that advocate for gun laws that are disingenuous.
I think part of the reason this polarized debate continues in our country and the reason why it feels more like a culture war because people on both sides feast on a disingenuousness from the other side. I do think it goes both ways. I think there are people on the “gun control or gun safety” side that have too loud of voice that really believe that there's no place for guns in our country. Those are the people that lead to a lot of exhaustion that leads me to where I am now.
John: I've been on radio shows with anti-gun people. One of the people from Moms Demand Action tried to tell me that I had blood on my hands for being a gun owner, which I thought was kind of ridiculous. How do we tone down the rhetoric?
Dan: I think the way we tone down the rhetoric is doing what Rob Pincus and I are trying to do, and what I am trying to do. Which is demonstrates the incredible amount of common ground that exists and demonstrate that we don’t have any motives other than preventing the loss of life.
It is wonderful that your mother was able to defend herself. No decent person shouldn't agree with that. I think too many on the other side would disagree with that. It is driven more by a philosophical hatred of guns and people that own them; than, it is by a genuine desire to save lives.
John: Do you believe in the so-called assault weapons ban?
Dan: When I was at Brady, it was a big source of internal discomfort and tension both within the organization and within the movement because I strongly believe that it should not be a policy. My Mantra has always been the biggest opportunity is not to take certain guns from all people, but to keep all the guns out of the hands of certain people. Those certain people are the people that we all agree shouldn't have guns. For that reason, I never made the assault weapons ban a policy focus, and I think that conversation around the assault weapon ban does way more harm than good if our goal is to prevent bad things from happening.
This is a disagreement I had with people within the organization and even people within high levels of politics, including the White House at the time.
After Sandy Hook, there was a desire from a strategic perspective say, “Let's talk about background checks and an assault weapons ban because it gives us the strength to negotiate because we can say alright we don't need the assault weapons ban, but we will have background checks.”
I disagreed with that vociferously. It was not a popular thing within my organization to take that stand. I would call out Democrats in Congress for using this as a political ploy.
John: You say, you don't want to keep some guns away from all people, but you want to keep all guns away from some people. Who are those “some people?”
Dan: We need to work together to define who they are and how to do it. I don't have anything that is specific. I think it needs to be a dialog on both sides. I think there are people that everybody currently accepts that are prohibited people. So, there are measures that don't infringe on the Second Amendment rights to own guns that can do that. Those are things I believe we should discuss. That is the starting point in terms of prohibited purchases.
I think unsupervised children who don't have permission shouldn't have access to guns in the home. I think that it is up to individual gun owners. I think that is an important matter of education. If we can identify the mentally ill people that are suicidal, I think that is another conversation that is worth having.
I said, “We shouldn't take some guns from all people; we should take all guns from some people,” but I think an important part of that is that it is the people we all agree shouldn't have guns. I am not looking to be prescriptive there as much as I am looking to find where that common ground is.
John: What do you think the common ground is between the anti-gun side and the pro-gun side?
Dan: I think it's a higher focus, which is to put aside the policy conversation. Even with good intentions on both sides, there's likely to be some disagreement, but over time it should be a part of the conversation.
I think the biggest opportunity that we all have is the responsibility that we all can take without government interference or without infringement on the unquestioned right to bear arms.
John: Why did you agree to speak at the second amendment rally?
Dan: I think it is a really powerful opportunity to get across the fundamental points that I've always believed. I have every bit as much if not more in common with the people in that will be in that crowd on Saturdays if they will look at this with open eyes and an open mind.
I have every bit as much in common with those people as I would with, if not more than with then the crowd of people who kind of consider themselves, “gun violence prevention” [people]. My hope is if I'm able to communicate that common ground exist, it is the beginning of an important dialogue that has the potential to save a lot of lives.
John: How do you convince gun owners that have been tricked by things like the Katie Couric special that you are sincere?
Dan: I don't expect it necessarily happen overnight, and I don't expect it to change everyone's point of view about me magically. All I can do is, and all I've ever tried to do is speak what I really believe in my heart, which comes from this place of common ground, and I'm confident that has defined me and everything I've said.
I'm just not concerned about it because I've been consistent. It's like “oh what tangled webs we weave” if you're trying to be deceptive. I've been nothing but consistent in the things that I said about this issue.
John: Are you worried about the headlines the day after you speak from the backlash of might happen in the mainstream media.
Dan: It's nothing I haven't dealt with before. I've been in so many situations, whether it's headlines or politicians or with advocates on my side of the equation where I've been read the riot act for saying those things that have been remarkably consistent. I think there will be, as there's always been, some people who may have had the wrong impression of me who may be disappointed in me.
All I can say to them is what I'm saying to you, which is what I've always believed. I'm not slamming anybody. There is a lot of decent people on the other side as well. There are decent people on every side of this, and this is about finding where the middle ground exists between the decent people on both sides and not letting the kind of headline-grabbing element of either side and dominate the conversation.
It may not be fun to get some of the criticism I'm going to get, but I believe strongly enough in the opportunity that it's worth it.
John: Is there anything you want our readers to know that we haven't discussed?
Dan: No, I think I said it all.
Dan spoke at the 2A Rally in DC on November 2nd as a surprise speaker. I believe strongly in the exchange of ideas, even if those ideas run contrary to my own.
About John Crump
John is an NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. He is the former CEO of Veritas Firearms, LLC, and is the co-host of The Patriot-News Podcast, which can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/patriotnews. John has written extensively on the patriot movement, including 3%'ers, Oath Keepers, and Militias. In addition to the Patriot movement, John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and is currently working on a book on leftist deplatforming methods and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, on Facebook at realjohncrump, or www.crumpy.com.