Tombstone, Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- The Second Amendment is crystal clear.
There’s nothing ambiguous or convoluted about it, and it hasn’t been re-written or redefined by “the gun lobby” in recent years, as our opponents like to suggest. Writers going all the way back to the founding have supported our interpretation that the “right of the people to keep and bear arms” means what it says and is enforceable against the states as a fundamental right.
I think we can all agree on this, so where’s the problem?
Just because we agree on the basics, doesn’t mean we all agree on the details. Some will loudly proclaim that the right to arms is absolute and limitless. They advocate for no limits whatsoever on any sort of armament whatsoever, from machine guns to missiles, to nukes. If it’s an armament, they say, then it’s covered by the Second Amendment. Others draw a line at typical, man-portable arms commonly found in an Infantry squad, while others draw a wavering line at the typical arms of an average, individual Infantry soldier, sometimes excluding “crew-served” weapons systems or man-portable missiles.
It used to be pretty common to run into “gunnies” who would argue against civilian possession of any full-auto or other NFA items, and some who would defend laws against those “ugly, black guns.” Thankfully most of those folks have now realized their error, but there are still folks who see themselves as on our side, who draw lines and/or limits that you and I would strongly disagree with.
That doesn’t make them evil. It just makes them wrong, misinformed, ignorant, or even possibly, more thoughtful and better educated than you and me. We can’t rule out that possibility until we’ve thoroughly studied their position and their rationale for holding that position. Then there’s the Supreme Court’s tortured definition of the right applying only to arms that are “in common use” among the populace while failing to account for future innovations and the decades of restrictions that kept certain arms and accessories out of “common use.”
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Beyond the debate over how far, or not, the Second Amendment extends, there are debates within the community over whether certain, specific policy proposals are justifiable under the Second Amendment, or whether the “obvious good” (as some people see things) of certain policies might outweigh the constraints of the amendment. Then there’s the issue of incrementalism. Some among us will argue that repealing or reforming a portion of a bad law, is still supporting the erroneous foundation the law was originally based upon. For example, under this argument, support for legislation to remove suppressors from the NFA and treat them as firearms under the GCA, would be a traitorous compromise, because, they say, it is unconstitutional to regulate suppressors at all. This sort of “principled opposition” represents a minority, but it’s enough to throw a monkey wrench into efforts to undo restrictions piece-by-piece, the way most of those restrictions came about.
The point is, there are a wide variety of beliefs and opinions among, even very dedicated Second Amendment advocates, and disagreements are unavoidable.
The critical question though, is how do we handle those disagreements?
It’s a question of how we treat each other as we try to advance our rights agenda. Anyone who’s read much of my writing, knows that I’m not shy about calling out colleagues in the rights movement when they say or do something that I consider to be wrong or counterproductive. I’ve famously gotten into public disputes with several groups and prominent individuals for advocating in favor of various policies, or espousing certain positions that I think harm the movement. I’m particularly known for public criticism of NRA “leaders” for taking unprincipled positions. But you’ll never see me calling these folks traitors or suggesting that they are evil.
Unless a person – or group – goes fully over to the “dark side,” publicly advocating for oppressive gun control laws, as a few former lobbyists and industry executives have done over the years, then we’re generally dealing with a strategic or philosophical difference, not a total betrayal. Labeling a rights advocate as a charlatan or a traitor, is a big deal, and should only be done in an extreme circumstance. In most cases, a strong objection to their position and a call for them to explain or retract their statement or position, is what’s appropriate.
Going beyond that – assigning motives, questioning their character, etc. – is counterproductive, and should be avoided, especially by people who have a platform and are respected within the movement.
Creating unnecessary divisions and animosity in our own ranks benefits no one except the opposition. Again, I’m not talking about having public disagreements over policy, strategy, or tactics. What I’m talking about is personal attacks that paint fellow rights advocates as traitors, evil, and the enemy, based on what are often relatively minor policy disagreements, dividing our ranks and reducing our effectiveness.
My father often referred to leading the rights movement as an exercise akin to herding cats. It’s a demonstrable fact that GunVoters are an independent-minded bunch, and most of our folks see the Second Amendment and the fight for rights in clear, unequivocal terms. They also tend to have their own ideas as to how to fight and win the battles. The problem is that those clear, unequivocal terms and thoughtful ideas on how to fight and win, often deviate from the clear, unequivocal terms and thoughtful ideas held by the guy standing next to them in the trenches, much less the “generals” tasked with devising official strategy and mobilizing the troops.
In our army, almost everyone is sure they have “the answer,” and they are just as sure that anyone who disagrees with them is either misguided, ill-informed, or a mole secretly fighting for the other side. This dynamic can be powerful, but it is also destructive.
Let’s not fall into the “cancel culture” habits of our opponents. Let’s listen to each other, sharpen one another, and work toward our common goals without rancor and condemnation. Let’s do our best to educate and elect the best politicians, and replace those who fall short – but only with someone better, never simply handing a seat to true enemies, on the basis that the other guy wasn’t a good enough friend.
Together we can restore and protect our rights. I urge you to be cautious and judicious in your words and actions regarding allies and potential allies. Burning bridges is much easier than building them, and rebuilding a burned bridge is one of the hardest things to do. So let’s move forward together, respecting (and debating) our differences, working toward our common goals, and always focusing on the big picture.
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 a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona, and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.