Knowing so many things that aren’t so.

Ronald Reagan once said, “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

Every day proves that statement to be more and more true.

In looking over the print media coverage of the Parkland , I’ve been astounded at the number of blatantly untrue things about the NRA, guns, I’ve seen reported as fact.

Some examples that stand out to me:

  • The NRA is “pro-slaughter”. (WTF?)
  • The NRA TV channel produces dangerous, violent content. (Really? Really? Even the most controversial stuff they’ve put out explicitly condemns violence.)
  • The NRA is primarily funded by and works for the interests of gun manufacturers and industry, who are unfathomably evil and complicit in the murders of innocents.
  • Gun owners and NRA members receive “marching orders” from the NRA itself and follow them like automatons.
  • The AR-15 is a “weapon of mass destruction”. (No, it’s just a goddamn rifle.)
  • Someone armed with a “conventional” weapon (yes, the article used that term) stands no chance against a bad guy with an AR-15. No chance at all, so why bother?
  • Groups like the CSGV, VPC, Giffords, or Everytown are even remotely credible sources for information about guns, gun specifications/technology, etc. Seriously, I’ve seen newspapers quote reps from CSGV and VPC as if they are reputable, credible sources. I had to physically restrain myself from guffawing.
  • Plans to “arm teachers” mean something more than “let willing, volunteer teachers carry concealed as a last-resort against violent attack”.
  • The “armed teacher” strategy would be something other than “standard lockdown procedures, getting behind cover/concealment like a desk, and aiming a pistol at the door”, and that training requirements would be too rigorous. One particular example, to which I won’t link, stated that soldiers need tons of practice and constant training for tactical movement, coordination, communication, building clearing, etc. (all of which is true!) and implied that similar training would be necessary for teachers, and so that proposals to arm teachers are ludicrous. Ok, fair enough, the training requirements for teachers are likely to be a bit more rigorous than “aim at the door and shoot the bad guy when they come in”, but it’s by no means necessary to turn teachers into Special Forces operators or anything.
  • Armed teachers would somehow make things worse in the event of a school shooting. Honestly, I can’t think of much worse things than a deranged killer rampaging through defenseless people. Even in the terrible, exceedingly unlikely situation where an armed teacher hits an innocent person, or a cop clearing the building shoots the armed teacher, that’s almost certainly a better outcome than what would come about if the bad guy was left unchecked.

In addition, I’ve had someone in a discussion claim that it’s equally as morally and ethically repugnant to be “forcing students to be in the same room as an armed teacher” [their position] (even if the teacher is safely carrying concealed with nobody the wiser) as it is to “forcibly deny people the right to self-defense, leaving them defenseless against a deranged bad guy” [my position].

I’ve seriously wondered if something has gotten into the water, because people are losing their minds over this. These are interesting times, and it’ll be interesting to see how things play out.

In the interim, I really need to stop reading the news and stock up on antacids.

Attempting to de-legitimize the NRA and gun rights supporters

Although the pro-gun-rights side has numbers, a real grassroots movement, political influence, court cases, and intensity on our side (at least for now; who knows how our representatives will sell us out), the opposition has a substantial presence on social media and a willingness to use it. This has been made clear by a concerted effort to de-legitimize the NRA, supporters of gun rights, and millions of gun owners and sympathetic Americans.

As an example, various Hollywood stars are now calling for Amazon and other streaming service operators to remove the NRA TV channel or app from their services.

Why? Because they don’t like what they have to say and they are actively trying to make the NRA and its members seem to be not only less legitimate, but instead monstrous accomplices of mass murderers.

Certainly, Amazon and streaming services have the right, as private enterprises, to include or not include any channel or app with their services. It would be well within their rights to remove or de-list the NRA TV channel or app, but I argue that this is both a bad idea and extremely troubling. The content that NRA TV is producing is of interest to a wide audience (else they wouldn’t make it), is lawful, and does not harass, defame, or otherwise harm others. De-listing them would move Amazon and others from a mostly-neutral platform provider to an arbiter of content, which is something I very much doubt they wish to be.

Similarly, people have been pressuring a variety of companies (including Enterprise, Avis, Hertz, First National Bank of Omaha, etc.) to sever their longstanding partnerships with the NRA. I also find this troubling, but less so than the attempts at de-listing the NRA TV app. Again, private enterprises are free to partner (or not) with whomever they choose, but I don’t understand why they bend to the whim of a noisy group of activists who likely don’t use their product or service anyway. Perhaps they think it avoids bad PR and protests on social media? I have no idea: blogs aside, my only use of social media is sharing family photos and the like on Facebook with family and friends since I have a large extended family scattered all over the place. I studiously avoid Twitter like the plague it is.

But I digress: it appears that the initial attempts at de-legitimizing the NRA and gun owners, in that several companies have publicly de-partnered with the NRA (though it likely has little effect over all, and many partnerships like the NRA-branded credit card are likely to be replaced quickly by a more NRA-aligned proivder) has been moderately successful.

How could we, as the gun owning community, counter this? I’m open to suggestions.

New York Times: “We want to take your guns away.”

It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically ? eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.
[…]
Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.

– “The Gun Epidemic“, December 5th 2015 Editorial, New York Times
Hey, look at that. They?do want to take your guns (and ammo!) away.
Of course, we knew that all along, but it’s nice for them to finally come out and say it.

Whaddya know, they *do* want to take your guns away.

The anti-gun-rights side is getting desperate at their near-complete inability to restrict our rights at the federal level, with only slightly more success at the state level. We have the Brady Campaign calling the NRA “terrorists” and we have?Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo coming clean with something that pro-gun folks have known for a while: they actually do want to take our guns. He even says as much in an earlier article: “Yes, we really do want to take your guns. Maybe not all of them. But a lot of them.”

As long as it seemed possible to pass regulations limiting the most egregious abuses of gun ownership, there was some political logic to accepting the gun culture basically on its own terms and advocating for specific fixes. These include limitations on weapons designed for or less exclusively mass violence, basic background checks on gun purchases, perhaps waiting periods for purchasing a firearm, etc.
Getting those sorts of limited, incremental restrictions passed would certainly be harder if gun advocates knew that the gun control supporters actually wanted or were building toward more dramatic efforts to take guns out of circulation, require licensing – in other words, to fundamentally change the nature of gun ownership in the country.

(Bold added by me. -AZR)
Sorry, Josh, we’ve known that was endgame for you and others who feel the same as you?for decades. It hasn’t fooled anyone, no matter how many times the Brady Campaign or Bloomberg’s groups change their names.

It’s now clear that even the most innocuous restrictions on guns – simply requiring real background checks, restrictions on big magazines which let you snuff out more people before someone at your school massacre tackles you – are not even up for discussion or any good faith bargaining. No restrictions are allowed. Period. This present reality has to be accepted and understood.

Glad to see he recognizes that our?rights aren’t up for discussion or bargaining away. Sorry, you get nothing, nor should you.

I’m under no illusion that there’s any political will at the moment to dramatically reform private gun ownership in the country. But precisely because no reforms are possible today it makes perfect sense to flesh out the alternative – not minor restrictions on the margins but a society which has dramatically fewer guns, where private ownership was limited and regulated like how you would in a civilized society and one in which we took seriously limiting the needless deaths and suffering guns cause today.

You want to take my guns away.
I won’t give them up.
Your move.

Social media roundup, part 2

Back in late 2013 I checked how popular various pro- and anti-gun groups were on Facebook at Twitter. I figured I’d repeat the analysis to see how things have changed in the intervening years. Newly-added groups or individuals are bolded.
Gun Rights Groups:

  • National Rifle Association (Facebook): 4,360,790 (2013: 2,748,839) +58.64%
  • National Rifle Association (Twitter): 294,000 (2013: 191,692) +53.37%
  • Gun Owners of America (Facebook): 1,107,856 (2013: 276,867) +300.14%
  • Gun Owners of America (Twitter): 68,300 (2013: 22,786) +199.75%
  • Second Amendment Foundation (Facebook): 378,722 (2013: 119,810) +216.1%
  • Second Amendment Foundation (Twitter): 11,200 (2013: 4,962) +125.72%
  • National Association for Gun Rights (Facebook): 4,274,248
  • National Association for Gun Rights (Twitter): 7,424
  • Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (Facebook): 205,747
  • Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (Twitter): 1,442

Gun Industry:

  • National Shooting Sports Foundation (Facebook): 348,490 (2013: 157,718) +120.96%
  • National Shooting Sports Foundation (Twitter): 41,800 (2013: 21,104) +98.07%
  • SHOT Show ? run by NNSF (Facebook): 96,866 (2013: 44,573) +117.32%
  • SHOT Show ? run by NSSF (Twitter): 51,400 (2013: 23,649) +117.35%
  • Glock, Inc. (Facebook): 1,475,378 (2013: 614,185) +140.22%
  • Glock, Inc. (Twitter): 158,000 (2013: 63,336) +149.46%
  • Smith & Wesson (Facebook): 1,184,344 (2013: 680,937) +73.93%
  • Smitth & Wesson: (Twitter): 140,000 (2013: 54,447) +157.13%
  • Sturm, Ruger & Company (Facebook) 493,549 (2013: 345,734) +42.75%
  • Sturm, Ruger & Company (Twitter): N/A (Ruger appears to have no Twitter presence anymore.) (2013: 18,310)

Gun Control Groups:

  • Americans for Responsible Solutions (Facebook): 177,283 (2013: 89,414) +98.27%
  • Americans for Responsible Solutions (Twitter): 1,671 (2013: 210,708) -99.21%
  • Mayors Against Illegal Guns (Facebook): N/A (MAIG no longer has a Facebook account.) (2013: 19,271)
  • Demand Action ? MAIG on Twitter (Twitter): N/A (MAIG no longer has a Twitter account.) (2013: 26,860)
  • Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Facebook): 442,548 (2013: 122,938) +259.98%
  • Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America (Twitter): 36,500 (2013: 12,254) +197.86%
  • Brady Campaign (Facebook): 112,893 (2013: 58,650) +92.49%
  • Brady Campaign (Twitter): 25,600 (2013: 17,170) +49.1%
  • Violence Policy Center (Facebook): 58,268 (2013: 20,571) +183.25%
  • Violence Policy Center (Twitter): 3,926 (2013: 1,934) +103%
  • CSGV (Facebook): 198,066 (2013: 46,314) +327.66%
  • CSGV (Twitter): 13,800 (2013: 9,575) +44.13%
  • Shannon Watts (Facebook): 1,166
  • Shannon Watts (Twitter): 11,800
  • Everytown for Gun Safety (Facebook): 905,324 (Everytown didn’t exist in 2013, but was formed from MAIG.) +636.41%
  • Everytown for Gun Safety (Twitter): 56,500

What can we learn from these numbers?
Compared to the 2013 stats, all entries on the list except Ruger (who discontinued their Twitter account) and ARS (who lost essentially all of their Twitter readers, for whatever reason) had significant growth.
The NRA alone has more than 2.3x the number of Facebook followers of all the gun control groups combined. The National Association for Gun Rights is nipping at the heels of the NRA, with 98% of the number of followers. The GOA has only 58% the followers of all the gun control groups combined, though they dominate all the gun control groups except Bloomberg-funded Everytown.
The Brady Campaign (5.9% of gun control followers) and VPC (3.1%) are more or less rounding errors, with ARS (9.3%) and CSGV (10%) being only slight better.
Everytown alone has 47% of the total number of gun control followers. Everytown + MDA make up 71% of the total number of gun control followers, though the GOA + SAF have 10% more followers than Everytown + MDA. Glock alone has 9.5% more followers than Everytown + MDA.
Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a Colorado no-compromise gun rights group, has more Facebook followers than any gun control group except Everytown and MDA.
Recently I’ve seen gun control advocates suggest that they have enough people on their side to join the NRA en masse, outnumber the gun owning members, and either dismantle the organization or vote in NRA elections to change the group’s position on issues. Although absurd on its face, the proposal is even more laughable when you consider that the grand total of people who’ve clicked “Like” to *any* of the gun control groups on Facebook is less than half the number of people who’ve done so for the NRA even though clicking “Like” involves no expense or effort. Actually joining the NRA requires the expenditure of actual money for 5 years to get voting privileges, something essentially none of the gun control advocates are willing to do.
Every single one of the gun-rights groups is a membership organization funded by dues-paying ordinary people. None of the gun-control groups have dues-paying members, and while some individuals and groups donate money to the groups, the vast majority of the funding for Everydown and MDA (the only groups that matter) comes from Bloomberg and other wealthy elites.
Gun control groups are basically paper tigers, though backed by Bloomberg’s billions, at least two of those tigers have a bit of a bite. We should be wary.

Looking at Hillary Clinton’s gun control proposals

Hillary Clinton just released her proposed ideas for gun control that, if elected, she says she will implement. As expected, they’re nearly all politically-motivated non-starters. Also, she cites Everytown as an authoritative source and blames the NRA for a host of problems.
Evidently she thinks it’s 1993 and she has a chance at passing them. Let’s take a look at what she supports:

  • “Fight for comprehensive background checks” — this is the standard “universal background check” claptrap with some interesting additions: she’d remove the “default proceed” from NICS (“Sorry, NICS has been downsized. We’ll get to your request in a few months.”) and take unilateral, executive action to declare that anyone selling a “significant” (but unspecified) number of guns be declared “in the business” of selling firearms, and thus required to get an FFL. Personally, the current standard of being “in the business” is a bit nebulous so it’d be good to get a more concrete definition, but I don’t trust Clinton to set that standard.
    Also interesting: she seems to be abandoning the widely-debunked “40% of gun sales are made without background checks” claim and is now saying “20-40%”.
  • “Hold dealers and manufacturers fully accountable if they endanger Americans” — again, fairly standard gun-control stuff: repeal the Protection in Lawful Commerce in Arms act (thus exposing law-abiding gun and ammo manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to nuisance lawsuits intended to bankrupt them) and crack down on “bad apple” gun dealers.
    Don’t get me wrong, shady dealers supplying criminals deserve to get penalized and shut down, but she claims that 38% of dealers inspected in 2011 were non-compliant with federal law. If true, this is almost certainly because of various minor paperwork errors (someone writing “Y” instead of “Yes”, for example), not serious criminal violations.
    It seems Hillary’s administration, if elected, would be as hostile to FFLs or more than her husbands administration.
  • “Keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill” — More standard stuff, some of it reasonable. She supports adding people convicted of stalking or domestic abuse to the list of prohibited persons, which seems sensible: current law doesn’t apply to people who abuse someone with whom they have a dating relationship (as opposed to a marriage). I can’t really argue with changing the law to cover people convicted of domestic abuse, regardless of who they abuse.
    However, she loses me by saying straw purchasing is only a “paperwork violation” rather than a proper federal crime, which she thinks should be changed. I’m not aware of any other paperwork violations that carry the threat of 10 years in jail and a quarter-million dollar fine.
    She’s a bit vague when she says she wants to “[i]mprove existing law prohibiting persons suffering from severe mental illness from purchasing or possessing a gun”, so I can’t really comment. People whose mental illness means they pose a danger to themselves or others shouldn’t possess firearms, but I strongly feel that nobody should lose their rights without getting their “day in court” (emergency commitments excepted), so this vagueness is worrisome.
    Lastly, she claims that “military-style assault weapons do not belong on our streets”, and that they are a “danger to law-enforcement and our communities”. She says she “supports keeping assault weapons off our streets”. I agree with her last sentence: no weapon should be left on the street. They should be kept in a good home, preferably in a good safe, and used for lawful, safe enjoyment, protection of the innocent, sport, etc. I’m happy to take in any homeless guns. More seriously, she doesn’t explain why the country’s most popular legally-owned firearms — some of the most rarely-used-in-crime guns, to the point where the FBI doesn’t even have a separate category for them in their annual crime reports — are so dangerous compared to other, unspecified firearms, nor does she offer any justification as to why they should be restricted.

In short, it’s Bloomberg’s wishlist, plus a little more. Someone needs to tell her than 1994 isn’t coming back.

Don’t say nobody wants to take your guns.

The group “Occupy Democrats”, a “progressive” group with ~750k “Likes” on Facebook and which seems to communicate entirely by image-based posts, recently posted this image:
occupy-democrats-australia
At the time I published this post, it had more than 61,000 “shares” and 40,000+ “Likes”.
Don’t let anyone convince you that nobody wants to take your guns. They do.
My response: “You want take my guns. I won’t give them up. Your move.”

NPR finally notices New Yorkers are ignoring the SAFE act

After New York implemented the SAFE act there’s been incredibly low levels of compliance: people aren’t registering firearms the law says they must — only 45,000 have been registered. Although this has been fairly widely known in the gun community, NPR finally noticed.
Interestingly, they didn’t just interview the anti-gun groups, but actually interviewed regular people:

“I just don’t see there’s any need to [register my guns -AZR],” says Joseph Fuller of Cohoes, N.Y. Fuller says he owns several guns, including at least one that he’s required to register under the SAFE Act. But he hasn’t.
“I don’t pay attention, to be honest,” says Fuller. “I have friends out in the boondocks. They won’t register their guns either. And they told me … don’t even bother. Don’t worry about it.”

They also interviewed the NYSRPA:

“[The SAFE Act] still may be law, but the people of New York state have repealed it on their own,” says Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association. “They’re just ignoring the law.”

Upstate sheriffs don’t seem to care:

“When I prioritize what I need to do as a sheriff, the SAFE Act comes in at the bottom of that list,” says Christopher Moss, the sheriff in Chemung County, a rural area near the Pennsylvania border. “I do look at it personally as an infringement on Second Amendment rights.”

Leah Barrett with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence is a sad panda, but tries to spin things positively:

“I think 45,000 is a lot of assault weapons. I think it’s evidence of how long overdue this law is,” says Leah Barrett, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. Barrett points out that multiple public opinion polls ? including one commissioned by her group ? show that 60 percent of New Yorkers support the SAFE Act.
“They support the background check requirement. They support the state’s ban on military-style assault weapons. They even support the background checks on ammunition sales,” says Barrett, “because they know that these are entirely reasonable.”

No surprise: her definition of “reasonable” differs completely from my own.
The comments are filled with people saying “Hurr, durr. I thought [pro-gun rights people] always said ‘enforce existing laws’, but now they’re opposing the enforcement of this law.” and “So much for ‘law-abiding gun owner’.” Funny how it’s “civil disobedience” when people break the law to support something they like, but how it’s “let’s track down and arrest those felonious, cousin-humping rednecks” when people are breaking the law to support something they don’t like.

Mid-Term 2014 roundup: that went well.

Overall, the election seems to have gone well for the pro-freedom side: Republicans (who are typically, but not always, pro-gun-rights) have a substantial majority in both federal houses. Unsurprisingly, the forecast at FiveThirtyEight was quite accurate, and better than most individual polls.
As usual, the true winners are the TV companies who made zillions of bucks running political ads.
I can only hope that the Republicans use their majorities in both houses to actually accomplish productive things and avoid burning precious political capital on divisive social issues. We’ll see.
Republican governors were elected in blue Maryland and Massachusetts, which surprised me, while a Democrat was elected as governor in Pennsylvania. The race in Colorado is too close to call yet, but FiveThirtyEight is predicting that Hickenlooper will barely squeak by with a win, or potentially a runoff.
As expected, endorsements from gun-control groups were essentially meaningless outside of “safe” districts: the Americans for Responsible Solutions “Champions for Common Sense Official Election Night Tally Card” listed 13 races in the House and Senate. While AZ-2 is still being counted (with the two candidates within a few handful of votes of each other at the current moment), six of the ARS-endorsed candidates lost their elections.
Miguel has a good rundown of what Bloomberg’s money got him (hint: not much, with about 50% of those he endorsed or funded losing their races).
Although they were roundly rebuked in most races, gun-control groups did have one victory worth noting: I-594 in Washington (which mandates background checks on nearly all transfers of firearms, including temporary transfers) passed with just under 60% of the vote, significantly less than the “90% of Americans” that gun-control groups claim support such measures. Gun-control groups wildly outspent pro-gun-rights group by more than a factor of 17, with gun-control groups (and a few wealthy benefactors like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Nick “We need more school shootings!” Hanauer) contributing more than $10.6 million, while pro-gun groups and individuals only contributed a bit more than $602,000. The fact that a school shooting took place in Washington just a few weeks before the election probably helped bolster support for the measure, even though the measure (if in effect at the time) would have made no difference.
The Bradys (and their allies) are spinning the passage of I-594 as “the only place where guns were directly on the ballot this election day” while ignoring the dozens of races where gun-control supporters were defeated. While the measure is likely to be challenged in court, the gun-control side is happy about this one victory and promises that it is an “indication of things to come”. It’d be worthwhile to keep your eyes open for when similar measures are proposed in other states — such measures need to be challenged early.
In short: it wasn’t a perfect election for the pro-gun-rights side, but overall we did pretty well. Gun control at the federal level is now essentially off the table, though we need to be concerned about state-level measures promoted by big-money groups and donors.

On Fundraising Strategies

My strategy for political fundraising is pretty simple: like many people, I join membership organizations that are aligned with my position on a particular issue (( For example, the NRA, GOA, and SAF for gun rights, the ACLU and EFF for freedom of speech, privacy, etc. )), keep my membership up to date, and subscribe to their mailing lists.
Additionally (and in my view, more critically), I also subscribe to the mailing lists of groups advocating against my position. For example, I’m subscribed to ARS mailing list (( I’d subscribe to Everytown and CSGV, but I’m not sure I could survive bashing my head against the wall that frequently. )). Whenever they send out a message calling for more donations (( ARS often asks for small donation amounts and has an “anonymous donor” that will match all contributions. Anyone know who that donor is? )) I make a note of the amount they request. Every few months I add up all the requests that ARS makes, double it, and split that amount between contributions to the NRA, GOA, and SAF.
Groups like the NRA, GOA, and SAF work to concentrate and amplify the voices of their members. Individually, a vote or a letter to your legislator isn’t terribly meaningful, and I can’t make flashy TV ads or do much with $50, but the NRA and other groups can use that money much more effectively for lobbying, advertising, etc.
While I can’t hold a candle to Bloomberg’s billions, I try to do my part.
I’m curious what strategies others have when it comes to fundraising and political advocacy. Thoughts?