The rationale of “no sales to police” and what it means to the RKBA fight.

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There is a growing list of gun companies who are refusing to sell to any government agencies (police departments, etc.) in states where their products are not allowed to be owned by the general populace. I’ve applauded this practice, and have taken more than a little heat from both friends and enemies for my stance.

Their arguments against industry-government boycotts are generally based on efficacy: the “it won’t matter, so why bother?” school of thought. I think that’s short-sighted, and ignores the idea of foundational principles of which I’ve been writing lately.

Let’s take the case of Magpul. As you may know, their home state of Colorado is banning what they refer to as “large” capacity magazines. Magpul, who built their business on the 30-round PMAG for the AR-15, has threatened (and appears to be following through on the threat) to leave the state and take their $85 million business and 250-odd direct jobs with them. I’ve applauded them for that action; good on them!

Unfortunately they turned around and publicly declared that they’d be more than happy to sell their PMAGs to any police officer or department in that state – despite the fact that the citizens of the state are now forbidden to buy those same items.**

Magpul, and some of the other companies which have issued public statements defending municipal sales in such areas, have said that they’ll continue to sell their restricted products to the brave guys and gals who “need” them. This is also a common refrain amongst supporters of those companies, who defend the practices by invoking images of police whose operations would be severely hampered for want of a 30-round magazine.

I believe this indicates a lack of understanding of the issues involved, and one of them is an idea that we’ve been fighting tooth and toenail since last December: the mistaken belief that a Constitutionally protected right is subject to a test of need.

All over the country, in Congress and in the states and on the airwaves and in the forums, we’ve been fighting the argument that no one “needs” a “high” capacity magazine or an “assault weapon.” Many of us, unfortunately, have fallen into that trap of debating “need” rather than pointing out that rights cannot be subjected to such tests. We haven’t done a terribly good job of disabusing people of that notion.

The companies who enact or continue policies of selling specifically to police officers and agencies in ban areas directly support the argument of “need”, whether they recognize it or not. You see, by continuing to do business in those states which have established two legal classes, companies help to perpetuate the idea that some people do in fact “need” those “high” capacity feeding devices and some don’t – the police agencies being the people who need them, and the general public the people who don’t. Many of their statements, and the tepid defenses uttered by many of their supporters, say things to the effect that they don’t want to deprive police officers in such states of the tools that they “need” to do their jobs.

Having a company in our industry publicly declare that they recognize need as a valid reason to sell to a specific part of the public is the next best thing to carving the concept on stone tablets and having a certain Senator from California carry them down the mount, loudly declaring “Thou Shalt NOT!”

Don’t get me wrong; I understand that a Magpul boycott of a state’s police agencies would be unlikely to have any effect on their lawmaker’s votes. The police aren’t going to lobby the Legislature for a repeal of the law because they have their exemption; there is no incentive for them to urge a repeal, and no boycott by the industry is likely to ever change that. I also recognize that a boycott won’t do anything to forestall the burgeoning tiered society we’re creating with such exemptions to these laws.

None of that matters. Efficacy is a poor argument; principle is not.

I don’t care if a company’s boycott against a state is successful. I do care about the lack of such a boycott cementing into the public’s minds that some people need certain things and others don’t, and that ownership of those items should be based on that need. Allowing these companies to enact, publicize, and defend policies which recognize the need argument — or, at the very least, don’t voice any opposition to it — lends credence to one of the prohibitionists’ main and most successful talking points.

If industry leaders like Magpul accept the argument of need in Colorado, it becomes much harder for people in Oregon and Oklahoma and Maine to counter their legislators who use need as a basis for new laws. Exercise of a fundamental right, any fundamental right, cannot be based on a requirement to show need. The companies who accept the status quo which is built on need make it harder for the rest of us to get that point across to the public.

When a business entity says that some specific group of people needs a particular thing while accepting a law that says no one else does (and is happy to profit from the situation), they’ve actively validated the prohibitionist position. The prohibitionists are greatly strengthened by such validation, and that’s the real problem.

-=[ Grant ]=-

** – Magpul has since “clarified” their position, stating that they will sell to individual officers in ban states who will sign a promise that they won’t enforce any unconstitutional laws. That alone is another discussion, but they’ve simply erected a minor hoop through which the people with the alleged need must now jump. Their slightly modified position has no fundamental effect on the underlying concepts.

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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