This is a little different than what I usually do on Fridays, but I think it’s important. As you may have heard, credit card processor Square recently announced that it would no longer do business with people who were in the firearms business. Whatever their reason, they’ve made it very clear that they don’t have much respect for us or our industry.
Be very clear: Square is certainly within their rights to decide who they want to do business with. I support that right. At the same time, we as their customers have a right to educate the marketplace about that company’s competitors, those businesses who might have more respect for the Second Amendment and the people who exercise the rights it protects.
To that end, feel free to share this article far and wide. Tell your friends, families, and anyone you see using a Square reader: if Square doesn’t want our business, there are alternatives!
Not a Square deal! by Grant Cunningham
Square, the iPhone-friendly charge card acceptance service, stunned the firearms industry recently when they decided they would no longer accept accounts from companies that sold weapons - or, presumably, had anything to do with weaponry.
Many small companies in the firearms and training businesses had come to rely on Square to be able to accept credit cards from their customers. Having the company decide that they no longer wanted perfectly good and legal business was a blow to many, and now lots of enterprises are scrambling for a replacement.
Why did Square decide to abandon these customers? The company is being rather coy, but one industry outlet pointed out that Square is preparing to go public, and may have wanted to ‘clean up’ their customer roster beforehand.
I don’t know about you, but being lumped into a group that needs to be purged doesn’t sit all that well with me!
What Square is Square, along with some similar competitors, is what’s known as an ‘aggregator’. That is, they supply a front end for access to their own merchant accounts, access which they sell to people who want to accept cards. The transactions go through Square’s accounts and then to a credit card processor, for which Square charges their handling fee. Think of it as a straw purchase for credit card transactions, and you’ll get the concept.
The result is a system that’s easy to set up, because the merchant doesn’t need to qualify for an account of his/her own or go through the rigorous underwriting process of traditional processors. The merchant doesn’t have any exposure, but that also means that he/she is at the mercy of the company offering the service - in this case, Square. They can (and did) change their terms at will, leaving their customers out in the cold.
The solution? Get a real merchant account from a credit card processor - the folks who supply the service which Square resells. Not only will it be cheaper, you’ll be insulated from the whims of a service provider who may purge your account for any reason, including their own changing political positions.
The credit card processor I talked with Ian Miller, the Vice President of Merchant Banking at Merchant Services Ltd. (‘MSL’). MSL is the company behind the PistolPay system, the competitor to PayPal who will accept payment for things the eBay-owned PayPal won’t. MSL is an actual card processor - the company that runs the transactions companies like Square give to them. They do the actual work!
As Ian explained, today there is a wide variety of mobile payment solutions available. He said that MSL had nearly a dozen from which to choose, many of which are actually cheaper than Square for the average merchant.
While set-up is a little more involved than what Square required, it’s not that difficult and the benefit is an account that can’t be canceled (outside of things like using it to commit fraud, of course.)
That’s because an actual credit card processor doesn’t make political decisions about what the transaction is for; their concern is that the transaction is honest and legal. The result is an account that won’t be abandoned by changing political positions.
In fact, the credit card processor is probably the most agnostic entity between your customer and you. Banks have occasionally decided to drop customers whose business they dislike, but the card processor isn’t tied to your - or any - bank. Their agreement with companies like VISA, MasterCard and Discover is that they will process any transaction that falls within the card issuer’s guidelines.
The aggregator, in contrast, has no such obligation. They’re a merchant themselves, and they can decide which customers they do and don’t want. When they decide that guns and anything to do with guns are unacceptable, there’s no recourse other than to cancel your account before they do it for you.
Simple hardware One of the big draws with Square is the tiny little card reader that simply plugs into your smartphone. As Ian explained, those turn out to be less than ideal, especially if you’re using it often. The readers plug into the headphone jacks, and there are many reports of the plug portion breaking off in the phone!
While MSL can supply those kinds of simple readers, they can also supply more robust systems that will take the kind of abuse someone who processes a lot of transactions can dish out. Some of them can also be used in environments, like at a range, where they might get knocked around. For the merchant who travels to his clients, a ruggedized model might keep from having to send the phone to the shop to fix a broken-off reader plug!
Another hardware issue with those cheap readers is the larger percentage of unread swipes. If for some reason the reader can’t get information from the card’s magnetic strip, the merchant has to key the card in manually. Those manually keyed transactions cost more to process, and so the merchant is charged accordingly.
The small readers, like those used by Square and their competitors, have a higher ‘no read’ percentage than the better card readers that are available. That translates in to a higher number of cards you need to key in manually, which means higher fees and less money in your pocket. In this case, you definitely get what you pay for!
If you’ve been to an Apple store, you’ve no doubt marveled at the card readers attached to the back of each employee’s iPhone. Ian tells me they can supply similar devices too; they’re not cheap, but if you run a lot of transactions and need an all-in-one solution that’s very rugged, they can fix you right up.
The readers companies like Square use may be cheap, but if your business depends on the ability to swipe cards a better reader may be a wiser choice.
Future proof One of the real benefits of having an actual merchant account, especially the way MSL handles it, is that the same account you use to take orders on your website can be used to take orders on your smartphone! Having the accounts integrated makes accounting and reconciliation easier, and allows you to grow with your customers.
The biggest benefit of acquiring your own merchant account, however, may be the level of service you receive. Reporting services are more robust, you can get more timely information, and when you need to integrate your new storefront your representative at the card processor can help you get that done in a timely fashion.
Companies like Square make things easy, but in exchange for making life easy you give up a lot of features, services, and even security. As we’ve seen, if your aggregator decides they no longer want “your kind”, that’s it! Getting a real merchant account, particularly from a devoted Second Amendment processor like Merchant Services Ltd, is the smart way to replace Square.
The reaction from the gun-grabbers was hardly surprising: they’re moving to make 3D printed guns illegal. Of course we all understand how meaningless such a law would be, but they have to do something, by golly!
It is not an anomaly; building a gun using primitive machine tools is often the norm in places where armed resistance is a necessity, arms are scarce, and there is no factory to supply the need.
The Šokac can be made in a garage using not much more than a medium-sized lathe and milling machine; any reasonably skilled gunsmith could construct one with the normal tools of the trade, as could many automobile mechanics or one of the tens of thousands of metalworking hobbyists who have a machine shop in their home. A high school metal shop could turn them out en masse.
The only real difference between the Šokac and the Defense Distributed “Liberator” pistol is the skill level needed to build one. When you compare the cost of the minimal hardware necessary to make a steel gun and a plastic one, the numbers are very similar - it’s the skills necessary to do so which differentiate the two. The Liberator can be made by anyone with a decent computer and the funds to acquire a 3d printer. (Wait until the machinists and the 3D printer owners get together…)
In other words, this story isn’t really news. People have been surreptitiously building firearms since the dawn of the gun, and that hasn’t changed. It’s just gotten to the point where one doesn’t get grime under their fingernails doing so.
It also underscores the futility of trying to outlaw firearms altogether, which is the overt goal of many anti-Second Amendment zealots. People will find a way to make them, right under the noses of the people who say they can’t.
You've probably heard about the Manchin-Toomey background check bill that is now winding its way through Congress. For the absolutists in the crowd it sounds like a bad idea: all sales at gun shows must go through a background check, and all internet gun sales must do so as well. (Sharp eyed readers will note that a gun bought on the 'net must already have a background check done by the dealer who delivers the gun, but don't say that too loudly!)
For those who aren't keeping score, here are the political wins in this bill:
- Prohibits any use of any background check information to establish a defacto gun registry at the federal, state, or local level; NICS information cannot be misused. We don't have this protection now, with the existing background checks being done every day. WIN.
- Civil and criminal liability protection for you if your gun is stolen and used illegally. This circumvents attempts being made at the state level to establish penalties for the misuse of guns that are taken from you. WIN.
- Prevents disarming veterans who seek treatment for PTSD through the Veterans Administration. WIN.
- More protections for people who are traveling between states and have their guns with them. WIN.
- Elimination of the prohibition against buying a handgun outside of your home state. WIN.
- and that's not all.
Here's the deal: the political winds are such that some sort of background check bill is probably going to get through Congress and onto the President's desk. That's reality. This bill, which is being heralded as a "compromise", is the first such one in which we've actually gotten a net political win (or at least not a net loss.) In every other bill we've faced, we've been in the position of trying to keep the damage to our rights at a minimum and not getting anything in return. With this bill we give up something that's really pretty inconsequential in the big picture, but it’s something we’re likely to lose anyway - at least we’ll gain some good, which is better than what we’ll have if it passes unmodified.
One great thing about this bill is that passage, even if the President didn't sign, would short-circuit the bills currently winding through my state's Legislature. Twice already the Oregon legislature has sidelined gun control proposals while they wait to see what Congress does; if Manchin-Toomey was to pass, I suspect that such legislation would die a quiet death both here and in other states.
A couple of weeks back on the Gun Rights Radio Network I suggested that I might not oppose a gun show background check bill if we could actually get something out of it, like removal of suppressors from the NFA list. We didn't get that, but we got some other stuff that together is pretty good. Naturally we’ll need to examine the actual bill carefully, but I like what I see so far.
The ironic part about this is that if it gets shot down in Congress, or if the President doesn't sign it, we can make political hay by taking the moral high road: "these people voted down a GUN CONTROL bill that we supported!" That would put the political fight squarely back in our corner, which is what we've been trying desperately to do all along.
From our point of view here's no real downside: if it passes and gets signed, it would have anyway and we have a relative win. If it fails or gets vetoed, we really win. Either way we come out on top, or at least not at the bottom, which is deft political maneuvering.
This is how the game is played, folks. We can take the absolutist position of "shall not be infringed" (which I've pointed out is a nonsensical position since we've been infringed upon regularly since 1934) and lose, or take the pragmatic view and play the game for a potential win.
Here in Oregon we're fighting a legislative battle again relentless prohibitionists. This situation will be familiar to those of you in places like California, Washington, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Colorado, and several more. What they can't get done in Congress they've decided to get done at the state level; they've had some success, which has emboldened them.
It's important that we keep our heads in the fight and not let them control the discussion. As you're seen by my recent posts, I'm a believer in the idea of arguing foundational principles and try not to get caught up silly arguments like justifying "need". Instead, I think it's best that we control the narrative by turning the situation back at our opponents by focusing on how their desires affect other fundamental human rights.
There was a recent article over at The Truth About Guns site which discussed the argument of body counts - and, by extension, the mantra of "if it saves just one life…" - as a justification for the abrogation of Constitutional rights. It's a good read, and I recommend that you share it!
If there is no such thing as "gun violence", there can be no such thing as "gun rights". Be consistent - owning a gun is a HUMAN right. Let's delve into what that means.
I noticed that those in the shooting community bristle at the term "gun violence". It's the term used by gun control advocates and much of the media (but I repeat myself) to focus attention on the object rather than the person who wields it. The focus on the object, of course, is necessary to convince people that the object needs to be controlled. It leads people to believe that it's the unique nature of the object which makes its possessor dangerous, rather than the objectives and desires of that possessor.
Demonize the object, and you can control the object. This is why the prohibitionists constantly call for an end to "gun violence"; once they've established that it's the gun which is the root of the problem, the next logical step is to "get guns off the streets." It's a close cousin to the term "assault weapon", and works for the same reasons.
I think we, generally, understand this tactic. We object (though not strenuously enough, in my view) to the use of the term "gun violence" because we recognize the reason for its use. We can (and should, rightly) argue that guns cannot be guilty of violence, as they are inanimate objects. Violence is an action, a behavior involving physical force to achieve a purpose. Inanimate objects do not have behaviors and cannot independently engage in an action. They are, as many have pointed out, tools to be wielded; violence comes from the person who wields them.
"Gun violence", then, is an illogical term. It makes no sense other than to achieve a political aim, and thus is a legitimate target of scorn and derision. We should object whenever it is used, and have at ready hand an explanation as to why it is objectionable: because it makes no sense!
Unfortunately, we're guilty of the same silliness ourselves in the use of the term "gun rights". Rights are those fundamental freedoms possessed by humans, freedoms which they may (or may not) choose to exercise at any time they wish. The trouble with the term is that, again, guns are inanimate objects. The have no freedom, because they can neither think nor move; they have no ability to choose, let alone to exercise a freedom. Just as a gun cannot itself shoot a human being, it cannot declare itself to be free of infringement upon its thoughts or activities.
The term "gun rights" is therefore as illogical as the term "gun violence"; if you accept that the former exists, you will have to concede that the latter does. I'm not willing to do either.
If we are to insist that our opponents be logical, we must be as well. We need to purge the term "gun rights" from our vocabulary; we need to instead talk of human rights, of the inalienable freedoms we have simply because we exist. You may choose to ascribe those to a deity if you wish, but as a community we should never allow ourselves to speak in terms other than the rights of human beings. We have the right to keep and bear arms not because there is something special about guns; we have that right because the Founding Fathers understood and voiced the right to defense of oneself, family, and community, and that the freedom to use efficient tools to do that was essential to protecting that right.
Guns don't have rights; people do. Guns prohibitionists focus on the object; we should focus on the people. Be consistent, in the same way that you would insist the other side be.
I'm a bit concerned about a trend in the gun community, one borne from defending against the prohibitionists who have gotten their second wind courtesy of the Newtown tragedy. That trend is arguing 'need'.
The prohibitionists (gun-grabbers, if you prefer) like to ask the question "why do you NEED" some specific gun or feature on a gun. Whether it's a "high capacity magazine" or a "military style rifle", the question puts the onus on us to justify our desire to have the item in question. I think that's misguided, and I think we're aiding and abetting our own entrapment.
Don't get me wrong; there have been a number of superb essays on the subject by people I know and respect. In virtually every case I agreed with all the points they made. I just don't think we should be wasting our time making them.
If a prohibitionist asks why we "need" something, he is presupposing that the exercise of a fundamental right is contingent upon showing good reason to exercise that right. The idea that humans have rights simply because they exist is completely bypassed, and the concept that rights are something a government confers upon subjects is cemented in the very structure of the question. By answering, in any form or manner, the question of need we tacitly accept their premise that rights do not exist beyond what someone else is willing to allow. Even entertaining the question plays into their trap.
We need to stop doing that.
When the question of need comes up, we (as a community, let alone as a nation) shouldn't acknowledge any legitimacy to the question. To do so signals our acceptance of their base premise. Instead, we should completely bypass the question and tell them that rights - ours and theirs - are not subject to tests of need or social utility. The correct attitude is not one of educating the questioner about firearms, but rather educating about inalienable rights.
I'm even in favor of turning the question back on the questioner: "who are you to determine what I do and do not need? Who or what gives you the moral authority to force me to justify my desires to you?"
Perhaps we should ask them to lay their lives open to us for a similar examination: "why do you NEED a car that has 120 horsepower? Why do you NEED a television with a screen over 20 inches? Why do you NEED granite countertops? Why do you NEED a designer dress?"
I'll admit that this is a purist point of view, and purists are notoriously lacking in the pragmatism necessary to function efficiently in society. Still, I believe that we need to drive the discussion away from the minutiae of hardware design and back to the fundamentals of human freedom. If we keep answering their call for justification, we'll continue to battle on their terms.
Yesterday was the first day of SHOT Show (Monday was Media Day At The Range; the actual show opened on Tuesday.) I'll talk about the hardware on my Facebook page, so please hit the Facebook button to your right to see that stuff.
Today I'd like to talk about the general tone of the show. Yesterday, before the news about our President's impending press conference came out, I'd describe the show as upbeat. Ammunition makers didn't want to talk about supply issues, the AR-15 manufacturers would only smile if you asked them what the delivery times would be, and generally people were very happy with the state of the industry.
This morning, as we wait for the press conference, there is a feeling of unease in the air. There are people here who are genuinely concerned that they'll essentially be put out of business by executive fiat about 11:45 Eastern time. The new legislation in New York, and pending bills in Maryland and points west also have everyone worried - and for good reason.
We've made great strides in the past couple of decades, only to see the possibility of having our progress wiped out in a very short period of time. We haven't been helped by people in our own camp who insist on reinforcing every negative stereotype of the "dangerous gun nut", nor by politicians who stand on polling data rather than principle.
We have a lot of work to do now, and it's going to take everyone being on the same page. It's going to take some political activism, and to that end I'd ask you to go back and read my piece about contacting your elected representatives (both local and national.) Join the NRA (if you haven't already.) Tell the idiots and grandstanders in our own fraternity to shut the hell up. Make sure that your local elected law enforcement (Sheriffs in most places, Chiefs of Police in a few) get the same message as your Congresscritter: that you will not accept any infringement on the rights protected by the Second Amendment.
If we don't do those things, in a few short years there may not be a whole lot of need for a SHOT Show.
It’s the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas! I’m hoping to bring you some news on the revolver front, and possibly even a neat announcement or two. Watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds, as I’ll update them as I hear anything new.
(I also happen to know that there will be a neat announcement or to come, so stay tuned!)
Words are powerful things. This is a fact with which I constantly struggle; I've learned, sometimes the hard way, that what I write - the words that I use - can have a marked effect on other people. This realization has been both empowering and chastening and has certainly changed how, and sometimes even what, I write.
Certain combinations of words carry more weight than others, and as I watch what passes for news I see that reality being used to bludgeon us over our exercise of our freedom. Sometimes the manipulation is obvious, sometimes it's subtle, but it's always there.
From Amidst The Noise comes this great video exploring how words are being used to divide us as a nation and even as Second Amendment advocates. Please watch it and share it with others.
I can't begin to describe my sorrow after the events of last week. We dealt with our own Mall attack here in Oregon, only to turn around and witness the same event - only with more horrific results - in a Connecticut school. My heart grieves for the families, friends, and community of Hook Elementary School.
There is a lot of activity swirling around this event, and frankly it would take me weeks to write enough to cover it all completely, so I'll limit myself to some brief commentary about various aspects.
- There seem to be a lot of British busybodies filling the comments on news sites and Facebook with their sanctimonious hand-wringing. Myopia appears to be even more endemic to their country than poor dental hygiene, and it's ironic that those who chide us for being ignorant about the rest of the world are themselves incredibly ignorant about the gigantic failures of gun control in their own little island cesspool.
- It came out last week that our Mall killer here in Oregon broke off his attack because a licensed concealed carrier drew his own gun in response. The bad guy made eye contact, saw a good guy's gun pointed at him, and ran like the coward he was.(*) I think this stands in stark contrast to the killings in Connecticut, where the school staff could not avail themselves of efficient protection. The drastically different outcomes are of course due to many factors, but it's plausible - and even likely - that a legally armed teacher could have done what Mr. Meli did in Clackamas Town Center. This is a story you need to share, because the mainstream media is “conveniently” ignoring it.
- After any such attack there are always emotional appeals for more gun control. I'm seeing a lot of people on news sites and Facebook arguing the topic, and I'd like all of those who support the Second Amendment to tone it down. When you're dealing with someone whose opinion is based on emotion, arguing with them - either from an emotional or an intellectual basis - usually results in a strengthening of their resolve. However, I've also found over the years that most people become more rational after time has passed as long as they haven't cemented their initial emotional reactions into a decision. In other words, if you argue with them now, when their heads are hot, you won't be able to change their minds later. Let them vent now, and once tempers have cooled you can go back with the rational arguments and stand a better chance of making a change in their opinions.
- When the teleprompter readers in the media go off-script it's painful. I've heard too many comments from on-air bimbos of (both sexes) about mass murders becoming "more common these days" - comments which are repeated by their viewers and listeners across the country. As it happens they are most assuredly becoming neither more common, nor more deadly. A story in National Review debunks the idea.
- Some sort of draconian gun control measure will definitely be introduced in Congress, and will probably make it through the Senate (the House is another story.) Remember what I've been saying over the last few months about welcoming shooters who don't necessarily tow your party's line? Remember what I said about having Democratic friends of the Second Amendment in Congress, and how important they might be if we got into a serious fight for our rights? In light of what we're going to face come January, don't you think today might be a damn good time to tell divisive people like Cope Reynolds, the owner of Southwest Shooting Authority in Pinetop, Arizona to shut the hell up?
- There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, but ultimately we have to remember this: when people have free will, sometimes they will choose to do something bad. That's the other side of freedom of choice, and if you want to have a free society you can't eliminate all risk. This is a truth which seems to be lost on so many people (particularly our British friends.)
-=[ Grant ]=-
( * - I suspected this was the case when I listened to a Deputy Sheriff answer some questions in a news conference right after the incident. It wasn't what he said, it was how he said it that made me believe this had happened. I shared this information privately with a few people, and was gratified to find that I was right!)
Some things that have crossed my path over the last few days:
- My publisher, Gun Digest, is having a Twelve Days Of Christmas Giveaway - a different prize every day! They're giving away a lot of neat stuff this week; on Friday is a drawing for a Gerstner pistol case! If you haven't seen one, they are gorgeous. Gerstner, of course, is the old-line wood tool chest manufacturer renowned for their quality. They're still in business, still making great stuff, including the aforementioned case. I'm not eligible to win, sadly, but you certainly are - go enter! Here's the link the the Giveaway.
- James Yeager is a fairly well-known instructor who's also something of a bomb-thrower. He's been all over the net lately challenging people who call him 'coward' to do so to his face - and has issued threats about what would happen if someone did. Now I know people who've known him for a lot of years, and they insist he's really a nice guy and that this is just a publicity stunt for his school. Perhaps, but he's doing a great deal of harm to the image of gun owners and shooting instructors in a time when we really can't afford that kind of nonsense. Please go read PDB's assessment, whose opinion in this case mirrors my own.
- I recently found this piece by Terrell Prude Jr. Mr. Prude** is a self-professed liberal who is also a Second Amendment supporter and a member of the NRA. If you've been following the blog, Facebook, or any of the podcasts I've been on lately you know that this is a hot issue with me. I don't believe that someone needs to be of a certain political persuasion in order to be a gun rights advocate, and I certainly don't believe that just because someone voted for President Obama immediately means that he or she is my sworn enemy. Please read Mr. Prude's essay for the other side of gun ownership, one that we're far too eager to dismiss. Take the time to read it, especially if you’re not a ‘liberal’.
-=[ Grant ]=- ( ** - In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that many years ago I did business - and a bit of socializing - with Mr. Prude's father, who he mentions in his essay. One might suggest that this would predispose me to agreeing with him, but given my public stance I think it's clear that I'd agree with him even if I didn't know his Dad.)
At the SHOT Show last January I was having dinner with a group of industry people. Talk turned to politics, as it usually does with gun folk, and the discussion revolved around the race we concluded (well, more or less) last night.
At that point in time the Republicans didn't have a clear front runner, yet I confidently predicted the President would handily win re-election. The assembled group said that I couldn't possibly predict the result this far out, that there were too many variables, and that I was assuming a defeatist attitude.
None of that was true.
There was only one variable in this election: the willingness of the candidates to pander to an America that wants to be like the rest of the world, with large intrusive governments and poor fiscal responsibility. The records of the reds and the blues are little different in that respect; only the details vary.
The incumbent always has the edge in this kind of situation, controlling the treasury as he does. The challenger can only hope to be more charismatic, and on this point my prediction was ridiculously easy: none of the Republican field had nearly the charisma that President Obama does. On that alone it was a sure bet. I didn't even buy the judicial appointment argument, because there was absolutely nothing in Mr. Romney's past performance (which is the only reliable indicator of future behavior for a politician) which indicated any actual philosophical difference from the President when it came to appointing judges to the bench.
My point is that, if Mr. Romney had been elected, our status as a nation wouldn't have changed in any fundamental way. The transfer of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street would continue unabated; the looming derivatives mess would still be looming; our interventionist foreign policy would still be the order of the day; judicial activists would still find their way to the Supreme Court; our young men and women would still be dying in third-world hellholes; and the determination of the prohibitionists to whittle away at the Second Amendment would not have been reduced.
It’s that last point this blog is concerned with. The threats we face today are the same ones we faced yesterday, and the ones we face tomorrow would not have been materially altered by electing the other side of the common coin. We still have to defend the Second Amendment, and it's high time that we get together with Second Amendment supporters from both sides of the aisle to make that happen.
Yes, there are "gun people" who don't have an 'R' after their names, and we desperately need their support. It's time to make sure that we stand united for gun rights regardless of party affiliation, and the only way we can do that is for every one to reach out and shake the hands of those gun owners who didn't vote the same way that you did yesterday - regardless of exactly what that was.
Last week Rob Pincus posted a photo on his Facebook page of him teaching Khloe Kardashian how to shoot. (I'll admit to the necessity of Googling the name to find out who she is. I am unabashedly unhip.) Though I'm not a fan of “reality” television (I studiously avoid “Top Shot”, for instance), I'm glad she took the time to find out about the shooting world from someone who knows it quite well.
There, I thought, it sat. Until this weekend, when Rob posted this:
"Gun People" chasing away potential new shooters with their Ignorant Behavior
I was kind of surprised at the number of negative comments that the picture of teaching a pop-celebrity how to shoot garnered earlier this week.
The fact is that, for all the TALK about expanding the ranks of gun owners and reaching younger people & more females, the kind of ignorant responses that some have offered aren't going to encourage a twenty-something year old girl who happens to follow the Kardashians or Justin Beeber or who will vote for Obama to come to a shooting range and give it a try. In fact, some of the comments might downright chase them away from even being open to trying shooting or wanting to be part of the 'gun community'.
The Biggest Offenders have actually suggested that I should have taught her to shoot herself and/or attacked her looks and/or suggested that it would've been better if she had been wearing a bikini in the picture.
Those types of retarded comments aren't going to anything to sway someone who is on the fence about going shooting to imagine that they will be welcomed with open arms at gun store or shooting club and, in fact, could push many people away.
Whose side are you guys on??
I went back and looked at the comments, and sure enough there was a lot of negativity. Instead of embracing another (potential) crusader for the cause, a certain segment of the shooting fraternity had already written her off. That's hardly a welcoming attitude!
During the RECOIL debacle I opined (either in print or on Doc Wesson's show) that the younger generation is not likely to embrace the NRA as it exists today. There are simply too many in that organization, and in some of our defensive training and hunter education organizations, who are intolerant of people who are different than they. Whether it's the guns these newcomers use or what their voting preferences are or the tattoos and piercings many of them sport, our community too often finds ways to make it clear to them that they're really not "one of us" and can't be, until they become just like us (“us”, of course, being a variable dependent upon the sociopolitical hangups of the individual doing the judging.) I think a lot of them are just going to say no, and may say no to shooting altogether. That would be a great loss.
I once asked someone who lived in a seedy area what it was going to take to clean his neighborhood up. He responded with “quite a few more funerals.” He didn’t mean that people needed to be killed; rather, he meant that attitudes tend to go with one to the grave and only the natural turnover in population with births and deaths would lead to the change he hoped for. Trouble is, we can’t wait for the dinosaurs to die off. If we do we’ll lose the people we claim to want to attract and possibly lose our political advantage over time. Yes, we need to encourage younger shooters - but we can’t do that if we’re sending out signals, both subtle and overt, that we don’t like them!
A single blog post by a single person isn’t going to change things, but if we can get more bloggers and people of influence aboard perhaps we can make some headway. If you agree with this, if you believe that we need to attract and hold onto the young guns, you can help: forward this to the blogs and forums you frequent, post it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and generally talk it up. Perhaps - if enough of us voice our support for the newcomers to the fold - we can bring the shooting world to understand that the next generation of shooters is ours to lose. Lose them we will, if we allow these inane and wholly inappropriate attitudes to exist.
RECOIL Magazine certainly took a heck of a beating last week. The editor, Jerry Tsai, resigned on Thursday after a long list of advertisers cancelled their support of the publication, and on Friday the publisher "suspended" Associate Publisher Joe Galloway - likely for his ridiculous spin attempts (and perhaps some alleged astroturfing that was tried on Facebook.)
Now what? They may survive, they may not; I don't think anyone can really predict their fate, at least not now. If they want to survive, however, the first thing they're going to need to do is to appoint a new editor who is both a young iconoclast AND a knowledgable defender of gun rights. It will need to be someone who the 20- and 30-something readers of RECOIL can accept as one of their own, someone who knows (and is known in) the industry, and someone who can retain the talent that actually put the magazine out. That's a tall order.
The publisher is going to need to come out with a strong commitment to the Second Amendment. Not a tepid, "we stand in full support" kind of statement that politicians everywhere spout, but a real, here-is-exactly-what-we-think-about-the-tough-issues statement. He's also going to need to come to grips with the internet and social media, which the whole affair (delayed statements, flip-flopping, alleged astroturfing, and leaked internal emails) showed not to be the case. They're a print entity and it seems they didn't quite understand how quickly things move in the electronic world, let alone how easy it is for people to find out if someone is lying.
Once those things are done the magazine is going to need to rebuild its advertising base. That's going to be a tough row to hoe, because the advertisers have been burned and are probably quite shy of any association. This is where the new editor is going to have to press the flesh and make the personal appeals necessary to woo those companies back into their pages. Any whiff of insincerity or suggestion of hesitation on their new mission, and those ad dollars will leave for good.
As a community we're going to need to support those advertisers if and when they return to RECOIL. A continued boycott won't do any of us any good, least of all the under-represented shooters for whom RECOIL was intended. It's time to put down the pitchforks, folks, and get busy putting RECOIL back on the newsstands - assuming, of course, they show that they're deserving of that support. The community will need to be both immediate and visible so that the advertisers understand they won't be penalized for going back to RECOIL.
Why? Because, as I’ve already pointed out in this blog and on The Gun Nation, the magazine is important to the shooting community’s future.
The industry is just now getting their heads wrapped around the very place of RECOIL in the panoply of firearms publications. I don't think many people in the business yet "get" the purpose of the magazine (the online criticisms of their content are painfully hilarious to read), and very few consumers outside of their target market understand the new gun enthusiasts themselves.
As the story unfolded I wondered aloud about their political connections and ownership. I had the facts correct, but my concerns, I think, proved to be misplaced. It became very clear as the ship started listing to starboard that the magazine existed not as a tool of subtle political manipulation, but simply as an example of how people’s interests are not always going to be in line with our preconceived notions.
This weekend, for instance, I was listening to a gun talk show and the host couldn't understand how someone could be both an enthusiastic gun owner and in favor of gay marriage. (Apparently he is not aware that there is a significant, yet quiet, subset of gay gun owners whose passion for gun rights easily equals his.) These young shooters very often are supportive of both concepts, and it's something those people in leadership positions who see the political spectrum in black-and-white must face up to.
Here's the key to understanding the RECOIL reader: they are not one-issue people or one-issue voters; they are not gun rights activists first and foremost, whose points of view are shaped by that. And, though it may cost me some readers, I'm going to say for the record: THAT'S OK!
They don't have to be rabid gun rights activists to support the Second Amendment. They simply need to be educated as to what the Amendment means, why it's important to them, and how it is perfectly compatible with their desires for "social justice". We are not going to turn them into "conservative" voters, we're not going to stop them from voting the way they want to vote, and it would be hypocritical of us to try to do so or to abandon them because they won't. We have to accept that they're not going to vote gun rights exclusively, that they’ll consider them as one part of their whole world view, and that they're often going to support candidates who sport a "D" after their name.
If we as a community are serious - really serious - about broadening the support for firearms ownership in this country and ensuring the continuation of all that we’ve fought for, we have to accept the RECOIL readers for who they are. Our job is to move the Second Amendment up on their scale of importance, but we can’t do that if we can’t reach them. RECOIL was one very good way of reaching them.
There is a whole generation out there whose members like guns and would likely become the Second Amendment leaders of tomorrow, as long as we don't leave them blaming the "fudds" for taking away their voice. By taking an active interest in what happens over at RECOIL, we can ensure that there is a real outlet for those gun owners who are not well served (if served at all) by the existing publications and organizations.
Up until now we've heard only from Jerry Tsai, the editor of RECOIL. FIrst he said that he stood behind what he wrote, but that he simply worded it unclearly. (Remember that one of the reasons he cited for the gun being unavailable to "civvies", and with which he agreed, was that it served “no sporting purpose” and was bad for cops and soldiers - both common refrains of the Sarah Brady crowd.)
When the industry started taking notice he wrote a second "apology" where he claimed that what he printed was just what HK told him. I sincerely doubt that any company the size of HK uses words like "civvies" and "scumbags"; even a first-grader can read the item and see that it wasn't written by the maker of the product. The words were Jerry's, through and through, only this time he claims they really weren't.
The exodus of advertisers was swift; I named some of them on Monday, and in the intervening days many more have jumped ship - including industry behemoth Magpul, who virtually defines the modern concept of "shooting style". If you're aiming at the twentysomething crowd, and you don't have Magpul on board, you're nothing.
Apparently that reality has yet to occur to Joe Galloway, who is the Associate Publisher of RECOIL. He sent this communique (in its entirety) to advertisers this morning:
RECOIL Magazine’s Position:
In light of some of the comments and complaints made about a paragraph in a recent article about the Heckler & Koch MP7A1, Recoil wishes to make the following points clear:
· It is simply not credible for anyone to question Recoil’s support for, and commitment to, the Second Amendment. Recoil is first and foremost a gun lifestyle magazine, aimed at the modern shooting enthusiast.
· The opinions in the paragraph in question accurately reflected those of the manufacturer, and should have been reported as direct quotes. Recoil acknowledges the way the paragraph was written has caused unnecessary confusion.
· Jerry Tsai, a passionate gun enthusiast and the visionary behind Recoil magazine, will remain as editor of Recoil.
We thank you for your support and understanding.
Quite honestly, if you read the article, it was one paragraph that was actually quoted from the manufacturer and we did not state it that way. Recoil has 26,000 likes on face book and the magazine has only been out for three issues and issue number 4 is just hitting the streets. I honestly believe that this will not hurt the magazine. I have not lost anyone as a result of this and do not expect to.
Joe Galloway Associate Publisher 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords Phone 813-675-3493 Fax 813-675-3557 Email email@example.com Assistant: Jennifer Conklin 813-675-3507
Several things stand out. FIrst, Tsai admitted writing and agreeing with what was published in his first "apology". Now his publisher says Jerry didn't write it, an assertion which directly contradicts what his editor said. Then he has the temerity to claim that the magazine "has not lost anyone", despite the number of companies who have publicly cancelled their involvement with them.
As I said on Monday, the new generation of shooters needs their own magazine. This one, bankrolled by someone whose political associations are highly suspect, may not be it. The shooting fraternity still needs a magazine like RECOIL, but it needs to be one which doesn't compromise on the Second Amendment. Could RECOIL become that magazine? I have my doubts, especially after their publisher dug in his heels to support the status quo, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if they truly repent.
Over the weekend a major firestorm erupted over RECOIL magazine's review of the HK MP7A1. In the article, the editor of the magazine - one Jerry Tsai - penned this:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands.”
Sounds just like something from Sarah Brady herself, doesn't it? Of course it does, and it caused more than a few Second Amendment stalwarts to go nuclear, like in this open letter to RECOIL from Rob Pincus (who first alerted me to the debacle whan I was on the range teaching a Combat Focus Shooting course - ah, the power of the iPhone!):
“DEAR RECOIL MAGAZINE,In reference to: “Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of…”
To say I disagree with your thoughts on the MP7 would be a gross understatement.
In fact, the ignorance of that statement is amazing to me. In case you didn’t notice, the only reason Glocks, M&Ps, and probably most of the guns that are paying for advertising space in your rag are built is to put down bad guys.
People may find “sporting purposes” for them… but gun games aren’t why they exist. If Wired or Maxim had said what you did, I wouldn’t care. You should’ve known better.
The vast majority of firearms that have been designed and built in the history of the tool have been built for defensive or offensive use. Regardless of the intended role, military, law enforcement or civilian, the overwhelming majority of firearms on shelves in gun shops and shown in the pages of your now incredibly disappointing magazine are designed for use by people against people. While the “shooting sports” label may be a banner that has hung over our industry for political and (sometimes) marketing reasons, your young magazine hasn’t exactly catered to the waterfowl or skeet crowds.
Personally, the MP7 is one of the few guns on the planet that I would rush out and pay H&K Retail Price for, if it were ever offered for civilian sale. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting them many times and training teams that use them. It is a great tool, but didn’t possess any magical power that made it reckless, dangerous or inappropriate for any responsible firearms owner to possess…. for whatever reason they desire.
I had high hopes for your publication. Now I expect people to stop reading it, advertisers to fade away and your writers to submit their work to other publications that actually understand the industry they are covering.
-Rob Pincus -I.C.E. Training Company”
For his part, Jerry - sensing an imminent backlash from readers and advertisers alike - came back with what he perceived to be damage control on RECOIL's Facebook page:
Hey guys, this is Jerry Tsai, Editor of RECOIL. I think I need to jump in here and clarify what I wrote in the MP7A1 article. It looks like I may not have stated my point clearly enough in that line that is quoted up above. Let’s be clear, neither RECOIL nor I are taking the stance on what should or should not be made available on the commercial market although I can see how what was written can be confused as such.
Because we don’t want anything to be taken out of context, let’s complete that quote and read the entire paragraph:
“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands. It comes with semi-automatic and full-auto firing modes only. Its overall size places it between a handgun and submachine gun. Its assault rifle capabilities and small size make this a serious weapon that should not be taken lightly.”
Let’ also review why this gun should not be taken lightly. In the article it was stated that the MP7A1 is a slightly larger than handgun sized machine-gun that can be accurately fired and penetrate Soviet style body armor at more than 300 yards. In the wrong hands, that’s a bad day for the good guys.
As readers of RECOIL, we all agree that we love bad-ass hardware, there’s no question about that. I believe that in a perfect world, all of us should have access to every kind of gadget that we desire. Believe me, being a civvie myself, I’d love to be able to get my hands on an MP7A1 of my own regardless of its stated purpose, but unfortunately the reality is that it isn’t available to us. As a fellow enthusiast, I know how frustrating it is to want something only to be denied it.
Its manufacturer has not made the gun available to the general public and when we asked if it would ever come to the commercial market, they replied that it is strictly a military and law enforcement weapon, adding that there are no sporting applications for it. Is it wrong that HK decided against selling a full-auto pocket sized machine gun that can penetrate armor from hundreds of yards away? It’s their decision to make and their decision they have to live with not mine nor anybody else’s.
I accepted their answer for what it was out of respect for those serving in uniform. I believe that we as gun enthusiasts should respect our brothers in law enforcement, agency work and the military and also keep them out of harms way. Like HK, I wouldn’t want to see one of these slip into the wrong hands either. Whether or not you agree with this is fine. I am compelled to explain a point that I was trying to make that may have not been clear.
Thanks for reading, – JT, Editor, RECOIL
Naturally, this looks-like-an-apology-but-really-isn't-when-you-actually-read-it-and-won't-someone-PLEASE-think-of-our-brave-boys-in-blue did nothing but stoke the fires, causing several prominent shooting industry partners, including Silencerco, ITS Tactical, and Panteo Productions, to publicly cancel all their ads in the magazine.
Tsai, now realizing that the survival of his emerging empire is in serious jeopardy (“Zumboed”, I believe, is the operative term) penned another apology on the RECOIL Facebook page that says he Really, Really Means It This Time:
I’d like to address the comments regarding what I wrote in the MP7A1 article in RECOIL issue 4. First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any offense that I have caused with the article. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand the outrage, and I am greatly saddened that it was initiated by my words. Especially since, I am an unwavering supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights. I’ve chosen to spend a significant part of both my personnel and professional life immersed in this enthusiasm, so to have my support of individuals’ rights called into doubt is extremely unfortunate. With that said, I retract what I wrote in the offending paragraph within this article. It should have had been presented with more clarity.
In the article, I stated some information that was passed on to me about why the gun is not available for civilian purchase. By no means did I intend to imply that civilians are not responsible, nor do we lack the judgment to own such weapons, if I believed anything approaching this, clearly I would lead a much different life. I also mentioned in the article that the gun had no sporting purpose. This again, was information passed on to me and reported in the article without the necessary additional context. I believe everything published in RECOIL up to this point (other than this story), demonstrates we clearly understand and completely agree that guns do not need to have a sporting purpose in order for them to be rightfully available to civilians. In retrospect, I should have presented this information in a clearer manner. Although I can understand the manufacturer’s stance on the subject, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.
Again, I acknowledge the mistakes I made and for them I am truly sorry.
Sincerely, Jerry Tsai Editor RECOIL
Basically, it's an "I'm not a bad guy, just horribly incompetent and lack basic reading comprehension skills" sort of passing-the-buck excuse apology. I find that odd coming from an editor! Having worked for a number of editors, and knowing the hawk-like attention they pay to what comes out on their watch, it seems rather incomprehensible that one would blithely regurgitate a manufacturer's inflammatory talking points while simultaneously adding his own clear and obvious agreement.
Many people, including yours truly, might have bought it - except for this a little bit of information a reader over at The Truth About Guns uncovered: RECOIL is owned by Source Interlink, an investment firm bankrolled by one Ron Burkle. Burkle is described in an article at Mondotimes.com as "...a prominent Democratic party activist and fundraiser. He is a close friend of former President Bill Clinton, and investments in Yucaipa made by Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton have generated millions of dollars in income for them. “
Now it must be pointed out that I'm not a supporter of either political party; I despise all politicians equally. And, as I've reminded some of my more myopically partisan acquaintances, the "R" in "NRA" does not stand for "Republican." Still, one has to wonder about those ties.
My only knowledge of RECOIL comes from poking around on their website; the editorial direction is much too young and "extreme" for my tastes. However, I think it's important for the shooting community to have fresh outlets like this magazine to which the under-40 generations can relate. What appeals to me, as well as those before me and those just after me, is very different than what appeals to the 25-to-35 demographic. We don't need to push them away with the fuddy-duddies in Guns & Ammo or Shooting Times; they need THEIR magazines, with writers who talk to them in terms they're used to hearing. RECOIL was very obviously aimed at doing just that, and I think it's great - even if I'd never choose to read it myself. (I've got to admire their graphic sense, however!)
But at only four issues into its life, and given the nature of its ownership, I have to wonder: does the magazine really exist to get a certain demographic to think of guns not as something to aspire to owning, but rather to admire from afar in movies and videogames? Has anyone read all of their issues with a keen eye, looking for that kind of subtle editorial manipulation?
Perhaps Tsai's mistake wasn't what the magazine wrote, but rather a lack of subtlety in writing it. Discussion in the comments is encouraged, particularly because I've admitted to having never paid attention to the magazine until now. If you've read RECOIL, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
I'm on record, going back at least a couple of years, of not being a fan of open carry for political purposes. My stand is simple: you cannot open carry in an area where it's legal to "fight for your rights", because the right already exists. If it already exists, then it comes under the principle of exercising the right responsibly.
The rabid open carry advocates, those who carry with video cameras and actively seek conflicts with police officers, are not exercising their rights responsibly. I believe it's up to the rest of us to call them on their bad behavior, and not fall victim to some misplaced notion of brotherhood.
Rob Pincus is of like mind, and is calling on the normal, responsible, non-attention-seeking open carry practitioners to stand up and be counted. He asked me if he could post a short plea on my blog. Here's Rob:
Irresponsible Open Carry Activism Jeopardizes The RKBA
Guns should be carried for personal defense, not Activism. The best way to do that 99% of the time is Concealed Carry.
Even if people do choose to Open Carry, they shouldn't do it to provoke confrontation nor be uncooperative with the police while doing it. It makes gun owners look bad, turns cops against us, wastes their valuable time and certainly isn't going to make it more likely that people will think "oh, gun owners are normal people, not trouble makers."
Spread the Word. Most people have realized that the time for "solidarity" through tolerance of the guys carrying guns with video cameras has come and gone. Their bravado is jeopardizing our RKBA and should be seen as an embarrassment to responsible gun owners. When the OC Movement started, people carrying while going about their daily business to show responsibly armed people are part of everyday life, it made some sense... but, the extremists have spun out of control. Let's make sure that the firearms community is condemning this behavior.
I am not calling for a change in laws or for us to ostracize people who carry openly in a responsible, civil manner. Perhaps responsible OCers should be most concerned and the most openly critical of those who are using their guns to get (inevitably negative) attention?
Obviously, I am a proponent of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and do not want to to see OC made illegal, but I fear that will happen more and more often, in more and more places (as it already has it one state), if the confrontational actions of a very few reckless people continue.
I hope everyone enjoyed my little SHOT Show recap last week. Between recovering from a nasty cold (which I picked up in Vegas) and being a bit tired of talking guns, this morning is going to be all linky, no thinky.
-- Over at the Geek With A Gun blog, there is a discussion about my recent post on safety rules. He doesn't entirely agree with me, which is okay - the important thing is that he's THINKING about the rules and their effect on those who hear them, rather than doing the knee-jerk "the four rules are immutable" routine. The more people who understand that any rule which requires people to pretend something is doomed to failure, the better off we'll all be.
-- As you may know, I've become a fan of the Forgotten Weapons blog. This morning I checked my RSS feed to find that they have an article on the Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon! (Hey, it's a revolver - it's topical for this blog!)
-- There was an interesting article published in TheJury Expert, which is the journal of the American Society of Trial Consultants, back in September of 2009. In it, Glenn Meyer did a little test on the effect of firearm appearance on the opinions of a mock jury. The results were a little surprising.
This morning I read the news that Governor Moonbeam Brown in California signed off on legislation that prohibits the open carry of handguns (even if unloaded) by the general populous. Given that some of the more vociferous proponents of OC were from CA, it would seem that their “in your face” methods may have backfired.
While I don't live in that state and thus may not be intimately familiar with the timelines involved, it seems that OC came onto the legislative radar when local news outlets got wind of the movement via confrontational videos posted on YouTube. From there it was a short step to getting lawmakers to deal with this major "problem".
Over the weekend I had a talk with a relative who was interested in the possibility of rechambering his rifle to something a little more potent than the .30-06 it currently fires. I found myself recommending the .35 Whelen. His eyebrows darted skyward, amazed that I wasn't recommending some sort of SuperTinyShortenedUltraPowerful Magnum.
Though I've never owned one, I have passing familiarity with the Whelen. It is just a good, effective caliber that's not going to beat the shooter up nor destroy half the animal being shot. Someone once told me that it was "superbly balanced", which I understood to mean that it occupied a serendipitous intersection of power, accuracy, and shootability. It's capable of taking any North American game and doing so without excessive chamber pressure or throat erosion.
(The short-action version, the .358 Winchester, shares those same attributes and is one I've wanted for a while now. Someday I'll find a Savage 99 in .358, though I'd settle for a Browning BLR.)
This is evidence that I've come full circle on rifle calibers. When I was younger and convinced that more power was the answer to everything, I thought fire-breathing Magnums were the way to go. As I've grown up and gotten some experience under my belt I've come to appreciate the cartridges that have been well tested over many years and lots of game: the .30-30 Winchester. The 6.5 Swedish Mauser. The .30-06. Yes, the .35 Whelen.
There are more, but you get the idea. As I said recently on my Facebook page: Sometimes newer is in fact better. Sometimes not. The key is knowing why.
On Monday, Rob Pincus posted a note on the I.C.E. Training Facebook page about his opposition to open carry (OC). This is one of Rob's personal 'hot button' issues, and he doesn't shy away from the debate. (Rob doesn't shy away from much, actually, but particularly so with regards to this topic.) It garnered a lot of attention, making the cut at both Gunnuts and Say Uncle (amongst others.)
Given my association with Rob and I.C.E., it wasn't terribly surprising that I should receive an email asking, in essence, if I agree with everything he says. Sometimes yes, sometimes a little less so, but not for the reasons you might think.
On the self defense aspects, I think OC when concealed carry (CC) is available (which is darned near all of the country these days) is silly. I won't debate that point of view at this time, but for now I'll just say that I don't believe OC has any advantage over CC from a tactical standpoint.
On the social and political fronts the situation is a little less clear. I often wonder if the civil rights activists of the 1960s and the gay rights activists of more recent memory would have made the gains they did without their open and sometimes controversial exercise of their rights. Just fifty years ago restaurants and theaters were routinely segregated; thanks to the confrontational activities of civil rights advocates, today integration is so normal that we don't even think about it. The same could be said for abortions and being openly gay.
Whether you agree or disagree with those subjects isn't important to this discussion - what is important is that what was normal was changed, thanks to people who were willing to stand up for their rights and risk ridicule and arrest to mold society's opinions.
To say that such activity was acceptable for them, but not for Second Amendment advocates, seems on the surface to be a little inconsistent.
OC activists insist they're doing the same things for the same reasons, and it would seem to be a hard argument to dismiss. I do think, however, that there is a big difference between open carriers and civil rights marchers: the rights being defended here are already well established (if not in fashion), and are subject to a different standard of comportment. It's called "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
Rosa Parks was doing something that the law said she couldn't. Open carriers are doing something that the law already says they can. That doesn't seem like a huge difference, but it is.
If OC advocates were carrying guns in areas where laws unjustly say they can't, then I'd support them fully. The problem is they're not, and in my opinion that removes the civil rights rationale from their argument. Carrying a gun openly in a city like Portland, where it is against the law, is advocating for change and pushing people to recognize other's civil rights. Doing it in an area where it's allowed, even if uncommon and misunderstood, is usually just grandstanding.
I understand the argument that rights which are not exercised are ripe for abrogation, and that OC is a strong exercise of Second Amendment rights. That doesn't mean one needs to do so from a posture of defiant confrontation, which seems to be the norm for open carriers. We already possess those rights, and it's incumbent upon us to exercise them responsibly and intelligently. Like it or not, that means not scaring the public.
Yes, people who are scared of the sight of guns are irrational. I agree. Yes, cops who don't know the nuances of the law are ignorant. I agree. Getting belligerent in public isn't going to change either of those. Want to advocate for actual social change? Open carry in a city where it's illegal; get arrested like the civil right marchers did, then use that to help publicize your case for the repeal of unjust and unconstitutional laws.
That's real political activism. Being a contentious loudmouth on YouTube isn’t.
The Fear And Loading blog alerted me to this story from the Charlotte Gun Rights Examiner. Seems that with the NRA Convention in town, the local Marriott decided to take conventioneer's money and then slap them in the face for the privilege. Interesting read, and it looks like the Marriott manager has bitten off more than he can chew.
(This is in stark contrast to the Virginia Beach Resort in which I stayed a few weeks back. Not only did they host the Combat Focus Shooting Instructor Development course, the staff was completely at ease with a bunch of gun guys roaming the halls. I went so far as to store a gun in one of their safe deposit boxes, and the desk clerks didn't even blink. Great place.)
SWAT Magazine TV, hosted by the irrepressible Rob Pincus, has been nominated for a Telly Award at YouTube. It's not often that gun-related shows get the recognition they deserve, but in this case we can all help the cause.
POCKET COMPANION: no, not a J-frame! From Dustin's Gun Blog I learned of a new iPhone/iPod Touch app called Legal Heat. It's an interactive version of their printed guide to concealed carry and gun laws in all 50 states, written by attorneys and instructors. It' a great idea, and something that's needed. Unfortunately, despite the viability of the concept I cannot in good conscience recommend this particular app.
There is a big issue with Legal Heat's usability. The pages are just images of the book, which means they're pictures and not text. This sounds inconsequential, but it's not. When you bring up the laws on a state, because it's showing the whole page the text is tiny; unreadably small. To read it, you need to magnify the image by pinching. (The usual double-tap doesn't work, because it doesn't work on full-frame images!) Once you magnify the image to read the text, you have to continually scroll back and forth because images don't wrap text. Finally, the app doesn't support screen rotation; it only displays in portrait orientation, which exacerbates the scrolling issue.
Frankly, iPhone users are accustomed to a higher level of application quality than Legal Heat delivers. If they would simply make their pages actual text and enable screen rotation I'd be comfortable recommending it. As it stands, even at $1.99 it's not worth the hassle.
DEAL ALERT: My background in commercial photography has left me more than a little anal retentive with regards to optics, particularly when it comes to binoculars. I'm a fan of porro-prism designs, as they a) have better three-dimensional perspective, b) are brighter, and c) cost less than roof-prism types for any given level of optical quality (resolution/contrast.)
Minox makes some of the best porro-prism binocs. The optical performance is exceptional, and the build quality matches the glass. They make an 8x and a 10x version, and at a street price of roughly $550 they are something of a bargain; you'll need to spend roughly twice as much to get a roof prism of comparable performance, and you still won't get the perspective advantage that the porro-prism design gives you.
Despite their advantages, porro-prism designs are distinctly unfashionable these days and don't sell well regardless of brand. Roof prisms are what people buy, and Minox has bowed to the market: they've discontinued the 10x model. SWFA is closing them out at $299.95, which has to be classed as a screaming good deal. You won't find anything even approaching their optical performance for that kind of money. (Yes, I grabbed a pair - for that price, I wasn't about to pass them up!)