It’s Not The ‘Gun Lobby’ That Wants To End Gun Regulations – It’s The Gun Owners Themselves.

The Chicago Tribune has just published an op-ed by Fermin DeBrabender, who wrote a provocative book (Do Guns Make Us Free?) arguing that gun ownership actually reduces freedom by restricting the degree to which citizens will engage in open, political discourse when members of the audience show up toting guns.  In his Tribune piece, Professor DeBrabender makes the argument that the gun industry is facing a “market crisis” due to the collapse of demand since the election of #45 and is responding to this crisis by promoting all kinds of laws and legalisms – open carry, campus carry, permitless carry – that will “make owning and carrying a gun more common, more normal, more ingrained in our culture and everyday life.”

dealers              This is hardly a new thesis and the gun industry’s promotion of the ‘normalization’ of toting around a gun long precedes the collapse of retail sales since the replacement of anti-gun Obama and the appearance of pro-gun Trump.  But to ascribe the easing of gun restrictions to some kind of evil hand belonging to some nefarious entity known as the ‘gun lobby’ is to obscure what I believe is a necessary understanding of what gun ownership in America is really all about.

The truth is that there isn’t a gun ‘lobby’ if what we mean is the existence and activity of some kind of organized, institutionalized effort to support or promote the aims of the gun industry wherever guns are sold. Yes, the NRA has a lobbying arm known as NRA-ILA, which promotes and coordinates pro-gun legislative initiatives both in individual states as well as with the feds. There are also independent pro-gun groups in many states whose members will show up at a public hearing whenever a gun law is being discussed. And make no mistake, these groups are well-funded, they are active and they claim to be able to sway elections with their pro-gun votes.

Except if you look carefully at the history of pro-gun legislation, particularly its spread since the late 1970’s when the first wave of laws liberalizing concealed-carry began to appear, you will note that, again and again, these laws have changed the legal landscape much more in states owned politically by the GOP; gee – what a surprise considering the fact that gun owners, in the main, tend to vote red.  There are still 9 states where the issuance of permits to carry a gun are dependent upon the discretionary judgement of law enforcement officials – every one of those states happens to contain a majority of residents who usually vote blue.

What Professor DeBrabender has overlooked (and I mean no criticism of his otherwise-excellent op-ed in this regard) is that much, if not most of the impetus for liberalizing or discarding gun regulations comes not from the top, so to speak, but from the bottom; i.e., the basic attitudes on the part of gun owners themselves. When the NRA refers to gun owners as ‘law-abiding’ citizens, this may be the one statement they make which is absolutely true.  Most gun owners are law-abiding because otherwise you can’t buy or even own a gun. And guns are the only consumer product which can only be sold to legally-qualified consumers, you don’t need to pass a background check to buy a car.

Every time I go into a gun shop I’m made instantly aware of the fact that just my presence in that shop carries with it the necessity that I must follow various laws. And every weekend when tens of thousands of people visit gun shows they are all equally cognizant of the fact that their legal status is a verifiable issue if they walk up to a dealer’s table to purchase a gun. The existence of 40 million legal gun owners is a much more potent force for doing away with gun regulations than any strategy employed by the ‘gun lobby,’ and talking with those gun owners about gun violence should go hand-in-hand with worrying about whether the gun industry will sell more guns.

3 thoughts on “It’s Not The ‘Gun Lobby’ That Wants To End Gun Regulations – It’s The Gun Owners Themselves.

  1. Mike, here in Florida, many of the “gun rights” initiatives are the brainchild of the NRA, its chief lobbyist Marion Hammer, and a small group of legislators trying to ingratiate themselves with the NRA. There is no public demand for campus, airport, and court carry, for example. Occasionally, a bill is conceived from the misfortune of a gun owner who, for example, inadvertently displays his gun and is charged for openly carrying. The next thing you know we have an “open carry” bill. Some of these stories, I believe, are urban legends and pretexts for introducing bills. Many are too quirky to have widespread support from gun owners (e.g., physician gag laws or threatening businesses with liability for harm on their premises if they prohibit gun carrying).
    As far as gun owners being law-abiding by definition, what about the 20-40% who are not vetted at all due to their purchase on the private market. In addition, every criminologist knows that law enforcement databases capture just the tip of the iceberg with regard to crime. Many domestic abusers with an alcohol problem have no criminal record but may pose a high risk of violence. To find out more about the inadequacy of the rap sheet as a measure of criminality and the actual prevalence of law-breaking, I would refer you to my “Everybody Does It: Crime by the Public.”

  2. Here in New Mexico it was the Michael Bloomberg crowd that was the brainchild of canned legislation (HB50/SB48) pushed hard in the recent legislative session. Everytown/Moms put in about six times the campaign and campaign advertisement money and about six lobbyists compared to the NRA (one lobbyist) and what they seemed to accomplish was pissing everyone off and having their overreaching bill stall in committee. Plus, they put my own legislator in danger of a massive amount of blowback next year as she sponsored a bad bill.

    Meanwhile, real grassroots GVP folks like NMTPGV (full disclosure: I am a member) got one bill, which would require those with domestic violence restraining orders to store guns with someone else, through the leg (still sitting on the Governor’s desk). New Mexico has a lot of gun owners and it is reasonable to think that some of the pro gun bills were supported by a lot of us. I don’t think much of Constitutional Carry but that is me, based on a fair amount of reading.

    As far as that 20-40%? Its closer to 20% and any suggestion that that number is the tip of the iceberg of dangerous individuals needs data or it sounds (to me) like a cheap shot. As Mike mentioned in a recent post, the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens or at minimum, are guilty of minor, non-gun offenses, just as the vast majority of motorists are decent and otherwise careful people who probably push the envelope at 5-10 mph over the speed limit and answer a text or three. They probably are as much of a risk to the public as anyone, given the prevalence of motor vehicle operation in busy public space.

    Everybody does it, but what is it that everybody does? Let’s be careful here.

  3. I am far less impressed by Professor DeBrabender’s diatribe. He plows the same ground with no data to support himself and glosses over the devils in the details, such as:

    The ACLU and mental health groups have harshly criticized the broad brush bill that required the Social Security Admin. to report people to NICS, suggesting that most of those who would be reported were of no danger to themselves and others. (see Jeffrey Swanson’s piece in the Washington Post). Apparently, President Obama ignored his own advisors, who would have counseled a more narrow rule.

    The ACLU and others have criticized the No-Fly list and vehemently opposed expanding it to gun purchases, as this is a secretive government list, is not based on actual illegal content, and has no due process built into it. The ACLU supports gun controls but has said, repeatedly, that due process must be built into any law.

    Its not clear how much difference UBC’s will make given the extreme concentration of gun crime in small social networks. The papers I have seen suggest that the existing laws in Illinois make it hard for criminals in Chicago to get guns, result in the sharing of guns, but the high murder rate remains for a variety of reasons.

    The stuff on suppressors and New Hampshire is conjecture, not fact. Frankly, suppressors/silencers are rare as hen’s teeth in crime and probably for a good reason–they make it hard to conceal a handgun and still result in a lot of noise. I had a discussion with Winkler about this and we agreed that the problem with relaxing the law is that once the experiment gets started, its hard to put the genie back in the bottle. Before we decide if the recent change in law in NH will make the place more dangerous, we need data. Certainly the lack of strong gun laws in Vermont has not resulted in that state being a free fire zone.

    One of the reasons there is so much animosity in the gun rights v gun control discussion is that facts are sometimes the first casualty and both sides are often guilty of in spinning yarns out of whole cloth.

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