Saturday, May 24, 2008

Combative, not complacent, at the NRA convention

Glen Reynolds at blogged a piece from the Louisville gathering wherein he stated that he found the mood at the NRA annual meeting and exposition to be one of complacency. (link to Pajamas Media piece here)

He thought that gun owners had had perhaps too many victories in recent years and no longer felt threatened, and he worried that this wasn't a good thing.
I have to disagree with him. What I saw in observing and talking to people at the meeting and out on the show floor was a variety of states of mind. The most prevalent attituded was guarded optimism. No one was cocky, no one was that foolish or oblivious. While the frivolous lawsuits launched by the various cities had been beaten down in the appeals courts, and people like Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Rendell and their ilk have been roundly thumped at various points, no one pretended that the fight was in any way over or even turning enough our way for anything like complacency.
Rather, I found people encouraged by the marked trend toward a more literal constitutional interpretation that supports our position in favor of gun ownership. Most of the more recent court decisions, as well as the current makeup of the Supreme Court seemed to give most of them some degree of confidence that the pending decision on the DC gun ban will go our way, in part if not in whole. During the Clinton era, hardly anyone would have dared believe that we would break even, let alone win.
But no one was strutting about thumping their chests. They know that McCain is at best a lukewarm ally, hardly to be trusted, let alone to be relied upon. They know that Hillary is not to be trusted at all, and that Obama! Hoo, boy. Obama is a nightmare. Allied with a Democrat-led Congress, he could wreak havoc on us, and that was what I saw lurking in the back of everyone's minds. No one much wants to have to come out for McCain, but Obama scares the beJesus out of them.
No one was ready quite yet to contemplate a wholesale return to the fire sales that preceded the passage of the semi-auto gun ban in 1994, but it simmered in the background, this idea that it could happen again. I sometimes thought that people were trying hard not to talk too much about just when they'd decide it was time to cut their losses and start dumping guns that are likely to be banned if Obama, et al, get their way. People are nervous about that, yes, indeed. But no one wants to be the one that starts the stampede.
However, unlike in times past they're also more feisty in their attitude, more beligerent, less resigned. They seem to believe that this time not only will they have some legal precedents to aid them but that we, gun owners as a whole, will be ready to fight at the sound of the bell: swinging hard, moving fast and pretty much united. After having their heads handed to them in some elections where they misjudged the attitude of the populace toward gun ownership, the Dems are taking care not to bring up gun control except to constituencies they consider friendly. What's more, recent elections have brought conservative Dems into Congress who may well not accept the old leadership's demonization of guns and may prove better allies to us than many Republicans.
The recent kerfuffle over Jim Zumbo's faux pas has lent some confidence to our side. Zumbo uttered the old saw about nobody needing a black gun, and gun owners came swarming up over the gunwales to bite him on the ass for it. This time around, no one seems ready to believe that people are willing to start throwing the black guns over the side so that they can save their precious Perazzis. Perhaps, finally, gun owners have come to realize, really to believe, that if we don't hang together then we shall most assuredly hang separately, each gun type in its turn being outlawed until nothing of what we treasure remains.
So I wouldn't characterize the prevailing attitude at the NRA show as complacency. I would call it the kind of quiet calm that you might see in men getting ready to go into battle, going over the top into something that they know is going to be nasty. They have no illusions. The fight IS coming to them, sooner or later. But this time they're not going to be fighting uphill all the way, knowing the terrain is arrayed against them. This time they have some victories under their belts and even though they know that it's going to get ugly, they know that the other side has been reeling from their own losses, is in a fair degree of disarray and that they ain't as cocky as they used to be, either.
It's not complacency that Glen Reynolds saw. It's the slightly distant, misty look of people readying themselves for a fight they know is coming, soon or late, trying to be ready for it when it's here, reaching into themselves for courage and grit, thinking hard about anything else but defeat. This time they think we can win, if we all just hang tough, and hang together. Somebody's going to get a bloody nose, and they mean for it to be the other guy.

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