The Second Amendment Cannot Afford Strategic Incompetence

NRA Day by Day

by Harold Hutchison

By all rights, the fight to maintain our Second Amendment rights should have ended a long time ago. We know what the Founders of this country intended with regards to the right to keep and bear arms. The stats from the Justice Department should shoot down the flagship legislation (bans on modern, multi-purpose semi-automatic firearms) proposed by many of the Democrats running for president these days. We would not need to be fighting over our rights, because most people would be looking for solutions that didn’t wrongfully strip law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights.

Instead, we are in a pitched battle for these rights. We’re doing well to keep bad legislation from passing in all but the states most dominated by the far left, but it still seems like we are losing ground. There is a big reason: While we have excelled in the short-term game, especially at the federal level, Second Amendment supporters across the board ignored the long game.

That failure has a lot of parentage – which those responsible for it will deny. Some, like Neal Knox, were overly confrontational and managed to alienate allies or potential allies. Look, Knox’s role in the 1977 “Revolt in Cincinnati” that saved the Second Amendment and helped stem the tide that was heading towards handgun bans, licensing, and registration was something we all should recognize, and praise him for.

But Knox also had a penchant for alienating allies with a hardline all-or-nothing attitude, especially when reality intruded – to wit, the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan. He also claimed that it was possible that the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were part of a conspiracy against our Second Amendment rights in a 1994 Shotgun News column. It was obvious that the political landscape required a shift in tactics and approach that Knox was clearly incapable of, and he had to go from NRA-ILA in 1982. It was equally obvious in 1997 that his approach was doing more harm than good, and he had to go then, too.

There has been far too little thought about how our defense of the Second Amendment comes across, and whether we need to change our approach to protecting our rightsBarry Goldwater’s failure should be instructive in this regard. The biggest problems we have doesn’t come from demographic shifts, it is coming from the suburbs – especially suburban women freaked out over whether their kids’ school will be the site of the next mass shooting.

Trafficking conspiracy theories and not being able to make the tactical adjustments necessary to limit or outright beat anti-Second Amendment legislation is not standing for principle, it harms our defense of our freedoms.

Look, I feel just as much resentment towards the anti-Second Amendment extremists who are wrongfully trying to deny me and millions of other Americans’ of our civil rights in the wake of the horrific shootings that we had no part of as anyone else. I’m angry at the lies that spew forth from anti-Second Amendment extremists like Alyssa Milano, Shannon Watts, Charles Schumer, Beto O’Rourke, and Dianne Feinstein. But that anger cannot rule our thinking or our message, especially in today’s media climate.

Strategy and tactics matter. They did in 1968, when the damage was limited and a federal licensing and registration scheme was beaten in a very adverse media and political environment. In 1999, the smart tactics and strategy not only prevented new federal controls, it won an election that ultimately provided the 5-4 margin in the Heller and McDonald cases.

But strategic incompetence in a different way is why Wayne LaPierre needs to step down, as I have called for on multiple occasions in the web pages of Ammoland. On the legislative and political fronts, he did quite well over nearly 30 years as Executive Vice President. But he missed the threat from corporate gun control like that from Salesforce and Silicon Valley. He has also been unable to address the growing social stigmatization of the Second Amendment.

But Wayne’s replacement needs to be someone who has the tactical and strategic acumen to win the fight, and to address the growing vulnerabilities of today’s political landscape and who can also make the changes in approach to shift the landscape in a more favorable direction. Getting this sort of talent at the Executive Vice President and NRA-ILA Executive Director positions will not be cheap, and when you look at the growing social stigmatization of the Second Amendment, anyone who DOES take those positions will have a hard time finding work.

The fact of the matter is that there is really very little controversy among Second Amendment supporters when it comes to the need to protect our rights. The disagreement is often about the best methods to do so. Given the stakes in 2020, and the increasingly extreme anti-Second Amendment positions coming from a nmber of Presidential candidates, the ability to fight smart may be THE critical requirement.

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