Activism Education


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Trent
May 2, 2014, 12:37 PM
Last night I had the opportunity to attend a Guns Save Life meeting in Peoria, IL as a guest speaker. I was asked to give a 1 hour speech on "how to be an effective 2nd amendment activist." There were about 60-70 attendees at the meeting. My speech and the Q&A period ran a little long but based on the feedback I kept everyone's attention.

The subject I was asked to cover is somewhat odd - I'd never been asked to speak about the subject of activism, proper. When I gave the topic some thought I realized a couple of things that I hadn't thought of before.

First, there's not really any organized training for HOW to go about being an activist. We have training for all sorts of things which are skill related, but not so much on the activism front. We lack something that Bloomberg's organizations have - some sort of organized playbook to work off of. Each organization out there has some general guidance but being a true grassroots movement, we generally don't have a great deal of individual guidance.

Second, there is a wide diversity in how people approach activism. Sadly, far too many fall short of the mark on "how to be an effective activist", which means (on this subject), I really have my work cut out for me. (Hint: foul mouthed language trolling anti-gun social media or congresscritters isn't really an effective method of activism. You won't win the hearts and minds of the undecided, being crude.)

While a lot of what I talked about was very specific to Illinois, I wanted to recap some of the more general points that were covered last night, while it is still somewhat fresh in the gray matter.

Women

I can't stress enough how important it is to bring women in to the fold; and, when possible, put them in the spotlight. I was pleased to see a lot of women at the GSL meeting last night (Two or three years ago the meeting would have been 99% men.)

When I've debated anti-gunners, I've found that they tend to focus in on "chest-thumping redneck types" and demand why we need "weapons of mass destruction to go hunting" (just pulling one of many counter-arguments I've heard, there). I've traditionally fallen back on my wife and daughter argument when this happens. Example: "So you mean to tell me that my wife has no right to defend our daughters when she takes them to the park or playground?"

(Both currently prohibited places to carry, in IL.)

I couldn't leverage this argument if my wife were anti-gun, or wasn't an active shooter, or hadn't gone through a concealed carry course. Too many men go forth and try to change the world, not having things squared away on the homefront.

Hint, gentlemen: if your most treasured loved ones don't like guns and understand their rights to self defense - and know how to leverage them! - you probably won't be an effective activist. Win your battles at home before trying to step on to the front lines. Figure out what is turning off your better half to firearms - and consider sending them through real training, OTHER than you.

Consider this - if every pro-gun man had a pro-gun female backing him our numbers would nearly double overnight. It's time to end the male-dominated stereotypes of our "gun culture."

Children.

Extending the 'home front" argument is our next generation of shooters/hunters/2nd-amendment activists. Most successful religious organizations (Catholics, etc) have very strong children indoctrination programs. Have you ever stopped to really question or wonder why this is? It is because they have multi-generational foresight and know that in order to survive and flourish the next generation of members needs to be brought in to the fold as early as possible.

By and large, our schools do not allow conversations about firearms of any nature, anymore. There is no Eddie Eagle program being taught at schools in Illinois as the very mention of the word "gun" is enough to bring the cops barging in and expulsion papers drafted up. Parents CAN NOT rely on any outside education on firearms safety or ownership.

Here's a fact that even anti-gunners will agree with. There are 300+ million guns in the United States, and it is an absolute certainty that at some point in the first 18 years of a child's life they will be exposed to a firearm, somewhere. As we all know it could happen at ANY age.

The question becomes how do you, as a parent, want that exposure to happen? Do you want it to start out with "OH COOL LOOK WHAT IS THAT!" followed by a fatal accident?

Or do you want it to be "Oh, that is a gun, don't touch it, we need to go tell someone!"???

One of those will have a decidedly better outcome than the other.

Ignorance and carelessness are the cause of firearms accidents. Period. Sadly, while both can be easily solved, tragedies still happen because parents do not take the time to educate their children properly.

Training children on firearms is fundamentally vital not only to their well-being, but also opens the door to responsible gun ownership. (I had an 82 year old woman come through my concealed carry class recently who had been around guns her entire life, but had never received any training on safe operation and use.)

Take every opportunity you have to teach children about firearms safety. And while you are at it, talk about our heritage and rights a little. Don't bore them to tears with dry supreme court and constitutional jargon. Just lay the foundation a little. With time understanding will grow - you just have to plant the seed.

Public Image

Portray yourself in public - social media, etc - as a responsible gun owner. If you come across as an aggressive foul mouthed chest-thumping neanderthal which respects no one else's opinion but your own, you won't win any hearts and minds to our side; you just create more damage that the rest of us have to repair.

Be polite. Be civil. Recognize that others have a right to their opinion, even if you don't agree with it. Anti-gun activists have just as much right to express their opinions as you do - they are using their first amendment rights, after all. Respect that. Respect them. I know it can be difficult when they are using their right to deprive you of yours - but remember, they are not the target of your words.

You are trying to influence the "on the fence" people who are passively reading your remarks or listening to the conversation, but not actively engaged in it. This is particularly true on social media where dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people may potentially read your words.

Too many times on this very bulletin board / forum I have seen pro-gun people say "I don't waste my time debating rabid anti-gunners." Or "You won't win any converts from the anti-gun side." Both statements are patently false, and hurt our cause.

I *have* successfully won converts over, to either being "on the fence" or to actually going to the range, and later watching them develop a new set of skills and mindset as firearms owners. And, through those little ad-hoc debates here and there, I've also brought in 10 undecideds for every one convert.

How is this done?

Find the fuse.

When you are debating or having a conversation about firearms, it doesn't matter if the person is a rabid anti-gun activist or an "undecided." Something causes them to be that way. If you want to win a convert, you have to "find the fuse and disarm it." You need to determine the root cause, the foundation of their beliefs, which causes them to believe what they believe. This can be as simple as "I've never been around guns", to something incredibly tricky to find and disarm.

Gun owners have an incredibly strong foundation for their beliefs - the constitution of the United States. It's hard to undermine Amendment 2. Our foundation is set in the very roots of the country itself; responsible in large part for not just the successful birth, but the continued survival through the infancy and development of our very society, our way of life.

Besides the "right of expression" the "right to keep and bear arms" was the next most important thing on the founders minds. It wasn't #15 on the list. It was #2 on the list, of maintaining a free and secure society.

You will find that anti-gun people, invariably, have a weak spot somewhere. They don't have that rock solid foundation we do, to build off of. They have something far less tangible and stable - emotion. To change that emotion you have to find out where it stems from and undermine it, erode it, dissolve it, or (as I like to say) "find the fuse and disarm it."

Negotiating or debating with someone is sort of like disarming a bomb. It can be very simple - trigger is obvious, find it, and flip the switch. Or it can be very complex - nuances within nuances, that you have to try to discern through layers of protection that the person has built around that core concept.

Was it a family tragedy? Is it a "party line" they are towing? Is it a gnawing fear about something they don't understand? Are there several reasons, all intertwined and interlocking to form a web of thought?

Each of those has a specific method of disarming. If it was a family tragedy (been there, have the T-Shirt), then focusing on safety and training is critical. (See "Children" section above for a solution).

If it is a party line, where is the independent thought? Can't make up their own mind so they latch on to whatever is closest ideologically? (I love this one as I, myself, am very liberal on a number of things and really really catch them off guard, being a "gun toting hippy type").

If it is a gnawing fear of guns - this one is only truly fixable by direct, controlled, safe exposure to firearms. While one-on-one range time is good it does have some pressure. I (lately) invite them to sit through a firearms safety course, or to come to an organized shooting event and fire their first shots. I've had previously anti-gun housewives go through their first gun safety briefing, and fire their first-ever shots from an AR-15 at an organized NRA Approved High Power shoot, before. The competitors never seem to mind these "introductory" sessions interrupting the matches.

Now those of you who shoot competitively might ask "dang, man, why bring them in to a cut-throat competition for their introduction to shooting?"

Answer: Because it shows them a LARGE group of people all using these "evil firearms" safely, in a controlled environment. It shows them that AR-15's or handguns aren't just something police find at a mass-murder crime scene on TV. It shows them that there is a practical purpose to using and owning them.

Continuing on....

Homework

If you want to be an effective activist, you have to be able to answer the oppositions playbook. In sports, every offensive play has a defense. In war, every tactic has a counter-tactic.

I advise every gun owner to actually go on to the adversaries websites and social media, read, and really digest what they are reading. Each point of argument has a valid rebuttal - sometimes several. The same is true on the other side. When debating an anti-gunner they'll raise one point, to receive an objection / rebuttal, which leads in to their NEXT point, and so on. Like a good game of master level chess, sometimes you get 15 levels deep before the "coup-de-grace" move.

Practice and experience will help guide you away from obvious pitfalls (The "aha! Got you now sucker!" moments), but you can't effectively GUIDE this process unless you know what they'll bring up, and have several - not one, but several - ready-to-go responses for each key talking point.

If they are hammering you with statistics don't counter with statistics. Counter with emotion.

If they are hammering you with emotion, counter with logic and reason.

Keep the opponent OFF the territory they know best, and on to territory you can control. This will give you control of the tempo in the debate and ultimately lead to a good outcome. Like a carefully choreographed dance routine, you are leading the adversary to the ultimate conclusion you want to reach, for the benefit of the audience who is passively listening.

Remember - you are not trying to win over the person you are speaking to. You are addressing the people NOT involved in the conversation who are watching and listening. Know your audience!

Find that fuse, and disarm it.

Be involved and bring reinforcements.

At the standing-room-only meeting last night there were several dozens of armed gun owners all gathered at a bar eating pizza together listening to my presentation. Was the safest room in all of Peoria County for a couple of hours.

Grassroots movements require numbers. LARGE numbers. If every month, every attendee brought someone new, in a year those meetings would require an auditorium to hold.

It is one thing for YOU to be involved. But you also need to bring reinforcements to the battle! You must convince others to get involved. Start with your family. Work out to your friends. Reach out to neighbors. Talk to people, get them to the range for events. Get them in the classrooms for instruction. Get people educated.

If every gun owner brought one new person in to the fold this year, and next year, and the year after, there wouldn't be any more anti-gun movement as the entirety of the population would own guns.

Think on these things. Find out how you can contribute, and do it.

Trenton Lawrence, Sr.

(Permission to repost or link granted.)

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Sam1911
May 2, 2014, 01:16 PM
Beautifully done!

blarby
May 2, 2014, 04:11 PM
Sticky.......STICKY

40-82
May 2, 2014, 04:56 PM
Trent,

Very well thought out post. I think it disturbs a lot of people leaning toward an anti-gun agenda when they encounter 2nd amendment advocates who have invested thought and emotion in their position and who bear no similarities to the picture the anti-gun zealots paint of us.

58limited
May 3, 2014, 02:17 PM
Wonderful post. Thanks!

Trent
May 3, 2014, 02:17 PM
Thanks Sam, blarby, 40-80, 58limited...

Writing this was long overdue for me. One of the things gun owners need to overcome is their own inertia. Too often I've heard "I'm just one person, what good could I possibly do?" Well, if you bring someone else in to the fold, now you are two people. And so on... :)

I need to append a very particular "Illinois thing" here.

I've been very publicly critical of the Illinois State Rifle Association for "getting off topic." (The whole APC / billions of rounds of ammo purchased by DHS / drone presentation given at the 2013 iGold really turned me off - when we were on the verge of finally getting concealed carry it was very distracting to hear that stuff presented to the members before the march).

So I'd like to add one more piece to this;

Organizations need to retain a laser-precise focus on gun rights and not get distracted by other topics which are not directly relevant to the right to keep and bear arms.

If the ISRA could stay on topic, I would have no issues with them. A lot of the other things they do to promote the shooting sports and activities are GREAT. But they need to focus! Getting distracted, sending e-mails about political term limits, endorsing questionable governor candidates, etc.. the organization needs to stay focused on things.

If ISRA would focus solely on propagating the knowledge, education, and promotion of the shooting sports, they would be a far more effective organization and not leave a bad taste in people's mouths over tertiary issues.

E.g. instead of talking about drones and APC's (don't get me wrong; both entirely valid topics for discussion under different circumstances), that time at the 2013 could have been spent focusing on our right to self-defense, and education thereof.

The money used to endorse a previously proven anti-gun governor candidate (who publicly stated he'd back an assault weapons ban), could have been used to create and distribute educational materials for freshly permitted concealed carry holders - or to raise awareness of the process to make it easier for people to obtain a license.

Simple programs, such as (an example off the top of my head) "ISRA member discount for training at affiliated ISRA member instructors", would be very effective in driving not only membership but also making it easier for citizens to obtain a license.

Rather than spending everyone's time rallying at every anti-gun rally north of I-80 (an overtly disruptive and hostile public act), spend time (as we do downstate) educating people in pro-gun informational rallies.

Example; a lawyer friend of mine in Lincoln, Illinois, held an free informational open town hall meeting recently to educate both area law enforcement and private citizens alike on concealed carry and the nuances of the law. Not only did it allow law enforcement and concealed carry applicants (or holders) to interact together in a friendly environment, and get to know each other, it spread public good will and knowledge.

The thing is; the organization is aggressive, hostile, and focused too much on "negative action."

I was raised by my grandparents, so maybe my values are too old school for modern times, but they taught me "you catch more flies with honey".....

I bring this Illinois Specific issue up because organizations need to properly represent the people and always attempt to cast themselves (and therefore the rest of us) in a positive light.

THAT lesson is valid, period, regardless of locale.

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