We’re Outgunned

Are you a gun rights advocate in the state of Maryland? Because I hope you’re paying attention to what happened Thursday:

Although Maryland already has some of the strictest firearms laws in the nation, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said Thursday that the state needs to adopt new measures and remain a leader on gun control.

Women in red T-shirts, some carrying young children, fanned out across the Maryland State House complex to press lawmakers to pass a series of bills that would make it more difficult to obtain guns. They advocated for a ban on 3D printed guns and guns assembled from kits known as “ghost guns” and for requiring background checks on private purchases of shotguns and rifles.

“ ‘Thoughts and prayers’ are nice but they’re not enough,” said Sen. Susan Lee, a Montgomery County Democrat, referring to a sentiment often expressed toward victims after mass shootings. She was one of several lawmakers who spoke at a boisterous rally of Moms Demand Action members.

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Sen. Will Smith, also a Montgomery Democrat, said Maryland has done a lot on gun control — banning assault weapons, banning bump stocks, creating a “red flag” law to remove guns in some emergency situations — but could do more.

“We again want to lead here in Maryland,” Smith said.

Democratic leaders in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate have made banning 3D printed guns and ghost guns among their priorities for the General Assembly session.

Anti-gun groups, particularly Moms Demand Action, came out in droves to make their presence known and to lobby for even more draconian gun laws than we already have. If you want to see what gun rights advocates are up against, I present you with this:

That’s a lot of people coming out to lobby against rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution.

The problem, of course, is that the gun lobby, so much as it is in Maryland, does not have an organized response to this:

However, gun control advocates can expect fierce opposition from advocates for the rights of gun owners. While they don’t plan a specific day to lobby, as the gun control advocates did, they plan to turn out for hearings on gun control legislation.

The lack of organized response from gun rights groups is problematic, and not just for during the General Assembly session either.

I think first and foremost that we have to recognize that this is not about the entirety of Maryland’s gun rights community. There are a lot of groups out there who are doing yeoman’s work in getting the word out about gun rights and working to protect them both in Annapolis and at the ballot box.

But there are a lot of groups and individuals out there who would rather complain about losing gun rights rather than do the actual work to protect gun rights.

Just a few examples highlight what it is we’re talking about.

Back in 2016, Red Maryland published a good-news story about guns, how more Marylanders would be eligible for and receive concealed carry gun permits. The backlash from the gun rights community was absolutely insane, where Red Maryland was attacked by a variety of gun rights “advocates” who complained about the story. As Greg wrote at the time, “Here was a blog piece quoting a newspaper article giving Governor Hogan some small credit for improving gun rights and it was met with what amounted to a declaration of war.” Basically, certain aspects of the gun rights community including Maryland Shall Issue wanted to fight with us, a staunch ally for gun rights, because we happened to point out that something positive was happening at a time when they thought enough wasn’t being done about guns. This culminated in an absolutely unbelievable video where some members of the gun rights community demanded that Red Maryland clear any story we write about guns through them first before publishing it.

In 2017, we learned about a gun rally being organized by internet “activist” (and we use that term loosely) going by the name of “Captain Berz.” Captain Berz took offense to the fact that we pointed out that organizing a rally the weekend before the Annapolis and Frederick elections was a complete waste of time and time could be better spent electing pro-gun candidates instead. Instead of doing something constructive with his time, Berz decided to issue a hilarious ten-minute video declaring us “fake news” while simultaneously canceling his rally due to a lack of support and poor planning. Noticeably, super patriot Captain Berz has done attempted to do absolutely nothing for gun rights since.

Then we get to the group the Patriot Picket. They don’t like us very much…..

Do you know what they were doing the night before the election? This:

As we’ve mentioned before, these guys were out protesting in front of the Governor’s Mansion the night before an election where some of the biggest supporters of gun rights in Maryland lost. This was something of course that we took great umbrage with because instead of doing something constructive with their lives they decided to protest in the dark against a candidate running for re-election who was light years better on gun rights than his Democratic opponent. So after we had to explain the way the world worked to these guys, the leader of the group said this:

A hell of a lot of good their “demonstrating” did while gun rights legislators were losing across the state, an election tactic as effective as the Overpasses dopes from back in 2013. Patriot Picket is certainly doing nothing that is helping move gun rights or the cause of conservatism forward.

What you basically see in certain sections of the gun rights movement in Maryland is a “woe is me attitude” where “we’re losing our rights” because “this state sucks.” But instead of actually wanting to do anything about it, they retreat to Facebook and their insular corners of the internet to complain to each other. These Eeyores probably would have preferred it if Ben Jealous had defeated Governor Hogan because it would have given them something new and fresh to complain about. Anything to avoid actually trying to convince people to join their cause, and anything to avoid actually trying to help gun rights candidates win an election.

The lack of self-awareness from these groups is doubly-frustrating when they spend a majority of their time directing their ire at their own side. What these guys fail to acknowledge is the fact that Red Maryland is the only media outlet that shares their views on gun rights, the only media outlet that is pro-2nd Amendment. We share their frustration about how gun rights are treated in Maryland, and we share their frustration with how gun rights have or have not advanced during the Hogan Administration. The problem is that anybody who doesn’t share their absolutist attitude is the enemy and worthy of their scorn, all the while gun rights in Maryland continue to erode.

This is particularly problematic because of what  Moms Demand Action has done, especially here in Maryland. While some of these guys have been banging pots and pans on the corner or recording weird portrait videos on their phones to Facebook, they have been organizing in ways that remains nearly unprecedented in our state. Not only did Moms Demand Action organized their lobby day on Thursday that brought hundreds of activists to Annapolis to lobby on behalf of their issues, but they organized like nobody else during the 2018 election cycle. They identified candidates early in the election cycle, promoted them, and turned out volunteers to canvass for them. Some of the people they supported during this process won, like State Senator Sarah Elfreth, State Senator Katie Fry Hester, Delegate Brian Crosby, and Delegate Heather Bagnall. They also made sure that other anti-gun candidates like State Senator Kathy Klausmeier, State Senator Ron Young, Delegate Karen Lewis Young, and Delegate Ned Carey were re-elected. Their efforts made sure that solid pro-gun candidates like former Senator Gail Bates, former Delegate Ron George, former Delegate Deb Rey, and former Delegate Tony McConkey were no longer in Annapolis. I’m willing to bet that most pro-gun voters would much rather have those legislators in their seats in Annapolis than having an election eve protest at the Governor’s Mansion.

You don’t have to like what Moms Demand Action is doing; I certainly don’t. But you have to respect that fact that they are doing the work and getting the results they’ve been after.

So as we’ve pointed out, there’s a divide in the gun community. There are folks who are actively working to protect gun rights through lobbying and through supporting pro-gun candidates. And there are those who would rather complain on the internet. What that second group needs to recognize is that what they are doing is not making any difference in Annapolis. Curling up on the computer to complain about everybody else and about how you are the arbiters of who are and who are not true patriots hasn’t worked so far and is not going to protect your gun rights going forward. It’s time to quit complaining and become a team player.

All gun rights advocates can do any number of things now, today, to make sure that gun rights are better protected in the future:

  1. Register voters: Dan Bongino once said that it would be political malpractice to not have a voter registration drive at every gun show in the state. He was right. Every gun show, every gun shop, every gun range should be providing a voter registration form to everybody who walks in the door. Getting pro-gun voters active in the electoral process is the only way to move the ball forward.
  2. Identify candidates: One thing that Moms Demand has been doing is to identify potential candidates for office up and down the ballot. Gun rights advocates should be doing this, but to remember that you can’t be a single-issue candidate. Single-issue candidates almost never win, and there has to be more substance to a candidate than “I’m for gun rights.”
  3. Do the Work of Supporting Candidates: Yeah, I know that actually working to help elect a candidate is hard. It’s not as fun as just banging pots and pans outside in a protest and then going home. It involves knocking on doors, lit dropping, and making phone calls in support of a candidate. You actually have to talk to people one-on-one and convince them instead of just making a scene. And gun rights advocates, even those at groups like the Patriot Picket, need to realize that “We’re demonstrators, not canvassers” is an attitude of a loser.
  4. Don’t Give Up: We’ve already seen the Eeyore-like attitude of certain elements of the gun rights community who like to curl up in a ball any time that something goes against the rights of gun owners. Rome wasn’t built in a day, we didn’t get here in a day, and it’s going to take more than a day, more than a year, more than an election cycle to get back on the right track.

I know that this piece, checking in at roughly 2,000 words, is going to rub people the wrong way. And that’s a bit on purpose. The question is: what are people going to do about it? Are they going to remain content on just staying in their respective corners of the internet and complain about allies and adversaries alike? Are they content to continue being nothing more than a demonstrator while their gun rights continue to wither away? Are they going to continue to cede the battlefield to anti-gun groups like Moms Demand Action? Or are they actually going to get in the game, change their ways, and start to work to restore our Constitutional rights? Are they going to do the work that is necessary to protect and ultimately restore gun rights?

Let’s face it folks: right now, gun rights advocates are outgunned. We have a radical General Assembly that is content in snuffing out gun rights no matter what the statistical data says about their effectiveness. We have a well-organized, well-financed, and extremely motivated group that is lobbying the General Assembly to adopt their agenda. And we have that same General Assembly consisting of many members who were elected with the support of this very same well-organized, well-financed, and extremely motivated group.

It’s time for gun rights supporters to get in the game and take constructive actions to stand up for their rights.

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