I recently spent 10 hours in the car driving which gave me some time to reflect on how the battle for our 2nd Amendment rights has played out over the last few decades.
It was around 1986 that I started to think about our 2nd Amendment rights and how important it would be for me to become active in fighting to maintain them. I was a Junior in high school at the time and Ronald Reagan had recently signed the Hughes Amendment into law thereby banning the manufacture of new machine guns for civilian sales. It was this breech of faith by a President whom I had admired up until that point that opened my eyes to the fact we couldn’t trust politicians, no matter how “conservative” they professed to be, with our Constitutional rights.
Before the Hughes Amendment became law, the late 1980’s were an outstanding time to be an American gun owner. Imports of firearms were plentiful and affordable and ammunition was abundant and cheap. Even as a high school kid with a part-time job at Burger King I could afford an AR15 and ammo to shoot it most every weekend. I dreamed of the day I would be old enough to buy my own M16. At the time M16’s were about the same price as an AR15 with the only difference being the $200 tax stamp required for the version with the happy-switch.
It wasn’t just the lack of heavy handed gun control laws that made life in the 1980’s enjoyable, it was also the prevailing attitude by the public towards firearms in general that was different than it is today. As a kid growing up in Kansas firearms were an accepted part of daily life. We took our shotguns with us to school and left them hanging on the rear window rifle racks of our pick-up trucks so we could go hunting after class. No one thought twice about it. My good friend received permission to bring is Beretta 92SB Compact to shop class to make wood grips for a class project. No one panicked or tried to have him or his parents arrested, it was just a pistol for Heavens sake.
The next “conservative” President to occupy the White House was Reagan’s former V.P., George Herbert Walker Bush (41). Gun owners rejoiced as they believed their 2nd Amendment rights were to be protected under the NRA lifetime members dutiful watch. Bush wasn’t in office long before his administration took the step of banning the import of many semi-automatic rifles in 1989. Then in 1990 Bush gave us the “Gun-Free Schools Zone Act“. Before leaving office Bush renounced his lifetime membership in the NRA because of a newsletter published by the gun rights group that called federal agents “jackbooted thugs”.
Then came President Clinton who gave us the Brady Bill and the 1994 “Crime Bill“, better known as the Assault Weapons Ban. At this point American gun owners had seen two Republican Presidents and a Democrat President impose new restrictions on our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. We were getting hit from both sides and public opinion seemed to support these measures.
Throughout the course of the 1990’s guns slowly went from being an accepted part of our daily lives to being viewed as instruments of evil that needed to be regulated. A rash of school shootings made it taboo to have firearms anywhere near a school, plus under the Gun-Free School Zone Act it was now a crime. The media ran exposés about the evils of guns in American culture and they worked tirelessly to demonized “militias” and “patriots”. Slowly the general public began to turn away from the 2nd Amendment and gun owners were now viewed as extremists that needed to be controlled.
By the end of the 1990’s it seemed as though a total ban on semi-automatic firearms was now within reach of gun grabbing politicians. America was under siege and we were losing the war for our rights.
President Bush (43) came into office and with him came a renewed hope we could turn back the tide of anti-gun laws. As it turned out, much like his father before him, President Bush wasn’t a friend to gun owners as he supported an extension of the Assault Weapons Ban which was set to expire in 2004. Miraculously the ban did sunset and Bush never got his wish. Thumbhole stocks and 10 round magazines became a thing of the past for most of the country.
Then things started to change. Slowly we made inroads in rolling back draconian gun laws. As I mentioned, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban sunset, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the 2000’s we saw more and more states pass concealed carry laws giving their citizens the right to carry firearms for personal defense. We saw states such as Kansas loosen restrictions on NFA items such as short barreled rifles, machine guns and suppressors. Then the coup de grâce was the Supreme Courts ruling in the Heller case which solidified the fact the 2nd Amendment does protect an individual right to own firearms. Further, it forced cities such as Chicago and Washing DC to remove their bans on various firearms and allow their citizens the ability to keep and bear arms for personal defense.
It seems that today, in 2013, we’re living in a gun rights renaissance. But are we?
While we’ve seen huge strides forward in protecting our rights we still face one major problem – the lack of cultural acceptance of our 2nd Amendment rights. The gun-grabbers have been soundly defeated in law, but they’re still winning the cultural war. The gun-grabbers have been forced into a long term strategy to achieve their goal of a complete ban on all firearms, and from what I can see it’s working.
You see, we’ve been too focused on the present and lost sight of the future because of our constant struggles to defeat the endless barrage of anti-gun legislation. Meanwhile the gun-grabbers have been hard at work changing public acceptance of the gun culture. What am I talking about?
What happens if your 14 year old son wears a NRA t-shirt to school in 2013? He’s expelled and even arrested. What happens if a man poses for a Facebook picture with his 1 year old daughter and a BB gun? He’s arrested and charged with child endangerment. What do you think happens when two 6 year old boys are playing cops and robbers and hold their fingers up as imaginary firearms while at school? They’re suspended of course!
Google is full of such news stories from around the nation. The gun grabbers have successfully programmed the masses into believing that all guns, even imaginary ones, are evil and need to be banished from our society… even if they are legal to own. That, my friends, is how we’re going to lose our gun rights over the course of the next 30-50 years and this is where American gun owners are falling short in their duty to protect our 2nd Amendment rights.
While we need to continue to focus our efforts on defeating legislation in the short term, we must reengage the battle for our culture. We can do this through education, outreach programs for new shooters, supporting groups such as Project Appleseed, organizing community shooting events, writing well reasoned letters to editors of our local papers, etc. There are countless ways we can bring firearm ownership back into the mainstream and stop the progression of the belief guns are evil and their owners are fringe walking lunatics. It’s incumbent upon all of us to begin thinking about our long term strategy for winning the cultural war and forever securing our 2nd Amendment rights for future generations.
The battle for our rights, and the rights of our children, begins today.