Gun Rights Policy Conference

by Daniel E. Zelenka, II

Our good friend and LSA Life Member Tom Gresham has been telling me for several years that I needed to attend the Gun Rights Policy Conference. He was right. Words cannot express how right he was. Imagine for a minute a conference attended by more than 1,000 gun rights activists. I am not talking about the few of us who go to rallies or attend a hearing or two at the capital. Rest assured there were plenty of those guys and gals in attendance. However, also attending and speaking were the attorneys that are handling the most important gun rights cases of our time like Heller, McDonald, and Ezell. There were gun rights advocates of every description. Maj Toure from Black Guns Matter, Lara Smith from the Liberal Gun Club, representatives from Pink Pistols, Alan Korwin of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, representatives from Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership and a host of representatives from state associations and other groups connected with the gun rights movement including John Lott and Alan Gottlieb. It was awesome and eye opening.

We spent three days listening to speakers and networking with like minded individuals. It was great hearing from the national spokesperson for the Liberal Gun Club state that she was a true liberal but also owned an AR-15 and that she would not let the government take her 2nd Amendment rights or her AR-15 away. The Liberal Gun Club by the way has over 10,000 members. Who would have thought that? Many of the speakers spoke of their community outreach. An African American trainer from Detroit told of his outreach to inner city women who he trained for free. Last year he trained over 800 new shooters. This year it will be more than 1,000. The LGBTQ community has several groups who are spreading firearms ownership and more importantly the necessity of supporting the right to keep and bear arms to those non-traditional gun owners. I made a great number of connections with these non-traditional groups and look forward to working with them. We have more allies than you can believe if we just open our eyes and reach out to them.

We spent a lot of time discussing gun rights related facts, how to take back the dialog and how to get our message across. There were lifetimes of experience in the gun rights struggle on tap. My biggest takeaway from the conference were that we have more allies than the media wants us to believe. This was not a gathering of “Old White Guys.” At least a third of the attendees were women and there were significant numbers of minority participants. All of these “non-traditional” gun owners were just as passionate about their gun rights a am I. After all, gun rights are civil rights and gun control in America has its roots in racism and prejudice. Be very careful that you don’t alienate these allies by being inconsiderate or prejudiced.

The next takeaway was the importance of personal contact in spreading the word about gun ownership and gun rights. The easiest way to bring someone into the gun rights fold is to introduce him or her to the shooting sports. The best way to do that is to bring them to the range. Many of the speakers discussed outreach programs in which they introduced new people to firearms and shooting. This outreach can be as simple as taking a non-gun owning friend or acquaintance to the range or in the case of professional trainers, volunteering to provide free introductory classes on a quarterly or even monthly basis. Take care to make the experience safe and enjoyable and more often than not you will create a new gun owner or at the very least a person who no longer views guns as frightening and gun owners as dangerous. Many people do not exercise their 2nd Amendment rights because they are ignorant of firearms, firearms ownership laws or even how to legally purchase them. Be helpful and you may create a convert to our side, and as we all know, converts tend to be the most zealous in their causes. If you cannot get to the legislature for a rally or a hearing, take a new person shooting. It is just as important.

Many speakers addressed the importance of language. We all get our hackles up when we hear someone talk about “assault weapons” because we know that it is a made-up term that can be infinitely expanded to mean any firearm the government wants to ban. However, there are many other terms that are in use by the anti-rights crowd that need to be corrected. As an example, note that I used the term “anti-rights” to describe what the media used to call the “anti-gun” and now calls “gun safety” crowd. We are not “pro-gun,” we are “pro-rights.” Likewise, they are not “anti-gun” (and for damned sure they are not for “gun safety”), they are “anti-rights.” It may be a little thing, but isn’t painting the opposition as “anti-rights” a more powerful statement than simply calling them “anti-gun?” Another example is the media referring to mass murders as “shootings” and mass murderers as “shooters.” Shooting is one of the most popular sports in the United States with a long tradition. Referring to mass murders as shootings and their perpetrators as shooters demeans the shooting sports and all its participants. Don’t allow it. When you hear someone using a term that has prejudicial connotations, correct the speaker in a respectful manner. Hopefully, through doing so we can change the dialog to one more favorable (or at least neutral) for our side.

There were also panel discussions concerning what is happening in legislative fights in the states. We in Louisiana are lucky because we have been able to stave off the dozens of anti-rights bills that are filed in the legislature each year. We need to keep up the fight; and state associations, like LSA, are at the forefront of the struggle. One thing that I wanted to mention that caught my eye. Connecticut’s state association has over 30,000 members. LSA has barely over 1,000 members currently. We need to do better. If you are reading this but your current membership has lapsed, please renew. Also, for everyone reading this, please tell your friends about LSA and encourage them to join. The legislative fight for us is in Baton Rouge and at our local council meetings and having a strong state association is a great advantage.

Finally, the attorneys involved discussed recent court cases that have been handed down as well as those legal battles that were still being fought. You wouldn’t have to be an attorney to find these discussions interesting. In fact, much of the recent advancement in protecting and even expanding the right to keep and bear arms has come in the judicial arena, not the legislative. Court cases such as Heller, McDonald, Ezell and others have transformed the gun rights landscape. I cannot stress the impact of Heller’s holdings that the 2nd Amendment protects a fundamental, individual constitutional right and that those firearms in common use for lawful purposes are protected has had on our cause. These cases would not have come about but for the leadership and funding provided by the Second Amendment Foundation. I cannot recommend that organization highly enough. Each of us should support it.

The 35th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference will be held on September 19th and 20th in Orlando, Florida. There is no cost for attendance and discounted hotel rooms are available. I will certainly be there along with other members of the LSA board. I highly encourage any of you who wants to get involved in the gun rights movement to attend. You will be glad you did. Whether you attend or not, please join LSA in Baton Rouge next spring when the legislature again has hearings on gun rights bills. And last but not least, whether you do any of the above or not, please take a new person shooting and ensure that he or she has a safe and enjoyable time.

Comments

  1. I just finished Dan’s article for the newsletter on the Gun Rights Policy Conference, sponsored by the Second Amendment Foundation, which he recently attended.
    I cannot echo any comments more strongly than his about the conference. I attended in 2007, right after the publication of my book, “The Great New Orleans Gun Grab.”

    We had sent galley proofs of the book to Alan Gottlieb, the Founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, and Dave Workman, the Senior Editor for Gun Week, the news magazine published by the SAF.

    Both of them kindly wrote “blurbs” for the cover of the book, and Alan invited me to speak at the conference (you got a highly regulated 15 minutes to speak!)

    My publisher funded the trip, and it remains one of the most powerful memories I have of my involvement in the gun movement. You will meet the most important movers and shakers in the gun world at one of these conferences, and come away inspired at the work being done around the country and the world to empower gun owners. Not to mention, you will need a second suitcase to bring home all the 2nd Amendment-related books you will receive free, just for attending.

    Like Dan, I strongly recommend joining the SAF. Few people know they initiated the first lawsuits against the City of New Orleans and St. Tammany Parish for confiscation of personal firearms from the public immediately following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

    Many also fail to realize how frequently litigious they are as an organization in defense of your gun rights. The SAF was a strong, early supporter of Heller Vs. Washington, D.C. And if memory serves, the SAF was one of the litigants funding the lawsuit in MacDonald Vs. Chicago. In fact, Alan Gottlieb told me himself, after Heller, to watch the news, there would a suit filed shortly against Chicago to “engrave” the 2nd Amendment to the rights of the individual states.

    Frequently, it has been the SAF to lead the charge in filing lawsuits defending our 2nd Amendment rights, having other gun rights groups leap on board and “steal their thunder” so-to-speak.

    Like Dan, I strongly encourage all our members to attend a GRPC. You will come away from it enlightened, astounded, and having made impressive contacts with important gun rights people—with whom you will have met on a personal, one-on-one basis.

    Finally, like Dan, I urge everyone to do everything to talk up and encourage membership in our organization. I mention the LSA in every concealed permit class I teach, offer the web address, and strongly urge my students to join it, telling them it is one of the wisest and most effective investments they will make in defending their gun freedoms.

    Gordon Hutchinson
    LSA Board Member
    Member #3143

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