But we can’t move forward. Really can’t. Metaphysical can’t. Unstoppable-force-versus-immovable-object can’t. We’re stuck and that’s that.
The way we got here is simple: each side is trying to destroy the other. You win wars by force. And culture wars are no different. Each side fires their volleys, back and forth.
The NRA allied itself to all kinds of unrelated hot-button issues. New York State passed a 2013 gun ban that achieved 4% compliance and had effects like a father of three facing 15 years in prison for a pistol grip. The NRA made ads that alienated millions of people and ranted absurdly about “the clenched fist of truth”. Massachusetts banned bump stocks and sent a letter to every gun owner in the state telling them to surrender their bump stocks by February 1, 2018. The maximum penalty for noncompliance is life in prison.
Round it goes. The gun controllers feel like the gun rights crowd will never give an inch. The gun rights crowd feels personally threatened — “If that father of three is facing 15 years for a pistol grip, I could be next.” And both sides just dig in deeper.
Then we try rational arguments and fire off statistics, but the truth is nobody cares. Each side has their arguments, each side has their stats, and none of it ever moves the needle. You convince a few people, they convince a few people. It’s a wash.
So then each side gives up on persuasion and tries to ram their laws through. But no matter which side you’re on, the other side is strong enough to block your laws. Sure, you win some state-level battles here and there. But that only hardens the opposition, and they win their share of state-level battles too.
Both sides sell their donors the same pipe dream: “We’re going to slowly change minds. Raise money, pass state-level laws, run PR campaigns, support good politicians. And one day, finally, we’ll get 60 votes in the Senate to pass our dream federal gun law.” If you understand only one thing about American gun politics, understand this: that will never happen.
For decades we’ve pretended not to know that. But these scorched earth tactics aren’t working, and worse, they’re tearing the country apart. Kids get murdered and we’re too busy grabbing each other by the throat to even grieve, let alone to show the grace and love that the greatest among us model. It’s nauseating.
It is high time for a fresh approach.
The other side isn’t powerful enough to pass their laws, but they are powerful enough to stop you from passing yours. So if we accept the truth, that we will never agree, we have to ask a new question: how can we move forward even while everybody still disagrees? How can we write a law that neither side wants to block? The answer is going to test whether you’re honestly willing to do what it takes to fix this stalemate.
People in this debate often use the word “compromise”. But what they usually mean is, “Fine, let’s compromise: we’ll do none of what you want and only half of what I want.” Neither side is dumb enough to fall for that. An honest path forward means something very different: each side gives some things, and each side gets some things.
So let’s take the honest path, which is the only one that has any chance of happening. A path that advances gun rights and addresses people’s concerns about guns in the wrong hands. I've talked to dozens of people about this in person, and hundreds online. They ranged from people who would literally join a civil war against gun control, to people who want a flat-out ban on gun ownership, to every shade in between. Almost every one of them said they’d support this proposal in a heartbeat. The entire political spectrum is up for this.
Now it’s time to see if the politicians and each side’s big lobbying groups are up for it. It’s fun to bluster and preach to your side. But when the time comes to actually do something, when there is a real path forward on the table, that’s the true test. Your pressure on the politicians and lobbying groups will determine what they do next.
These groups follow their donors’ wishes. If they hear from you on a topic, they’ll think about it. If they hear from enough of you on a topic, they’ll act. Contact every gun-related group you donate to, and tell them to support America’s first honest path forward on guns. Commit to a specific dollar amount that you’ll donate once they endorse the path forward.
Here are a couple of the biggest groups on each side:
Tweet tactically. Anybody can tweet @realDonaldTrump and call it a day, but that accomplishes nothing. You need the person you’re tweeting at to actually read what you wrote, and to share it with a lot of people.
Find your favorite medium-size Twitter accounts that talk about guns. The sweet spot is the 10,000-30,000 follower range. Enough to have a powerful audience, but cozy enough that they’ll personally read your tweet. Engage with lots of those folks. If your tweets are worth reading, they’ll quickly start replying and retweeting you. Then you’re off to the races. The ultimate goal: get this in front of people with big media platforms. Top podcasters and YouTubers, big news shows, etc.
Tell them you’re done with the zero-sum scorched earth gun debate, and that you want a real path forward. Phone calls are much more effective than emails. Use callyourrep.co to instantly find phone numbers for all of your members of Congress. Create a call script and share it on Twitter so that other people can use the most effective script when they call their reps.