As many of you by now know, the signature collection effort to veto the 7 recently signed anti-gun laws was a complete and total failure. It is my understanding that the petition for SB 880 (which defines pretty much any modern sporting rifle as an illegal “assault weapon” in California) garnered only 180,000 total signatures statewide. We needed 386,000 valid signatures to force that referendum onto the ballot. Clearly, we fell short of that target.
I will admit that I am still in a bit of shock at how low the signature count turned out to be. Our little store, which is not heavily trafficked, produced over 1,400 signatures on the SB 880 petition alone. I felt very confident when I took our “giant” stack of petitions down to the volunteer center. Call me naïve, but I was proud of our store’s performance and excited to talk to the volunteer about the count. I was shocked to hear that, with only 1 day to go, San Diego County had produced only 15,000 signatures for SB 880. The volunteer said they needed 40,000 to 50,000 out of San Diego County. Obviously, I walked away deflated. It was the next evening when I saw the press release from the NRA stating that the effort had failed.
A lot of people spent a lot of money, time, and energy collecting signatures. To those people I say “thank you.” Make no mistakes; there is no second place in this fight. There is no room for moral victories where our rights are concerned. We either win or we loose; and we lost big. That said, to those of you who did everything reasonably in their power to collect signatures, thank you.
Time to Address the Root Cause of Our Loss
The first reaction of many is to blame the “keyboard commandos”. The guys who make a lot of noise on the Internet, but won’t lift a finger when it comes time to get off the couch and act. Others have lashed out at the NRA, which was totally AWOL during this effort. The NRA did not spend one penny to help us. There is truth to that, but the blame game gets us nowhere. The problem here is clear and it has nothing to do with apathy or the useless NRA.
If we have learned one lesson from this experience it is that we are simply the most utterly disorganized group of people in the history of political movements. Political change does not come from well meaning, but disorganized individuals. Political change comes from a passionate, well organized, and vocal group of like-minded people who work together as a team to accomplish a common goal. We did not work well as a team in this veto effort and that is why we lost.
Our lack of organization is understandable to some extent. Those on the Left side of the political spectrum organize well in large part because they believe in collectivism and groupthink. It just comes naturally to them. The Libertarian and Right side of the political spectrum is made up of rugged individualists. We reject groupthink and dependence on others. Politics doesn't rank high in our lives. We just want our government to leave us alone, so we go home, crawl into our caves and ignore the outside world. By our nature, we just simply don’t organize well. That has to change.
Let’s face it, “they” have been on offense for almost 20 years and we’ve been on defense and it’s getting worse, not better. If you want to get things done like Liberals, then you have to start organizing like Liberals. We have to band together and we have to get active and get noisy. Real change requires real change.
Real Change Begins at the Local Level
I know of no serious political reform that began at the national level. All successful political change begins at the local, grassroots level. Example: Of the 24 state senators who voted Yes on SB 880, 18 of them once served at the city council level. We have to engage local politicians who will someday sit at the state level. We have to defeat local anti-2A politicians so they never make it that far. If we win at the city council level today, then we will win at the state level tomorrow.
In this political silly season we all get hot and bothered over “Trump vs. Hillary vs. Johnson”, but the truth is that the national election will be decided by millions of votes. Your voice will NEVER be heard at the national level. A local city council election, however, can be decided by a few dozen votes. Your voice can create change at the local level in a way you could never dream at the national level.
Okay, So What Now?
In San Diego County we are lucky enough to have an organization that is beginning to have an effect on local politics. San Diego County Gun Owners is only 11 months old, but already has nearly 500 members with a goal of 5,000 members or more. If you live in San Diego County and aren’t already a member of SDCGO, what the hell are you waiting for? Stop reading right now and click over to their membership page (here) and join. It’s only $10 per month. SDCGO hosts 3 meetings each month; one each in North, Central/ East, and South County.
In their short 11 months of existence SDCGO has already had a positive effect on gun rights at the local level: They have:
- Defeated two proposed gun regulations in Encinitas before they went to a city council vote
- Fought hard and won in Carlsbad for Gunther’s Gun range!
- Produced San Diego County’s first Pro-2A voter’s guide of fully vetted candidates for local election.
- Taught 40 students at a two-part "How To Be a Second Amendment Activist" seminar
- Taught over 400 new shooters via one-on-one mentoring
- Media appearances in/on NBC, ABC, CBS, KUSI, KPBS, Union Tribune, KOGO, KCBQ, KFMB, and numerous local city periodicals
- Booths at every Del Mar Gun Show, San Diego Pride, and a charity golf tournament
- Walked precincts for endorsed candidates (including Councilman Scott Sherman who won in June)
- SDCGO Board Member Lance Pelky started the only California gun radio show on 1170AM; Gun Sports Radio on Sundays at 4pm
Executive Director of SDCGO, Michael Schwartz, stated, “When candidates know we can get 50 people to show up and walk neighborhoods to support their campaigns... we will have gun rights. When candidates know that we can fund their campaign for election...we will have gun rights. When the media knows that they have to tell our side of the story or face a backlash...we will have gun rights. There is no silver bullet. There is no one-time solution. We have to be engaged in the community, in media, and in politics.”
Those outside of San Diego County must begin to organize their own groups similar to SDCGO. The founder and Executive Director of SDCGO, Michael Schwartz, had no experience in organizing political action committees. He did not have a history in politics. He was just some working stiff like you and I, but he took it upon himself to take positive action. Are you willing to do the same? It can start with you and your shooting buddies. It can start with you and the guys you argue with on Calguns.net. SDCGO is beginning to develop a blueprint for how to get communities organized. That blueprint is not hard to follow, but it does take determined people willing to get off the couch, band together as a team and make it happen. It’s not going to happen by itself. Someone else is not going to do it for you. You have to make it happen.
At the state level there are groups like The Calguns Foundation and The California Rifle and Pistol Association that are very active in the court system. I would encourage you to become a member of those groups as well.
As much as we hate to admit it, we got our bare asses whipped in this round, but the fight is not over. All of us need to take a moment and ask ourselves just how important our freedom is to us and what we are willing to sacrifice to regain and keep it. This nation was founded by men and women who were willing to sacrifice their lives, theirs homes, their families, and their fortunes in an effort to create a legacy of freedom for their children and all future generations of Americans. The time has come for all of us to ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice. Ask yourself:
- Are you willing to sacrifice $10 per month?
- Will you fight traffic for 45 minutes to attend a meeting once a month?
- Are you willing to enlist your friends, neighbors, and family by bringing them to a meeting with you?
- Will you volunteer to be a mentor to newbie shooters? (If so, contact me)
- Are you willing to spend one night walking a precinct for a pro-2A politician?
- Are you willing to go to a rally for an anti-2A politician and hand out flyers or ask him/ her tough questions?
- Are you willing to take 1 hour and write a letter to the editor of your local paper?
- Are you willing to call your local news station when they confuse gun control with crime reduction?
- Will you attend a city council meeting and make your voice heard?
- Is your fight for freedom going to move beyond just posting angry messages on Facebook?
- What kind of legacy will you leave your children?
This fight will not be easy. At first there will be more losses than victories. It took us 20 years to get to this point. It may take us 20 years to regain what we’ve lost. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to take a long time. This fight will not be won by being passive. It will be won by those who are willing to engage. Are you willing to engage?
Do you want change? Are you willing to change? You can start by simply getting off your couch and attending a meeting.