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How To Learn From Tech Reformers And Make Gun Rights A Populist Issue

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Philip Reboli Contributor
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The state of the Second Amendment is a barometer for the strength that individual Americans have in relation to their government. Civilian disarmament will weaken millions of Americans — culturally, economically and politically — so why do so many wish to gut the Second Amendment against their best interests?

The principles of the Constitution are too easily eroded by a constantly expanding list of restrictions we are assured only apply to criminals, and gun control is often presented as a way to improve our quality of life through simple, unobtrusive laws.

Magazine capacity is limited because only criminals need standard capacity. Silencers must be heavily regulated because those are tools for assassins. AR-variants must be banned because only murderers use them. Many Americans will yield: “I’m not a bad guy, so if this limits the harm that bad guys can do, it isn’t a restriction on me.”

Americans are both principled and practical — hallmarks of our culture often at odds. At this crossroads, the Second Amendment gets pinned and trimmed. Arguing that the Second Amendment “shall not be infringed” doesn’t stand a chance against appeals for gun control that seem practical.

Every piece of gun control shifts the cultural and political power to the politically connected. An unarmed population is, by definition, defenseless against the state. Reclaiming these powers requires us to seize the opportunity presented by our current populist moment. (RELATED: This Forgotten Form Of Community Protection Needs To Make A Comeback)

The Populist Opportunity To Strengthen The Second Amendment

Populism is the self-conscious resistance to the ruling class by the politically, financially and culturally disenfranchised. Americans may not be ready to pinpoint specifics, but they recognize that power has been concentrated in a few institutions and social classes that are immune from economic, cultural, and political consequences.

A good example of using the populist appeal is the effort to reform Big Tech, which includes many of the online platforms we all use every day, like Google and Facebook.

The debate on Big Tech isn’t on the merits of their platforms, but the control they exercise against individuals and throughout society. These massive companies abuse outdated communications laws to mute voices that don’t fit the starchy views of Silicon Valley.

Tech reformers have successfully instigated a concentrated push back on Big Tech because they argue that these companies are changing and controlling the way we communicate. The power to remove thousands of non-conforming voices from these platforms gives certain groups immense control over the country. This power allows the tech platforms to shape opinion, parameters of debate, and how to exchange information.

Tech reform advocates make their argument easy to understand and internalize — and the essentials are perfectly adaptable to other issues, like gun control.

  • Their model does not fall flat, it’s emotional.
  • It’s a not slogan, it’s a simple argument that has broad appeal.
  • It’s not abstract, it’s deeply personal.
  • The focus is always on the harm that powerful, politically connected groups are visiting upon Americans.

Second Amendment advocates need to learn from this sort of populist messaging. (RELATED: Americans Want A Gun Rights Champion. They Have No One To Turn To)

Gun Confiscation Orders As A Case Study

Gun Confiscation Orders are a good example of when the Second Amendment movement successfully used the tech reform playbook by focusing early on the specific and negative consequences these orders present.

Consider this scenario: an American will be reported to the police as being a possible threat to himself or others at some point in the future. The prosecution, judge, and accuser — without notice to the accused — will issue a Gun Confiscation Order. This order will be executed early in the morning, against a person who has not committed any crime, by armed police and SWAT. Not having received any due process notice, the unsuspecting accused may assume the people breaking into his house are violent criminals and respond, possibly violently, ending in the death of the accused and/or police.

It was a strong argument to expose the dangers of Gun Confiscation Orders — one unfortunately confirmed by actual events.

In 2018, a 61-year-old Maryland man was killed while police were executing a Gun Confiscation Order. The scene played out exactly as Second Amendment advocates warned. The tragedy showed how a bad law can dehumanize, control and weaken Americans. Sometimes, it can even kill. There is now a strong opposition to Gun Confiscation Orders because Second Amendment organizations explained how the law will make us all weaker, more fearful and at the mercy of the powerful.

Gun rights advocates must also explain how gun laws, lack of political leadership and background checks create a culture of discrimination which deprives all Americans of their Second Amendment rights.

Arms and ammunition, necessary for the exercise of the Second Amendment, are heavily regulated. Office holders, office seekers and special interest groups are consistently threatening to narrow and ultimately strangle this essential part of gun ownership. The culture of fear created by these groups often leads to panic buying of arms and ammunition — especially in an election year.

This culture of fear and discrimination — upheld by anti-gun laws, regulations and Congress’s failure to repeal existing gun control — has encouraged bulk-buying and often leads to many of the most popular types of arms and ammunition being out of stock. It is important for Second Amendment groups to discuss how this culture of discrimination and heavy handed regulation makes it more difficult for Americans to exercise their right to self-defense, again, making everyone helpless, fearful and at the mercy of the powerful.

Personalizing the Argument

Another area that tech reformers have excelled in — one that should be emulated by Second Amendment groups — is defining the problem using specific terms to convey a message, explaining why this problem is negatively affecting Americans, and then proposing solutions.

Tech reformers can point to specific grievances and their solutions speak directly to those grievances. Second Amendment groups have usually focused on opposing the idea of gun control, but in the populist moment, the focus should be on the tangible, personal restrictions and controls on our individual choices.

Gun controllers argue that the laws are there to stop criminals, children or the mentally ill from accessing firearms. These are all practical arguments. The challenge for Second Amendment groups is to show Americans how these laws remove their own autonomy and make others (i.e. the financially, culturally and politically connected) more powerful.

Today, American cities are burning, beholden to violent mobs, and state governments are allowing this destruction on the eve of the presidential elections. But throughout the country, people need to wait in long lines for multiple hours in order to purchase a firearm for home protection. That purchase is always followed by a lengthy background check and a waiting period that can last as long as two weeks. A further indignity is demanded in some states that require magazines be artificially limited to a low number of defensive rounds a person can put in a firearm. (RELATED: The Slow Suicide Of New York)

Every single one of these delays, laws, prohibitions and checks was supposedly passed to prevent criminals from doing harm. Instead, law-abiding Americans, who don’t see help coming from their state governments, are left defenseless and limited in how they can protect themselves, their family and community.

Requiring all these controls on firearms means that Americans must rely on the state and police forces for protection. But now that many states have abandoned their responsibility to protect life, liberty and property, it is clear just how weak many Americans have become compared to violent mobs of politically organized interest groups.

Americans are practical and solutions oriented; repeating “shall not be infringed” just doesn’t cut it as a defense of our rights. But if they are to communicate how gun control negatively affects Americans every day, firearms rights groups should take a page from the tech reformers and capture the populist moment.

Philip Reboli is a former Senate staffer and the Director of Government Affairs at the Conservative Partnership Institute.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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