Proud to be a 'Gunnie'
by Joe Johnson, June 20, 2002
Scott, I just finished rereading your perspective on 'gunnies' (http://www.freecolorado.com/2002/06/gunnies.html) in Ari Armstrong's Colorado Freedom Report. As a self professed 'gunny' and former Republican, and a man who has not only worked a few gun shows, but organized what will soon be 50, please allow me leave to give you my perspective.
Firstly Scott, please forgive me when I admit that I can't picture your face. I know that we've met because your name is so familiar to me, but I just can't place the name with a facial image in my small memory bank. So If I sound like a stranger, perhaps in that sense I am, so forgive me. That said, I must point out some errors that through no fault of your own, you could not know unless you have not only worked two to three shifts at 50 gun shows, but were once one of those damned right wing bastards to which you referred.
You see Scott, when I first joined the LP, I actually thought that the drug war was not such a bad idea. Before you begin boiling the tar, let me point out that we all have our past, and since joining the LP, I was forced to look behind the 'curtain' and see the truth. I was a gun owner who lived in New Jersey. Such is the equivalent to being a Jew in Warsaw, Poland in 1934. Keep your head down and tell no one. As such, you knew that the Republicans didn't really trust you, and were no real friends, but you knew that the dog keepers were the Democrats, and so you pulled the Republican party line. As a result you endured a LOT of brainwashing - a LOT! And being human, and having been exposed to it from day one, when your closest ally (or so you believed) told you that until we 'won' the 'war on drugs' your gun freedom would never be safe, you began to believe it. After all, what was the point of thinking about it logically to see any fallacy? The Democrats themselves were pointing out to you that you could not be trusted with guns because drug dealers all used guns. They wanted you to give up your guns to 'win' the 'war on drugs'. So the war was unanimous.
No one told us that there was another choice. That we could give druggies what they wanted and keep our guns too. Democrats wanted to take the guns to 'win' the 'war', and the Republicans wanted to 'win' the 'war' before they could give us our guns. Bleak choices, but you chose one. Remember, until last year, Libertarians appeared on the ballot in New Jersey as 'Independent'. Unless you were lucky to speak to a Libertarian in person to discover a third way, you chose one. And once in that group, they continued the brain washing until you were incapable of thinking on your own. Mandatory pledge of allegiance began to make sense. Mexicans were getting the 'free stuff' that we paid for, can't have that! etc.. etc..
But then it happened, I read an argument concerning guns by a Libertarian candidate, and the rebuttal by the Republican. The Libertarian seed had been planted. I remained a Republican for another 12 years, but when Bill Owens sold us out on 22, the seed that this guy had planted, which remained dormant under all of that frost, grew through the crust. When it did, the light got in, and a Libertarian activist was born. I know that I'm bragging here, but there is actually a point. I joined the LP in November '99. In that time I have organized and run close to 50 gun shows. Add to that about a dozen and a half booths at town fairs. I created a "Lady Liberty' costume which has appeared at last year's convention, Last year's fruit picking, She walked the Bolder Boulder, and the Lafayette 5k. I started out as the fund-raiser for the Elect Glazer campaign in '00, and when I realized that the Campaign Manager wasn't doing all that could be done, I stepped into that position. I was the recipient of the 2000 Ptak award, and this year as Chairman of the Boulder LP, I have managed to recruit a full slate of candidates in that county - A FULL SLATE! This has never been done in Colorado, and (I'm checking on this as I write this), perhaps never in the nation!! In short, this former Republican is doing his share and then some.
So hate me if you will, but there is a lesson to be learned from me, and L. Neil Smith hinted on it in his reply to your letter (www.webleyweb.com/tle/libe178-20020617-05.html). Gun owners are stubborn bastards - as you have noticed yourself. We do not switch parties very easily, and you had better be a damned good salesman to 'show us the light', but as I have likened since '99 (despite the fact that James Vance has stolen my analogy), the LP is like the Red pill in the movie the Matrix. It takes a long time to win over a gunny, this much is true, but once you get him to swallow that red pill, he will be the most loyal fighter for the cause that the party has ever known. It is for this reason that the LP is constantly wooing the members of the Republican party. Not because the leadership of the LP sees it this way, but because the only people who are actually in the trenches doing anything were once Republicans, and so they know the path for their lost brethren.
So why is it that you have had such a contrary experience at the gun shows that you attended. In referring to your pro-prohibition gunny example, you stated that:
"Now you may say he is just one guy and not indicative of the whole of gun owners. I would say he is indicative of 75% of gun owners. This based upon anecdotal evidence from sitting my tush at gun shows talking to these right wing wackos and being told we need to put barbed wire at the borders and shoot to kill any damned wet back who comes here to steal our jobs, go kill everyone who touches a drug that ain't licensed by the government, etcetera etcetera. "
My experience shows the exact opposite. The pro-prohibitionist gunnies are the exception, not the rule (this I must admit surprised even me). In 50 gun shows, when taking down the Nolan chart on Sunday afternoon, there has ALWAYS - ALWAYS been no less than 2/3 of the stickers in the 'Libertarian' quadrant. At several shows, the number is closer to 4/5ths! But I will confess that these numbers are of those willing to stop and talk to us. Anyway, how could you have received differing results.
The first possibility is that you were not polling (see administering the quizzes) to enough people. My shows never fail to hit at least 100 people, with more active shows reaching at most 300 people! If you just sit there and wait for the people to come to you, you will get skewed results. Which brings me to the second possibility:
You state: "This based upon anecdotal evidence from sitting my tush at gun shows..." Here in lies your problem. A 'clerk' for the LP will NEVER bring the truth and light to a gunny. You have to engage these people. These are thinking people, if you are sitting at the booth, you are not working the booth. You can't do both. I do not allow chairs at my booth. If you cannot stand for four hours, I have no need for your help. Salesmen stand when they are speaking to someone who is standing, and gunnies who attend these shows are not sitting around, they are walking, and if you are doing your job, they will soon be standing - at the LP booth.
The last possibility is that you are a poor spokesman for the LP. This is not a judgement call on my part, again, I'm not sure that I know you. It's more of a question that I would like you to ask yourself. If you can't make a gunny walk away saying to himself 'humm, I'm going to have to think about that one", you need work on your salesmanship skills. Clearly freedom makes the most sense. Give me a problem, and I'll show you how freedom is the answer. No, I'm not the best salesman that the LP has ever had, but I will make a socialist think, if he is capable of thinking. And one thing that I can assure you of, gunnies are capable of thinking. As L Neil stated, on average, there are more PHD's among the gun crowd than the anti-gun crowd. But it only makes sense. If you can think, you'll eventually figure it out. Or as my fiancee, and fellow activist puts it, "if we can get them thinking with their head, and not with their heart, it's only a matter of time before they join us." So ask yourself if you are a good enough salesman for the LP before you go on. After all, it's the poor salesman who blames his customers for his lack of sales.
Now you are no doubt jumping up and down with the though that if as many is 4/5 of the gunnies who take the quiz agree with us, why don't they join us. The answer lies in the fact that they are smarter than most. It's the 'wasted vote' syndrome. Over the past 30 years, we the LP have demonstrated to them our uncanny ability to loose elections. One does not join the LP at this stage in the game because one wants to help achieve electoral success in the here and now. One joins because he becomes so disgusted with the whole system, that he realizes that there is no hope but with the LP. This reminds me of the bumber-sticker which reads; "a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work" Our mating cry is similar "Voting for Libertarian and loosing is still better than voting for a R or D and Winning". Gunnies know that we will not win this year, and that will be true for several years to come, and so they are hedging their bets by voting against 'that guy'. It's our job to show them that voting against 'that guy' will net them the same thing, and the only true way to vote against the graft and corruption, and yes, the loss of their gun rights, is to not only vote Libertarian, but join us. They do get it, but it has to be sold to them - one at a time.
The last point that I would like to make about your letter is this, If you could provide me with a gun forum with the same amount of attendees as that of the taste of marijuana rally, and have every speaker drive home the importance of going back to the LP booth and registering, I can assure you that I can match the 'amazing' results to which you referred. We have no such microphone at gun shows, so to imply that gunnies are less apt to join is unfounded. Having worked the taste of Marijuana rally as well, I will confess that it is heartwarming to see those kind of results in one day, but again, to say it's because they are druggies and not gunnies not based on anything tangible.
That said, I have mixed emotions about the results of the taste of marijuana rally. Yes I am happy to see our registration numbers increase, one example will explain my discomfort of such under these circumstances however. One man who was moved to register after one of Ralph's heartfelt pleas, asked what the 'world's smallest political quiz' was (again, remember, he had already registered as a Libertarian). His position on the Nolan chart?
0 - 20!!!
Congratulations, we just got an authoritarian to register as a Libertarian. Guess what, he's now eligible to run for office as a Libertarian!!!!!!!!!!
The ONLY issue that he agreed with us on was the drug war. So he is not indicative of everyone there you say? I won't jump to the same conclusions that you did concerning gunnies, instead I say this, when a person registers at one of my gun shows, he is solidly in the 'libertarian' quadrant. I don't register a person until he IS a Libertarian.
So again, I am solidly 'on-board' with the importance of picking up as many new registrations as we can. I warn however, be careful how low you are willing to set the bar just to hit the goal. In our zeal for electoral success, we must be careful of who we ask to join with us. After all, when you dance with the Devil, it's not the Devil who changes, the Devil changes you.
As for me, I don't discriminate against anyone, if you are a libertarian, I want you as a Libertarian - that simple, but I agree with L. Neil, when I say that it has been my experience that gunnies make the best activists. I have friends in the LP from both sides, and when I need something done, I ask a gunny - they just get it done more often than my druggie friends.
Most sincerely yours,