New Year, New Challenges

It’s time to saddle up for the Second!

If there is one thing more predictable than death, taxes or January rain in Seattle, it’s the anti-gun shenanigans one can expect when state legislatures and a new Congress convene following the midterm elections.

If you care about your Second Amendment rights, this is the month grassroots activists must be at the top of their game, even in traditionally gun-friendly states. Someone who is not friendly to your rights or lifestyle is already planning to make your life miserable by pushing legislation designed to penalize you for crimes you didn’t commit.

Back in Session

You’re the best distraction there is for the inept politicians who cannot balance a budget or bring down inflation. These people need to keep the public focused on something other than the continuing high cost of groceries, gas and government.

Therefore, they’ll continue coming after your guns because it’s easier than going after real criminals. Despite a string of gun-rights victories at the U.S. Supreme Court, watch the gun prohibitionists go into political contortions in an effort to get around the meat of those rulings. There is particular anger and frustration in the gun control camp about language in Justice Clarence Thomas’ 60+ page majority opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen striking down not only a requirement to provide “proper cause” to obtain a carry license, but the “two-step” process invented by appeals courts requiring Second Amendment challenges to not only pass historic constitutional muster, but also overcome a “means-end scrutiny” test. There is no basis for this in the Constitution, at least in the Second Amendment context.

What really rubbed anti-gunners wrong is perhaps best stated in this paragraph from the syllabus of the Bruen ruling: “The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not ‘a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.’ — McDonald, 561 U.S., at 780 (plurality opinion).

The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need. The Second Amendment right to carry arms in public for self-defense is no different. New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms in public.”

Pay Attention

So, in the weeks ahead and continuing into February and March (or however long your legislature meets) and as the new session of Congress unfolds, pay daily attention to reports on new bills filed. If they relate to guns, get on them, read them, contact your state representative, assembly person and/or state senator and ask them to keep you advised.

As noted in last month’s column, watch for legislation attacking state preemption if your state has such a law (more than 40 states do). The gun prohibition lobby, anti-gun municipal mayors and council members despise such laws because they prevent these officials from adopting their own draconian gun control ordinances.

Be Prepared

Be prepared to defend preemption by testifying at legislative hearings. Here are the strongest arguments:

• Preemption guarantees uniformity in firearms regulation from one state border to the other. This is paramount not only to follow the spirit of Supreme Court gun rulings, but also prevents the creation of confusing, and often conflicting, local ordinances.

• Preemption is the law in more than 40 states, placing responsibility for regulation solely in the hands of the state legislature. “Are you suggesting, Senator, you don’t feel yourself and your colleagues are adequately qualified and responsible enough to regulate firearms for all citizens of the state? I find that astonishing!”

• Preemption is an aid to law enforcement and the courts because municipal police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers will all be operating from the same rulebook. “Representative Jones, do you want to make it more difficult for police to do their jobs?”

The purpose of such arguments is to put proponents of gun control on the spot. Make them explain why they think it’s such a great idea to surrender their authority and power to a bunch of local politicians who can’t even balance a city budget. Make them justify hindering police and deputies with confusing and conflicting local regulations.

Be able to drop everything on short notice and head for the state capitol, to attend a rally or visit your state representative. Likewise, have the telephone number of your congressional representative’s district office handy on your cellphone so you can call and leave a message. Ditto your U.S. Senator’s local office, even if they typically vote anti-gun. You’ve got to remind these people you are watching and you care about your rights.

If you see a one-sided news report on a gun rights issue, call the reporter or his/her editor and complain about it. “Interesting story, and it was informative, so when are you going to report the other side of this story? I’d be happy to refer you to people to interview and I’m also available.”

Be Organized

I’ve suggested this one before: Build a phone tree and join — or create — a legislative chat group on Facebook. Your personal peeves about social media notwithstanding, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms provide the fastest way to communicate with lots of people. Just put your ego on hold and get engaged.

Remember, there are really three kinds of people — those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what just happened.

If you post something on social media, have your facts straight, don’t make up anything, provide a bill number and a link to the text, the names of its sponsors and their phone numbers and/or their email addresses. Identify these politicians by name and political party, i.e. “Senator Joe Smith (D-3rd District), Rep. Mary Jones (R-Hadleyburg)” and include those references every time you post an update).

Playbook for Testimony

Advice on testifying at a legislative public hearing:

• Arrive early and be among the first on the sign-up sheet to testify.

• Be prepared to limit your comments to three minutes or less. Be terse, have your facts straight, speak clearly and be polite.

• Wear clean clothes, perhaps a nice jacket and be well-groomed. Leave the camo and bib overalls at home, even if you’re testifying on a hunting-related issue.

• Have your prepared comments on paper, and bring copies to submit to the secretaries of each committee to be included in the official record.

• Do not express anger toward committee members. You do not want to be the gun nut making a fool of yourself on the evening news.

Of all the O.K. Corral lore seeming to have survived the test of time, the reported remark by Wyatt Earp to a panicked Ike Clanton perhaps best sums it up for every gun owner determined to protect his or her rights: “The fight’s commenced. Get to fighting, or get away.”

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