The ‘Ray Carter Principle’

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Ray (left) with Alan Gottlieb at the Liberty Park office complex that houses
the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

The late Ray Carter had a principle perhaps to which more people should adhere: “If it makes me laugh, it’s probably a bad idea.”

Suffice to say over the years I worked with the guy, I caught him laughing more than once and had to just shake my head and say “Uh, nope, you probably shouldn’t do that.”

His sort of candor is rare, but Carter was a rare sort of fellow and it is hard to believe that at the end of next month we will mark five years since his passing. He left us in late May 2016.

Whatever else he may have been, Ray was a character. Perhaps a “character’s character,’ if there is such a thing. He’d be the walking definition. He had a cheerful disposition that made working around him a pleasant experience, even if he did make us crazy at times.

He was a “gun guy,” not so much into the technical realm but he did like to make things go “BANG!” At the time of his passing, he had been working for the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF). Prior to that, he had singlehandedly created an organization he proudly dubbed “CeaseFear,” in direct response to a Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying group called “Washington Ceasefire.”

As I noted, he was a character, and while the idea of capitalizing on the name of the anti-gun group did make him laugh, this was one idea that turned out to be pretty good. He once explained the strategy was to confuse state lawmakers, and it was moderately successful in that regard.
At the time, he said the purpose of “CeaseFear” was to telegrap
h to anyone who would listen that living in fear from crime or hate is not really living at all. Legally armed citizens needn’t experience that kind of fear. They have the means to fight back. It made sense then, and especially now, even if you thought Ray might be just a little bit off plumb. Perhaps Ray created that impression to keep people on their toes.

He sat around the corner just outside of my office in the building complex known as “Liberty Park,” which houses SAF and its sister organization, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. As “Director of Development,” one of his tasks was to work with Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, an organization founded by the late Aaron Zelman that SAF took under its wing at JPFO’s request following Zelman’s own death.


Ray Carter on horseback, somewhere to the west of nowhere special. I found this image on his Facebook page.

One day, Ray kept going back and forth outside the office and down the stairs. Curiosity finally got the better of me so I followed him outside to find out if he was cooking up one of those ideas that might rate a laugh. In the parking lot was a small pallet on which were several boxes of “stuff” and a couple of well-marked cases (not boxes) of ammunition. Those were the days when ammunition wasn’t so hard to find nor was it as expensive as today. Being a career news hack, I felt compelled to ask, “What are you doing?” I probably didn’t really want to know.

“Heading for Blogorado,” he says.

Blog-o-what? Turns out Ray was one of the driving forces behind an annual get together in Colorado of gun bloggers. They would come from all over the map to gather for a week on some property out there where they would socialize, compare notes on blogging about guns and evidently do a considerable amount of shooting. One can find references to Blogorado on the Internet and Ray’s fingerprints were all over it.

Ray really did like to shoot. I’m not sure how good he was at it but he was certainly prolific. And he was one of the few guys I ever met who carried a full-sized Para Ordnance .45 for EDC. If I recall correctly, I built the holster he used.

One morning he showed up at the office carrying an honest-to-God cavalry saber, not something one sees every day. “You expecting to be boarded by pirates?” I inquired. He’d apparently gotten a deal at some gun show and, well, it’s not everybody who keeps a saber at his desk and further inquiry didn’t seem prudent. I just decided to wait and listen for him to start laughing.

Ray was a born activist and he was remarkably talented. He worked with the Pink Pistols, a gay gun rights organization, and he had earlier been involved with Seattle’s annual “Pride Parade.” His gun rights activism crossed all borders and philosophies and he was never shy about his advocacy. He was known among his friends as “Gay cynic,” a handle he used online. Every once in a while, I found myself telling him, “Ray, you’re getting too much of a chuckle out of this” while resisting a little voice in my ear that whispered “Oh, go ahead and turn him loose, so we can what happens.”
We could use Ray these days, with Joe Biden and Capitol Hill Democrats on the attack.

His principle always in the backs of our minds, we kept our ears open in case he started laughing at something — a signal to inquire what he might be up to, or perhaps to just run so we might later claim plausible deniability.

A few days before he passed, he showed up at the office to collect his stuff, the saber included. He was weak, couldn’t move too well and was assisted up and down the stairs by a relative. All I could say was “thanks” for everything he had done. He nodded and went for his last ride from the office. He died the following weekend, early on a Sunday morning.

In his memory, a special award was created a few years ago, to be handed out at the annual Gun Rights Policy Conference, a September event co-sponsored by SAF and CCRKBA. Called the “Ray Carter Blogger of the Year” award, this honor recognizes the efforts of pro-gun bloggers who offer a different perspective to the gun control crowd.

In retrospect, this memorial would probably make Ray laugh, but that’s just too bad, amigo, because it happens to be a very good idea. And you inspired it, so wherever you are, laugh yourself silly.

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