AUGUST 14, 2000
Do what you gotta do
© 2000

Stuff happens! Over a year ago California passed a particularly onerous, badly written, confusing, and draconian piece of legislative excrement intended to be an assault weapons enhancement. SB23, although written by Handgun Control Inc. was "authored" by State Sen. Don Perata (a man of dubious intellect and less character).

In an effort to slow down or stop the bad law I formed a grassroots organization, with the hope to collect sufficient signatures on an Initiative petition to referendum the law. In California, even if a bill passes the legislative process and is signed by the governor, the law can still be put to a vote of the people. If qualified for the ballot and rejected by the people, the law is nullified.

We failed to collect the requisite number of signatures (although we did collect over 350,000) but we did (almost by accident) create an extraordinary network of grassroots defenders of the Second Amendment. I had, previous to our effort, met an attorney who also wanted to try a gun-rights initiative, Donald J. Kilmer. Don and I eventually agreed to join forces and use the new grassroots network in an attempt to qualify a Right To Keep and Bear Arms Constitutional Amendment for the ballot. California's Constitution does not have language consistent with the Second Amendment (but that is another story). Don worked with a remarkable collection of lawyers and came up with simple concise language.

Liberal icon and Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe experienced an epiphany last year and now acknowledges the Second Amendment is an individual right and not a collective right enjoyed just by militias. Also the controversial "Emerson" case (which is still in the 2nd Circuit Appeals Court) may well result in the Supreme Court no longer being able to dodge the bullet (no pun intended) of ruling on the Second Amendment. I believed when we started -- what was suggested as "tilting at windmills" -- that the year 2000 would be significant gun rights battleground.

Oddly enough, the institutional gun rights groups (NRA and GOA) were less than enthused with our efforts. Their reaction was "Don't make waves. ... Concentrate on getting good conservative Republicans elected." That refrain was and is confusing. Personally if I have a choice between supporting a whoosy, Republican intent on pressing for enforcement of unconstitutional bad law or a blue dog Democrat who is a 2nd Amendment absolutist, the collaborating Republican can kiss my Airborne fourth point of contact.

Now, I read in Christopher Wilson's Reuters piece, "Calling President Clinton's administration 'the most anti-gun White House in history,' the National Rifle Association vowed to run a barrage of television advertisements blasting Democrats at their party convention for trying to erode Americans' right to bear arms." This is the same organization that not only refused to help our efforts in California with even simple mailings or ads in their publications, but also actively worked to silence us.

Wilson writes, "The NRA, one of the most powerful lobbies in U.S. politics, has made no secret of its anger at Democrats' efforts to enact even modest gun-control laws and said on Thursday the TV ads would begin running this weekend and continue through the Democratic convention in Los Angeles next week." This is the same organization that didn't want our California efforts creating an atmosphere in which Republicans would be compelled to have to speak about guns.

Although I am a staunch defender of the Bill of Rights, the NRA is annoyed with me for failing to be a good little "do-bee" and kissing the ring (or derriere) of the "Puzzle Palace Poobahs" in Arlington. I love my country and have sworn always to defend it ("against all enemies, foreign and domestic") but hate this administration. I love the principles the NRA allegedly stands for, but I hate the politicized, homogenized, policies of "Wayne's wonks."

When the California Legislative Analyst reviewed the language of our amendment there were some compelling perils that I encourage you to read about. Perhaps the most amazing was the official validation of the statistical research of Yale Law School senior research fellow John Lott.

Last year when I still had hat in hand begging favor of the NRA, I told them guns would be a wedge issue in 2000. I was patted on the head and told to let the big boys handle it. So I was both amused and annoyed to read, "I think it's going to be a big wedge issue in this election,'' according to NRA spokesman Bill Powers. "I think the water is starting to boil out there in Middle America and that's going to make it very hot for the Gore campaign.''

I have often observed the gun rights community is a very dysfunctional family. We all claim the same primary goals and objectives, but it is routinely fascinating that egos, territorial imperatives, tangential, off topic agendas can and have succeeded in keeping us a house divided.

During our last initiative effort I was driving to an event and heard a song that brought tears to my eyes and energized me to not give up the fight. When I returned home I rushed out and bought the CD and listened to one cut over and over again to reinforce the burning belief that "Right is might" -- or it can be if you have the courage of your convictions. Pat Flynn wrote the words; Garth Brooks sings them:

We failed in our effort to referendum the Perata/HCI assault weapons law. We failed in our effort to qualify the RKBA amendment for the ballot, last time. However, next time (and yes that next time is coming soon) we will not fail. We have been blessed with an extraordinarily dedicated collection of grassroots activists from San Diego to the Oregon border. Now we are putting together a coalition of other like-minded defenders of the Constitution who have agreed to focus on the common objective of qualifying our amendment for the ballot and together we will "Do what you gotta do."