Editor’s note: This commentary is by Eric Davis, vice president of Gun Owners of Vermont.
Chances are if you’re a person who values your right to keep and bear arms in self-defense, you’ve heard all the ridiculous appeals from gun control advocates who berate us pro-gun folks as unreasonable and uncooperative when it comes to new legislation. While it’s true we are a stubborn bunch and most of us are quite unwilling to compromise any more of our rights away, the last thing you will find us to be is unreasonable. On the contrary, our position is well-rooted in reason and heavily influenced by the history of this seemingly never-ending debate over civilian-owned weaponry. In no particular order, here are my top three reasons why we “crazy gun nuts” always get upset at the suggestion of more gun laws.
First, we have been compromising our rights away since forever already. We compromised in 1934 with the National Firearms Act, which arbitrarily banned certain lengths and classes of firearms by imposing a prohibitive tax on a constitutional right. We compromised with the Gun Control Act of 1968, which heavily regulated the transfer and sale of all firearms. We“compromised in 1986 with the Hughes Amendment, which outright banned the transfer of new weapons that would have previously been regulated under the NFA. We compromised in 1994 with the Brady Bill, which imposed background checks on all firearms sales, effectively making it necessary to ask the government for permission each time before exercising a constitutional right. And of course, we have compromised with the over 22,000 state and municipal laws and ordinances currently on the books. One might think that after 22,000 failed attempts at solving the problem, the champions of victim disarmament might take a different approach from their traditional calls to ban self-defense. Unfortunately, it seems not.
Second, you may have noticed that even with all this compromising going on, it never seems to be enough. Each time we are assured that “these are just common-sense safety measures” and “no one is coming for your guns,” yet after every set of new restrictions placed on the right of self-defense, the gun banners always seem to want more. When the Vermont Legislature passed the previously unimaginable gun control bill S.55 into law in 2018, the ink wasn’t dry on Traitor Phil’s signature before they were discussing their wish list of infringements for the next session. This inevitable moving of the goalposts occurs with each restriction imposed, and it is no accident. This strategy of incrementalism has changed the acceptable discourse from whether it should be OK to buy a belt-fed machine gun through the mail from Sears in 1934 to whether it’s OK to send police door-to-door to confiscate common, lawfully owned firearms in 2019. This same strategy has successfully changed the discourse in other countries like the U.K. to the extent where, amid a terrible epidemic of violence, they are quite literally banning pointed knives. We stand firm because we know that it doesn’t stop with background checks and waiting periods; it doesn’t stop with scary, assaulty looking rifles; it doesn’t stop with regular rifles; it doesn’t stop with gun registration (which has historically always led to confiscation) — it never stops. The hoplophobes have a reason for banning everything. Every single time existing gun control fails to stop another murderer who doesn’t care about the law, peaceful gun owners get blamed, branded as unreasonable, and maligned for our desire to just be left alone.
Third, correct me if I’m wrong, but in a compromise don’t both sides usually get something? Time after time we have had our natural right to self-defense “compromised” away with nothing in return, save the assurance that next year will bring renewed calls for more “common sense reform.” When we object, we are subsequently berated by the proponents of these awful policies. If we have the gall to suggest they have gone too far, we are admonished as extremists. When was the last time we got something back, huh? Remember that time they passed concealed carry reciprocity, where one state would have to recognize another’s carry permit the way they do with drivers’ licenses and marriage certificates? No? Oh, right, they didn’t. How about the time they took suppressors of the NFA registry, making them available for good folks to protect their hearing (and their neighbors’) by mitigating the noise from the local shooting ranges? Nope, not a chance. They’d rather try to ban the shooting range. The gun grabbers can’t even offer us safety in return for the increased restrictions; rather, we become the disarmed and defenseless while the criminals keep their guns under these preposterous policies. Who in their right mind would think this is a good deal? A relationship where one side is continually told to compromise without ever receiving anything in return can only be described as abusive. It’s no secret that our elected officials have long held contempt for the Bill of Rights. Hence, they have been working to compromise it away from us little by little, with special care paid to eroding the right which protects all the others.
It would seem to us gun nuts that any reasonable group of people who have been pushed around and bullied for decades — with absolutely nothing to show for their troubles save being rendered defenseless, and the assurance that their bullies will never stop — would eventually reach the point where they drew a hard line and stood up for themselves. Our line has been crossed multiple times by an aggressor whose self-admitted strategy is to conquer us in small increments. The Bill of Rights is not up for discussion. We don’t compromise because we know their goal and we know their plan. It’s like death by paper cuts, or being pecked to death by a chicken. As a good friend of mine once said, “Compromise is just surrender on an installment plan.”
I’d like to propose a serious, mutually beneficial compromise on behalf of the 99.9% of American gun owners who are good, honest, law-abiding folks protecting our families. Here it is: Stop denying the good guys our right of self-defense. Immediately abolish these ridiculous killing zones aka “gun free zones” that do nothing but ensure we stay fish in the barrel. Let us peacefully carry our tools of self-preservation to the many places that we frequent without fear of hassle. And in return, we, the well-armed citizenry whom the founders described as a well-regulated militia; we, who are your neighbors and friends, will always have your back. Stop blaming us for the actions of a deranged few and we will ensure that the next time a madman attempts to butcher a crowd of our defenseless peers, they will be met with immediate and overwhelming counteraction. Now that sounds like a good compromise.