Training Politicians

Training Bad Behavior


By Jeff Knox


(March 5, 2009) The Republican Party lost big in 2006 and lost even bigger in 2008.  They didn’t lose because of opposition to the war in Iraq.  They didn’t lose because of the floundering economy.  They didn’t even lose because of a "culture of corruption." Those were symptoms and side issues.  The reason Republicans lost, and continue to lose, is because they have failed to keep their promises, live up to their stated beliefs, and they have provided little reason to their base to get excited about keeping them in office. 

From taxes to abortion to free trade to fiscal responsibility, Republicans have routinely betrayed the trust of important issue groups and constituencies.  But no group has been betrayed, ignored, and taken for granted by Republicans more than gunowners.

Republicans sought out support from gunowners, promising to protect the Second Amendment, but in eight years of a nominally pro-gun Republican Administration and six years of a nominally pro-gun Republican Congress, the only pro-gun legislation to get to the President’s desk was the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.  Even as an opposition party the Republicans have shown little stomach for a fight.  They didn’t even offer token resistance to the appointment of virulent anti-rights extremist Eric Holder as Attorney General – the defender of the Constitution.

Thankfully the Democrats have thrown our opposition,  the anti-rights movement under the bus – at least for now.  The Democrats still feel the sting from their losses in 1994 after they passed the Clinton "assault weapons" ban.  What they learned from that mistake is that we GunVoters are only dangerous when we’re really mad, as we were in 1994.  We as a movement have demonstrated a lack of resolve when there is nothing to really fire us up and make us angry.

With that knowledge, Democrats have developed a strategy of paying lip-service to the Second Amendment while avoiding hard votes on controversial gun issues.  That strategy has served them well.

Meanwhile Republicans appear to have learned nothing at all.  They watched as Democrats, and a fair number of anti-gun Republicans, were swept from office in 1994 in the wake of the "assault weapons" vote, but the Republicans missed the significance of this landslide because they made no effort to reverse that highly motivating vote or to push for more votes guaranteed to rally GunVoters.

Sadly, much of the blame for wishy-washy politicians offering little more than lip-service to GunVoters rests with GunVoters themselves, and with pro-rights organizations who have failed to push for clear votes on widely supported issues. 

It’s hard to hold politicians accountable for votes they are never asked to cast. 

We have allowed politicians to dodge hard votes with deceptive procedural maneuvers and backroom deals.  We have been convinced to soften our demands and ask for less in order to supposedly attract the necessary votes for passage, only to see the measures fail regardless.  Our own organizations have failed to learn the lessons of 1994.  GunVoters don’t get outraged when a wimpy effort toward some minor reform fails.  And when the next election rolls around, how one politician voted on such wimpy legislation isn’t really a factor.

Current legislative action in Iowa exemplifies the problem:  Republicans, with the support of pro-rights groups are dodging a vote on a serious CCW reform bill in favor of a watered-down compromise bill.  While the compromise bill isn’t terrible, it isn’t nearly as good as it ought to be and is nowhere close to the Alaska-style alternative.  But "pro-gun" legislators argue that they can’t get the votes for the Alaska-carry bill and that forcing the issue could harm some of their friends in the next election. 

Meanwhile a third and even less appealing bill is being used as a wedge to further weaken the already anemic compromise bill.  In the end, it is likely that none of the bills will pass or, at best, a very weak bill might squeak through, but there will be no clear picture of who our friends and enemies are in the legislature and there will be no clear targets for frustrated GunVoters – the politicians win again.

If all of the state’s gun-rights advocates were to rally around the best bill and push for its passage, demanding clear votes in both houses, they might not win this year, but the effort would activate the grassroots GunVoters resulting in some changes in the makeup of the legislature in the next elections and a better shot at passage of a good bill.

§         Compromising principles to avoid a fight.

§         Pushing a weak bill rather than making a stand for a strong bill.

§         Letting politicians dodge hard votes to avoid being held accountable for their actions

This is the recipe for training bad behavior in our elected servants.  We can and must do better by forcing the politicians to do better.

ermission to reprint this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included.  To Receive the Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Knox Hard Corps Report, write to The Firearms Coalition, PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA  20108 or visit   ©Copyright 2009 Neal Knox Associates

   ** Note ** March 30 Update:It looks like the various watered down and convoluted bills in Iowa have essentially killed each other leaving only the Alaska carry bill to potentially be voted on.  Iowa readers need to contact their legislators and urge them to push for a vote on, and support HF 596.  HF 596 is supported by Gun Owners of Iowa and Gun Owners of America.