Note: These remarks were given at the Second Amendment Town Hall on Strategy on April 15, 2018 in Batavia, New York.
Thank you for coming today Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am a self-employed lawyer and publisher and I owe no political favors to anyone. I am not running for office. I am running from office. So, I am able to say what I really think, and I am going to do that today. Many will strongly disagree with some of the things I will say today but it’s a time for truth after so many years of lies, half-truths and using language to confuse and deceive, not communicate the truth. Our politics are dominated by dishonesty and the failure to come to grips with the real issues and that has to stop.
We are losing the fight for the Second Amendment. We are losing it in the courts. We are losing it in the legislatures. We are losing it in the media, in the schools and with young people. The approach we have been using to protect the Second Amendment for many years has failed, is failing and will continue to fail. That approach has basically focused on lobbying, elections, voting and using the litigation process without any serious attempt to change the philosophical or ideological bent of the country or to change the ideological trajectory of the country to the left which in the last five years has been accelerating, and without any attempt to change the basic progressive mindset which has dominated American politics for many decades. The tactics we have used are archaic, dated, spent, don’t work and there has been no attempt to use bold new innovative tactics and unless that changes, we are going to lose this fight.
We are close to losing a right that has been recognized in the West for many, many centuries. It’s an ancient right that great minds had to first do the philosophical work to identify, then define, then do the hard political work to have this right recognized by governments and by government law. We are on the verge of losing this ancient right in these times and perhaps very soon because of our own failure to properly defend it with good arguments and good strategy and tactics and the efficient execution of those strategies and tactics.
This is a bad time to be disarmed. Progressive big government is on the rise regardless of which party is in power. The GOP loves big government! Government grows constantly, creating numerous problems that generate endless social conflict and unrest. Will the government protect you when riots break out?
The Left is resurgent and more radical than ever. They are undeterred by the fact that every leftist regime that ever got power, inflicted, through state gun violence, widespread misery, poverty and strife.
The driving force of leftism is not reason, but anger, envy and hatred. The left could gain power any time by winning an election. Does anyone want to be disarmed while the lunatic left builds a de facto one-party state that will inevitably move towards the creation of a totalitarian state?
So, what new strategic and tactical ideas do we need to save the Second Amendment from oblivion?
First, we need to recognize that gun control is a progressive idea. If we don’t understand what progressivismis, then how can we understand the basis for gun control proposals and refute and defeat them? It’s like trying to cure a disease when you don’t know the cause. Progressivism has been the dominant political mindset for many decades, so failing to understand exactly what it is renders us helpless to respond to progressive policy proposals on any number of issues. In a nutshell, progressivism is the notion that there is a governmental solution to every human problem that can be executed without cost or harmful consequences. Notice the underlying assumption after school shootings that there is some way to prevent them or at least make them extremely unlikely. That is nonsense. It’s like trying to make everyone above average in intelligence or wealth. It ain’t gonna happen cuz it’s impossible. Notice how this absurd assumption shapes the debate over school safety. If our own proposals for school safety don’t guarantee that there will be no shootings ever, we have failed and our proposals will be rejected.
Progressivism is not a rational political philosophy but is rather an irrational form of therapy whereby the progressive makes himself feel better by proposing some government action he thinks, without evidence or logic, will solve the problem. That explains everything about how progressives react to mass shootings. Any role that government itself may have played in causing the event is ignored and the progressive must find a non-governmental scapegoat to blame. Thus, in the Parkland Shooting, numerous government policies or personnel failed. The shooter himself was the product of government schools and was bullied and ostracized there for years. Yet, all we hear is that the NRAis to blame. This is an obvious absurdity but perfectly understandable once you understand what a progressive is and how they think.
The progressive is constantly blaming a non-governmental scapegoat for the inevitable failure of their own doomed policies. Why? The progressive believes that state gun violence or the threat of it will improve society. This always fails because it is absurd. Yet, the progressive can never admit failure since he needs the progressive fantasy to cope with life. Hence, the progressive is in an endless search for scapegoats to blame for the failures of his own policies. Guns are a useful scapegoat for many failed progressive policies including school shootings, terrorism caused by endless meddling in other countries, street crime, the failed war on drugs and even suicide. Inert pieces of metal called guns are the cause of all these problems and need to be confiscated and then all will be well. So, more laws are passed, the power of the state increases, no effort is made to actually solve any of these problems by identifying their root causes, so things get worse and the crazy cycle of endless government growth continues.
Also, since the progressive instantly knows, without any investigation, the solution to any human problem, government action, the progressive shows little interest in doing a proper investigation of the causes of a mass shooting. Yet, without such an investigation, such shootings are more likely to continue. One commentator, Brad Wilcox, has noted how often mass shooters grew up without a father in the home. If true, that fact might point the way to possible solutions that might make mass shootings less likely. The progressive, judging from recent events blaming the NRA and private gun owners, shows no interest in a scientific investigation of the factsand thus, since they have dominated the debate, they make it more likely that mass shootings will continue. Now, trying to get at the root cause of social problems is hard work, takes time and guarantees no immediate or perfect solution, so the progressive who craves an instant solution, is not interested. They want therapy. They want to feel good now dammit. They do not want to do the hard work of understanding the harsh and complex truth of the human condition.
I could say a lot more about progressivism but time is short. If we don’t clinically dissect progressivism and use that information to respond to their gun monopoly proposals, we will continue to lose.
Second, a huge problem, the anti-private gun left controls virtually all idea-disseminating institutions in society. They include: K-12 schools, the media, college, Hollywood and the large social media companies. The non-left has some talk radio, some podcasts and the School of Hard Knocks. With this monopoly, anti-Second Amendment propaganda sweeps though society very quickly. Because the schools are propaganda mills, we have lost young people. If we don’t get them back, we are toast.
One way to get them back is to support their own natural right to escape from these pre-digital age, daytime youth detention and propaganda centers backed up by the government guns of state truant officers. We need to steal the left’s old slogan from the 1960’s and announce a “jail break” from the government schools. The students are right. Who wants to be forced at gunpoint to be in a dangerous place filled with other students who hate being there and sometimes go postal while the government provides zero protection? The state kidnaps your kids, bullies them, turns them into bullies of the weaker, gives them dangerous psychotropic drugs, then leaves the students defenseless, and it’s the fault of the shotgun locked in your safe at home? That’s madness.
Let’s be blunt. K-12 government schoolsare largely run by members of teachers’ unions that give 90% of their political donations to the Democratic Party. They teach the children you send there. And you wonder why kids are pro-gun control? Take a look in the mirror. I’ve been saying this for twenty years. Pull your kids out of these places before it’s too late.
But in the meantime, it’s obvious that kids are taught nothing, or worse, about the Second Amendment in school. We need to draft and get to every high school in the nation, a proposed Second Amendment curriculum. Call a press conference and walk in the place and insist that kids be taught about the Bill of Rights! Wow, a what a radical proposal; but I assure you, all hell will break loose because the left does not like an open debate over ideas. They prefer a rigged game like they have now.
Third, because the left controls the terms of the debate, the issue has been framed in such a way that we lose. The true purposes of the Second Amendment are ignored or obfuscated, and smoke screens and red herrings degrade the debate.
If the purpose of right to bear arms is to allow people to defend themselves against random street crimes, then the way progressives think, that must be weighed against the risk of bad guys getting guns, guns being lost or stolen, accidental gun discharges and suicides. In the utopian mindset of the progressive, the solution is always more gun control because progressivism has no limiting principle.
But what if the real purposes of the Second Amendment were understood? The debate would change significantly. As I have explained in detail in my federal court filings, the Amendment has twin purposes. In the American system, the people are sovereign and have the ultimate right to rule and the right to retake that delegation of power when government abuses its powers. This is all basic stuff that really can’t be denied. Remember the Declaration of Independence and the British gun control mission at Lexington and Concord? Ever hear of the Fourth of July and fireworks?
If that is purpose No. 1, which kids are never taught, what exactly is the counterargument? How about, “We have elections now; revolutions are no longer needed.” Quick rebuttal. What if, as has happened many times in recent world history, they cancel the elections? (King George suspended the state legislatures, essentially cancelling elections.) Gun confiscation is sovereignty confiscation, reversing 250 years of understanding about who the bosses are and who the servants are. Confiscation makes us the slaves of any Seven Days in May-type general who wants to stage a banana republic-style coup, so he can act like Dr. Strangelove and nuke Russia.
The second reason for the Second Amendment is a bit shocking as no one ever talks about it in left-wing controlled institutions: to prevent the government from engaging in atrocities against its own citizens. Our first reaction as naïve Americans ignorant of history is this. That’s crazy. That can’t happen here. Of course it can’t. We are armed! The Second Amendment works! Since 1776, there is no instance of the mass slaughter by the government of American citizen-civilians. We have been spared what we have seen in many other countries throughout history, the killing of many thousands of people by the state. So, it only seems odd to say that the American government has not engaged in mass murder because the Second Amendment has worked!
Now, who wants to do an experiment, in an era where the left is on the rise and could capture power any time, to surrender all our guns to the state? Don’t judge the left by how they act when they are out of power, a bit crazy to be sure but not an indication of how the left acts when they have absolute power. For that, we need to know some history. According to RJ Rummel, the left killed 60 million people in the Soviet Union; 35 million in China; two million in Cambodia; and millions more in Vietnam, North Korea and Yugoslavia.
To say this kind of thing can never happen here is naïve, ignores all human history and is really a kind of subtle racism. The truth is, every race we know of has committed mass atrocities at one time or another so the American government, the only one to drop nuclear bombs on women and children and lie about it, is, most definitely notimmune. Just ask the poor victims of that other famous gun control mission at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota in 1890. Americans daily worship at the shrine of a secular saint, Saint Abraham, who ordered the mass execution of previously disarmed Dakota Indians on December 26, 1862.
Now, you could argue that these atrocities all happened in modern times and the Framers could not have had this purpose in mind when they adopted the Second Amendment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Folks, you probably did not learn this in government school but RJ Rummel’s research shows us the whole history of the human race is riddled with episodes of maniacal, insane, democide: mass murder by states, governments, kingdoms and other political entities. The Framers were well-read in history and were well aware of this sad history of how power is continually abused.
The Sultan of Dehli murdered hundreds of thousands around the 13thcentury. Slavery killed at least 17 million Africans over the centuries. The Mongol khans murdered 30 million people. Millions of civilians were murdered during the Thirty Years War in Europe. Over 100,000 were murdered in the leftist French Revolution, just three years after the Second Amendment was ratified. According to Rummel, the Ottoman Empire murdered about two million Armenians and other subjects.
I could go on and on, ad nauseum. Bottom line, tyrannical governments have throughout history committed atrocities against their subjects. The Second Amendment protects against this prospect. It works! The Second Amendment is like a life insurance policy you hope you never need. Why does the left so desperately want, for no good reason, to try an experiment and see what happens if the entire civilian population is disarmed? All history, common sense, logic and evidence, argues against this dangerous experiment. And who will guarantee that once the fanatical left confiscates all our guns, that the resulting tyrannical state will not act like all the other ones in history and how exactly will that guarantee be enforced? With a leftist single-payer life insurance policy?
Keep in mind, the progressive is motivated by fear of his own shadow, but the leftist is motivated by anger and hatred of you! The progressive will boreyou to death and work you to death with taxes, inflation and regulations. But beware of the anger and hatred of the leftist. Too often in history, hatred combined with power has produced crimes against humanity.
Fourth, this one is real basic. We just need to state our case better, sharper and more forcefully. We need to make the statistical arguments in simple terms. The statistics favor us, not them, as Ryan McMaken from the Mises Institute has shown, so why is there massive confusion about this? We just need to become better communicators.
Fifth, we are losing in the courts and we need to understand why and what to do about it. By and large, judges are not on our side. Most are natural progressives. Law schools were long ago captured by the progressive-left. Since the Supreme Court has not taken a gun case since McDonald, the lower court judges think they can ignore the Second Amendment with impunity. They have absolutely no fear of trashing the Second Amendment. They think, what are you gonna do about it? Well, what are you going to do about it? The Constitution allows us to speak freely and petition the government for a redress of grievances. All lawful and peaceful options for waking judges out of their constitutional slumber need to be on the table including picketing courthouses and impeaching state and federal judges who, in spite of their oath of office, ignore the clear wording of the Second Amendment. Judges have made themselves immune from lawsuits, but they are not immune from criticism. This isn’t Stalin’s Soviet Union, yet.
Sixth,we need to understand the role that juries play in enforcing gun laws. Judges have wrongfully destroyed the original Sixth Amendment powers of trial juries to judge both the facts and the law. I always wonder what would happen if a juror asked the trial judge where they got the authority to change the Founders’ clear vision of a trial jury as a check on the power of the government and the power of the judge. Who will have the courage to do so?
But let’s talk about grand juries. Here’s where the real potential resides. Once a citizen is indicted for the imaginary crime of possessing a gun protected by the Second Amendment, he is in a very bad place. In violation of the Sixth Amendment, trial juries are bullied into following the judges’ instructions about silly and unjust laws. The accused will usually plead guilty to avoid going into debt paying for a good defense lawyer. No, the time to stop the gun monopolists is before indictment, at the grand jury. Here’s the dirty little secret that none of the DAs and judges want you to know: the grand jury in New York State does not have to indict even if there is sufficient evidence of an imaginary gun crime! Did you learn that in government school? No, then it’s time to take the government to school!
Seventh, we need to make new alliances. Politics is about coalitions. Who are our allies? That I have to ask makes the point. We appear to have none except the gutless GOP, which will sell you down the river in a heartbeat to win an election. The strongest allies we have are the libertarians who believe the right to bear arms is a natural right. You don’t have to agree with them on everything to work with them on this issue. Notice they have made some progress rolling back the war on drugs while the gun people are in retreat in the war on guns.
Guns and drugs. Hmmm. Two types of private property Americans had the right to possess until the progressives came along. Then, guns became yet another progressive scapegoat for the failure of the war on drugs and the senseless and endless violence it unleashed. I strongly suggest that gun people wake up and realize that guns and drugs are essentially the same issue, private property, and none of the government’s damn business. The day both movements join forces is the day both will win.
Why isn’t the Me-Too movement an ally? Guns are the great equalizer that women needed throughout history to protect themselves against assault. The government gun monopolists want disarmed women to call 911 after they have been attacked so they can describe the crime to a crime historian. I have heard such a 911 call myself. It’s chilling. Women are our natural allies as are the elderly, the disabled and the working poor who live in high-crime areas and need protection against street crime and burglaries. Finally, Native Americans are potential allies for reasons I have already made clear as is anyone whose ancestors were slaves who were obviously deprived of their own right to bear arms. It’s a tragedy that we have not reached out to these tens of millions of potential allies.
Eighth,we must be prepared to engage in lawful resistance to tyranny if that becomes necessary. We have seen that when totalitarian regimes start knocking on doors and rounding people up in the middle of the night to take them off to a concentration camp, it’s too late to resist. As with the American Revolution, a decision that there will be active resistance has to be made well before things get desperate and hopeless. I have elsewhere listed various signposts of tyranny which warn us of worse things to come: mass arrests without probable cause; any crackdown on free speech or the press; martial law; prohibition of private schools or homeschooling; house-to-house searches or routine checkpoints; and, of course, the mass confiscation of firearms in violation of the Second Amendment. When these unconstitutional moves are made, the government is telling you it will no longer follow the law and you will know what to do.
But finally, if we wake up, understand the nature of what we are up against and start to employ better strategies, we won’t face the situation the Founders Fathers found themselves in in 1775.
We need to reframe the issues, identify the adversary and his failed ideolologies and how he uses guns and gun owners as scapegoats for his own failed policies. We need to turn the tables and take the initiative and make the other side play defense for a change. I predict they won’t be any good at it.
We need to expose the progressive government gun monopolists for what they are, people whose policies always fail but who refuse to take responsibility for those failures but instead are in an endless search for scapegoats such as guns and gun owners. It’s that simple.
We need to expose the leftist government gun monopolists for what they are: power hungry but confused. They were telling us for the last four years that the police are the bad guys who shoot unarmed black men because they are racists. Now they tell us that the police are the good guys who are going to use their guns to take ours away. They tell us that the militias in the South were used primarily to keep the slaves under control but neglect to point out that throughout history, the inability to own weapons for protection has been the hallmark of slavery. For years, the left complained—except when Obama was President– about all the illegal wars the federal government fought and all the atrocities the federal government committed in those wars, but now they want that very same military-industrial complex to have all the guns!
We need to expose the government gun monopolists for what they are. They don’t hate guns and they don’t hate gun violence. They love guns and they love government gun violence as that is their solution to every human problem. They love guns so much they want to be the only ones who have any. Again, a left-progressive is a person who has this fantastic dream of creating heaven on earth by threatening people with government guns if they don’t comply with their utopian schemes. The difference between left-progressives and us is this. They want to use guns aggressively, to make peaceful people do things they don’t want to do. We wish to use them only defensively, to stop government from turning into a police state or engaging in mass murder.
The gun controllers are not against “gun violence.” Rather, they wish that all the guns be controlled by an organization that has the most powerful weapons and guns in human history. They trust that this organization would use its power justly and lawfully. Yet, at this very moment, that organization, the federal government of the United States is waging an illegal and destructive war in Yemen of all places, a country most Americans could not spot on a map of the world. They are aligned with the most repressive regime on earth, Saudi Arabia. In recent decades, presidents of both parties have illegally invaded or intervened in several countries, including Iraq, Libya and Syria, causing mass destruction, bloodshed and continuing chaos. Can we really rely on these gentle souls to whom the political left wants to bestow their right to bear our arms, not to turn all that firepower on us in times of civil unrest and whenever they feel it’s necessary to preserve the left’s highest worldly value, power?
You might say that just because the Feds have invaded and caused mass destruction and death in many foreign lands does not mean they would ever do so in the homeland. It is true that so far, the Feds only war against strangers in distant lands but I submit that as the country grows, and the diversity of its population increases, and the Federal Government and its armed agents get more and more distant and more dissimilar to us, the risk of violence against citizens increases. Remember Wounded Knee!
Governments have frequently resorted to using foreign armies or recent immigrants against citizens. King George did this in the Revolutionary War and Lincoln did this in the Civil War. Many countries have used this tactic throughout history. Moreover, the Army now accepts non-citizens into the army and may even accept illegal aliens into the army in the very near future. During the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, brother fought against brother. There is no guarantee that as the citizenry is disarmed and the federal government grows ever stronger and turbulent times arise, that the government won’t use violence against us. All history argues for the opposite possibility. Believe me, in the future, if you hear that loud knock on the door in the middle of the night, it will not be Andy of Mayberry but a total stranger who will say that he was just following orders. With your weapons confiscated, feel free to throw your pocket Constitution at him.
The Founding Fathers, living in a tiny and largely homogeneous nation, feared the power of the relatively weak federal government they had just created. They would be terrified of the many times larger, more distant and more powerful federal government that runs every aspect of our lives today and seems to grow more powerful with each passing year.
Those are my thoughts on strategy and tactics. Now it’s time to hear what YOU think. Thank you.
James Ostrowski is a trial and appellate lawyer in Buffalo, NY. He author of several books including Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea Destroying America.
Copyright © 2018 James Ostrowski
Excellent article! Wish everyone in government would read it. One quibble: “Since 1776, there is no instance of the mass slaughter by the government of American citizen-civilians.” Are we forgetting Waco? I view that episode as the government running it up the flagpole to see if they could get away with it.
Loved this article and the language you utilized in your part-by-part explanations, Mr. Ostrowski. As it is; many, many of the realizations you’ve come to and the concomitant necessities you’ve outlined in overcoming the prevailing majoritive-Leftist attitude and narrative of the moment (that we see and endure in our academic institutions, Hollyweird, and the mainstream media) – were and have been precisely the same as I’ve come to, conclusively, over the last 50 years as well.
My single biggest fear in not only this affair, but in most others guided and funded by the Left, is that the bulk of what constitutes the “Right” in this nation, seems either not to recognize the inherent dangers about to befall them or their offspring – nor (seemingly) do they have the wont nor the wherewithal to do anything at the legislative level about it. If anything, for all of the bravado and stated verbal inclinations to oppose any and all manner of Leftist directives on either gun ownership or Second Amendment rights – our side has all but gone MIA.
What further intrigues and infuriates me is in the arena of “mass showings of support.” In such instances the Left and their minions can do nothing more than tweet out a Twitter message 24 hours before said “event” and they are the instant recipients of tens of thousands of active participants in the form of a march or protest. Conversely, on the Right, we can employ all of the same social media mechanisms and only see a few hundred or less show up in person to a similarly-staged event. And if “strength in numbers” also accounts for favourable public/media opinion in showing that something is popular/unpopular with “the masses;” then, here again, are we on the losing side of a seminal debate.
One last thing: I was at a recent committee hearing at the Minnesota State Capitol and for the purpose of weighing in on yet another unpopular gun control measure that was proposed. And while I’m no ‘fashionista,” I was appalled by the corresponding dress of most of the pro-gun side in attendance. Many came in their finest hunting wardrobes, and with “camo” being one of the more popular modes of dress. Perhaps 5 or so pro-gunners out of a few hundred came in their Sunday best or suits and ties. The “other side” of course, were drapped in the latest suburban fashions, and ‘casual’ was the order of the day.
For the same reason as to why I never bothered to show up at a job interview in sweat pants and a t-shirt. I couldn’t begin to fathom why, when one was trying to get the other side to, at the very least, ‘take you seriously” as an opposition force – you would decide to show up as though you had just left the farm after doing chores? Why you would be prone to doing so in the first place, was, as well, beyond my comprehension. And just who is it in this modern day and age, who is going to take seriously someone who shows up dressed as these guys did? If nothing else, all it showed me is that, as a movement (or possible one), we are, more often than not, our own worst enemies.
I write this to you today as a former born and raised Rochesterian and Buffalo-centric afficienado who, like you, remembers a time when none of this would have risen to the level of argument or negative discourse.
Thank you again, sir..
Eric: you can’t just coin a word. The word “progressive” has been used for a century and is used now by progs. The keey is to define exactly what the word means. My book does that.
Dell, they have been called progressives since the Progressive Era. The purpose of language is to communicate. If we use a pejorative term for progressivism, no communication takes place. When the idea destroying the country does not have a word attached to it that is commonly understood, that idea cannot be exposed and defeated. I do agree that they should not be called “liberal.” In fact, in my book, I urge the Liberty Movement to recapture that beautiful word. Liberal means favoring liberty. So, they are “progressives.” The key is defining that term. Since this had not been done, I wrote a book about it.
People need to find a true and purposeful way to identify them for sure. Fascists is overused and misunderstood. Illiberal regressive won’t cut it. We cant use an Italian term either.
“Statist” packs little meaning to youth who have no fear of the possibility of state overreach.
A real term which easily identifies who they are and what they desire needs to be derived. I wish I was able to coin it.
If we hope to counter the left’s propaganda, a good place to start is to stop calling them “progressives” or “liberals”. They are neither and allowing them to get away with using these terms to describe themselves, let alone using these terms ourselves to describe them, is a huge propaganda win for them. We should call them illiberal regressive, fascists or sinistras (Italian for left and derived from the word sinister).