On Saturday January 26, I attended the Gun Safety Town Hall held in the Washington Street Community Center of Denver. I’ll admit I approached with trepidation, into the belly as it were.
The anti-gun lobby is flush with cash and it shows. They can hire expert IT types to exploit social media and develop catchy websites, and they can afford big vehicles with custom paint jobs. My RSVP invitation was seamlessly handled through Eventbrite.
To enter the venue, I had to pass through unarmed security using wand metal detectors. Inside I couldn’t tell who were event sponsors or volunteers because they all wore identical flashy badges. Video cameras flanked the stage, complete with a big banner. About a hundred and fifty or so from the public filed in to occupy the rows of folding chairs arranged in the main meeting room. The crowd included the usual suspects: a few middle-aged women in MDA or Cease Fire Colorado t-shirts. One man wore a Parkland High School t-shirt, although I never found out if he hailed from there or wore it out of solidarity.
The event was moderated by a rep from the Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, who shared the dais with an anti-gun writer from New York City, someone from Tom’s Shoes (who was footing the bill, pun intended), Congressman Joe Neguse from Colorado, and Tom Mauser. The town hall began with the speakers discussing mass shooting to include the usual hate speech against the NRA.
The actual point of the town hall was to drum up support for HR 8, the new bill for expanded background checks, advertised as needed to close the infamous gun-show loophole, because as you all know, as we were told, any Colorado resident can simply drive to New Mexico or Wyoming and buy a gun, no questions asked. Ignoring of course that such an act is already a violation of federal law.
The town hall was scheduled to last an hour and at the halfway point, the public was invited to approach a microphone and share. One young woman said she was a Parkland survivor. A couple of older speakers expressed their gratitude for the campaign’s effort to end gun violence. A young man said he was from New Hampshire and rambled on about that state’s proliferation of guns, but I couldn’t tell if he was anti- or pro-gun.
Finally it was my turn. My question was that since both the DOJ and the FBI have established a direct correlation between drug trafficking and gun violence, how come the Giffords campaign, or MDA, or Everytown for Gun Safety, or any of the prevent-gun-violence groups do not once mention drug trafficking as responsible for gun violence?
I could tell my question blind-sided them. The only one who answered was the woman from the Giffords campaign, who said that they are focused on gun violence, not drug trafficking. My rebuttal was that even the CDC concludes that the highest risk factor for homicides, especially those with guns, is drug trafficking. I stressed that the anti-gun people were ignoring one of the biggest causes of gun violence. Though I went way over my three-minute time limit, the brief back-and-forth exposed a gaping hole in their agenda.
After the meeting, I did attempt to debate HR 8 with the woman from the Giffords campaign, but she wouldn’t let the facts interfere with her talking points. She’s paid big bucks to toe the company line, not acknowledge the truth or promote effective policy that provides for public safety.
Interestingly, on my way out, one of the event’s African-American volunteers, a big man named Stevon, congratulated me for my comments. Before the town hall, he had brought up the same points, which were summarily dismissed.
So what did I learn?
ONE: these public venues are a great opportunity to make our case. Unlike in social media or through the news outlets, the anti-gunners can’t easily delete our comments. They have to respond.
TWO: focus on an issue that exposes the weaknesses of their agenda. What I noted at this town hall but didn’t mention was that they got everyone stirred up over mass shootings, then segued into expanded background checks even though they admitted that these checks wouldn’t stop mass shootings. It was a bait-and-switch that needed to be spot lighted.
THREE: we can’t rant about rights because that gets little traction with this crowd. You have to call them out on their failures to address the big problems stoking gun violence such as drug trafficking, gangs, and incompetent bureaucrats. Use government sources such as the DOJ, FBI, and CDC to back you up.
FOUR: we must actively engage the various communities to make our case. For example, meet with communities of color to explain that since less than one percent of violent criminals get their guns from a gun show, and more than forty percent get their guns through the black market, then why are we wasting time on expanded background checks to close the gun show loophole? Emphasize that when the local government and the police pursue effective programs that address violent crime, as opposed to gun control, then homicides decrease and as a result we get safer communities.
FIVE: meet with our legislators and make our case. Make them explain why they endorse flawed proposals while ignoring effective policy.
Preserving our Second Amendment rights will take work, but we have truth and reality on our side.