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Guns, grassroots, and unity

In the dark days of the Clinton (and let’s not forget, Clinton-D/Dole-R) gun bans, a local activist-leader gave me a copy of the Brady Bunch’s organizing manual.

Where he had come by it I don’t know and he wouldn’t tell. But his idea was that a young man and I should use it as a model to write an organizing manual for gun activists.

We eventually did write that manual (for print only and now long gone, far as I know). I wrote under a nom de plume I occasionally used back then.

But it took only minutes after opening the Brady’s book to realize that there was no freaking way we could base a gun-rights activist manual on it.

The reason: Everything in the Brady manual was directed toward getting corporate money and corporate media support. There was virtually nothing — nada, zip, zero — about grassroots organizing. Starting local chapters? Recruiting members? Forget it. Just get money and opinions from top of the hierarchy. Period. End of effort. That’s all you need to do if you’re a gun-banner.

Who cares what individuals think or want? Use the media to buffalo them into believing that there’s “widespread support” for “common sense gun control” and — ta da! — they’ll put up with whatever you want.

Eventually (to my surprise) we won the gun-rights battle. I’d hoped we wouldn’t have to fight the same old rights fight all over again … facing the same old proposals … the same old lies … the same old ignorance about firearms … and the same old limp-wristed compromising cowardice from organizations and well-placed individuals that claim to be “Second Amendment supporters, but ….”

Here we are, anyhow.


But times have changed (thank you, Internet). The grassroots now has a powerful medium of its own — and knows how to use it.

Here’s a fantastic example of what happens when gun-banners try to pretend to have grassroots support: “Northern Illinois gun control event blows up in the faces of sponsors”:

It was a bad Sunday for sponsors of an meeting to create a grassroots chapter of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence at the Glenview, IL Police Station Auditorium failed miserably as supporters of the Constitution and civil rights took part in the event.

In the end, unsubstantiated assertions by the gun control advocates were challenged by a boisterous audience.


And it seems that even some members of the formerly wishy-washy corporate gun crowd have gotten the message that gun owners are both united behind a solid concept of their rights and not to be trifled with.

Reader F. alerts me to an ongoing “situation” on the east coast. Reed Exhibitions announced just a few weeks before the big Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Pennsylvania that all ugly guns would be banned from the event.

Perhaps UK-based Reed believed the hype about “widespread consensus.” They shoulda done a reality check first. No sooner had they announced their crippling of the show when exhibitors started walking out en masse.

Most of the drop-outs are small businesses — many of them with little or no relationship to ugly guns. They make duck blinds. Boats. Camping gear. Spices. Archery equipment. Knives. But out they went — even though, for many of them, the ESOS show can make or break their profits for the year.

Big boys went, too. Cabelas — a full sponsor of the show — was among the first to pull out. Then went Ruger and Smith & Wesson. TV show hosts said, “No thanks!” The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation said goodbye. Even the NRA, never known (except in the MSM) for its hardline attitude, dropped out. (Reportedly both the NRA and the NSSF had worked pretty hard to get Reed to change its tightly knotted little corporate mind.)

One after one, the exhibitors and sponsors stated, “We must be united in our support of the Second Amendment.” No more divides between the engraved-shotgun/sporting clays crowd and we more grubby gun owners. We’re all in — or we are OUT.

More are joining the boycott. It’s going to be interesting watching ticket sales plummet.

The show, which opens February 2, has now lost well over 10 percent of its 1,200 exhibitors. And boycotters have announced an online virtual show to compete with it.

No doubt some of the companies dropping out would be perfectly happy to support anti-gun compromises under other circumstances. (Ahem, Ruger …) Maybe some have just decided — given what gun owners did to Jim Zumbo, KMart, and S&W itself — that being firmly pro-gun is better than being wishy washy.

But no matter what their motives … they’ve learned the lesson. Do not mess with the millions of ordinary gun owners who care not only about their firearms, but about their inborn rights. Do not mess with individual, ordinary gun owners — who are powerful.


  1. lelnet
    lelnet January 23, 2013 11:12 am

    “When you’ve got ’em by the balls, their Hearts and Minds are sure to follow.”

    I for one don’t care if the big entities in the gun world are for us out of conviction or out of fear of the consequences of offending us. As long as they’re for us.

    We just have to keep pushing the message. “100% of your sales are to people who want to own guns. People who hate guns will never buy anything from you, no matter how happy they say they are with your decisions. But people who LOVE guns but come to hate YOU because of those anti-gunner-pleasing decisions will happily take all the business they could have given you, and give it to your competitors instead.”

  2. Geoff Ross
    Geoff Ross January 23, 2013 11:44 am

    The same folks running this show ran the recent SHOT show in Las Vegas! Interesting that the show for the important people (us common folk not allowed, only those with pull) was allowed to showcase wall to wall black guns but the show targeted for the great unwashed banned them.

    Many of the folks pulling out of the show or condemning the black gun ban today had a real good time last week at shot and made Reed a lot of money.

    Pulling out of the show is having serious consequences for many small businesses, they had to pay in advance and will loose the money. These folks should be treated like the heroes they are and some way found to support them financially.

  3. Claire
    Claire January 23, 2013 12:03 pm

    Hear, hear! Well put.

    I have heard that Reed’s relationship to the two shows is different — that they are in charge of the ESOS show but are merely a contractor under other authority putting on the SHOT Show. But in a quick search, I have not been able to find confirm this. And it’s not something I’m going to put a lot of time into; I’ll bet someone else here will have the straight skinny.

    In any case, I’ll bet there’s already some “interesting” talk going on right now among SHOT Show vendors and sponsors.

    The wimpy NSSF, though it did try to change Reed’s decision, is begging everyone not to boycott ( for the sake of the small vendors — which must be sort of like “for the children.”

    I completely agree that the vendors, especially the small businesses, who’ve pulled out of the show at considerable sacrifice to themselves, deserve gunowner support. Check above for a link to a list of those vendors and information on the “virtual show” being set up in competion with the ESOS.

  4. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit
    The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit January 23, 2013 12:56 pm

    Hang together or hang separately. It’s nice that some of the gun companies seem to be realizing who’s actually putting money in their pockets (if you’re cynical) or supporting constitutional rights (if you’re optimistic).

  5. Claire
    Claire January 23, 2013 1:19 pm

    The Firearms Industry Consulting Group (lawyers) has asked any of the boycotting ESOS vendors who have been denied refunds by Reed to contact them about a potential lawsuit. Apparently the claim will be that Reed falsely advertised the show.

    I don’t have a direct link, but here’s their FB page:

    There’s apparently also a move underway for ticket holders to try to get their money back, which Reed is refusing to do.

    Could be a lawsuit there, too.

    Funny, Reed reportedly made their Dreadful Decision because some as-yet-shamefully-unnamed potential exhibitor at the show made noise about not wanting ugly guns there. If that’s true (and who knows at this point; it’s just what the NSSF claimed; I wouldn’t be surprised if any such noise was actually made by a government agency), you really have to laugh thinking about how the clueless Reed execs must be reeling now. To appease one exhibitor they drove away 150 (and counting) exhibitors and sponsors and who knows how many customers, plus placed themselves directly in the path of lawyers.

    Seriously. That’s funny.

  6. Claire
    Claire January 23, 2013 1:23 pm

    Information and organization central for the ESOS boycott:

    You can sign up for updates on the “virtual show” to support the boycotting businesses.

  7. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair January 23, 2013 2:10 pm

    Savage has also bowed out. On their Facebook page (, linked from their home page (

    “Many of you have asked if we still plan to attend the Harrisburg show. Even though Savage Arms does not manufacture or market any of the firearms that will be excluded, as a leader in the firearms industry and proud supporter of the Second Amendment, we cannot, in good conscience, support an outdoor show that does not allow all legal firearms. We have cancelled our plans to attend this show…”

  8. Woody
    Woody January 23, 2013 3:13 pm

    Reed is a 9 BILLION dollar plus company. I doubt that they will suffer financially if every vender cancels and nobody attends. Having said that, Reed is not the audience we are trying to impress with the boycott. Anti-gun companies (and wishy washy ones too) have to understand that we will inflict serious pain upon them if they raise our ire. Being ‘reasonable’ gun owners is what got us all the gun laws we chafe under. If you want to be seen as reasonable you are not helping the fight.

    Someone said “It is better to be feared than loved.”

  9. Claire
    Claire January 23, 2013 3:43 pm

    Woody, Reed Elsevier ( may be a nine billion dollar business, but that doesn’t mean they’ll like it if one of their divisions loses a bucket AND part of its reputation on a boneheaded business decision.

    But — sigh — given what Wikipedia says about them getting out of the “defense exhibits” business a few years ago, they may, for all I know, be deliberately trying to alienate the entire firearms community. Who knows?

    But boy, do I agree 100% with what you said here: “Being ‘reasonable’ gun owners is what got us all the gun laws we chafe under. If you want to be seen as reasonable you are not helping the fight.”

    It’s damn well past time to be UNreasonable. And time for any of those “compromises” the antis are always promoting to go in our direction. Okay, you like “compromises” so much, we’ll compromise with you. There are some 20,000 gun laws in the U.S. We’ll happily compromise for getting rid of 10,000 of them — for starters.

  10. Claire
    Claire January 23, 2013 3:46 pm

    BSC — Good to see you here again, and thanks for the good news.

  11. Jake MacGregor
    Jake MacGregor January 23, 2013 3:46 pm

    protest, ire, boycotts — all reasonable and deserved measures

    but, imho, what we need more of is to make fools of these people

    though I dislike Jon Stewart he is a ‘master of mockery’

    to find ways to mock, belittle, and make laughing stock would be very effective form of guerrilla campaign

    example: make a youtube video that equates Reed’s bad-gun ban to erectile dysfunction … you’d have to be really over the top, but innuendo about being afraid of ‘black’ guns, not being able to get your muzzle up, shooting blanks … all would go to end of making Reed seem silly, impotent, and marginalize them

    if you want to beat Alinsky tactics you need to know them

  12. Woody
    Woody January 23, 2013 4:41 pm

    More news from the front lines:

    “Given the size of some of the new boycotters, I think it’s safe to say that upwards of 1/4 of the show will be empty this year. If Comcast really did pull out as a sponsor, then they have lost 3/4 of their sponsors for the year. On Facebook, the boycott page has nearly twice as many followers as the actual ESOS itself. According to media reports, Reed Exhibitions plans to release a statement sometime this week. At this point, you really have to wonder what on earth they plan to say.”

    Read the rest here:

  13. Bear
    Bear January 23, 2013 5:44 pm


    “[Kenneth Palkow, the leading firearms and other weapons prop designer for Hollywood] will not use any manufacturer’s product, of any type (firearms, accessories, clothing…etc) that support’s Reed Exhibitor’s decision or ATTENDS THE ESOS.” (emphasis added-cb)

  14. Claire
    Claire January 23, 2013 6:15 pm

    Getting interesting. ESOS no longer selling tickets online:

    Maybe that rumored statement will say they’re cancelling the show??? I was hoping it would be a huge “We’re sorry and we’ve changed our minds! Ugly guns welcome!”

    I feel terrible for all the small businesses who count on the sales and the exposure from that show to get them through this slow time of year.

  15. sagebrush dog walker
    sagebrush dog walker January 23, 2013 6:39 pm

    The small vendors with a 10”x10” booth are going to be out 5k to 10k. Look at the list of boycotters and support them. Email the (boycotting) companies that you use and let them know that you support them.

  16. Claire
    Claire January 23, 2013 6:47 pm

    Amen, sagebrush dog walker. And I know you know what you’re talking about because you’ve been in their position.

    Soon I hope to post links to help people give their support to those gutsy boycotters.

  17. -s
    -s January 23, 2013 6:51 pm

    Not to change the subject from the highly encouraging news about the self-organizing boycott, but:

    Look again at the Brady manual approach. Top-down. Centrally planned. Gatekeepers and “leaders” direct everything. Money doesn’t talk, it screams.

    This is a fragile, linear approach. One miscalculation and it fails.

    The gatekeepers are gone. The gates have been thrown down. The “leaders” are mocked and reviled and ignored. People have had enough, and they didn’t need a talking head to tell them that they are fed up.

    This is both a powerful lesson and a cause for genuine optimism. It may be too early to celebrate, but it’s a good time to notice that the times are changing in ways that favor freedom.

  18. Phil
    Phil January 23, 2013 8:34 pm

    A nine billion dollar company?

    Can anybody decrypt a prospectus or an annual report? Why don’t we look around at the other things that company does, and make it an eight billion dollar company.

    Or seven, or six. I’m sure that when the layoffs start, the bonehead who made this particular marketing decision will be one of the first out the door.

    We can take the money we would have spent with them, and spend it at the companies who support the boycott.

  19. Geoff Ross
    Geoff Ross January 23, 2013 8:36 pm

    For those with a lot of time this thread in a PA hunting forum is entertaining, although it is up to 34 pages!


    Some are claiming that Progressive Insurance is the sponsor that originally demanded the banishment of black guns. I’m just sayin’.

  20. Jim B.
    Jim B. January 23, 2013 9:21 pm

    We need to let those companies willing to do “reasonable” that government sales alone is not enough. The small companies know that they are too small to provide the numbers a government contract requires, even so, civilians’ sales are or should be the lifeblood of any company, big or small.

    Unfortunately, I expect the controllers to watch these events as carefully as we are. Also unfortunate is the fact that they are not stupid. They can see as well as we that many small businesses depends on these shows, they may get it into their heads that they should be shutting down as many shows as possible. If they are successful, I expect that customers will have a harder time finding products as well as the businesses have a harder time finding venues to sell at.

    We need to expand the number of venues. This may be a golden opportunity for someone with the clout to make contacts and get these venues open.

    Just something to be aware of.

  21. LarryA
    LarryA January 23, 2013 11:19 pm

    [Look again at the Brady manual approach. Top-down. Centrally planned. Gatekeepers and “leaders” direct everything. Money doesn’t talk, it screams.
    This is a fragile, linear approach. One miscalculation and it fails.]

    ProPublica has an interactive chart on where each Congresscritter stands on gun-rights. (

    Reading between the lines, the NRA scale rates members A+ to F, and is current. The Brady scale rates 0 to 100, but is current to 2003. “Spokeswoman Becca Knox told ProPublica that the Brady Campaign does not have updated scores, and she could not provide a date for when they will be updated.”

    Also, the 2011 Brady state scorecard was researched by someone called “Law Center Against Gun Violence,” and the 2012 scorecard was published by LCAGV, with no mention of it on Brady.

    What does that sound like to you?

  22. Pre-press veteran
    Pre-press veteran January 24, 2013 5:08 am

    I believe that a critical mass of people have understood, all at once, that being calm and reasonable, has only gotten themselves more abuse…

    from a group of people who don’t want to miss this “window of opportunity” to finally get one of their prized goals accomplished.

    What the anti-gunners are unaware of (and the media bias is a double-edged sword here)… is that even the mere suggestion of more gun laws has sparked a huge number of soccer moms, grandmas, even liberal cubicle workers… to join the “gun culture” before it’s too late. Just in case.

    The chuckle for me, is that this current “overreach” was so UNreasonable and what is being proposed in Swinestein’s AWB will “criminalize” people who bought personal protection pistols – like HERS – that these anti-gunners don’t realize that they’re perfectly positioned for an ambush that will put an end to all future proposals for “infringement”. Our state CCW process has been overwhelmed by new applications; it’s impossible to get an appt to be fingerprinted – the Sheriff is that backlogged.

    And from what I see discussed from the our side, is that they won’t let this opportunity to end this crap, once and for all, go to waste. All done in a civil, grassroots, activist and legal fashion. Calmly.

  23. Pat
    Pat January 24, 2013 6:56 am

    “I believe that a critical mass of people have understood, all at once, that being calm and reasonable, has only gotten themselves more abuse…”

    I also think this is true (not just on the subject of firearms, but on education, the economy, healthcare, and what we should be allowed to eat). The past four years have been an eye-opener for many people as to where this country is being taken. The _political_ mass will be challenged to keep up, let alone stay ahead, in the next few years.

    I was re-reading a couple of Charlie Reese’s old columns on guns (one of them being, ), and found this one written in 1985 on “the 545 people” responsible for our woes. The populace is learning fast where to place the blame.

    The reactionary activity around the country is no accident, even though it‘s not coordinated. The “ammo box” is the last step, and it’s apparent that “a critical mass of people” have started to realize this.

  24. R.L. Wurdack
    R.L. Wurdack January 24, 2013 8:33 am

    Progressive Insurance has perinnially been a bad guy. Always on the ‘wrong’ side of issues. I believe it has to do with the leader. I would believe they could be the instigator of this. Big contributor to the O campaign.

  25. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair January 24, 2013 9:08 am

    Good to be back, Claire, though I’m not happy for the reason. New York state’s new statute forcing me to register my black rifles a year from now or become a felon, and forcing me to register all my ammo purchases (from regular gun stores) 3 months from now, has caused me to loosen my political boycott.

  26. Ragnar
    Ragnar January 24, 2013 9:46 am

    From Cheaper Than Dirt’s FB page:
    “Recently, CTD reported on the growing number of companies and personalities boycotting the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show ( due to its stance against Modern Sporting Rifles. Yesterday, the number hit the 200 mark and consumer sentiment was sure to follow.

    As a result, Reed Outdoor Exhibitions, which owns the ESOS has announced its decision to postpone the show, which was scheduled to begin about two weeks from now. Let’s all chalk one up for the First and Second Amendments!

    This is proof of the power of solidarity and supporting gun rights preservation groups such as the NRA.

  27. Claire
    Claire January 24, 2013 9:54 am

    Beat you to it, Ragnar. 🙂 I blogged the cancellation news a while ago.

    But linking to Cheaper Than Dirt is interesting. They “did a Reed” themselves — only worse:

    And since then there have been rumors (just rumors) about CTD canceling back orders so they could sell the same merchandise to others at higher prices.

  28. Claire
    Claire January 24, 2013 1:30 pm

    Clarification: I said waaaaay back in an early comment that, though Reed Exhibitions puts on both the ESOS and the SHOT Show, I thought it had a different relationship to the two shows. But I was fuzzy on the details. Seems that Reed owns and controls the ESOS but is strictly a contractor to the NSSF on SHOT.

    And the NSSF, weak though it may be on defending gun rights, is now “considering” switching to another event producer for SHOT:

  29. Ragnar
    Ragnar January 24, 2013 2:41 pm

    I thought CTD just suspended gun sales for a couple days (I’m guessing true story was to get a bunch of free mentions on the news) then restarted sales right up again? Here’s what they emailed out:

    if they’re cancelling backorders to up prices, that’ll get them some major bad mojo.

  30. Claire
    Claire January 24, 2013 4:10 pm

    Ragnar — I don’t know that they’re cancelling backorders. It’s just a rumor and may be completely untrue. And you’re right that CTD did only halt firearm sales for a few days. I hope they did it for the reasons they claim, but as presented in the media, it seemed to be another one of those, “Hey look, even the eeeeevil gun dealers know it’s wrong to sell …” items.

  31. Bear
    Bear January 24, 2013 7:09 pm

    CTD doesn’t need to cancel backorders to sell stuff. They can just do [again] what they did to me: Fill order. Mostly. Some items billed but never shipped. Wait a few weeks. Pull my credit card info out of their files and bill me for a whole ‘nother shipment of crap I didn’t order. Hang up on phone calls. Ignore emails. Refuse refund. Finally claim that they placed order “accidentally”. Still refuse refund on the grounds that once I see what they shipped to me, I will want to keep some of it, and I can get an RA for the few things I decide I [still!] don’t want.

    I once liked CTD rather a lot. Then their service started getting… iffy. And progressively worse. That last bit did it for me, and I will never risk doing business with them again. (And I got a new CC account number so they couldn’t helpfully place another mystery order “for me”.)

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