THE HANDBOOK RULES
NO ONE IS AS INTERESTED AS YOU ARE. Nowadays
attention span and time are limited. Be grateful if you get
anyone's attention on our issue, even for a few seconds. Some
wannabe activists come in like a lion, then disappear faster
than sh*t through a short dog. Take whatever you get from any
volunteer. Praise and thank them. Don't be disappointed when
they drift away. They will. But some come back. Keep the
light on for them.
THE NRA STINKS. So does GOA, SAF, JPFO, and any or all of the
rest of the gun rights organizations. At the same time, all of these
organizations are the best thing since sliced bread. We won't keep
our rights without them. It's normal to love them and hate them at
the same time. Be sure your complaints about them go to the person
who can do something about your problem. Never give up your
membership -- it's much easier to fix things from the inside.
Avoid griping in public -- our opponents love it when we do.
Always handle our dirty laundry behind closed doors. Always.
THERE IS NO MAGIC BULLET. There is no single answer, rule, or solution.
Never has been, and never will be. None of us will write the single
brilliant letter to the editor or internet message that will miraculously
turn everything around. Keep steadily busy. Do as much as you can,
whenever you can. Anything you do counts, but some things count
more than others. Find out what counts. Then do it.
THERE IS NO FINAL VICTORY. Preserving RKBA is an ongoing PROCESS.
We are winning and losing battles during this process, but the war
will never be over. Becoming active to keep your gun rights is a
lot like cleaning your house: it's thankless and boring work, but
necessary. Like dirt, the antigun crowd will just keep coming back.
Forever. Your activism will keep us winning more than losing.
Our opponents count on wearing us down. They love it when one of us
(not you, of course) gets discouraged and drops out. When you fully
understand and accept the reality that RKBA is a never-ending struggle,
you're automatically in the top 5 percent of all RKBA defenders.
RKBA ACTIVISM IS BORING. It's especially boring when you are doing
things that really make a difference. Most of us want drama. We want
to be entertained. Phone bank calling, precinct walking, going
to RKBA grassroots seminars -- suddenly, even a trip to the dentist
for a root canal will start to look better. Sorry, but there is no
workaround on this aspect. Freedom is not free. It's a pain in the
ass. Get used to it, get over it, and get to work.
USE THE POWER OF FEAR AND GUILT. Gun owners are susceptible
to these emotions. Awaken sleeping RKBA activists by tapping
these powerful emotions. Fear and guilt will move mountains --
and fill the collection plate, and recruit new members. If gun
owners won't become active for themselves, ask them to do it
for their families. For their children. For their country. And --
this tactic works! -- ask them to do it for YOU.
WATCH OUT FOR MISDIRECTED, TIME-WASTING EFFORTS.
E-mail to elected people is pretty much worthless -- unless
the official already personally knows you. Internet polls are
useless. Online polls make some folks think they are actually
doing something. They are not. It's a false sense of accomplishment.
It's like bringing a doctor to a dead man. Focus on the stuff that
works. If you're going to hunt ducks, go where the ducks are.
POLITICIANS ONLY CARE ABOUT VOTES AND MONEY. In-person visits,
phone calls, and snail-mailed, handwritten letters to elected folks
help -- because politicians know that if you take this much trouble,
you and your family and friends will also vote.
HOT TIP: Make yourself known to politicians for
issues other than gun rights. Don't present yourself
as a single-issue person. Praise and help politicians
on THEIR pet projects. Then, when a new gun control
law comes up, your opinion will seem especially credible.
Otherwise, you will soon be stereotyped and discounted
as a single-issue voter.
ANOTHER HOT TIP: Politicians have to explain why they
vote Yes or No on proposed laws. Sometimes they really
need your help in composing explanations to their
constituents. If you want your elected official to vote
No on a seemingly popular new gun control law, she might
be more willing to vote your way if you give her a
"back door" -- a good, common sense explanation that
she can give to all of her constituents.
GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN OFFICE IN THE FIRST PLACE. If we have
the right people in power, antigun laws will not be passed. Period.
The laws are what matter. This concept is so simple that many
folks can't see it, just like they can't "see" the air they
The anti-rights crowd can hold all the gun control seminars and
news conferences they want, but nothing will happen unless they
can pass more laws. This fact tells you about the how, what, where,
when, why, and with whom you should be spending your time, energy,
and money. Politicians pass laws. Therefore, you must get involved in
politics to protect your gun rights. There is just no way to get around
this. Sorry. I don't like politics either. Bummer!
STOP THE SABER RATTLING -- NOW! Avoid those shrill folks who sound
threatening or talk about doomsday. It's a waste of your time. These
noisy folks remind me of a couple in a failing marriage who only talk
about a getting a divorce instead of talking about their real problems.
If they don't solve their problems, separation or divorce becomes the
inevitable outcome. Some people get pumped up on silly fantasy
scenarios. I do not.
ARM YOURSELF WITH ACCURATE INFORMATION. Paradoxically,
bad information or disinformation is a plague in the so-called
Information Age. When you write or talk about firearms issues,
use only the facts, the truth, and the provable. Verify any quotes
that you use. Back up your generalizations with powerful and
specific examples. Get on the internet, and get your like-minded
friends online. Join several of the hundreds of net communities
that will keep you informed instantly and completely about our
special issues. Information is power!
IGNORE MEDIA SPIN AND THE NEWS WAVES. It's far too easy
to go bonkers reacting to the latest media-driven crisis. Don't
let the media push your buttons. The RKBA grassroots pros I know
do not overreact to crises. In fact, most of the ultra-pros that I
know do not react at all to media hysteria. Bashing the media about
their bias is not productive. Some gun owners use media bias as an
excuse to do nothing -- because the situation seems so overwhelming
and hopeless. Truth is, if you are a busy activist -- already steadily
doing stuff that matters -- you will find the media reacting to YOU.
Be friendly and polite with them -- not hostile. Become a reliable
source of information for them. And just keep on being ACTIVE.
JUST SHOW UP. It's been said that 80 percent of success is
showing up. Being there. Showing up to vote. Showing up at an
RKBA seminar. At your assemblyman's office. At a city council
meeting. My father's favorite motto: "Your actions speak so loud
that I can't hear a word you're saying." Your "silent"
be a model for others. What will your 3 hunting buddies think when
they find out you spent an afternoon handing out brochures
door-to-door for a pro-gun politician?
DON'T MESS WITH TRUE BELIEVERS. In the time you spend trying
to convert one hard core antigun person to our side, you could
have gone out and motivated and organized 20 people who already
think like you do. Go with the flow. It's easier on your nerves,
and much more effective. Personally, I have converted several
anti-rights true believers, but never again! Lots of NRA members
are not registered voters. A lot of gun owners aren't NRA members.
Even more folks have no idea of their elected officials' positions
on gun issues. Where is your time most effectively spent? Think
about this before you spend an hour writing a clever response
to a silly message you found somewhere on the internet.
SIMPLICITY STILL MATTERS. The old rule, Keep It Super Simple
(KISS), is as important as it ever was. It applies to internet
postings, planning, speeches -- everything. And keep it short.
And keep it sweet: don't ever ridicule or insult anyone. Did you
notice that I did NOT say, "Keep It Simple, STUPID?"
YOU ARE ALL ALONE. Well, not quite alone. You do have some help.
The NRA has a staff of several hundred. There is no way humanly
possible that "the NRA" can put out all the brush fires started
by the anti-rights crowd. Pro-gun national organizations
give direction and information -- but they cannot save your
rights. Only YOU can save YOUR rights. You are 100 percent
responsible. When you fully accept this reality, you are
automatically in the top one percent of all RKBA activists.
THE HIDDEN BONUS OF GUN RIGHTS ACTIVISM. The more involved
you get with firearms freedom, the more you will realize that
your single issue actually complements and protects other human
rights issues. Personally, I am deeply offended by many aspects of
today's culture. When I focus my activism on RKBA, I can often
sense I am making a measurable difference. All rights -- like all
humans -- are connected.
WHEN IN DOUBT, JUST DO SOMETHING. Sometimes we don't know
what will work. Sometimes the rule is that there are no rules.
I once wrote an essay I thought was mediocre at best. Five years
later, I'm still receiving mail about it. Don't hesitate to try
something new and innovative -- get it out on the table! Often
your finest essay or brilliant letter will not be acknowledged,
or you will just get a form letter response. But that letter to
the editor that you dashed off in a few minutes appears in
tomorrow's newspaper! Go figure. Better yet, try not to figure.
Trust yourself, trust your instincts -- and just do something.
I'll see you in the trenches.