Washington state gun owners are being smashed between a rock and a hard place. The disaster — which is bound to be bloody — will likely shape the gun-rights fight in states across the nation.
And the outcome for people far beyond Washington state may depend on Alan Gottlieb. Which terrifies me. And should terrify you.
I was talking the other day with another gun blogger who hoped that after last year’s JPFO debacle I would have insight into Gottlieb’s mind. I have none. I’ve had the same thought; I wish I knew what Gottlieb could possibly be thinking. I’ve said I wished I could be a fly on the wall of that man’s brain. OTOH, I fear that experiencing Gottlieb’s thinking from within would make me puke.
But there are so many mysteries about what that man is up to! Why would a gun-rights advocate — any gun-rights advocate, anywhere — want background checks? Why would he want the federal control, the de facto gun registration, and the risk of confiscation that inevitably follow? How could he be so clueless about rights? So clueless about the threat to gun ownership? So clueless about how gun owners think?
And beyond that … how could a man who wants background checks continue to present himself — and be widely accepted! — as a gun-rights leader?
Of course he continues to be widely accepted partially because of SAF’s several successful lawsuits and partially because too many people don’t look at what he’s really doing. Most followers are also unaware of his sordid history. But more recently (and I expect ultimately more tragically) Gottlieb’s leadership is being accepted by some primarily because he has forced Washington state gun owners to choose between that rock and that hard place — between him and activist rivals who are overtly, unabashedly radical.
Gottlieb has long ruled gun-rights activism in Washington state. He not only owns several major groups himself, but he’s on the board of others and serves as virtual puppet-master of yet more. Here’s just one example of how Gottlieb’s system works.
Many years ago, in the 1990s when it looked as if the antis were going to trample us all into the mud, I sat in on a legislative coordinating meeting of supposedly independent gun-rights groups in Washington state. The meeting was (no surprise) at Gottlieb’s headquarters and it was my first glimpse of what was going on.
There was no independence. There was one overriding mindset — don’t rock the boat. The one activist (a newcomer) who offered ideas that actually could have advanced gun rights (rather than merely holding the line) was repeatedly shot down. Not only shot down, but shot down with words I found mind-boggling and unforgettable: “Oh, we can’t ask the legislature for that. They’d never give us that.”
What kind of bargaining position can that be? Where would negotiators ever get if they started out only by asking for what their opponents are already known to be willing to give? That’s surrendering before the first battle!
But that was the state of Washington gun rights groups 20 years ago, designed and dominated by Alan Gottlieb. Matters appear to be worse now. After that, I always marveled that the state managed to have fairly decent gun laws, despite such wimpy “leadership.”
Well, I marvel no more. Since November — and thanks in large part to Gottlieb’s inexplicable “divide to lose” strategy — Washington has one of the most terrible state anti-gun laws. And the Billionaire Brigade is using I-594 as a battle plan to rampage through other states.
I-594 might have passed anyway since it was the product of an enormous, multi-billionaire propaganda campaign. But Gottlieb initially made matters worse by throwing all his efforts not against I-594, but into a competing initiative, I-591. That went down in flames (and $1 million+ that could have been used against I-594 went down with it). But now Gottlieb, via his many puppet organizations, is trying to set himself up as the leader of the anti-I-594 forces.
He has filed a lawsuit against the new law while explicitly stating that he’s not trying to stop background checks. Even as state Rep. Matthew Shea prepared a bill to completely repeal 594, Gottlieb ally/partner/front group WAFLAG was focusing on getting gun owners merely to ask for fixes. As activist Kit Lange observed, “[Shea’s repeal] bill has not even been submitted yet, and they have already given up.”
You can’t “fix” a law that’s evil from its inception. And you can’t win if you already side with Michael Bloomberg on the most important points.
Gun owners who are really aware of the issues and who understand that you can’t have freedom without standing firm on principles want nothing to do with Gottlieb or any of his front organizations. This means that some of the most angry, adamant, in-your-face activists have stepped forward. Gavin Seim’s armed, non-permitted “I Will Not Comply” rally in December outdrew Gottlieb’s January “legislative rally” by as much as 10-to-1. But when quite a few people with the “I will not comply” mindset also showed up at Gottlieb’s event, long-guns in hand, and carried their firearms into the House visitors’ chamber, it gave Gottlieb’s allies — and many inherently moderate gun-rights people — the excuse to call them all crazies and crowd closer to the false “safety” represented by Gottlieb.
Gottlieb has set things up so it’s either “side with me or side with the crazies” when it really just ought to be about getting I-594 declared dead. And getting the horrid monster buried at the crossroads with a stake through its heart so it can never rise again.
My heart and mind are with the “crazies.” But at the same time, I see how their tactics scare some activists away — and drive some activists right into the arms of Alan Gottlieb, despite his obvious, well-publicized sellout.
But as one activist from Graham, Washington, observes, the “crazies” are using those tactics as much to defy Gottlieb as to defy I-594. They are saying, “We will never allow you to ‘lead’ this battle. We won’t be polite and deferential as you sell us out. To hell with you.”
If Gottlieb had a clue about the rights of gun owners or the mindset of gun-rights activists, he would step out of the spotlight (and not just via the pretense that one of his puppets is really in charge). Being completely discredited on anything to do with background checks, he would recognize that he has no ability to lead (even from behind) on this issue. He would let somebody more principled unite the state’s gun owners. Instead, there he is, dividing — once again — so that our enemies can conquer.
Because Gottlieb stands in the way of any calm, strong, and principled leadership on gun rights in Washington state, he is helping Bloomberg win (just as he hoped to help Manchin, Toomey, and Schumer win at the federal level a year ago). Heartened by their victory in this first state, and strengthened by the lack of effective pro-gun leadership, the Bloombergians will rampage onward to the next state, which appears to be Nevada.
Good luck, Nevada. Good luck to us all. Except Mr. Gottlieb. May he choke on his own duplicity. May the power he so craves, the power he’ll stop at nothing to get, destroy him — before it destroys the rest of us.