Gun Owners of the World – Unite!

(This commentary has also been published at

By Gerard Valentino

The flap over Jim Zumbo’s comments about so-called assault weapons brought the rift among gun owners into the public spotlight. Although Zumbo apologized, his comments show that some gun owners, and advocacy groups, are content to fight their own battle against gun confiscation unaware of the danger that poses for the movement as a whole.

Instead of only being concerned with protecting shotguns, pistols or target rifles from future legislative bans all gun owners should work for everyone’s individual right to bear arms. While specific advocacy groups have their place under the pro-gun umbrella each should fight, at all costs, legislation that bans any gun regardless of is use. Despite claims to the contrary, it is accepted that anti-gunners want to confiscate all guns, not just evil so-called assault weapons or Saturday night specials.

That means when a specific type of gun is banned it makes such a law seem reasonable, especially if every gun group doesn’t speak out against the ban.

Groups like the National Rifle Association do a great job of fighting federal bans and do wade into state gun battles; however, they often lack the specific knowledge of the inner workings of state government. There also isn’t time for their advocates to create the type of binding relationships that state level activists can forge through volunteering for campaigns and being in contact with their state representatives.

Due to the lack of a unifying force at the state level we’re left with a gaggle of competing gun groups each pursuing their own interest without an attempt to work together. Even more of a problem is when one pro-gun group openly attacks another to their membership or to the media.

There is also a distinction made between pro-hunting groups and pro-gun groups among the membership of both and the media. That often leads to disagreements when it comes time to make compromises on gun bills with one or the other willing to trade away the rights of the other to keep their pet issues from being trampled.

It’s easy to say that pro-hunting, pro-gun and pro-concealed carry groups should simply bury the hatchet and work as one to protect everyone’s rights. But, people inside each movement know that isn’t as easy as it might seem to the uninformed non-activist gun owner. All they see is bickering among groups that claim to support the same issue and are left confused. Many then never take the initiative to wade into the fight themselves.

Gun owners and the pro-gun movement’s problems are based in the success they’ve seen since the 1994 Republican revolution. Since that time legal concealed carry laws have swept the nation, the ill-conceived Clinton assault weapons ban expired and many attributed Al Gore’s loss in the 2000 presidential election to his anti-gun stance. That success, however, created many of the rifts currently plaguing the movement since many hunters now feel their guns are safe.

In contrast self-defense shooters have seen many of their guns banned by state level assault weapons laws or even by municipal decree. Many self-defense advocates feel betrayed by pro-hunting organizations that didn’t way into the fray over the state level gun bans leading to bad blood and a weakening of lobbying power. The average legislator doesn’t see the difference between guns for hunting or guns for self-defense, and when they receive mixed messages it often makes them unsure how to vote.

Even pro-gun legislators are unnerved by dissention among gun advocates, especially when one group is saying a piece of legislation is acceptable and another is saying it isn’t. When that happens, a shrewd elected official sides with the group opposing the bill since it is easier to explain that decision and less likely someone can hang the anti-gun tag on them.

Now, as HR1022, a far reaching assault weapons ban continues to gain sponsors in Congress; it just might be the unifying factor desperately needed by the pro-gun movement. Even though many in the hunting and shooting sports don’t believe the ban is directed at their guns, the bill’s wording puts the ownership of pump shotguns, semi-automatic shotguns and even basic target pistols at risk.

That means all factions of the pro-gun movement are likely to unite against the bill, leading to a desperately needed mending of the fences. The bill will also reenergize activists that believed the gun debate was over and the anti-gun side was incapable of mounting a legitimate challenge, either in the legislature or at the ballot box.

Now, gun owners know the battle is on. Let’s hope for the sake of our Second Amendment rights they put the bickering behind them and fight to protect our most valued and sacred right to bear arms. To do otherwise would be a sad chapter in the never ending crusade to protect individual rights.

Gerard Valentino the Central Ohio Chair for Buckeye Firearms Association,, is a professional freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio.

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