MONTPELIER – On Wednesday, March 13, anti-gun advocates led by former governor Madeline Kunin turned up at the State House in hopes of resuscitating a handful of gun control bills that, at least so far, appear to be dead in the Vermont legislature. Although the speakers at the press conference said they were really only interested in gun safety, the signs held by supporters calling to “ban assault weapons” shouted a different agenda.
The event and subsequent press coverage reveal the group’s goal, strategy, and tactics moving forward. The real goal is to repeal, or at least severely reinterpret, the Second Amendment, the Constitution being a “living document” in their eyes. (I can say this with certainty after sitting within earshot of the ringleaders’ post-press conference discussion in the State House cafeteria. Direct quote: “The Second Amendment is bogging us down,” followed by statements for desired repeal.)
Their strategy is to position themselves not as “gun control activists,” but as “gun safety advocates,” the implication being that Second Amendment supporters are against gun safety. Nothing could be further from the truth, but this is a theme the Vermont press has already started to carry water for. (See Kunin says gun safety activists must not be silenced, Vermont Digger, 3/14/13)
At the same time, we can see the tactical attempts to demonize Second Amendment supporters along the principles laid out by Saul Alinsky in his famous Rules for Radicals, “RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)”
Yes, cruel indeed, not to mention dishonest. Perhaps the most radical attempt at this was featured speaker Paul Manganiello’s comparative accusation that any citizen who desires the continued freedom to exercise his or her Second Amendment rights is akin to a pre-Civil War southerner’s belief in his freedom to own slaves (watch the VIDEO). So, gun rights advocates are racist anachronisms. Alinsky would be proud.
The hope is that these attempts to define (or mis-define as both cases may be) themselves and their opponents will take hold between now and the 2014 legislative session, giving them the needed PR leverage to pass their agenda. The good news is that Second Amendment advocates dropped off nearly 5000 signatures and letters in support of maintaining Vermonter’s Second Amendment rights, dwarfing the 3000 collected by Kunin and her gang. Still, this is not an issue that can be taken for granted.
Ethan Allen Institute
P.O.Box 543, Montpelier, VT 05601