It seems not a week goes by where someone says, “A liberal gun club? Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

Despite repeated encounters with the press, explaining we do indeed exist (SFC, Pacific Standard, Good, there are many more), despite polls and survey data (fivethirtyeight link and Gallup poll) about ownership, despite the frequent pro-gun, but not NRA groups that pop up (Pink Pistols, IFOA, others come and go), despite the political balance of rural America, despite that even the NRA sometimes gives A+ to people with (D) after their name (Harry Reid was famously at one time highly graded); it’s as if it’s the first time people have ever heard of such a thing.

Tell me if you have heard these before?

  • “Must be an AstroTurf Brady or Bloomberg play/shill!”
  • They must be confused, and really be libertarian!”
  • “They must be talking “classic liberalism!”
  • “They don’t really own guns!”
  • “Liberals don’t care about the constitution.”
  • “Liberal gun owners?  If you vote for Democrats, you’re part of the problem!”

I have been involved with the LGC for over 5 years now, and my discovery of its then fledgling existence was born of a belief that I could not be alone. It didn’t make sense. Surely, there must be people who enjoy firearms and believe that the Second Amendment is as important as the First, or Fourth, or Fifth, or any of the other on the Bill of Rights, or for that matter, of the 27 ratified amendments (except of course number 18; turns out there is pretty wide agreement on its repeal).  As it happens, while we may be far from a majority, I was far from alone. But, let’s start with me.

What do I believe?

I am a fairly traditional Democratic voter. I believe in the social safety net. I believe that folks who need help should get it, that we should take care of retirees and veterans, that we should feed hungry children and help struggling families where we can. I believe in strong infrastructure. I want the roads to be paved, I want the emergency services to protect and serve (and maybe put out a fire or two), and I know these things cost money. I want clean drinking water, and responsible natural resource exploration, and environmental policy focused on conservation, prevention from harm, and – if we can – avoid sinking a couple of coastal cities where our fellow Americans live and work and pursue happiness. I want miners to survive their shifts because someone has looked and found their environment safe.  I want regulation of business that actually protects the rights of citizens rather than leaves those rights in the hands of folks disinclined to care.  I want schools to educate our children and help bring them to a level of knowledge and responsibility so they can earn a living, and I want those charged with teaching our children to be able to afford their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. I want people to be healthy, and I want them to be able to get healthcare, and I think society has a role to play in providing access to that, if not providing it outright. I want my politicians not to be for sale. I want religion out of government, be it Sharia law or Leviticus.

I want a Republic, not a Confederacy and I want it to be held accountable to the people for abuse and waste. I also want to protect each of those 27 amendments (yes, should I say 25 now?) and all seven articles of that document we all believe means something to the nature of our democracy.

“I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.” – Will Rogers

That’s what I want. To achieve that, I frequently side with the Democratic Party in a national election. Sometimes, indeed, at the possible expense of Second Amendment rights (though the real effect seems minor to non-existent). My view is that it is easier to change someone’s mind on one thing, rather than on many things.  And no, I know it doesn’t always work in my favor.  Yes, more than a few Democrat politicos end up spouting useless gibberish about guns and calling for ineffective and wrong-headed ways to address society’s ills. But, I think that all politics is local, so I vote, every chance I am given (and no more frequently, despite what you may have read), and not always for a (D).  I remain politically active locally. I talk to the folks who go to the conventions to nominate the higher offices, I take them shooting.  And I help run this thing called the Liberal Gun Club because that, in my opinion, is how I make RKBA a non-partisan issue.

We may not agree (and I have money on that) about any of my politics, or even my approach to national elections, and that’s fine. That’s human. And since I am not infallible, it’s possible that I am wrong on some of these issues. Let’s debate and fight about that – without namecalling or backbiting.  Once we gun owners get past the labels, I think we can find we may have something in common – a respect of things that go bang.

Oh, and as we saw in the 1994 midterm elections, last year with the Colorado recalls, and possibly in last month’s midterm elections, gun control is a losing issue with voters. A darn good way to not win an election.

What does The Liberal Gun Club stand for?

Well, in keeping with the Will Rogers quote, getting a liberal consensus on anything is like herding cats.  You know those beliefs I stated above?  That’s one man’s opinion, and I know that not every liberal agrees with me.  And I know not everyone in the Liberal Gun Club agrees with me.

So we asked our members, and this was the best we could do. It’s simple, and it operates under some assumptions that there will always be some regulation, like it or not. Our mission is, despite our name, not political. For reference:

The mission of The Liberal Gun Club is to provide a voice for gun-owning liberals and moderates in the national conversation on gun rights, gun legislation, firearms safety, and shooting sports. We serve as a national forum for all people, irrespective of their personal political beliefs, to discuss firearms ownership, firearms use, and the enjoyment of firearms-related activities free from the destructive elements of political extremism that dominate this subject on the national scale.   We also actively develop and foster a variety of programs for the purpose of firearms training and firearms safety education, for both gun owners and non-gun owners.

Safety, information, outreach. If you want politics, well, that’s what the newly created Liberal Gun Owners Association (since this was published in 2014, the LGC has become a 501c4 and does its own politicking, and LGOA was retired) is for. So our “talking points” are:

We favor root cause mitigation for violence prevention, stronger mental health care, addressing poverty, homelessness and unemployment rather than focusing on prohibiting or restricting one tool.

This includes opposition to the so-called Assault Weapons Ban, as well as restrictions on magazine capacity and this view is directly related to our preference for an enforcement approach to regulation.

We favor enforcement of existing regulations over the creation of new regulatory schemes.

We believe that additional regulation is too often political window dressing and does not serve to resolve the ills for which it is claimed as a cure.

We favor increased, accurate reporting by states for NICS reliability.

States should be provided with incentives to increase accurate reporting. Additionally, certain federal programs can and should share information with one another on items such as mental health state (Social Security Disability, for instance) and federal drug testing results. There also needs to be an appeal process for items inaccurately or inappropriately set forth in the records of individuals.

We are in favor of mandatory safety testing as a condition of licensing for CCW.

Permits exist and seem unlikely to go away. Demonstrating proficiency is less expensive for the applicant than mandatory training.  We believe this mitigates any arbitrary financial barriers to a permitting process and is intimately related to our preference on national reciprocity. 

We favor minimum standards-based national CCW reciprocity.

In our opinion, this preserves states’ rights and doesn’t impose standard-less permits on states that don’t want them. Again, until the legal landscape changes, CCW permits exist and seem unlikely to vanish.  

That’s it. Our membership diverges in opinion on even these points. We have our share of “cold dead hands” folks, and our share of “Fudds”, and everything in between. Racial diversity, gender and sexual diversity, financial diversity. Women – and men – who believe that a woman’s right to defend herself is integral to her right to personal autonomy, and women – and men – who just like to shoot because shooting stuff is fun.  People who have defended themselves, people who fear for their safety, people who hunt, people who target shoot, Law Enforcement, ex-Military, and people who are simply interested in the mechanical nature of the tool.

Most of us share some notion about safety nets, and environmental responsibility, and corporate regulation, but it is far from universal. Most of us were not big fans of the Bush administration. A surprising number of us are unhappy with the Obama administration. I already had Romney as an Executive branch guy, I was in no hurry to repeat that experience.

Where does that leave us?

You tell me. Many detractors hate me, at least on the ‘tubes. In person, less often. We tend to talk about guns, about life, about family. Life is so rarely reflected in comments sections.  So, let me tell you about my favorite guns.

My favorite rifle: My 1954 Soviet SKS, but its fighting for my affections with my 1921 Winchester 94 (not a carbine, full size, in 30.30), after that, it’s a toss-up between the Enfield, the Garand or the Mosin.

My favorite handgun: I have a Sig P229, no rail, federal leftover in .40 S&W (though its 9mm conversion gets as much use these days), followed by a Para Ordnance PCX745R (1911 clone), and then by a Blackhawk in.357.

So, where to from here?

Ed Gardner
Executive Director
The Liberal Gun Club

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