In my years of lobbying for NRA at the state and local level, I always enjoyed doing battle with big city and county government officials. When they were complaining, I was certain that we were doing the right thing and advocating for the empowerment of the people. As a rule, they like dependence, while we like independence. There just isn’t a lot of common ground to be found. They know that when the people gain power, they lose a proportionate share in what is a certain zero-sum game.
I wanted to believe that most of them were relatively intelligent folks, but it was rarely apparent through my direct interactions with them. Let us hope their emotions surrounding the subject matter had something to do with this. An example is the public buildings “storage and screening” legislation that I’m proud NRA-ILA began aggressively pushing in state legislatures many years ago.
In the early days of the policy, it required government buildings that prohibited firearms possession by citizens to store firearms for people while they conducted business in the building. This addressed a few important issues: It helped reduce the likelihood of a firearm being stolen from a vehicle, it allowed good people to protect themselves while walking to and from their vehicles, and it kept those required to use public transportation to get to the government facility from going the entire time away from home unprotected.
I wanted to believe that most of them were relatively intelligent folks, but it was rarely apparent through my direct interactions with them.The legislation we pursued evolved to require electronic security screening in the prohibitive public buildings. Despite what the local government officials claimed, reasonable people understand that active screening is the only way to generate an expectation that good people will not be required by their own government to have empty hands while facing a well-armed bad guy. Sadly, we know that even the best screening at the country’s biggest airports fails all too often, but the storage/screening combination is the best policy available—if prohibiting locals from banning guns in the first place is not politically viable.
This is where most of the government officials proved they weren’t likely to get a knock on the door from Mensa International any time soon. Regardless of the state legislature where we were advocating this policy, officials came out of the woodwork to contend that this was some sort of “unfunded mandate” on them—purchase of storage lockers and screening equipment, along with paying people to attend to them, was going to bust budgets. Of course, the legislators not particularly fond of our firearm freedoms reliably jumped on the runaway bandwagon.
I’m sure I’m explaining the obvious to my fellow NRA members, but these officials needed a little help. We worked very hard trying to explain the meaning of “mandate.” Our state legislation didn’t compel the expenditure of a single penny by any government official anywhere. It simply said if they choose to implement a silly policy that does nothing more than render good citizens defenseless, there would be a cost incurred.
They had total control of whether they were going to have to add a line item to their annual budgets due to their anti-gun, anti-self-defense biases. It really would be a mandate if our legislation required local entities to ban guns and then pay for the costs of implementing the bans. The hapless opponents can scream “mandate” all day long, but our money is with Merriam-Webster’s call on the matter every time.
There were other things about lobbying this particular legislation that made it fun. For whatever reason, city and county government officials seem to more often brag about being for the “little guy” than state officials (I think I know why, but will not digress). I would at least feel better about hearing this if they would amend their relentless campaign chant to something more like, “We are for the little guy, except with regard to the exercise of their Second Amendment rights.”
They are able to hold their noses and accept the woman who has enough money to afford the Mercedes-Benz being able to protect herself with a personal firearm most of the day away from home. But the hard-working woman whose budget requires her to rely only on public transportation is out of luck. It’s no secret that most big city public transportation systems are not the safest places to spend time, but the local officials didn’t care. The warm and fuzzy feeling always came when telling them that they clearly trusted the rich more than the less-fortunate little guy they said they championed.
It simply said if they choose to implement a silly policy that does nothing more than render good citizens defenseless, there would be a cost incurred.More fun was reliably had when the opponents of our legislation ignorantly and arrogantly argued that citizens should simply stay away from government buildings if they wanted to always be armed. They didn’t seem to understand that government policy often requires productive members of society to walk inside these frustration-generating facilities that most often drain us of our hard-earned money.
We, among many other things, must pay taxes, acquire driver licenses, serve on juries and secure professional certifications. The private sector is another matter. If one store or restaurant prohibits us from protecting ourselves or those we care about, we can easily find dozens of other business owners who happily welcome us and our firearms.
A bonus always came when the government officials acted as if they bought and paid for the public buildings with their own personal money. It felt good to remind them that the citizens they refuse to trust are the ones who made the building a reality.
NRA continues this noble push in many states around the country where it is not already the law of the land. If the battle comes your way, have some fun with it. Try to shame your local government officials into not making themselves look silly by making ludicrous arguments. If they do, inspire your state representative or senator to call them out on it during the public debates. None of us should be rendered defenseless just because we are compelled to enter a government building.
Darren LaSorte lobbied with NRA-ILA for 14 years and now lives and works in Dallas. His passions are shooting, hunting and self-defense training.