With the national and local elections just weeks away, the head of an Arizona gun rights group spent about 30 seconds cracking the code of grassroots politics about midway during the first of four segments of this year’s “virtual” Gun Rights Policy Conference, and his advice might translate to the “golden rule.”
“One of the things we need to understand, right from the start, is that we are in a fight and we need to act like we’re in a fight,” explained Dave Kopp, president of the Arizona Citizens Defense League, and its senior lobbyist.
A moment later, he counseled the GRPC audience of grassroots activists, “We need to stop looking for political perfection. A person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20 percent traitor…We cannot keep looking for politicians that are 100 percent on our side.”
Kopp, who has become a GRPC regular over the past few years, reminded listeners to “make sure our folks are going to the polls.”
That was amplified a bit later by Philip van Cleave, head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who opened his remarks with a recap of the 2019 state elections that turned the Old Dominion into a gun rights war zone.
Thanks to a low voter turnout last November, he recalled, the House of Delegates was captured by Democrats running on a gun control agenda, and they quickly went to work pushing “a huge package of gun control.” As a result, Van Cleave said, Virginia gun owners were energized, but unfortunately after the fact.
Facing a mountain of gun control measures, activists began showing up at public meetings. Van Cleave said more than 105,000 gun owners showed up at various local government meetings across the state. Where some of these sessions might have 50 people in attendance normally, 3,000 to 4,000 citizens might gather.
Before long, 91 of the commonwealth’s 94 counties became Second Amendment or Constitutional sanctuaries, along with 42 of the state’s 61 towns and 16 of Virginia’s 37 cities.
On Jan. 20, an estimated 50,000 gun owners descended on the capitol in Richmond, yet despite all of this, the Democrat-controlled legislature pushed through several gun control measures, which Van Cleave said had been “watered down.” But they still became law, and when the next state elections are held in November 2021, those activist gun owners won’t forget.
As Kopp observed during his presentation, “The other side is going to be spending huge amounts of money to flip state legislatures all around the country. The only thing standing in their way is us. We don’t have the money that they have but we do have the bodies, we have the grassroots support.”
This fall’s elections, they indicated, really could be for “all the marbles.” To that end, remarks by Mark Barnes, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who provided an update on federal affairs, underscored the potential importance of the estimated 5 million new gun owners this year.
Barnes said the rioting and looting, and general civil unrest that have rocked several American cities this year “Motivated many Americans to realize the great value of their Second Amendment freedoms.”
They are now preparing to vote in an election offering Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as an alternative to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“The Biden-Harris ticket that we’re looking at as the Democratic nominees are a ticket that will, I believe, destroy our Second Amendment freedoms,” Barnes posited. “In fact they’re the most anti-gun ticket that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”
He pointed to Biden’s “plan” to address so-called “gun violence.” It includes bans on modern sporting rifles and full capacity magazines, limits on gun purchases, licensing and registration, a “smart gun” mandate and more. Essentially it would transform the right to keep and bear arms into a regulated privilege.
Understanding the full impact of such a scenario came during a presentation by Matt and Mercedes Schlapp, two well-known conservative political activists.
Matt is chairman of the American Conservative Union and Mercedes served as White House Director of Strategic Communications until this past July, when she joined the Trump 2020 re-election campaign. They boiled down this year’s election to the basic issue of “America versus Socialism.” They said the direction of the country is at stake, and that President Trump stands up for the Second Amendment.
With the elections looming, their presentations and others during the GRPC program, which is now available for viewing on YouTube and at the SAF website, could provide tips and motivation for Second Amendment activists across the landscape.