In a candid interview two days after addressing the Gun Rights Rally in Washington, D.C.—where he acknowledged “law-abiding gun owners have been unfairly demonized”—former Brady Campaign President Dan Gross told Liberty Park Press and TheGunMag.com about a project he is preparing to launch with veteran firearms trainer and Second Amendment activist Rob Pincus that could be a turning point in the gun rights versus gun control debate.
Pincus confirmed the two have been working together for almost a year on creating the Center for Gun Rights and Responsibilities (CGRR). They will announce a modest project “before the end of the year,” Pincus revealed.
For Gross, it’s been an interesting experience, leading to his surprise appearance at the Nov. 2 rally, during which he received loud applause from an estimated 3,000 rights activists for his remarks, which may have caught people off-guard. The same candor was reflected in a nearly 50-minute telephone interview Monday.
Gross spent six years at the Brady Campaign. He left more than a year ago, and is now involved in the things he is really good at, marketing and communications. He acknowledged that his appearance at the rally was a challenge, but in the end his observations were pretty well received.
Gross reiterated his remarks about how gun owners have been treated unfairly. He acknowledged that some people in the gun control movement have “an ideological hatred of guns and people who own them.”
“I saw that firsthand,” he said. “I want to emphasize there are a lot of amazing people when I was at Brady (and) I do believe they were purely intentioned, as I was.”
He told the rally, and reiterated to TGM and Liberty Park, “There is nothing that pisses me off more than people who pretend they care about saving lives, but really have other agendas.”
“I can’t tell you,” Gross continued, “how often people would come up to me with a smile thinking they were getting on my good side by saying, ‘I think we should get rid of all the guns.’”
At the rally, he told the crowd, “The reality is, when it comes to guns, in many ways I believe I have much more in common with all of you, a crowd of proud, law-abiding and responsible gun owners than I do with a crowd of people who just want to ban guns.”
His intent now, he says, is what it always has been, and that’s to keep guns away from people who should not have them.
“The solution,” Gross explained, “on this issue from policy perspective is not built on a foundation of taking certain guns away from all people but all guns away from certain people. If you’re not starting from that place, you and I just have a fundamental, irreconcilable disagreement.”
According to Gross, the notion of banning all firearms or just whole classes of firearms is wrong. He believes that background checks will prevent far more tragedies than any effort to ban guns.
“There are a lot of people,” he recalled about his days at the Brady Campaign, “when I made it clear we were not prioritizing an assault weapons ban…I was accused of being soft.”
So he challenged the gun-ban proponents thusly: “You tell me what you’re advocating. If your goal is to prevent shootings, tell me how this (a ban) is going to hold a candle to expanding background checks.”
One of his chief criticisms about gun control proponents is that many would say they were “looking for common ground, but then project an ideological hatred of guns. It made my job impossible.”
The other side of that coin, Gross observed, is that on the gun rights side, there are also people who are “motivated to make it a political issue and a polarizing issue. I think that also obscures the kind of conversation about where there is this middle ground.”
One remark during his short address at the gun rights rally was that government does not have to be involved in the solution.
“…I know there is common ground that already exists, and because I believe that common ground represents a huge opportunity to do what we all want at the end of the day, which is to keep us all safe…Without any involvement of the government.”—Dan Gross
He expanded on that during the telephone interview when the conversation got around to the rising number of citizens who have carry licenses and permits. One thing he heard from several people with whom he talked at the rally is that many were alarmed “by the extent to which a lot of those people probably don’t have adequate training.”
‘I don’t think this is something that should be mandated by the government,” Gross stated. “This is how gun owners can change that conversation. We are going to acknowledge the risks and responsibilities of owning guns and carrying them, and I think this is a far more productive conversation.”
Gross acknowledged his apprehensions about appearing at the rally and speaking to a crowd of Second Amendment activists. His fears dissipated when it became evident that people who attended are interested in the same things he’s interested in, which boil down to safer homes and safer families.
“We still disagree on some things I am sure,” he emphasized, “but we can’t let that get in the way of a real opportunity to accomplish some things.”
According to Gross, one area that needs more attention in the effort to cut down on shooting incidents involving young people is the parents.
“I believe that parents taking responsibility for mitigating whatever risks come with having guns in the home with kids; acknowledging those risks,” he explained, “I believe this is one of our greatest opportunities to (prevent) school shootings. The persons who had the greatest opportunity to intervene (were) parents.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, the national media has not paid much attention to the gun rights rally, especially to Gross’ appearance. But his joint venture with Pincus could, he hopes, be the start of the “dialogue” that has been suggested for a long time.
“There are people out there,” he began, “It’s almost as if there are people who are trying to turn this into a culture war and that is where the conversation devolves. They get the most attention from the media and the organizations perpetuate and escalate the culture war.
“The ones who get lost in the shuffle,” Gross said, “are the everyday people on both sides. If it were up to them, we could do a lot to solve the problems we are all concerned about.”