OSD 77: Tfw you sue the NRA and accidentally make gun rights stronger
The Wile E. Coyote school of suppression.
We haven’t talked about the NRA here before. The reason for that is pretty boring: we don’t think about them very much. We stay busy enough just doing our own jobs that there isn’t much time to spend on other things. But with the news this week that the attorney general of New York is suing to shut down the NRA altogether, it’s worth thinking about the implications.
This is nuanced stuff that doesn’t always have clear good guys and bad guys. There are a number of things going on here at the same time. NRA leadership has blown it, no question. (The overspending, the lack of modern social media savvy, the personal expenses, the brand damage from wading into irrelevant culture war battles, and all the rest.) Similarly beyond question is that New York has been trying to destroy the group for years. Contrary to its (fairly hilarious) claims about wanting to make sure the NRA faithfully pursues its mission, history suggests the state is motivated by simple (and fairly open) antipathy towards gun rights advocacy in general (as seen in this “guidance” letter to all banks operating in New York — in other words, basically all banks — that working with any gun group may trigger an investigation by New York authorities).
We’ll see where things go from here. There could be some sort of settlement, the AG may win and shut down the group, or anything in between. But we’re actually optimistic about what this means for gun rights in the long run, for two reasons.
Antifragility. Gun rights have this interesting property where they actually get stronger in response to threats. Sure, there’s a breaking point where that stops being true. But below that, like building muscle, a short-term stressor tends to build up long-term strength. Probably the best modern example of this is the 1994 assault weapons ban. That ban lasted 10 years, and as soon as it expired, AR-15 sales exploded. Today, the installed base of ARs is 30-40x what it was in 1994. ARs went from a niche item that even gun owners didn’t care about to being the very foundation of modern gun culture — that happened because of the 1994 threat.
Renewal. Think about the most innovative industries in the world. Or the most popular retail block in your city. Or a list of, say, the top 50 restaurants in New York. They have something weird in common: the top dogs get killed all the time. For the most part, including today, the top tech companies of each era didn’t exist 20 years earlier. And in another 20 years, they get replaced by the next wave of new companies. Every thriving retail block always has a new store that just opened, and one that’s about to die. Restaurants start up and shut down all the time.
As long as there are new entrants coming in, death and turnover are good things. They’re the mark of innovation. That’s how new and better replaces old and dusty. If you’re in an industry where the same players have been on top for decades and there aren’t any startups coming in, then it’s time to worry.
We’ll see what happens with the NRA. They do have lobbying expertise that nobody else has right now, but those people and those talents aren’t going away. And more importantly, the industry is full of groups with the tech and media savvy to carry this entire movement forward. Those are advocacy groups like Black Guns Matter, the Firearms Policy Coalition, and OSD. They’re companies with a cultural/educational component like Defense Distributed and T.Rex Arms. They’re trainers and social media educators. All those efforts have never been stronger, and whatever happens is only going to pour gas on them. Twenty years ago, this kind of distributed culture-building wasn’t even technologically possible. Today, it’s what is going to carry gun rights into the future. Let’s get it.
This week’s links
These are the kinds of deep, respectful conversations that are really hard to find. Dr. Siegel is a public health professor at Boston University who recognizes the problems with the way the public health community has approached gun owners. Here he and BJ do a 65-minute deep dive on the state of the research and how to move the conversation forward. Really good stuff.
Really cool minimalistic timer app for dry fire at home.
The gist of it is that people got carry permits if they contributed to the sheriff’s election campaign. Sheriff Laurie Smith has thus far not been charged.
Good rundown from Lucky Gunner.
The fact that this article ran in the Washington Post tells you all you need to know about how the conversation on guns has changed.
Good technical breakdown from Bellingcat.
A truck repair YouTuber gets a visit from the police who somehow got a list of his online purchases of truck filters. Good time for a re-link of “Don’t talk to the police”.
This trailer was created as a statement against guns in film, but the movie comes out looking pretty awesome.
Congratulations to this little girl for out-gunning all of us.
OSD Office Hours
If you’re a new gun owner, thinking about becoming one, or know someone who is, click here to come to OSD Office Hours. You get a 30-minute video call with an OSD team member to ask any and all questions in a friendly, non-judgmental space. For free. So come on by!
We have a merch for sale. You’ll like it, check it out.