My (long-winded) thoughts on recent gun related legislation in the Ohio General Assembly:
First, let's get some perspective. People like me who are very involved in the pro-gun movement have a tendency to see everyone, especially politicians, as either "pro-gun" or "anti-gun". We live in a very black and white world. This is a big issue to us and the only way we can conceive of someone not supporting our side is if they are an idealogue for the opposition. Reality is rather different that our polar view. There is a 3rd group of people, and politicians, out there – you can call them "moderates" or "independents" or "squishies" if you like. These are people who don't hold gun issues to be high on their priority list. They might occupy their time with abortion issues, or fiscal matters, or taxation – everybody prioritizes stuff differently.
Now in Ohio being publicly known as a squishy on guns is politically unwise. We are a pro-gun state, full stop. Even Democrats in Ohio must claim to be pro-gun if they have any serious statewide ambitions (Sen. Sherrod Brown is the exception, a political hangover from a wave election year when his opponent was about as anti-gun as him anyways). So these politicans PUBLICLY support pro-gun bills and positions when they are pinned down on the matter. They vote for our bills in committee and on the floor when the vote gets called. You CANNOT prove that they are anything but pro-gun, even if it isn't high on their priority list.
Ah, but what about behind closed doors? Here is where the squishies get...well...squishy. They feel the pressure from the media and other advocacy/lobbying groups more acutely than the dedicated "pro-gun" politicians do. They look for ways to "strike a balance" or "be reasonable" or "compromise" with others. After all, they're not defending a core principle here. They want to preserve the most political capital for their other more important issues. They see the best way to do that as to avoid other polarizing issues or to seek less controversial paths forward when they must address them. So when the caucus meets in private they decide what things will get voted on and when – this is where the squishy is very impactful. Squishies beg for compromise, ask to not have to vote on things and generally apply drag to the process. It's not malicious, they just would rather work on their higher priorities.
So, how does the squishy factor play out? Reality is that the squishies outnumber both the dedicated pro-gun and anti-gun politicians at every level. If they feel uncomfortable pushing an item of our agenda then they'll block it behind the scenes. If they feel heat for failing to act then they'll acquiesce behind the scenes. If they get pressure from other groups who don't traditionally support pro-gun stuff for some piece of our agenda then they'll help it along.
Now that we know we need to influence the squishies we should address how to do so. First, we must find incremental changes that are small enough to fit in their "reasonable" box. Second, we need to make sure they know we pro-gun folks are closely watching the progress of our agenda. Third, we must minimize the impact of the other groups who might advocate against our position. If we do all of that effectively then we stand a chance of advancing our cause.
During the Presidential election it became clear that throwing labels around like "deplorable" had the effect of galvanizing those so labeled rather than discouraging them. If we slap the "anti-gun" label on every squishy politician then we'll drive them into the arms of our opponents rather than constructively engage them. Squishies are squishy and we need to understand how best to prod that Jell-O to cause it to flow our direction. Putting them in a box labeled "brussel sprouts" won't make them any healthier.
These are lessons learned from this general assembly. I'm not going to connect dots between any of these items and what happened, or didn't, in the past 2 years. Rather, I'm going to ask every pro-gun advocate to consider the above in regards to our overall cause.