The following was written by Michael Schwartz, Executive Director of San Diego County Gun Owners PAC (SDCGO).
This week, on Monday, July 15th, the San Diego City Council voted 6 to 2 to approve a law forcing all residents of the city to keep all their firearms disabled or locked when inside your home unless you’re controlling the firearm.
Aside from the law’s language being vague, it’s an enormously bad, overreaching law. SDCGO worked hard to bring this proposal to the attention of the Second Amendment community months ago. We put out the call 3 weeks prior, for people to show up at the City Council meeting to oppose this measure.
Despite having dozens of people there to make a statement in opposition, it still passed. It’s like the Council members weren’t even listening. So why bother showing up?
There are few points you, as an activist, need to know.
–They aren’t listening. Their mind is made up before the meeting starts. In my 11+ years of activism, only one time have I seen a crowd change a vote by showing up. It is so rare that a council/board member will change their mind due to what a public speaker (you) says. As I will discuss below, the point of showing up is not to change their mind.
–The work happens before the public meeting and vote. A few years ago, in Encinitas, their City Council proposed the same storage law. By meeting with Council members prior to the Council meeting, SDCGO defeated it before it even went to Council. The other side has been doing this for years – fostering connections with elected officials and making convincing arguments in private. Finally, thanks to SDCGO, we now have the capability to do the same.
Meeting with the elected officials days and weeks leading up to the meeting can be effective. You could clarify the consequences of the law passing or at least make changes to the proposal. That is what SDCGO did in this case, but even then, sometimes it doesn’t work.
–We show up to make a statement; not because we are guaranteed to win. Getting people to show up at a City Council meeting makes it harder the next time they try to pass anti-Second Amendment laws like this firearm storage law.
It may seem like the goal is to make a strong, convincing argument and then the board HAS to change their mind once they hear the error of their ways; when in fact, the goal is to get a large crowd so the meeting drags on and on, to make sure the media covers the City Council meeting, and to make emotional-based statements so the media covers our side of the story.
The bigger deal we make out of it, the more uncomfortable we make it for elected officials to vote for bad laws. The more press coverage we get showing elected officials overstepping their authority, the harder it gets for someone to propose another bad law.
–Conduct/dress and what to say. Don’t detract from your message. Making an argument based on the Second Amendment is ineffective. Everyone knows the Second Amendment exists, but the elected officials are either opposed to the Second Amendment or have been told by legal counsel that the proposal does not violate the Second Amendment. So don’t base your comments on something that has no relevance to them.
Instead, base your comments on who you are and why you are an important part of society. Tell them how the proposal will affect you and those who you love. Show them what it is like to walk in your shoes.
If gun owners show up wearing gun slogan shirts or hats, and act rude to other members of the public and to the elected officials… we are worse off than when we started. It makes it easier for them to dismiss you and vote against you. It permanently taints every gun owner across the country. Just like you wouldn’t wear a suit in a duck blind or to a tactical class, we need to dress the part.
We are professionals, parents, leaders, business owners, managers, and employees. Most of all, we are the pillars of society who are finally becoming active in the fight to restore and protect our Second Amendment rights, and we should act that way.
–The most effective way to stop bad laws is getting the right people elected. Spending an ounce of time helping to get the right person elected is worth pounds of time spent trying to change the mind of an elected official already in office. This October, SDCGO will publish our first round of endorsements for the 2020 election. Please commit right now to supporting our endorsed candidates with your time (walking neighborhoods, manning phone banks, sharing our voter guide) and your donation, so we never have to ask you to show up to a City Council meeting to fight a bad law.
Get them in office now so we don’t have to fight in the future. That’s activism.
There will be one more chance to prove that we can show up at City Hall. The San Diego City Council will vote on the regulation once more. We will let you know when. Please commit to attending. Those attending will be allotted one minute to speak. Use that minute wisely. Come with a well-prepared one minute statement, or consider donating your time to SDCGO for a longer presentation.
The fight for our rights is a tough one, but we will not give up. Together, we will win!