On the second day of the NRA Convention, I had a chance to dialogue with a number of zealous gun-rights advocates. The conversations were all civil, but I kept running into the same problem.
Whenever I brought up the basic policy positions that Faith Forward Dallas holds concerning gun control (see here), I heard about the slippery slope. Yes, the age-old slippery slope argument is still alive and well in the NRA.
The slippery slope argument is nothing but the “if I give an inch, they’ll take a mile” theory applied to politics. It is essentially an absolutist position: either this or that, but nothing in between or in moderation.
Applied to the NRA, the slippery slope argument is the concept that any regulation or restriction on gun ownership will inevitably and surely lead to the prohibition of all gun ownership, and finally to the confiscation of all guns from current gun owners. Therefore, the NRA will always resist any regulation or restriction.
I tried, unsuccessfully, to convince one pro-gun advocate that I had no interest in taking guns from the average citizen, nor am I trying to abolish the Second Amendment. I said simply that I wanted more common-sense gun policies.
But he wouldn’t buy it. Perhaps he believed that I didn’t personally want to come take his guns away from him, but he sure had a good idea of those who did — “liberal Democrats.” I was informed that their agenda is to abolish guns outright.
I said, “I don’t know any Democrats who are seriously arguing for that.” He assured me that Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, and Hilary Clinton (all female, interestingly) had all dropped hints that this is precisely what they wanted.
I didn’t get a chance to ask why they — or anyone — might want to abolish guns, but it was clear from Chris W. Cox, Wayne LaPierre, the presenters on NRATV, and anyone else in leadership: to create an oppressive, socialistic system of tyranny.
No, there are no facts or evidence to back this assertion up, but none is needed if you’re really afraid of the mere possibility.
And that is the genius of the NRA’s messaging. They have successfully instilled the fear of tyranny into their base to the point that good, decent law-abiding citizens reflexively resist common-sense gun regulations and restrictions. They honestly believe that banning bump stocks is one step on a slippery slope that leads to the ATF breaking down their door to grab their rifles.
For all the talk about founding fathers, the Second Amendment, and American liberty and freedom, however, the NRA forgets that the founding fathers built a democratic system of governance with a great number of checks and balances on tyranny. Gun-toting citizens are not the only, nor the primary, check on governmental overreach. Instead, there are three separate branches of government, each of which is designed to prevent Americans from losing their basic freedoms.
For now, the problem is that the NRA won’t budge on gun policy. That is a problem because Congress is supposed to be a legislative process, and in that process, people have to compromise, to negotiate, to consider, dialogue, and reason together. If one side refuses to “give an inch,” then there is no possibility for unity.
Ultimately the NRA will have to back down, because public opinion has changed, and is continuing to change. The swell of people in the streets joining the March For Our Lives movement and Moms Demand Action have had enough of unrestricted gun ownership. They are tired of the free flow of weapons on the streets of America, and they are going to press for changes.
But they’re not “coming to take your guns away.” They’re not “violent socialists” (an actual accusation the NRA throws at their political enemies). They’re not “anti-American” or “freedom-hating.” They want to do politics the old-fashioned way: give and take, learn and respond, understand and respect.
Forget the slippery slope; there are solid footholds. With a little logic and reason, anyone can find them.