A movement is only successful if public opinion can be swayed to favor that movement. This is true of the civil rights movement, the movement to repeal marijuana prohibition, and the gun rights movement. Often people mistakenly believe that political action is the most important pillar of a movement but political action only manifests when sufficient public support has developed. Consider the movement to repeal marijuana. On November 6th the voting public of Washington and Colorado voted in favor of repealing marijuana prohibition. This outcome was only made possible because educators managed to sway public opinion against marijuana prohibition. What isn’t seen by many is the fact that repealing marijuana prohibition is also unnecessary. So many people oppose marijuana prohibition that almost anybody wanting to smoke it can do so. In fact public opinion is so opposed to marijuana prohibition that individuals who smoke it can openly discuss their violation of the state’s decree without concerning themselves with repercussions.
Let’s consider the gun rights movement. During, what I will refer to as, the dark age of gun rights laws restricting gun rights were being passed into law without much resistance. A prohibition against certain semi-automatic rifles was passed as was a law restricting who federally licensed dealers could sell firearms to. Few individual states allowed non-state agents living within their borders to carry firearms. Eventually things began to change. When the “assault weapon” ban expired no serious effort was made to renew it. Few efforts have been made to make firearm sales between non-federally licensed individuals illegal. All but one individual state (which will almost certainly join its 49 brethren within 180 days) have some mechanism for non-state agents to legally carry firearms and the number of states with no restrictions on who can carry a firearm has been continuously increasing. What we’re seeing is a manifestation of public opinion being swayed from favoring gun control to opposing it.
How was public opinion swayed though? People living in the United States didn’t just wake up one day and say “I now oppose gun control.” The swing in public opinion was accomplished through the diligent efforts of educators in the gun rights movement. When I say educators I don’t me K-12 teachers or college professors, I mean the individuals who dove through all data pertaining to gun rights and presented logical deductions derived from that data. Gun rights educators studied and presented historical and legal arguments for gun rights, gun-related crime statistics, and issues relating to self-defense and gun safety. Through their tireless efforts arguments made in favor of gun control were demonstrated to be false. More and more people were beginning to realize that gun control was a folly and either began to support gun rights or held no strong feelings either way. Without the efforts of gun rights educators things today would likely remain as they were during the dark ages of gun rights.
Political action was merely a manifestation of the change in public opinion. In fact political action would have been rendered almost entirely unnecessary in due time. This is because as public opinion began to turn more towards gun rights laws restricting or prohibiting the exercise of those rights would have been rendered irrelevant. What could the state do if a majority of individuals began carrying firearms without getting state permission? The state would attempt to punish a handful of individuals here and there to set an example but they would leave the vast majority of carriers unmolested. This is what the state has been relegated to when enforcing the marijuana prohibition and speed limits.
As I stated before most people who want to smoke marijuana do so in spite of the law and are even willing to publicly say that they disobey the state’s prohibition against marijuana. Most people seem to be willing to exceed the speed limit as well. Driving with “the flow of traffic” usually implies exceeding the speed limit since most drivers exceed the speed limit. Police officers often don’t bother issuing citations unless a driver is exceeding the speed limit by at least five or ten miles per hour. Such excesses are generally higher than the amount most drivers are exceeding the speed limit by and therefore can be enforced to some degree. Outside of those cases very few people out of the total number of people exceeding the speed limit receive any kind of punishment from the state.
I argue that education is far more important than any form of political action because political action will never even manifest without education. Education is the catalyst to change whereas political action is merely an officiation of a change in public opinion. In actuality political action usually ends up being an admittance by the state that enforcement of one of its decrees is no longer possible. This was the case with alcohol prohibition, is currently the case with marijuana prohibition, and will eventually become the case for gun rights if educators in the movement continue performing their task successfully. At some point in our future laws restricting gun rights will be repealed because they are no longer enforceable. Most states will enact, what is commonly referred to as, constitutional carry in response to the public’s general support for individuals right to carry a firearm. Items currently regulated by the National Firearms Act, likely starting with suppressors, will no longer be so restricted. Even the requirement that federally licensed dealers only sell to state-approved individuals will eventually go away.
The gun rights movement must strive to make the enforcement of restrictions against gun rights unenforceable. Whether restrictions become unenforceable through political action or because a majority of individuals blatantly violate those restrictions is unimportant. A change in public opinion will lead to the latter and the latter will lead to the former. It is the job of gun rights educators to encourage that change in public opinion that will make the rest of the dominos fall.