My book has been heavily revised for legal changes and other updated information, and will be out soon, this time for free to download, and at cost printed. Below is the epilogue. It is heavily criticizing of many gun rights orgs, but I would argue that it is well within the scope of forum rules, because it specifically pertains to how they have directly harmed OCing, and much more importantly why it is able to happen. It seems to me to be especially important to post here, since this forum is the place that more or less started it all for OCing in Michigan.
The dangers of collectivism
A brief explanation of terms is in order. An individualist is someone who believes in the right of individuals to do as they please with their own private property, so long as they don’t interfere with anyone else’s private property. They believe that this is the all-important foundation of living a free and proper life. An individualist further believes that no group is needed to make decisions on how to go about doing this because a group is nothing but a bunch of individuals who can think for themselves. They generally have the same common sense as most folks, but they do not believe in forcing common sense (or anything else) on other people. They prefer to lead by example and make suggestions, rather than use coercion.
A collectivist refers to people who feel the need to participate in a group because of personal insecurity and maybe wanting to boost their ego by feeling more important, respected, or even feared. This does not refer to everyone who wants to be in a group or finds meaning in group membership – but specifically to people who find themselves needing a group for these particular reasons. It is important to note that a collectivist can be a member of a group – or its leader. This term is not about distinguishing whether one is a leader or a follower, but whether one needs a group. Collectivists often believe that a group can have needs that are more important than those of the individual, and that an individual’s rights can and should be sacrificed for the greater good of the group. They believe that this should be enforced through verbal or even physical coercion, from simple bullying to passing laws to prohibit and penalize victimless “crimes.” We see collectivists in political and religious organizations alike, and they are easily recognized by the routine phrase “there should be a law” as their go-to solution to problems, whether small or large. This is because they are often quick to use force to settle conflicts that go against their preferences, and the government – with its ability to coercively enforce laws – is the ultimate force they could have going for them. In smaller groups that lack the power to influence laws, however, leaders will often declare their own biases or preferences to be the will or rule of the group, to a similar effect.
In their desire to lead, collectivist leaders tend to be after one thing, and that is dominance. They push away opposition using the nastiest methods they can get away with. From bitter arguments over internet forum nonsense all the way to genocidal maniacs starting wars, it’s a consistent trait. It’s not generally about political philosophy. It’s about power.
Many years ago, the open carry movement in Michigan was started by a small group of free-thinking individualists who didn’t care a hell of a lot what others, even fellow OC activists at the time, thought of them. And they still don’t care. They wanted to work together to challenge people’s ingrained paradigms about OCing, and they wanted to bring guns out into the open and promote every individual’s rights. In the face of opposition from organizations like then anti-OC MCRGO and the generally still anti-OC NRA, this was quite a task, made all the worse by police abuse. Yet, they prevailed in their goal, and they did so without any rigid leadership structure.
The organization Michigan Open Carry (MOC) was largely founded to put an official face on OCers’ efforts to address troublesome government abuse head on. This helped, for example, when they talked to Michigan law-makers and police agencies. But their objective was not personal recognition or fame. They mainly just wanted to spread a strong message of freedom, even in the face of personal risk. As there were no collectivists at the time in favor of these efforts, individualists were the only ones with the will and means to accomplish these things.
After about two years went by, the legality of OC began to be more broadly accepted by police agencies and the media. At this point, collectivists who never would have been involved before decided to jump on board, many because of their support for gun rights. At the same time, some started to join more to boost their ego than to fight for a cause, especially now that the stakes of getting involved had been lowered. This is not to say that everyone who joined after those first years is a collectivist, which is not the case at all. But the organization, and the motivations of its members, began to change.
A number of these newcomers decided they should be the ones to lead the then-infant group MOC. There was a period of turmoil with a great degree of (sometimes forced) leadership turnover, much discontent among members, and plenty of behind-the-scenes scheming. The leadership of MOC began to treat their positions within the organization as a source of inflated importance that others should respect, and before long, MOC became a group by and for the urges of collectivist leaders who don’t care about individualism in the slightest.
It has stayed this way in large part as of the time of this writing. Worst of all, MOC’s textbook transition to collectivism pushed away the majority of the original activists who made this movement in Michigan possible.
For example, the collectivist overtakers of MOC have drastically changed their forum. Leadership moderates posts unfairly based on their biases and instigates forum fights. They have a sub-forum called “the ammo dump” where they move posts they disagree with. Sometimes they just move posts to pick on someone. Eventually, these threads get deleted, at least from what’s visible to the public. They say they do this because they want people to hash it out without letting the dirty laundry sit out. What’s actually going on, however, is that they are simply bullying people in the name of moderating. Other times, they simply delete posts by people they don't like, without even bothering to put them in “the ammo dump.” Pehaps the best indicator of how they see this is that they have even been known to ban people over posts in the ammo dump that legitimately call out problems with leaders.
As another example, they also use the forum to try to monopolize control over OC events by saturating the calendar with "official MOC events” and leaving no room for individuals to organize their own events. They even become angry when others try to do their own events, especially if they have a date conflict, and they tend to ridicule events that don’t have huge turn-outs to show the superiority of MOC sanctioned events.
Because of its leadership, MOC, though in some ways successful, is a shell of what it could have been – and could still be – with better leadership, less infighting/trolling, and more teamwork. The collectivist pettiness in MOC has made it very difficult to make the kinds of gains experienced by more freedom-oriented state-level efforts, such as in Arizona and Virginia. When people are corralled and manipulated by power-hungry attention seekers, rather than being empowered to live freely in a system of cooperation to pursue liberty, these movements cannot grow as they would otherwise. Instigating exclusivity, instead of encouraging inclusivity, is not a recipe for success and growth of a cause. Instead, it creates childish roadblocks to success.
At its most destructive, there was an attempt in 2012 to pass SB59 by MOC leadership, along with other pro-gun organizations and several state lawmakers. This law would have further restricted OC, banning it in certain circumstances where it has long been legal for CPL holders, in order to expand lawful CC to so-called “pistol-free zones.” This would be accomplished with yet another state licensing apparatus beyond the current CPL license. This is a textbook collectivist move: sacrificing the minority for the majority, and using government force to do it. To say the least, this was a heated issue. The individualist founders of MOC were, with a few notable exceptions, fiercely set against it, and many worked hard to try to stop it. Meanwhile, collectivists were appalled and outraged by their opposition to the bill.
Perhaps it’s easy to blame a few people with regard to what has become of MOC. However, it is important to remember that these kinds of dynamics are not unusual, even among gun groups. Consider the NRA, and their reputation for jumping on board with local or state-level pro-gun efforts only after the hard work is done. For example, the NRA took the main credit for shall-issue legislation in Michigan, but this law was the result of the efforts of grassroots activists collecting signatures working with MCRGO.
As another example, the NRA has stepped over local efforts in some states to remove training requirements, instead lobbying with much success across the nation to have their inferior firearms classes required in many states as the national standard in concealed carry laws.
And let’s not forget that the NRA was unwilling to join Alan Gura in the landmark Supreme Court Case District of Columbia v Heller until it became clear that Gura had a winning case. The organization even tried to prevent that case from coming before the US’s highest court. How much different would gun rights be today if the NRA had succeeded?
Finally, perhaps most notable to readers of this book, the NRA has directly stifled the efforts of OCers in Florida and Arizona. They threw OCers under the bus in Florida when shall-issue was passed there, and they successfully lobbied to exclusively require licensed CC in establishments that sell alcohol for onsite consumption in Arizona. Remember that Arizona is a constitutional carry state. Only recently, after nearly a decade of apparent contempt for OCers, has the NRA’s attitude toward OC possibly changed. After the NRA publicly bashed OC activists in Texas, the media finally got interested in the NRA’s view of OCing, and realizing the bad PR move it had made, the NRA decided to issue a pro-OC statement to the press. Where this will lead, who knows.
The NRA has been enabled to do these things because millions of blindly loyal, low-information, collectivist supporters have cheered them on, with no idea of the damage they have been doing. Early members in MCRGO are especially familiar with this.
Speaking of MCRGO, they also have experienced the same issues as MOC, though fortunately they seem to be recovering and growing as an organization now. MCRGO started off as an exceptionally effective grassroots effort. Yet, like MOC at the present time, MCRGO became embroiled in conflicts between founding members and members that joined the organization only as it became clear that shall-issue would pass and thereafter. For a while, they had massive money and membership coming in, joining with both the NRA and gun clubs across the state. Despite being resource-rich, they lacked clear goals that could unite the membership, and just at the moment that MCRGO achieved its primary legislative success, the organization would fumble under the weight of collectivism. This was probably exacerbated by MCRGO’s alliance with the NRA. Lawsuits were filed, and like MOC, people were pressured to leave or kicked out of leadership positions, and the organization’s forum was heavily and abusively moderated. To this day, there are hurt feelings and a lot of lingering hostility, despite much of the drama being buried by secrecy, the passage of time, and perhaps the less pervasive nature of the Internet back then.
For quite a while, MCRGO did very little of any use and did not support local efforts against gun rights infringements. For example, in 2009, a couple of independent gun rights activists successfully challenged the city of Ferndale for continued preemption violations seven years after MCRGO defeated Ferndale in MCRGO v Ferndale, also for violating preemption. When the activists contacted MCRGO to ask, as a matter of courtesy, whether they wanted to participate in any way given the organization’s involvement in the previous Ferndale case, MCRGO rudely declined. Things are much better now. But, there was definitely a dark era in MCRGO’s history, and it may be useful for other activists to reflect back on it to know how to prevent these sorts of problems.
Everyone who values freedom should study collectivism further because it is a much broader and more complicated subject than can be covered here. Perhaps collectivism is an element of human nature that can never be fully eradicated, but people who value freedom should nonetheless fight as hard as they can to stamp it out of existence, if only to keep it in check. Individualism is the cornerstone of lasting liberty, maybe even the definition of liberty, whereas collectivism enables the vast majority of the evil that plagues humanity.
To sum it up briefly for this book’s readers: Don’t assume you can just send money to pro-gun organizations and think that everything will be taken care of for you. Without thinking for yourself and holding leaders and members accountable, your donation and lip service to an organization may just fuel the growth of a dangerous monster. You need to actively participate while understanding these effects, and to be willing to aggressively challenge leaders when they step out of line. This means discussing any issues you may have with them, side-stepping them to fill the void left by whatever they are neglecting, and even stepping over them with your own independent actions, especially when they are maliciously sabotaging the efforts of freedom-oriented activists.
Without endless care and vigilance, your pro gun efforts may very well end up doing more harm than good.