We began our annual hiatus with the distribution of our Friday, December 14 edition. Only a few hours later, a disturbed kid and his stolen guns rampaging at Sandy Hook Elementary School in suburban Connecticut may have single-handedly reversed the political landscape for gun owners.
Trying to put the happenings, hysteria and hype of the past few days in perspective isn't going to happen in in a single column. Only time will put this in perspective.
Since the shooting the market for guns in an already hot marketplace has superheated. Literally anything that attaches to, feeds, or otherwise supports the function of the modern sporting rifle has been snapped up by gun owners concerned that big changes are ahead. Ditto ammunition and many handguns like those carried by the military and police officers.
Barring our changing the way we deal with a crisis like this one, those changes are more than a possibility.
Today, Senator Dianne Feinstein will introduce proposed legislation that would impact every gun owner. If you've not already read her bill, I'd direct you to Feinstein's Senate website for her identification of the bill's key elements:http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve/?File_id=10993387-5d4d-4680-a872-ac8ca4359119
Passed - in any form - Senator Feinstein's bill would permanently change our world. Having seen a ten year ban on "assault rifles" expire, Feinstein's learned her lesson. She's taken considerable pains to address subtle points unaddressed in the previous ban. If you own a modern sporting rifle or any other firearm capable of accepting more than a ten-round fuel supply, her bill assures that you'll be one step closer to being required to either a) register or, b) surrender that firearm or be declared a criminal.
Not for something you did illegally, but for owning something you believe is your inalienable right
The fact you've done nothing wrong does not matter.
Neither do the years of inaccuracies in firearms reporting you've pointed out to your friends and co-workers.
Ultimately, the Sandy Hook shooting won't matter.
It may have been a catalyst, but this fight has always been about power, not people. It's also about payback.
Today, hardcore anti-gunners are taking bold steps because they believe they can win.
They feel they "owe us" for the United States Supreme Court's reversals of gun restrictions in DC and Chicago, and for having made anti-gun legislation a losing proposition over the past few election cycles.
This isn't an election year, so moderates - on both sides of the aisle - are susceptible to political pressure, especially this hot-button topic. It sounds cynical, but they believe voters will forget how they voted and accept any new restrictions before they face the ballot box again.
But they will answer to the mainstream media - the minute their vote goes on the record.
Despite some even-handed reporting, it's no secret where the majority of the media falls on this issue: they believe gun control is the answer.
To them, "assault rifles" not lunatics are why people are gunned down wholesale in "gun free zones".
No, their opinion isn't fact-based. That's a fact we'd better accept, too.
And don't bother pointing out that gun owners haven't gotten a fair shake in the media in a very long time.
We're far beyond that at this point.
Clip or magazine, semi- versus full-automatic; none of that stuff matters anymore.
Anti-gunners are moving - now - because they believe they can win - now.
They have the administration and most mainstream media execs on their side.
They believe that's all it takes.
Barring everyone who believes in the individual right to own a firearm - whether they choose to own one themselves or not - speaking out, they'll be right. And the right of firearms ownership will disappear faster than any of us can imagine.
Our doing business as usual and expecting trade organizations or membership groups to handle the heavy lifting in Washington just will not work this time.
It's going to take regular people speaking out to stop - or at least slowdown- what's coming otherwise.
We have something on the order of 51,000 retail gun stores. More licensed gun dealers than supermarkets, Starbucks or McDonalds.
In December 2012, 2,783,765 NICS checks were made. That's nearly a million more than December 2011. 2011 eclipsed all previous years. Fifty-three percent of American households are thought to own a firearm. There's really no definitive way of knowing the exact number - yet.
And for nearly five years, the firearms industry has been enjoying unprecedented sales. Already- record numbers have been pushed off the charts by the justifiable concerns of gun owners fearing action by the Obama administration.
This sector of the economy is doing quite well, thank you.
But that doesn't mean anything.
The jobs the gun industry provides weren't considered in the proposed legislation. Neither were the voluntary taxes paid by hunters and shooters that support conservation nationwide.
Some in the gun industry have already recognized that. And as they continue to make record numbers, they're quietly discussing acceptable concessions.
Those concessions include a possible national adoption of regulations already in place in some areas (think California's mandated bullet-buttons or 10-round maximum magazine capacities in a variety of states).
Others reportedly on the table for consideration don't outlaw manufacturing or sales of the modern sporting rifle, but severely restrict what's "acceptable" to the government.
It is unrealistic to expect companies to fight this for us. While companies are operated by individuals, a company's ultimate goal never changes: to make money for its owners.
That discourages do-or-die fights with regulators and politicians. Compromise, not confrontation, minimizes the impact of change.
It's equally unreasonable to expect membership groups, lobbyists, political parties or trade organizations to do the heavy-lifting.
They thrive in times of controversy, so they're putting themselves at risk if they go "all-in" against increasingly anti-gun sentiments. It might sound cynical, but neither side of the gun issue has been willing to eliminate the other - until now.
Only regular people speaking out - clearly -has a chance of winning this one. Passing the buck won't cut it.
SHOT - the industry's largest trade show - is less than two weeks away and many companies are all in complete dither over what to do there - or even if they should go.
Some have withdrawn major new product introductions. Others are waiting to print catalogs because they want to be sure "what's legal" before they go to that expense. Others are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
All of them dread the protesters and heavy media scrutiny that will surround a high-profile event like SHOT Show.
Some retailers and distributors have already caved. I'm not going to list them, because it doesn't matter if I do or not. You will decide who sold-out, not me.
They exercised their right to decide what they sell. You will decide where to spend your money. Ultimately, that's the only "voice" they hear. It was a calculated political risk, but if the result has no economic impact, their decision won't matter.
And taking another "unacceptable" gun off the shelves later will be even easier.
Across the country "No Guns" signs are popping up. In states like Oklahoma, Kentucky, Alabama, New Mexico and Montana, not Massachusetts, New York and California.
In states where gun owners were accepted -if not welcomed - until only a few days ago businesses are telling gun owners they're no longer welcome.
It's significant that teachers across the country are signing up for firearms training wherever it's offered. It's important because teachers realize - better than anyone else - that "Gun Free Zones" aren't deterrents to criminals and crazies.
School systems nationwide are beginning to embrace, or at least entertain, the NRA's National School Shield education and training emergency response program. They might not like to admit it, but they know "the best person to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun".
But if we expect the NRA to win this fight for us, we are badly mistaken.
An NRA label on any idea is enough to turn some people off, including many gun owners. And the mainstream media's still steamed over being denied the chance to ask questions at the NRA's announcement of the School Shield program. I was there - I know how angry they were -and still are- at the idea they were used as "props".
Wayne LaPierre's lengthy review of a litany of media faults, omissions and inaccuracies - prior to announcing the program - didn't help, but it certainly didn't warrant the outpouring of nationwide media bile that followed.
The rancor clarified the mainstream media's position when it comes to the NRA in particular, and gun owners in general. To them, we're whack jobs who can't be trusted. And not just some of us - all of us.
That's why I don't believe you can presume everyone else will fight off this attack on gun rights for you.
No pro-gun organization can expect the open-minded consideration of the media, politicians, or even our neighbors who truly believe guns are what's wrong with America.
We've been reduced to a faceless group of crazies, and being marginalized is a step toward being criminalized and eventually exterminated. That's not hysteria, that's history.
There's no organization that can step up and make the case that gun owners aren't all fanatical crazies. Organizations represent nameless, faceless groups, not "real" people.
Only by putting faces people recognize - our faces- on the faceless numbers of gun owners can we hope to reverse the growing acceptance of the "reasonableness" of more gun controls.
We have to make this fight personal - or we're all going to lose.