“The reality, I believe, is that all change starts small. The big picture is just too unwieldy, too incomprehensible and seemingly immovable. But give us something individual, quantifiable and personalize-able and, suddenly, our perspective shifts to the one.” — Mick Ebeling
As someone who is fortunate enough to have the honor of defending and promoting the 2nd Amendment in one of the most anti-gun states in the Union, I have often examined the tattered state of our basic, fundamental, and enumerated civil right to self-defense with a sense of rueful disgust. As Californians who believe in the one liberty that most meaningfully guarantees the others listed in our hallowed Bill of Rights, the question with the difficult answer becomes, what can the individual do to meaningfully stop the onslaught against 2A by the rabid, gun-control-promoting State Legislature?
Does a meaningful answer even exist? One would be forgiven to feel a sense of powerlessness and frustration inspired by political results that even the most prominent gun rights groups in the entire state and national community cannot seem to overcome…and that’s precisely where our opponents want us.
So, where do we go from here?
Like many concerned activists, I have spent years carefully examining this question. Ultimately, taking an objective look at how we arrived at this point is going to provide the most illuminating path forward. Political history from our opposition teaches us how we got here and, after a significant amount of rumination, I realized that this lesson learned is a knife that can cut both ways.
Let’s be honest. The reason that California, and, indeed, so much of the country has grown to support issues like gun control is because, generations ago, the political left despised traditional values such as gun ownership and decided that the most meaningful way that they could subvert such critical foundations of American culture was to do so through the avenue of public education.
While the left might be loath to admit every aspect of their takeover in America’s public education system, it would be difficult to refute that liberal indoctrination directly contributed to the elimination of gun safety and marksmanship programs that were regularly taught in American classrooms in the 1950s and before.
This slow creep of anti-gun indoctrination has never been about education. If it were, then executives within the U.S. Department of Education would look at the fact that there is at least one firearm in existence within our nation’s borders for every man, woman, and child and arrive at the logical and rational conclusion that the sheer number or firearms in private hands should inspire our teachers to instruct every student on basic firearms safety and offer elective courses on marksmanship.
So, given the generations-long creep of the gun control agenda into California’s public education system, where do we go from here?
The answer lies in the long game. By looking at the big picture, this question affords each of us a clear answer as to the impact that an individual action, multiplied by tens, if not hundreds of thousands of times across the entire state and country, can make to not only preserve the hallowed tradition of the Second Amendment, but also to grow it in a meaningful and effective way, even in California.
And for this great endeavor, there really could not be a more opportune time. The political winds have suddenly shifted in our direction. As a result of Trump’s election, not only is the potential to make incredible strides forward for the 2nd Amendment imminent, but large and growing swaths of our former political opponents, fearful of the current Administration, have now actively sought out lawful firearms ownership and training for themselves, even in California. Speaking as a minority, I can tell you that it is long past time to leverage this opportunity to invite all Americans into the fold with open arms.
Despite this new reality, many across the rest of the country still look at the tattered state of the 2nd Amendment in California and tell themselves that they are glad that this problem isn’t happening in their backyard. The problem with this type of short-sighted thinking is that all law-abiding gun owners across the nation essentially float in the same boat and that leak that has aggressively sprung on the other end of the vessel can very rapidly become everyone’s problem.
Bad laws stemming from bad bills can lead to legal challenges that inspire terrible court decisions, especially in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which can then become a downward spiral of paralyzing legal precedent that has a reach far beyond the borders of the Golden State. Even with Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to fill Antonin’s Scalia’s vacant seat on the US Supreme Court, it may take years, if not decades, for many of these critical 2nd Amendment cases to reach our nation’s highest court, where they may or may not actually be overturned.
If we are going to secure the Second Amendment for posterity, then we are going to have to work together to stamp out the gun control agenda no matter what part of the country it flares up in and regardless of where each of us lives.
So what can law-abiding gun owners in other states realistically do to assist their struggling brethren in California? Here are four steps that can provide a meaningful, long-term impact:
- Help by identifying your 2nd-Amendment-supporting friends and family who live in the Golden State.
- Offer to host them for trips where they can come to visit a “free state” where gun rights are honored and respected.
- When they arrive, schedule a range day where your friends and family from California can enjoy the experience of shooting firearms in a safe, healthy, and fun learning environment. Show them the guns that you can legally own and shoot in your state and explain to them why they can’t own those same firearms in California.
- Show them and shoot with your standard and high-capacity magazines and emphasize the fact that they cannot go out and legally buy those in the Golden State. Then load those same magazines with only ten rounds and let them know that this artificially reduced round count is what their government has relegated them to when facing multiple violent criminals in a self-defense emergency.
This is an effective model for action that mirrored a recent experience that I had the honor and privilege of being invited to by world-renowned firearms photographer, Oleg Volk. For those who need an introduction, Volk’s work is prominently featured in firearms magazines, at SHOT Show, in 2nd Amendment memes all over the internet, in brochures for virtually every small arms manufacturer the world over, and countless other outlets that highlight and promote lawful gun ownership.
Having been privileged to work on a multitude of modeling projects with Oleg Volk for years, I have had the opportunity to discuss the dire and dramatically declining state of gun rights in California with him on multiple occasions. This year, we were finally able to flesh out a plan and execute our latest project together by focusing on this critical issue.
Knowing that the problem with firearms acceptance in California was due, in large part, to a willful, intentional, and effectively engineered campaign by the gun control lobby to decrease exposure to guns among the general population, Volk and I decided to invite an accomplished member of the Golden State’s future generation to sample the basic, fundamental, and enumerated civil right to self defense the way the Founding Fathers originally intended on this experience.
This individual is an athletically-inclined, socially-adept, mixed-race, fourteen-year-old cheerleader who earns straight As, practices mixed martial arts, is an avid writer, has ambitions to have a successful career in drama and art, and lives deep in the heart of gun control territory—Silicon Valley.
In the interests of full disclosure, this writer is her uncle, and in the spirit of protecting both her identity and privacy, I will refer to her as Dora, as she explores the world of firearms and modeling for her first time in Tennessee.
When I invited Dora on this trip, she expressed excitement at the prospect of learning something new and, indeed, it is truly her ability and desire to pay close attention to any subject matter at hand, apply her razor-sharp intellect, and truly learn the lessons being taught that places her accomplishments head and shoulders above her peers.
In preparation for this trip, I took her to Tracy Rifle and Pistol, where owner, Mike Baryla, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Calguns Foundation, and Cal-FFL actively work together to defend the 2nd Amendment in California by utilizing the 1st Amendment in their legal fight against the Golden State’s unconstitutional ban against gun stores installing signs in their windows that advertise the sale of handguns. If you find this law to be patently ridiculous, then you now have an idea regarding just how utterly and rabidly hostile gun control laws are in the Golden State as well as the gargantuan and immeasurably expensive effort required to overturn each one of them.
At Tracy Rifle and Pistol, I taught Dora the four gun safety rules, and introduced her to the world of firearms with a Sig Sauer P226 in .40 S&W. I was impressed by her attention to detail in learning the basics and, as a result, she demonstrated very impressive marksmanship for a first-time shooter.
With this first shooting experience under her belt, I felt that she had a point of reference that she could fall back on when she arrived in Tennessee. True to form, Oleg Volk didn’t disappoint. Volk had a week meticulously planned for shooting both firearms and photos.
Kicking off the weeklong photo shoot with a sense of excitement and inspiration, Oleg Volk leveraged his international renown to pull out all the stops and organize some of the biggest names in gun rights with many of the industry’s most popular and powerful select-fire, full-auto rifles as well as an incredible selection of American and Russian belt-fed machine guns.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that wonderful welcome that Dora and I received from everyone we had the honor and privilege of meeting in Tennessee. Southern hospitality is legendary in its reputation and Oleg Volk has always exemplified this hallowed tradition in spades. His friends and associates in the Second Amendment community at large are no different.
This is a critical point as many of those who would represent our political opposition in speaking ill of gun rights also throw around accusations of racism in the same breath. This writer being of Chinese descent and Dora being half Mexican and half Chinese, neither one of us witnessed anything even faintly resembling racism during our entire time in Tennessee and felt nothing less than entirely at home and comfortable during our stay in the South. We were even invited to stay in the home of John Bibby, one of Volk’s close friends, and he was nothing but entirely gracious. He offered us food, shelter, and every amenity in his home as well as the use of his personal vehicles.
This kind of hospitality would be nearly impossible to find between strangers who had just been introduced to each other in California. Reassuringly, it is common practice in the South.
Furthermore, Volk had organized a smorgasbord of talent, guns, and ammunition to maximize the opportunity two enthusiasts from California had to shoot weapons that would otherwise be illegal in the Golden State. The full-auto hardware came from Kris Paulson of DTV Tactical Innovations. He very generously donated his time and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of heavily-regulated, Class III firearms as an assembled group of a dozen shooters of various skill levels tried them out and took pictures with them. Too many to list them all here, the highlights that Dora and I got to sample and enjoy included an M60, an M249, an HK 416, an MP5, and an XM8. True to form, Oleg Volk very selflessly and generously donated the overwhelming majority of the ammunition used during the machine gun shoot.
On top of very generously donating the use of his valuable firearms, Kris Paulson took Dora under his wing and spent hours showing her how to shoot virtually every one of his belt-fed machine guns as well as a few of his select-fire, full-auto long guns. It looked like he was as entertained as I was as we watched a five-foot-tall, 100 lbs., fourteen-year-old girl load and shoot some of the most fearsome and devastating firearms known to man. The real bonus was watching her face break into the biggest smile I had ever seen every time she pulled the trigger. This machine gun shoot was, undoubtedly, one of the most incredible and fun experiences of her life.
As a new shooter with a small frame, not only was Dora completely at ease shooting these high-caliber, full-auto firearms, but she also enjoyed them all immensely as well. Hers is an example to keep in mind when introducing the next generation of firearms owners to the sport.
In the area of firearms expertise, Oleg Volk also made sure that Dora had access to some of the highest quality firearms training in the country. For instance, Army veteran and Rudy Project competition shooter, John Vlieger, re-introduced Dora to the basic gun safety rules and patiently gave her tips on proper stance, sight picture, and marksmanship. After generously providing hours of sage advice, he even gave her an opportunity to shoot his $5,000 race gun. This is the kind of training that few new shooters get to experience.
In order to help Dora feel more comfortable, Oleg Volk also recruited Army veteran and NRA firearms instructor, Tiffany Reynolds, for the event. Having an experienced woman available on the range always helps to set new female shooters at ease and Ms. Reynolds was very generous with her time as well as her HK P30 when training Dora on proper handgun handling while also explaining the differences between the many firearms featured on the range that day.
Oleg Volk’s meticulous planning for this event even included celebrities within the 2nd Amendment community. We actually used 22plinkster’s front yard as the range for this machine gun shoot. Dave Nash, 22plinkster’s alter ego, was extraordinarily gracious, warm, and welcoming. Despite hobbling about on a leg that was recovering post-surgery, he very generously donated his time, property, and home to help this machine gun shoot go off without a hitch. With a leg that still needed some time to heal, it also couldn’t have been easy to honor all of the requests to take photos with him from the members of his dedicated fan base who were present for the event.
A couple of hours into the shoot, who was to make a surprise appearance but Hickok45 himself, a.k.a Greg Kinman? Hickok45 is a class act and he very patiently and happily took pictures with those of us who have been longtime fans of his firearms videos on Youtube. Not knowing who he was until I told her afterwards, Dora even took a few goofy pictures with him to contrast his incredible height against her small frame. It was a good time had by all.
While the machine gun shoot was the highlight of the weeklong photo shoot, the warmth, grace, and hospitality that Dora and I received from everyone we met in Tennessee during the rest of the week were consistent, humbling, and inspiring. As many within the 2nd Amendment community know, this type of friendly welcome is the rule and not the exception. As Black Man With A Gun, Kenn Blanchard, has pointed out, those of us who represent lawful gun ownership in the US share an inherent bond that those who do not find hard to understand and difficult to believe.
With this experience under Dora’s belt and the extended explanations about how virtually every firearm she handled, along with the magazines and sound suppressors inserted into them were illegal in California, Dora has come to understand how good people are relegated to complying with laws that do nothing to stop the violent criminals but do everything to place common, law-abiding citizens at a distinct and growing disadvantage when facing them.
Although Dora has come to this realize the truth behind this principle as well as its profound implications only recently, her new friend, and one of Oleg Volk’s top models, Grace Tweet, has known them for years. Not trusting the public education system with teaching the curriculum that emphasizes their family values, Tiffany Tweet and her husband, Greg, home school their children so that liberal indoctrination simply cannot occur.
Sharing this line of reasoning, the popularity of home schooling one’s children in the US has dramatically risen 61.8% over the past ten years. It’s a sorry state of affairs when liberal indoctrination has become so brazen and so prevalent that parents can no longer trust the government to simply teach the facts and, instead, choose to educate their children in rapidly growing numbers themselves.
Since Dora will be voting in elections starting in four years, understanding the difference between what is being taught at her public high school in California and the truth about firearms is a critical, real-life lesson that will have an impact on how she votes for her state and local government officials in the future. The same thought-provoking impact can be expected for anyone who has had the benefit of an experience similar to Dora’s during her week-long trip to Tennessee.
While it may not be possible for everyone in California to take advantage of an opportunity where 2nd Amendment stalwarts gather for a weeklong shoot to be trained in firearms safety, handling, and marksmanship, the experience this writer shared here can be modeled and repeated on a meaningful scale with the resources that most law-abiding gun owners readily have on hand. Even an individual with a budget AR-15 and a twenty-round magazine can help to emphasize the differences in the gun control laws between the Golden State and their own.
The point is, even after almost two decades of being indoctrinated to have an anti-gun mindset in California’s public school system, all that is required to turn that negative messaging around are a few days, or even hours, at a shooting range where good people can enjoy the experience of shooting various firearms in a fun, exciting, and safe environment.
Furthermore, enjoying this experience outside of the Golden State will open eyes to this hallowed American tradition even wider and a significant number of those who become enamored with this newfound hobby will actively seek to make these types of firearms available and legal for everyone to experience, even in California. We could always use a few more allies, activists, and gun-rights-supporting voters out here and it really is up to every law-abiding gun owner across the country to help make the vision of a nation where all 50 states honor and respect the 2nd Amendment a reality.
Yih-Chau Chang has published articles as the Oakland Gun Rights Examiner, as a Civil Rights Columnist for the Calguns Foundation, and has worked as a professional firearms industry model for world-renowned 2nd Amendment photographer, Oleg Volk, as well as served as the Press Secretary for the non-profit, Right-to-Carry advocacy organization, Responsible Citizens of California. He has been featured in all local mainstream media in the San Francisco Bay Area and also in Southern California (KTVU 2, KPIX 5, ABC 7, NBC 3, The Contra Costa Times, The San Jose Mercury News, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Oakland Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Fred Roggin Show, etc.) as an expert in the area of 2nd Amendment Rights in California. He has also established a national presence with Fox News, NPR, PJ Media, Independent Journal Review, Biz Pac Review, The Daily Caller, Business Insider, Opposing Views, Breitbart, Gawker, The Washington Times, UPI, Yahoo News, and internationally with various news agencies in Europe. In addition, this civil rights activist has found himself on the forefront of hot-button political discussion in the Golden State as a guest panelist for the Commonwealth Club of California. Mr. Chang graduated in 1998 with a B. A. in American Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.
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This post first appeared on blackmanwithagun.com