A blistering war of words has erupted between the heads of gun rights groups in Colorado and Washington, with the first volley fired by the National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), followed by yesterday’s furious return barrage from Alan Gottlieb, head of two Bellevue-based organizations, whom NAGR had accused of “leading the fight for national gun registration” in a fund-raising e-mail.
Gottlieb is chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. In his rebuttal, which appeared this morning on the Facebook pages of both organizations and in the on-line version of the SAF-owned The Gun Mag.com (formerly Gun Week), the NAGR allegation, over the name of its Executive Vice President Dudley Brown, was labeled “a vicious canard.”
Brown’s e-mail fund-raiser asserted, “Just recently, Gottlieb was captured on video once again calling for gun owners to ‘compromise’ and support a new expanded federal gun registration bill.” But that video says nothing about registration, and in a story appearing on Guns.com, Gottlieb is portrayed as an advocate who pressed for legislation last year – the failed Manchin-Toomey amendment – that “contained several pro-gun measures, including an outright ban on a national gun registry and background check exemptions for friends, neighbors, family members.”
“Perhaps ironically,” noted writer S.H. Blannelberry, “the man who wanted to compromise on background checks now finds himself spending hundreds of thousands of donor dollars fighting a background check battle that could have been avoided were Manchin-Toomey to clear the House and Senate.”
Brown’s e-mail, which seeks contributions ranging upwards from $5 to $100 or “other,” alleged further that Gottlieb “is banging the drums for a new expanded federal gun registration bill.” The CCRKBA/SAF response notes, “Alan Gottlieb has never advocated for gun registration in his life. His legislative efforts have been to prevent that, and Dudley knows it.”
Underscoring Gottlieb’s fury, his rebuttal notes, “Alan Gottlieb isn’t asking for a penny from anyone with this e-mail. He’s just setting the record straight.”
Brown, who founded the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), was described in an unflattering Denver Magazine profile last August as “something of a pariah.” The article, headlined “Dudley Brown’s War,” was published during a grassroots campaign to recall two anti-gun Democrat state senators; an effort that Brown initially rebuffed but then joined, according to Denver Post columnist Lynn Bartels.
In a single 214-word paragraph, the third in writer Eli Stokols’ lengthy profile, Brown is rather unkindly described as a man who “savagely and routinely attacks candidates and officeholders unwilling to pledge, in writing, their absolute loyalty to Brown on Second Amendment issues.” Later in the same paragraph, Stokols quotes former Republican State Representative B.J. Nikkel, who said this: “He’s a political terrorist and a modern-day charlatan who operates in the shadows and portrays himself as a supposed ‘Christian,’ but he uses the people naive enough to believe him and financially support him.”
In a political environment where many hardcore gun rights activists consider anything resembling “compromise” as sleeping with the enemy, Brown’s approach garners a fair amount of support. But leveling his guns at Gottlieb may have been an error, because the rebuttal is getting lots of support on the SAF Facebook page, and allies have sent supportive e-mails overnight to Gottlieb, expressing their distaste for Brown’s tactics.
On the other hand, Gottlieb took a lot of heat last year for his self-acknowledged involvement in the Manchin-Toomey amendment. He also was criticized by some Northwest gun rights activists for trying to negotiate a background check measure that must have been good, because it was scuttled by anti-gunners over a key provision: The end of Washington State’s pistol registry, which is months behind in data entry and not entirely accurate because it only contains records of retail transactions.
When that stipulation was pulled, Gottlieb immediately, and publicly, pulled his support and the measure died. What Gottlieb demonstrated in the process – and some believe this may have been part of his strategy all along – was that even when gun rights advocates are willing to negotiate, it is the gun prohibition lobby that shows the inflexible extremism it always complains about from gun rights organizations like CCRKBA and the National Rifle Association.
Many believe anti-gunners didn't want that compromise passed just so they could run an initiative campaign pushing their own extremist agenda. Initiative 594, an 18-page gun control measure, was quickly launched following last year's legislative session by the well-financed Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. Gottlieb is now leading a counter-campaign, for Initiative 591, which requires background checks to comply with a uniform national standard.
There is something else about Gottlieb’s response to the Brown fund-raising e-mail. Several times, the Gottlieb piece discusses unity. It asserts that Brown’s “rhetoric has done more to marginalize Second Amendment activism than all of the slanders from gun prohibition lobbying groups combined.”
“Instead of directing his energies toward fighting the real enemy,” the rebuttal insists, “Dudley Brown has attacked other gun rights organizations in an effort to elevate his own group, but at what cost to gun rights?
“When anti-gunners see people in the gun rights movement attacking one another they cheer,” Gottlieb’s rebuttal cautions. “Such vicious attacks provide aid and comfort to the enemies of the Second Amendment.”
“We have never made it a practice to disparage other gun rights organizations,” the SAF/CCRKBA statement adds. “That’s not constructive, nor does it further the cause of Second Amendment freedom. We are all supposed to be in this fight together.”
At the moment, that might be kind of hard to prove.