Joe: Well, what exactly do you mean by participation? Employment? Have I ran for an office myself?
Me: Well, I mean, any sort of involvement. Do you try to persuade lawmakers to go one way or another? Have you ran? Just any sort of involvement.
Joe: Well, I've worked for both the local and national government (some background: He told me he was in the army and was a member of the Detroit police department). Usually what ends up happening is that I get the information out to the people and vice versa the people call me; I tell the people who the N.R.A. is endorsing. I haven't run for office and I wouldn't think about running for office!
Me: So, you're not so concerned with getting people into office, you just want to get the issues out to the people?
Joe: Well, I'm supposed to help those people that are in office, but sometimes it's not about getting those people in because it seems like those who are really good for us won't play dirty enough for the job.
Me: Well, how did you get involved in the political sphere?
Joe: I was just a regular gun person, and it was pretty much out of frustration seeing our rights dwindle. Just watch, there's restrictions now that weren't there when you young. We're getting so far away from what the founding fathers intended, and they would be disgusted.
Me: Alright, so the reason why you got in is because you felt it was your duty to get in and try to change things in a way that was more akin to what the founding fathers had in mind?
Joe: Exactly. It seems like more people are taking their 2nd amendment for granted, and from what I've read, there isn't a whole lot of gun control legislation until the Kennedy assassination and that's where the N.R.A. started playing a major role in gun rights.
Me: Ok, lets move on to some of these more specific pieces of legislation...
Joe: Would you like me to go right down the short list you've got here?
Me: Yeah, go right for it.
Joe: (reading the question): What are some of your main goals with respect to gun control? Well, I don't have anything that's particularly pressing, but it is still a day to day job; doing the small things goes a long way. Keep fighting to stop laws that hamper law abiding citizens to keep and carry firearms. The constitution meant that people can not only possess, but carry firearms. If you're a peaceful citizen, you have every right to carry a firearm.
Me: So one of your big points with respect to what you're doing is keeping around the right to carry a concealed firearm, then?
Joe: Not just to carry, and whether or not it's concealed or open, it's your right to have one and it's your right to self defense. It's not just about the right to self defense, it's also about keeping the government in line.
Me: Alright, so with respect to some of these bills that are in the state house and senate, what are your opinions on some of these? Bills like house bill 4312 which authorizes stricter penalties to drive by shootings, what's your stance on something like that?
Joe: I'm not representing the N.R.A. with this opinion, but I have no problem with this house bill; however, I don't think gun laws do much to deter criminals unless there are very strict penalties. I've also seen some prosecutors use the law the way it wasn't intended, like prosecuting for shooting a deer from a car. Though, with every piece of legislation, I make sure to inform myself about it. If a bill has 9/10 good things and one bad thing on it that I don't align myself with, I won't stand by it.
Me: So, with house bill 4457 and senate bill 112: 4457 nullifies federal firearms restrictions and 112 authorizes concealed carry in schools; do you stand behind those propositions?
Joe: 4457? From what you've heard, you probably know my stance on that one!
Me: Ha, of course. You seem like the kind of person that would support senate bill 112 as well?
Joe: I believe in small federal government, and the states should make the decisions like our founding fathers intended. Let the states decide! I like how this bill shows the federal government the states can decide for themselves. As for senate bill 112, I say open ‘em (the schools) up. I heard the governor was going to allow concealed carry in pistol-free zones to those with training. It wasn't an issue back in my day, we would take our guns to school. Also, if someone takes a gun to a school with malicious intent and others have guns at school, they're gonna be in a bad way. I don't necessarily agree with additional training required to carry in pistol free zones, but it's the responsible thing to do.
Me: Staying on this legislative track, can you think of a time where there were two bills before congress, where one of the bills was more favorable to you but had less support, and as a result you backed a bill that took a weaker stance but had more support?
Joe: No, not that I could think of.
Me: How about a hypothetical situation then? Would you support the stronger of weaker bill?
Joe: It all comes down to what the bills say; if they have anti-gun measures then either make them pro-gun or I won't support it.
Me: So what it comes down to is you'll support whatever bill supports your beliefs the most?
Joe: It's going to come down to whether or not it slows down or hampers the ability for an average citizen to get a gun.
Me: So, moving forward, let's shift away from what's currently happening in the state congress. What kind of challenges do you face when trying to influence public policy?
Joe: People who have been misinformed usually by the media on firearm facts and on the NRA. Anybody who has had a complaint about the NRA said the NRA did something, said something or has taken a position that is not correct.
Me: What's an instance of misinformation?
Joe: For example, when people call semiautomatic guns "assault weapons" and think that semiautomatics are fully automatic machine guns; also when people call magazines "clips."
Me: Who are some of your typical opponents when trying to get the word out?
Joe: Just misinformed, anti gun people. Ha, even around here (around here is Houghton Lake, MI) we've got some drunks that are misinformed!
Me: Was there ever a time when you took a stand against what the NRA or other pro gun organizations were saying?
Joe: There was an organization that had claimed they had done more on a bill than the NRA. That may or may not have been true, but it didn't make any sense to attack someone who's on your side; the people that are against gun control need to stick together.
Me: Ok, moving on: Now that you've been involved in state government, do you have a different opinion of it?
Joe: Definitely disappointed. I'm disappointed in how the people in power conduct themselves, and I'm disappointed that those who have a genuine want to help the people, they won't get the job because they won't play dirty. There's also too much frustration trying to please everybody, and you're always going to piss some people off.
Me: Ok, going forward: Do you think your line of work is made easier by living in Michigan?
Joe: Definitely! The more north you go, the more pro-gun you get. The people know each other, and they know how to act in a situation that might require the use of a firearm. If we were in New York, I'd be out of my mind!
Me: Ok, so what are you doing outside of trying to influence government? Is it just a matter of giving out information?
Joe: Exactly, just little things! Going to gun shows, and whenever I get the chance to inform people, I give them the information they want. If they do get informed and they like what I hear, I let them know they need to call their politician and let them know what you think about current laws and new bills.
Me: Ok, so now that we've got that covered, do you affiliate yourself or do any work on the behalf of any other interest groups?
Joe: Yes, the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners. I need to help them out to keep our rights on a state level; the N.R.A. can't focus on all the states all the time, so I help them out. Sadly though, MCRGO is dwindling.
Me: So then, fighting on the behalf of the NRA is to get a broader influence, while MCGRO is on the state level?
Joe: It's all the same fight, but it's just a matter of being on a national or state level; the local level is also important too.
Me: One last question: What incentives to legislators have to meet with you? You responded "none really, but they think so." So you think that THEY think that there's a reason they should get a hold of you?
Joe: They know that I'm talking to people. They must think that I have some influence on who the NRA is going to endorse; that's all decided by attorneys but I just get the word out. Though, they do sometimes ask me for some factual information on certain issues.