It’s Time To Stop Talking To Ourselves.

              Here’s the takeaway from last week.  The NRA dumped Ollie North, who turned out to be a very good fundraiser for himself, and replaced him with a woman best known for her involvement with a group which preserves a Confederate memorial that graces the side of a mountain considered sacred ground by the Ku Klux Klan. On the other side of the ledger, the House Appropriations Committee put $50 million for gun research into the  budget of the CDC. 

              In the greater scheme of things, neither of these two events will make a big difference in how we try to deal with the 300 intentional gun injuries that we suffer from each day. But they do symbolize, to quote a Nobel-prize winner, as something ‘blowing in the wind,’ and the wind seems to be getting a lot stronger every day. Maggie Astor got it right yesterday in the ‘failing’ (ha-ha) New York Times, when she said that the national gun-control movement has now built “an infrastructure that had previously existed only on the conservative side of gun policy.”

              I see evidence of this infrastructure in terms of the number of fundraising emails I receive (and I get them from both sides), in terms of media coverage where outlets like The New York Times now seem to carry a feature about guns and gun violence seemingly every other day, and most of all, I see it in the pronouncements by the 20-odd candidates who have announced their intention to chase schmuck-o Don out of Washington, D.C. Just four years ago, conventional wisdom still considered it to be a big risk if you ran for public office and were anti-gun. That bit of received sagacity has disappeared. Fartig (read: finished.)

              Before you read further, let me make one point. My perspective on gun control and gun violence doesn’t date back to Sandy Hook and 2012. It doesn’t date back to 1999 and Columbine or 1994 and the Assault Weapons Ban. It dates back to 1966 when Chuckie Whitman climbed to the top of the Texas Tower and began blasting away. That’s when I first started paying attention to gun violence, okay? So when I say that we are in a very new and different state of affairs as regarding what to do about America’s love of guns (including my love of them) I’m taking the long view, probably longer than any of you. And my long view tells me this.

              Sooner or later, if you want to make a real dent in gun violence, the gun-control community is going to have to start talking to gun owners not as enemies but as friends. And this doesn’t mean just coming up with some ‘reasonable’ gun laws which allegedly garner support from both sides in the debate. What it really mean is talking to gun owners about why the ‘good guy with the gun’ narrative is a myth.

             So here’s my challenge to my friends in Gun-control Nation. There are somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 gun shows held in the United States every year. This means that on any given weekend, there are probably 100 locations where 5,000 to 10,000 bone-fide gun nuts get together to play around with guns. I’m going to a nearby show next weekend, in fact. Here’s a calendar of upcoming shows.

              I am willing to pay the costs of renting a table at one gun show a month for the next 12 months. I’ll send a check to the show’s sponsor which will be in the name of the gun shop that I own. And then you come to the show, sit behind the table, maybe give out some literature or whatever, and engage the gun owners who attend the show in a discussion about their guns.

              I don’t care what you say. I don’t care which organization you represent. Or maybe you’ll just represent yourself. Fine with me. But let’s stop talking just to ourselves, okay? Let’s see what happens when we talk to the other side. And by the way, I have been to hundreds of gun shows and the food is always great.

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North Vs. LaPierre.

              Now that the NRA has decamped from Indianapolis with LaPierre still standing and Oliver North down for the ten-count, let’s try and figure out what really took place. Because I’m sorry to say., but most of the reportage about the big battle at the annual meeting didn’t get it all wrong, but did miss some of the most important points.

              On the second day of the confab, a letter from North was read to the membership in which the NRA President informed the faithful that he was going to resign. Later at that same meeting, Wayne-o delivered his standard ‘us’ versus ‘them’ speech (patriots versus gun-grabbers) and didn’t even bother to thank the newly-retired President for his service or time. Because the Democrats haven’t yet decided who is going to run against sleazy Don in the 2020 electoral campaign, he rambled on about Andy Cuomo’s hatred of the NRA.

              The big deal got started when The New Yorker magazine published a detailed article by our friend Mike Spies, which went into details about how the organization’s finances were in tatters because of some sweetheart contracts between the boys in Fairfax and their long-time PR agency, Ackerman-McQueen.  The title of the piece, ‘Secrecy, Self-Dealing and Greed at the NRA’ set off a media wave which then set off a nasty exchange between Ollie and LaPierre, which ultimately resulted in North announcing that the NRA Board would not sanction another Presidential term, so goodbye.

              Two days before the Spies article appeared, The New York Times published what I thought was a much more significant article describing  a just-filed lawsuit against Ackerman-McQueen by none other than the NRA! This suit, which you can download here, claimed that the two parties had been negotiating for almost a year, discussions which centered around the behavior and compensation of Oliver North, who has evidently been double-dipping salaries from both the NRA and the PR agency, a clear violation of not-for-profit regulations in New York State (which is where the NRA has been registered since 1871.)

              North was hired by the NRA precisely to help the organization recover from the deficit it ran by giving sleazy Don $30 million or more for his 2016 campaign. In fact, the 2016 operating deficit of $45 million was cut to $17 million in 2017, despite the fact that revenues also declined by some $25 mil. You may recall that North ran for Senate against Chuck Robb in 1994.  He lost the race but set a single-year record for direct-mail donations of $16 million bucks. He has remained a prodigious fundraiser for various right-wing causes ever since, and no doubt his efforts in this respect are what pushed him into the President’s position of the NRA.

              If you read the lawsuit between NRA and Ackerman-McQueen, particularly Section D, you’ll discover that North has, indeed, made good use of his fundraising abilities, largely for himself.  It appears that as an Ackerman-McQueen employee, North may have not only oversold the value of his name, but didn’t even deliver the content to NRA-TV that was going to generate more cash both from sponsors and fans. 

              The boys from Fairfax have made some dumb business decisions over the last several years, chief among them moving from face-to-face to digital training with the accompanying Carry Guard insurance scam. Both of these programs have weakened the organization’s membership base, but anyone who thinks that or hopes that the NRA is now facing Armageddon doesn’t know how to read the tea leaves.

              I’ve said it in previous columns but I’ll say it again. The NRA‘s existence reflects the fact that a clear majority of Americans, including non-gun owning Americans, believe that owning a gun for self-defense is more of a benefit than a risk. And it really doesn’t matter that the evidence proves exactly the reverse. Until and unless my friends in Gun-control Nation figure out a convincing argument in response to this remarkable case of cognitive dissonance, we will remain enamored of those little pieces of polymer which fit neatly in the pocket and hold 16 rounds,

Daily Comment – April 26, 2019.

Today I start a new feature – a daily comment on whatever happens to hit me about guns and the gun world. Short and to the point. Feedback always appreciated.

Today our friends at The Trace have sent out a link to a website called WalletHub, which claims to publish serious stuff that can help you figure out how to keep your finances under control, or something like that.

Today they have a report, so called, on the gun industry, specifically, the dependency of each state on the gun industry. They claim that gun sales have declined by 6% under Trump (the real number is somewhere around 10%) which might be a good thing for people who don’t like guns, but may be a bad thing for ” state economies relying heavily on the firearms industry.”

Which state is most reliant on the gun industry? New Hampshire. Which state is least reliant? New Jersey. How do they figure this all out? The look at the number of jobs and the amount of revenue generated by the industry on a per-capita basis, add it up and away we go.

There’s only one little problem. This report is junk. And what isn’t junk is crap. Why do I say that? Because it is overwhelmingly based on the annual report about the gun industry’s contribution to the economy issued by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a.k.a, the NSSF, which happens to be the folks who bring us the annual gun trade show, a.k.a., the SHOT show, and has a vested interest in promoting the gun industry every chance it can get.

The WalletHub story cites ‘fact’ after ‘fact’ after ‘fact’ from this industry promotional hype without doing the slightest due diligence at all. Every year they come up with an overall industry ‘contribution’ to the national economy of somewhere around $50 billion, a little more, a little less.

This year together, Smith & Wesson and Glock will probably have net sales of about $1.2 billion. These companies account for roughly 40% of all new handgun sales and handguns account for roughly 60% of all new gun sales. Which means that the entire annual revenue from gun sales is somewhere around $5 billion. And the rest of the industry creates $45 billion in revenue? Is that some kind of joke?

To put these numbers into perspective, I just bought a 1 1/2 oz. bag of potato chips for a buck. Which means that if I bought a pound of potato chips the tab would be around 10 bucks. It is estimated that every, single American consumes 6.5 pounds of potato chips in a year. Which means we each spend $65 on potato chips, which means the total revenue for the potato chip industry is $20 billion bucks. I guarantee you that potato chips contribute more to the economy than we get from all the gun companies.

The point is that what the NSSF is trying to do is respond to our concerns about gun violence by saying look at the positive side of things – the value of the gun industry to the pocketbooks of people who might be your neighbors or your friends.

Let me put it a different and more honest way: we suffer from an extraordinary level of gun violence from an industry whose total financial contribution to the national economy doesn’t count for squat.

It’s Time To Stop Worrying About The NRA.

Now that the NRA is about to celebrate the importance of gun ‘rights,’ in Indianapolis, it’s not by accident that an energized Gun-control Nation has started throwing as much dirt as possible at America’s ‘defender of freedom,’ or ‘America’s first civil rights organization,’ or whatever the boys from Fairfax are calling themselves these days.

It wasn’t that long ago that the annual NRA meeting attracted almost no attention at all. However, if you’re a gun-control advocacy group, it’s become almost de rigueur to jump on the bandwagon and energize your membership by revealing yet another scandal that can be laid at the feet of the NRA.

The piece written by Mike Spies concerning various financial flimflamming by Wayne-0 and his friends has been ballyhooed all over the place, but in terms of serious financial violations, it doesn’t really amount to a row of beans. The fact that Everytown has sent a letter to the IRS claiming that the tax-exempt status of the organization needs to be reviewed is also, to quote my beloved grandmother, hai cock and a bubba, which means it doesn’t mean anything at all.

In that regard, my friends at the Center for American Progress (CAP) have joined the parade by issuing a report, “Guns, Lies and Fear, Exposing the NRA’s Messaging Playbook,” which claims that the way the NRA promotes gun ‘rights’ is no different from the “authoritarian and undemocratic political regimes around the world that deploy disinformation campaigns to secure control over public discourse,” strategies employed by, among others, Erdogan in Turkey, Orban in Hungary and Putin in what we used to call the U.S.S.R.

The demagogue communication playbook now being used by the NRA consists, among other things, of constructing an ‘us versus them’ political identity, creating an atmosphere of crisis, controlling media and vilifying the opposition. So by dint of gun owners versus gun grabbers, the ‘slippery slope,’ the NRA-TV videos and the demonization of every office-holder who doesn’t parrot the NRA line, Wayne-o now takes his place alongside some of the worst, most anti-democratic political drek-meisters floating around these days.

Let me make one thing very, very clear. Despite the fact that I have been an NRA member since 1955 and currently hold the membership status of Life Patriot Benefactor which means I get multiple fund-raising emails from Fairfax every day, if I were to receive a letter from Wayne-o tomorrow telling me the NRA is kaput, I couldn’t care less. I’ll always be a gun nut, I’ll always enjoy going to a gun show or wandering into a gun shop, and if I could drive to the NRA show in less than 10 hours, I’d be there this coming weekend because the show’s a lot of fun. But I have made it clear again and again and again and again that the NRA‘s promotion of armed, self-defense is simply wrong and has no basis either in logic, safety or effective self-defense. For that matter, this whole notion that our Constitutional freedoms rest on the 2nd Amendment has about as much basis in reality as my decision this morning to go back on my diet.

That being said, I also have to say that the CAP report comparing Wayne-o to some tin-horn politicians in various banana, goulash or halvah republics is simply nothing but crap. The only reason the NRA is considered such a formidable political lobby is because until Sandy Hook, when it came to lobbying for or against guns, they were the only game in town. The so-called demagogue playbook which CAP believes has been used so effectively by the NRA, actually reads exactly like the messaging strategy of a certain New York landlord who, if we are lucky and work hard, can drag his fat ass back to New York City in 2021.

In the meantime, let’s stop pretending that the NRA is the enemy when, in fact, one-third of American adults are legal gun owners but two-thirds believe that a gun keeps you safe. Are my friends at the CAP and other advocacy organizations ever going to explain that one to me?

Is The NRA In Trouble? I Don’t Think So.

              Far be it from me to question the motives or behavior of advocacy groups trying to reduce gun violence, because I happen to agree with the idea that there is simply no rational reason to justify or even attempt to explain 125,000 deaths and injuries from guns every year. I also know that if you want to have any voice in any public discourse at all, it doesn’t come cheap. So I’m not overly concerned when I get the multiple, daily emails from Everytown, Brady, et. al., asking me for dough. I receive just as many, if not more requests from the other side. 

              In the midst of all the sturm und drang over the recent so-called ‘revelations’ about financial mismanagement at Fairfax, however, I think something needs to be kept in mind. For all the talk about how Wayne-o has been given a golden parachute, how money and wine flow freely at certain NRA executive events, how cash is borrowed from outside sources to keep the organization afloat, blah, blah, blah and blah, what seems to be missing from the outrage and umbrage of Gun-control Nation is an acknowledgement that the way in which the NRA maintains its basic premise – representing the interests of gun-owners – hasn’t changed at all.

              NRA is and has always been a charitable organization registered in New York State. I happen to have managed a not-for-profit organization that was also registered in New York State, so I have a pretty good idea about how New York regulates charities and what this regulation means and doesn’t mean for the NRA. And what it basically means, because New York happens to be a state which does a greater degree of non-profit regulating than most states, is that the tax-exempt donations you receive have to be spent on the charitable purposes for which the organization is chartered to provide. And I don’t see one single activity that the NRA is currently providing that doesn’t fall within the definition of what it is supposed to do, namely, promote gun safety and gun training, and protect gun-owning rights.

              Now the fact that these activities often result in messaging that is offensive and misleading to some of us, doesn’t mean anything at all. And the fact that the defense of gun ‘rights’ puts the NRA in opposition to even the flimsiest, most benign gun regulations, is also in no way against non-profit law. And even the fact that management is pissing away money by giving some vendors all kinds of sweetheart deals is also not outside of the relevant regulations, as long as those vendors are providing services that further the organization’s goals.

              Let’s be honest here for a minute folks, okay? When phony videos purporting that Planned Parenthood was selling aborted fetal tissue began circulating in 2015, the pro-choice movement got up in arms and rightfully so. I’m not saying that any of the current criticisms of the NRA are inventions or aren’t based on certain facts. What I am saying is that, taken together, none of the financial flimflamming that has been detailed by Mike Spies to date necessarily constitutes anything more than a combination of sloppy financial management and reading the tea-leaves of current public opinion in the wrong way.

              I don’t think the NRA ever imagined that their support of Sleazy Don would generate the headwinds that have been blowing ever more fiercely from the #Resist network which, at this point, appear to have Schmuck-o going back to being a New York landlord in 2021. I also don’t think the boys in Fairfax understand the degree to which Gun-control Nation has both expanded and solidified its activist base. Frankly, some of the political diatribes wafting out from NRA-TV are stupid beyond belief.

              None of which, however, comes even remotely close to helping consign America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ to the ash-heap of history or running Wayne-o into jail. My friends in Gun-control Nation shouldn’t need to sensationalize something out of nothing in order to justify their existence or raise funds.     

Want To End Gun Violence? Here’s A City That Did.

              The city of Worcester, MA contains all the ingredients which usually create the environment in which gun violence flourishes.  The city’s population is 180,000, of which roughly 30% are Black and Hispanic minorities living in cramped, inner-city neighborhoods. It was a red-brick factory manufacturing center until World War II and then collapsed. It has lately experienced the beginning of a downtown renewal with medical and hi-tech sectors coming on board, it also happens to be one of America’s twenty cities experiencing the highest rate of increase in poverty over the last five years.

              Here are the gun-violence numbers for the last five years: 2014 – 47; 2015 – 40; 2016 – 30; 2017 – 25; 2018 – 20. Of the five homicides committed in 2018, how many happened with the use of a gun? None. Not one.

              How did this happen?  How does this city now experience a gun-violence (homicide and aggravated assault) of 11 per 100,000, when the national rate is 28.5?  And by the way, it was accomplished without a single dime being spent on any kind of street-corner, ‘cure violence’ type of program, without first conducting any kind of public health gun-violence research, without locking them all up and throwing away the key. Arrests in 2017 were 6,084, in 2018 arrests were 5,358.

              It happened for one, simple reason, which is often forgotten or ignored in the endless discussions and debates about gun violence, namely, a coming-together of all the city’s community safety stakeholders and a decision to address the problem in multiple and coordinated ways.

              What does this involve? First and foremost, this means the cops. And what the Worcester PD has done is to treat every shooting event as a homicide; in other words, maximum resources are deployed even if the victim is barely hurt. Incidentally, a shooting ‘incident’ even includes events where nobody gets hurt due to the use of ‘shot spotter’ technology in specific neighborhoods and an immediate police response when any gun goes off. The PD also carries out a major program in community policing, with continuous meetings in every neighborhood which gives everyone the opportunity to develop positive relationships with the police.

              For those dopes who are arrested for carrying a gun, sentences handed down by the court are as stiff in instances where the gun is brandished even if it doesn’t go off. In other words, when guns are involved, no distinction is made between an actual and a possible assault. The police also have discretion as to who gets a gun license and they exercise this discretion with care. Finally, 2019 will mark the 18th consecutive year for the city’s gun buyback program, which notwithstanding the bad press that buybacks have received from certain gun-violence experts, is an event which helps generate community concern about the risk of guns.

              The University of Massachusetts medical school is also located in Worcester and medical residents and students are afforded exposure to the gun violence issue in multiple ways. They can learn about gun violence in the community-health module which they all must take, a learning experience which includes seminars with cops and gun owners (that’s me,) as well as being encouraged to develop techniques to counsel patients about the risks of guns.

              Worcester’s extraordinary achievement in dealing with gun violence isn’t rocket science. Pardon me for sounding a bit like Sarah Palin (who?) but it seems to come down to a combination of hard work, commitment by multiple stakeholding agencies and common sense. One of my good friends in Worcester, Michael Hirsh, is the pediatric surgeon at the medical center/medical school who runs the gun buyback program each year. He describes the reduction in gun violence as a white uniform, blue uniform collaboration can focus resources both in a proactive manner before the violence occurs, as well as a quick reactive response to both shooters and victims every time a gun goes off.

              For all of us who lament the unending cycle of gun violence in the United States, here’s an instance of where the reverse is true.

The New Yorker Magazine Talks About Guns.

On July 1, 1972 The New Yorker Magazine published a book-length article, ‘Fire in the Lake,’ by a 32-year old journalist, Frances Fitzgerald, which set a standard for contemporary reportage, in this case, reportage on Viet Nam. Not only did this work achieve a degree of importance and influence in the annals of non-fiction writing, it also solidified The New Yorker as the prime media venue for content that could define the narrative on any subject for years to come.

I was reminded of Fitzgerald’s work when  I read The New Yorker piece about the NRA written by  Mike Spies, staff writer for The Trace (where you can also read this piece.) Because it occurs to me that in certain respects, the debate about gun violence bears some resemblance to the disagreements about Viet Nam; i.e., neither side in either argument was able to produce a narrative which was sufficiently cogent enough to convince the other side. In the case of Viet Nam, Fitzgerald’s writing ended that debate. So the question now is: could The Trace produce a narrative that would do the same for the gun violence debate?

It’s one thing to write a kiss-and-tell story about how the NRA is flimflamming money. Big deal. If anyone on the gun-control side thinks that such an article will make gun owners rethink their love of guns, think again. Going after the NRA is a simple and easy way to attract some readership from the gun-control gang, but it won’t do anything to change how gun owners and even non-gun owners think about guns.

When it comes to gun violence, we have a simple problem. It’s not that we have 300 million guns floating around, because at least two hundred million or more of those guns never figure in gun violence events at all. The reason we have gun violence is because Americans have free access to those small, high-powered handguns which are purchased by people who believe that having a Glock on your night table or in your pocket will keep you safe.

And despite incontrovertible evidence proving that guns are more of a risk than a benefit no matter how they are stored, a solid majority of Americans believe the reverse. And since less than 40% of Americans are legal gun owners, obviously there are many non-gun owners who also believe in what scholars like Alan Fiske and Tage Rai call ‘virtuous violence;’ namely, that using a gun to protect yourself is a good thing.

My friends who conduct public health research into gun violence can publish as many articles as they like showing that this reasonable law or that reasonable law may, if enacted, result in fewer gun injuries and gun deaths. But the truth is that the only way to really reduce or eliminate gun violence is to restrict ownership of certain types of extremely-lethal guns. But the more we try to regulate gun ownership, the more we will need buy-in from the folks who own the guns. And the only way that will happen is if someone explains why so many Americans believe that nothing will keep them as safe and secure as owning a gun.

I am still waiting for the first researcher to figure this one out. Because until and unless this issue is explored and understood, the community which wants to reduce gun violence is going to go nowhere fast. Yea, maybe red flag laws will bite off a bit of risk and injury here and there. But in case you didn’t know it, after Colorado passed a comprehensive background check law in 2015, gun violence in that state increased by fifty percent. 

So here’s my challenge to Mike Spies and his colleagues at The Trace. Why don’t you sit down and instead of covering yet another case of mismanagement at Fairfax, think about writing a definitive study on the realities of gun ownership which will do for the gun debate what Frances Fitzgerald did for the debate about Viet Nam. You obviously have the talent and The New Yorker has the space.

America’s Sovereign States: The Obscure History of How 10 Independent States Joined the U.S.

From Ammo.com.

It is often said that before the Civil War, the United States “are,” but after the War, the United States “is.” This is a reference to the formerly theoretically sovereign nature of each state as compared to “one nation, indivisible.”

More than just the theoretic sovereignty of the individual states, the territory now comprising the U.S. has a rich history of sovereign states outside the control of the federal government. Some of these you’ve almost certainly heard of, but a lot of them are quite obscure. Each points toward a potential American secession of the future.Table of Contents

Vermont Republic (January 15, 1777 – March 4, 1791)

Current Territory: The State of Vermont

The earliest sovereign state in North America after the Revolution was the Vermont Republic, also known as the Green Mountain Republic or the Republic of New Connecticut. The Republic was known by the United States as “the New Hampshire Grants” and was not recognized by the Continental Congress. The people of the Vermont Republic contacted the British government about union with Quebec, which was accepted on generous terms. They ultimately declined union with Quebec after the end of the Revolutionary War, during which they were involved in the Battle of Bennington, and the territory was accepted into the Union as the 14th state – the first after the original 13.

The country had its own postal system and coinage, known as Vermont coppers. These bore the inscription “Stella quarta decima,” meaning “the 14th star” in Latin. They were originally known as “New Connecticut” because Connecticut’s Continental representative also represented Vermont Republic’s interests at Congress. However, the name was changed to Vermont, meaning “Green Mountains” in French.

Their constitution was primarily concerned with securing independence from the State of New York. Indeed, the state was known as “the Reluctant Republic” because they wanted admission to the Union separate from New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire – not a republic fully independent of the new United States. The genesis of the issue lay with the Crown deciding that New Hampshire could not grant land in Vermont, declaring that it belonged to New York. New York maintained this position into the early years of the United States, putting Vermont in the position of trying to chart a course of independence between two major powers.

The Green Mountain Boys was the name of the militia defending the Republic against the United States, the British and Mohawk Indians. They later became the Green Mountain Continental Rangers, the official military of the Republic. The “Green Mountain Boys” is an informal name for the National Guard regiment from the state.

In 1791, the Republic was admitted to the Union as the 14th state, in part as a counterweight to the slave state Kentucky. The 1793 state constitution differs little from the constitution of the Republic. The gun laws of Vermont, including what is now known as “Constitutional Carry,” are in fact laws (or lack thereof) dating back to the days of the Green Mountain Republic. The constitution likewise included provisions outlawing adult slavery and enfranchising all adult men.

Kingdom of Hawaiʻi / Republic of Hawaii (May 1795 – August 12, 1898)

Sovereign States of America: The History of 10 Independent States & How They Joined the U.S.

Current Territory: The State of Hawaii and the Johnston Atoll

Hawai’i as a sovereign state is almost as old as the United States itself. Its origins were in the conquest of the Hawai’ian island. Western advisors (and weaponry) played a role in the consolidation of several islands into a single kingdom under Kamehameha the Great, who conquered the islands over a period of 15 years. This marked the end of ancient Hawai’i and traditional Hawai’an government. Hawai’i was now a monarchy in the style of its European counterparts. It was also subject to the meddling of great powers France and Britain, in the same manner of smaller European states.

The Kingdom was overthrown on January 17, 1893, starting with a coup d’état against Queen Liliʻuokalani. The rebellion started on Oahu, was comprised entirely of non-Hawai’ians, and resulted in the Provisional Government of Hawaii. The goal was, in the manner of other states on our list, quick annexation by the United States. President Benjamin Harrison negotiated a treaty to this end, but anti-imperialist President Grover Cleveland withdrew from it. The failure of annexation led to the establishment of the Republic of Hawaii on July 4, 1894.

In 1895, the Wilcox rebellion, led by native Hawai’ian Robert William Wilcox, attempted to restore the Kingdom of Hawai’i. The rebellion was unsuccessful and the last queen, Liliuokalani, was put on trial for misprision of treason. While convicted, her prison term was nominal. She was sentenced to “hard labor,” but served it in her own bedroom and was eventually granted a passport to travel to the United States, which she used to extensively lobby against annexation.

When pro-imperialist President William McKinley won election in 1896, the writing was on the wall. The Spanish-American War began in April 1898, with the Republic of Hawaii declaring neutrality, but weighing in heavily on the side of the United States in practice. Both houses of Congress approved annexation on July 4, 1898, and William McKinley signed the bill on July 7th. The stars and stripes were raised over the island on August 12, 1898. And by April 30, 1900, it was incorporated as the Territory of Hawaii.

Republic of West Florida (September 23, 1810 – December 10, 1810)

Sovereign States of America: The History of 10 Independent States & How They Joined the U.S.

Current Territory: The Florida Parishes of Louisiana

The Republic of West Florida, now a part of Eastern Louisiana, was a short-lived republic resulting from the complicated and competing claims as to where the boundary between the French-controlled area of Louisiana and the Spanish-controlled territory of Florida actually sat. Great Britain also had a competing claim, which it ceded to Spain at the end of the Revolutionary War.

The overlapping claims are so complicated, that repeating them does little save for muddying the waters. The important fact is that there was an influx of Americans into the region in the early years of the 19th Century. Some of these were Loyalists fleeing the United States, but for the most part it was just Americans seeking what most Americans were at that time – land. This, plus the imprecise nature of international boundaries, led to an escalating series of military engagements between the United States on the one hand, and Britain and Spain on the other.

Everything ultimately came to a head in 1810. Secret meetings conspired against Spanish authorities. Three conventions for an independent republic were held in the open. Independence was declared and a capital organized at St. Francisville. On September 23, 1810, armed independence forces stormed Fort Carlos in Baton Rouge, killing two Spanish soldiers. There was a single battle, but it was decisive – The Republic of West Florida was a reality. The flag, on which the later Bonnie Blue Flag of Southern Secessionists was based, was flying freely.

President James Madison saw this as an opportunity: He could annex the district, securing territory the United States had its eyes on for years. Technically, Madison was not authorized to use American military forces in the region without Congressional approval. What’s more, Congress was not in session to provide such approval. But Madison acted anyway, and while there were certainly complaints, none of them amounted to much.

On October 27, 1810, President Madison stated that “possession should be taken” and dispatched Orleans Territory Governor William C. C. Claiborneto do so. The capital city of St. Francisville surrendered to the United States Army on December 6th, while Baton Rouge fell four days later. The primary objection to annexation from West Floridians is that they sought admission as a separate state, or at least wanted to see their elected officials incorporated into the power structure. This led to rebels once again raising the Republic’s flag on March 11, 1811, with Governor Claiborne dispatching troops. Spain did not drop their claim until American annexation of Florida in 1819.

The Republic of West Florida Constitution closely resembled that of the United States, with a bicameral legislature and three branches of government. The head of state was the governor, who was chosen by the legislature as a whole. “Republic of West Florida” is a historiological name – the official name of the country was the Republic of Florida. Today the region is known as the Florida Parishes of Louisiana.

Republic of Texas (March 2, 1836 – February 19, 1846)

Sovereign States of America: The History of 10 Independent States & How They Joined the U.S.

Current Territory: The State of Texas and parts of New MexicoOklahomaKansas and Utah

The Republic of Texas is perhaps the most famous and historically significant sovereign state incorporated in the territory of the United States. The existence of the Republic of Texas was the driving force of a nearly two-year war between the United States and Mexico – and the near doubling of American territory all the way out to the Pacific Ocean, as well as the creation of a second republic on American territory.

The Republic of Texas was also the longest-lived of the American sovereign republics, lasting just two weeks shy of 12 years. Annexation as a state was by no means a foregone conclusion for the outset. The State of Texas still retains the prerogative to separate into five states without the consent of the federal government – an increase of eight Senators for the region.

We have covered the Texas Revolution extensively in our guide on the history of the Gonzales Flag. However, some background about how the Texians (as they were known) arrived in Texas is worth getting into. There is, much as the case with Florida, an extensive history of competing claims in the region. The important thing is that during the Mexican War of Independence, many Americans fought on the side of Spain as filibusters. 130 Americans of the Republican Army of the North became disillusioned with the Spanish government and attempted to form an abortive Republic of Texas in 1813, but were summarily crushed. Many of the veterans of the Battle of Medina became leaders in the Texas Revolution to come, and indeed signatories of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

The Republic of Texas is distinguished not only by being the longest-lasting state on our list, but also the most widely recognized. Andrew Jackson was the first United States President to recognize the breakaway nation, appointing a chargè d’affairs in March 1837. The French Legation was built in 1841, and is still the oldest frame structure in the state capital of Austin. Other countries to officially recognize Texas in an official, diplomatic manner include Belgium (freshly independent in its own right), the Federated Republic of Central America, France, the Hanseatic Cities of the Holy Roman Empire, the Netherlands, the Russian Empire and the Republic of the Yucatan, itself a breakaway republic from Mexico. The Republic likewise enjoyed strong trade relations with Denmark and the United Kingdom. Mexico never recognized Texas independence, considering it a renegade province that would eventually be reintegrated into Mexican territory.

Annexation by the United States was always a topic looming large in both Texas and United States politics. The overwhelming majority of Texianssaw themselves as Americans, seeking union with the mother country. In the United States, the issue was politically thorny both because of the legality of slavery in the Republic (America at that time was unofficially governed by the Missouri Compromise, which sought to maintain a delicate balance between free and slave states) and relations south of the border. Indeed, the national leadership of both the Democrats and the Whigs opposed the annexation of Texas on some combination of each of these grounds.

The first administration to pursue the matter seriously was President John Tyler, who had been expelled from his political party and was an independent. He secured an annexation treaty in April 1844. The treaty was then sent to the Senate, where the terms were made public. Texas Annexation became one of – if not the – defining issue of the 1844 election. Southern delegates were able to deny popular former President Martin Van Buren the nomination on the grounds that he opposed annexation. This was, strictly speaking, not true. Van Buren simply opposed annexation without due care for Mexican and free state sensibilities. Indeed, Van Buren did not even fully oppose a military option to take control of Texas. James K. Polk won the Democratic nomination with the explicit backing of former President Jackson on a platform of Manifest Destiny in Texas.

In June 1844, the Whig-majority Senate voted down the annexation treaty. And by December of that year, after an anemic re-election bid (he dropped out of the race in August), Tyler obtained approval of the treaty by simple majority of both houses of Congress. He signed this bill in March 1845, as one of the final acts of “His Accidency” as president – and Texas ratified their side of the agreement, with new President Polk signing the bill in December 1845.

The Republic of Texas became the 28th state on February 19, 1846. A dispute over the full extent of the Republic ultimately led to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.

Republic of the Rio Grande (January 17, 1840 – November 6, 1840)

Sovereign States of America: The History of 10 Independent States & How They Joined the U.S.

Current Territory:  Part of the State of Texas and the Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipa

While the majority of the ephemeral Republic of the Rio Grande was not on what is now American territory, it’s worth discussing as a sister republic of the Republic of Texas.

Texas was conflicted about how to relate to the Republic of the Rio Grande. Its benefit was to create a buffer state between the Republic of Texas and Mexico. On the other hand, Texas often took pains to not antagonize its neighbor to the south. While Texas pursued an official policy of neutrality, it unofficially encouraged men to enroll in the volunteer military of the Republic of the Rio Grande, and to send military aid where possible.

After a single battle in Saltillo, the territory was peacefully reintegrated into Mexico (who assumed the country’s debts), with no reprisals against the leadership of the Republic. The Republic of the Rio Grande Museum currently sits in Laredo, while the Laredo Morning Times includes the flag of the Republic on its masthead, alongside the traditional six flags over Texas.

Provisional Government of Oregon (May 2, 1843 – March 3, 1849)

Current Territory: The States of Oregon and Washington and parts of IdahoMontana and Wyoming

The Provisional Government of Oregon was organized explicitly as a placeholder for a government until the United States would come in and take over. Its government was noteworthy for first having a Supreme Judge as the chief executive, Chairman of the Committee at Champoeg Meetings, then an executive committee, before finally settling on a governor. This was all set out in the Provisional Government’s constitution, the Organic Laws of Oregon. The loose government also acknowledged wheat, beaver skins, Mexican pesos and Peruvian reals alongside the United States dollar.

A private mint also minted so-called “Beaver Dollars” after the California Gold Rush kicked off in earnest. Some were concerned about the illegality of private mints under U.S. law, so the legislature appointed some of the board members, including the governor. When Oregon joined the Union, the San Francisco mint purchased Beaver Dollars at a premium and melted them down to make their own gold coins.

The Provisional Government’s laws were few, but they outlawed cruel and unusual punishment, the taking of property without compensation, unreasonable bail and distilled liquor. Somewhat famously, the law likewise barred entry to blacks, though the law against this was never actually enforced. Approximately 30 black settlers were counted by the captain of the USS Shark in 1846. In addition to being a “placeholder” for the United States, the Provisional Government also acted as a common defense system against natives.

The Oregon Treaty of June 15, 1846, ended the dispute between the United States and the United Kingdom over where the boundary between the United States and Canada lie. Two years later, the United States government created the Oregon Territory – where the entire legal code, save for Beaver Coins, was kept intact.

Republic of California (June 14, 1846 – July 9, 1846)

Sovereign States of America: The History of 10 Independent States & How They Joined the U.S.

Current Territory:  The State of California

While California is one of the biggest states in the Union, its history as an independent republic is rather brief and fleeting – all told, the Bear Flag Republic lasted 25 days. While it claimed virtually all of the Mexican territory later incorporated into the United States outside of Texas, it realistically only exercised military control of an area around San Francisco. Still, while the history of the Republic proper is brief, the background leading to an independent (albeit, unrecognized) republic, is fascinating.

Alta California, as it was then known, was far from the population centers and centers of power in Mexico, and was widely neglected by the Mexican government. Leaders of the community openly discussed the option of independence or annexation by the United States, the United Kingdom or France. In practice, the region enjoyed broad autonomy. In 1845, the regional governor was rejected by an open revolt of the Californios. Political control of the region was further eroded by a feud between political Governor Pío Pico and Comandante José Castro.

Another complicating factor was the Mexican government’s policy of granting land to naturalized citizens. The process for naturalization was rather easy. In fact, Mexico encouraged the process. So large areas of land in California were held by citizens who were effectively Mexican in name only. In response, the Mexican government attempted to clamp down on the ability of foreigners to purchase land within Mexico without first obtaining naturalization.

Captain John C. Frémont, the first Republican nominee for president, was at that time a Brevet Captain in the Army. He has been variously accused of inciting the revolt, however, one thing is clear: the presence of a pro-expansion military officer certainly put wind in the sails of those wishing to officially throw off the Mexican yoke. Upon departing from a camp meeting with Frémont, Californian insurgency forces captured a herd of 170 Mexican military forces. They traveled from there to Sonoma, where they sought to capture the pueblo, which was the center of government power in Alta California. They found no resistance and quickly agreed to terms with the Comandante.

Unbeknownst to Los Osos (“The Bears,” so named both for their flag and their scruffy appearance), the United States and Mexico had been in a state of war for about a month. On July 7th, the United States Navy and Marine Corps arrived, raising the 27-star flag over Sonoma and the 28-star flag over Monterey. On August 17th, General Robert F. Stockton, head of the American forces in the Mexican-American War, announced a proclamation that Alta California was now part of the United States.

The original Bear Flag lasted until 1906, when it was destroyed in one of the fires resulting from the 1906 earthquake.

State of Deseret (1849 – 1850)

Sovereign States of America: The History of 10 Independent States & How They Joined the U.S.

Current Territory: Almost all of the States of UtahArizona and Nevada and parts of OregonCaliforniaNew MexicoColorado and Wyoming

This one is slightly different than the rest on our list, but bears inclusion. It’s not an attempt at a separate country, but an unrecognized state organized by followers of the Latter-Day Saint Movement (Mormons) after their flight from Missouri. Initially, Church President Brigham Young planned to apply for status as a territory. However, upon hearing of California and New Mexico’s petitions for statehood, he instead changed his own petition for the same. They copied Iowa’s state constitution and sent it off to D.C.

Young and the Church mostly established their boundaries by wisely not asking for the already prime real estate. This meant Northern California’s Gold Rush country was out, as were the fertile farmlands of Northern Oregon. President Zachary Taylor, for his part, preferred the admission of the entire area of Deseret and California as a single state, which would also solve the problem of not admitting too many free states.

The Compromise of 1850 admitted the State of California and the Territory of Utah. The latter took up much of the northern half of the proposed State of Deseret. The demand for a “Mormon state” largely disappeared once the railroads brought an influx of non-Mormon residents to the region.

Republic of Sonora (October 15, 1853 – May 8, 1854)

Current Territory: The Mexican states of Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sonora

The annexation of Texas and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo put wind in the sails of those who sought to expand United States territory (and slave power) southward. The most radical of these movements were the Golden Circle, which sought for a breakaway Southern confederacy to control the entirety of the Caribbean through an invasion of Mexico, Central America and Spanish possessions. The slightly less radical All of Mexico Movementsaw the entirety of Mexico as properly American soil.

This was the political climate that lead to the creation of the Republic of Sonora. American filibuster William Walker was the driving force behind the movement, which enjoyed its greatest popularity in San Francisco. He successfully sold “bonds” for the nation, which was anything but sovereign. He invaded Baja California and Sonora with 45 men, where he conquered La Paz, a sparsely populated area acting as the capital of Baja California. He then declared the Republic of Baja California, but later specified that this was simply one part of a larger Republic of Sonora.

Republic of Baja California (October 15, 1853 – January 1854)

Sovereign States of America: The History of 10 Independent States & How They Joined the U.S.

Current Territory: The Mexican state of Baja California

Our story of William Walker picks up here. Neither the Mexican military nor the population were terribly keen on another Yanqui republic in their midst, so the opposition to Walker was stiff. On the other side of the border, while he found favor among a small number of committed radicals, this movement did not enjoy a wide base of popularity. Walker’s forces never controlled much territory outside of La Paz.

After continuous military defeat and defection by demoralized troops, Walker surrendered to the United States military in San Diego. He was put on trial for violating the Neutrality Act, which was part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The jury, operating at the peak of Manifest Destiny sentiment in the United States, took all of eight minutes to acquit him.

Modern Secessionist Movements in the United States

The separatist craze sweeping other parts of the Western world is not entirely absent from the United States. All told, there are 22 states with active movements to secede from that state to form a 51st. This is not without precedent: West Virginia was created out of Virginia largely due to political differences. Four of the above polities (CaliforniaHawaiiTexas and Vermont) have active secessionist movements seeking to reestablish these defunct states.

As the United States becomes increasingly politically balkanized, don’t be surprised if it becomes geographically balkanized as well. You now know that there’s a long history of attempts to avoid central power in the United States.

How Deep Is The Hole That The NRA Has Dug?

              This week’s New Yorker magazine includes a major article by one of my favorite gun journalists, Mike Spies, about the financial mess at America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ otherwise known as the NRA. Since I happen to be a Patriot Life Member Benefactor of the NRA (I actually have a plaque signed by Ollie North) and have been a member since 1955, obviously I have more than a passing interest in the goings on at the home office in Fairfax, and according to Mike, the goings on ain’t  very good.

              According to Mike, in a detailed and lengthy report, the NRA’s leadership has not only been hiding the extent to which serious amounts of organizational money have been flowing into the coffers of various PR companies, but it appears that these companies may be nothing more than business entities founded and run by Board and staff members of the NRA itself. Worse, the payments to these outfits have been so large that the NRA is facing a financial squeeze that could ultimately jeopardize the existence of the gun-rights organization itself.

              This is hardly the first time that mainstream media has carried articles on financial undoings within the NRA. Spies quotes  Brian Mittendorf, a Professor at Ohio State, who says that the organization has been spending money it really doesn’t have for seven of the past eleven years. In fact, Mittendorf published these details last year, and other media venues have carried the same news. What these stories all miss, however, is the fact that the NRA’s current financial problems aren’t basically caused by having given too much money to Schmuck-o in 2016 or investing heavily in video programming with costs running far ahead of returns. The serious financial issues facing the boys in Fairfax has much more to do with a fundamental shift in the behavior of gun owners and the inability of the NRA to adjust to this new view.

              In 1978, Florida passed its concealed-carry (CCW) law, which basically gave every resident of the Gunshine state who could pass a background check the right to walk around with a gun. Over the past 40 years, what is called ‘shall-issue’ CCW has become law in 43 of the 50 states. But the licensing difference between just buying a gun as opposed to carrying one around, is that in the latter case, most ‘shall-issue’ states require some kind of training before the CCW is approved.  And here is where the rubber has now met the road.

              Because in the olden days, the NRA held a monopoly on gun-training, and the NRA certified trainers, of whom there used to be more than 100,000 around the country, were the organization’s shock troops when it came to recruiting new members, as well as responding in force whenever a political situation, such as a debate over a gun law, required that gun owners show up and make some noise.

              Given the appearance of the internet, the emphasis on face-to-face gun training, indeed face-to-face training for any skill or work requirement has gone down the tubes. Instead, everyone now goes to a website, pays a fee, watches a video and then takes an online test. In that respect, the NRA is hardly the only training organization which fell behind the curve. Take a look at the online training offerings of Butler Community College in Kansas. The school has six campuses throughout the state, but you don’t have to ever show up at any physical location in order to qualify for hundreds of job-related certifications. Now take a look at the NRA‘s online training website. It’s a joke.

              The article by Mike Spies gives lots of details about how the NRA invested enormous financial resources in the internet, but what it fails to point out is that by promoting personalities (Dana Loesch, Colion Noir) instead of training, they went the wrong way. Judging from the emails I receive every day, I’m still not sure that the boys in Fairfax recognize their mistake.

Try A New Book On Gun Violence.

             Igor Volsky is a nice young man who is trying to move the argument about gun violence in a new direction, and he has just published a book, Guns Down – How To Defeat the NRA and Build a Safer Future with Fewer Guns, in which he both explains how he came to be a player in the gun debate, as well as explaining what he believes needs to be done.  The book, well written and easily read, is available on (where else?) Amazon.

              Igor also happens to run a website, Guns Down, which has made some interesting efforts to “weaken the gun industry, the gun lobby and the lawmakers who support them.” Most recently, they have published a list of banks who are actively financing the gun industry, with 6 national banks, including Chase and TD Bank, receiving the grade of ‘F.” They graded the 15 largest consumer banks in the United States, and only one bank, Citibank, received the grade of ‘B.’ In other words, most banks treat gun companies and gun advocacy organizations the same way they treat all their other customers. Gee, what a surprise.

              Behind this campaign and the other initiatives undertaken by Volsky and his group is a basic idea, namely, that in order to reduce gun violence we need, first and foremost, to reduce the number of guns. And in focusing most of his efforts on ‘defeating’ the NRA, Volsky is hopeful that without the money and communication strength of America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ that many politicians will retreat from their pro-gun stance and vote for “bold reforms” that comprise what Volsky calls a ‘New Second Amendment Compact” that will “build a future with significantly fewer guns.”

              Volsky’s book is chock-full of data and he uses his evidence to  make a convincing case for the reforms which he would like to see enacted, although many of the 10 planks which comprise his 2nd-Amdenement Compact (end PLCAA, regulate dealers, assault-weapon ban, fund gun research) are part and parcel of the agenda of every gun-control group. One idea, however, caught my eye, which is to ‘provide incentives for people to give up their existing firearms.” Which basically means that the government should fund ongoing buyback programs. Considering the fact that I happen to run an organization which conducts buybacks in multiple states, this idea gets no argument from me.

              Asking gun owners to get rid of their guns, however, brings up a problem that Gun-control Nation has yet to confront, and while I was hoping that perhaps we would get an answer from Volsky, I’m afraid the jury in this regard is still out. On the one hand, as he notes, the percentage of American homes containing guns continues to go down. But what he needs to acknowledge is that the percentage of Americans who believe a gun to be more of a self-defense benefit than a risk keeps going up. Indeed, more than 60% in the latest surveys feel that a gun in the home makes that home a safer place, which means that many Americans who don’t own guns also agree that owning a gun is a good thing.

              One other point of concern with this well-done book, which is that Volsky’s attempt to present the NRA as the ‘black knight’ in the gun debate is simply not the case. For example, he talks about how the NRA was weakened when the company that was underwriting their insurance scam pulled out of the deal. But in fact, there are other pro-gun insurance plans that have been extremely successful (example: USCCA) and took away much of the NRA’s insurance business before Volsky and Guns Down got involved. As for the vaunted financial power that the NRA wields over pro-gun officeholders, on average, members of Congress get 3% of the campaign funds they spend from the NRA – big deal.

              That being said, I think that Guns Down is an important addition to the organizational network working to reduce gun violence and I know that Igor Volsky will, in that respect, be an important voice. So read his book, okay?