Interview [2A Group] Liberal Gun Owners: Yes, They Exist Lars Smith May 12, 2023 1 Comments, Join the Conversation Photos by Yancy Faulkner LIBERALS GUN OWNERS, CAN THEY BE PRO-GUN? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several years, you’re already aware that gun ownership saw a significant boom during 2020, with little sign of slowing down. The media has reported on this with varying shades of panic, but it’s an inescapable fact that while the face of gun ownership was already changing prior to the pandemic, that shift has since only accelerated. One aspect of this new face is those whose politics align with the left. “Liberal gun owner” wasn’t quite an oxymoron 10 years ago, but it definitely wasn’t part of the preconception most Americans had when the topic of the 2nd Amendment came up. Exemplifying this, perhaps better than anyone, is Liberal Gun Owners (LGO), an organization that defies stereotypes both in its target audience and process. Beyond the left-leaning appeal, the organizational structure and approach represent a shift from the usual pro-gun groups one might imagine. An early copy of The Liberal Gun Owners Lens weapons-anthropology literature. Works on law, culture, and society to follow. We talked to Randy Miyan, executive director of LGO, to help us understand exactly what his group is and what it hopes to do. RECOIL: First of all, who are you, and what is LGO? Randy Miyan: My name is Randy Miyan. I am a semiretired green builder and tai chi/meditation instructor, husband, and father. For the past five years, I have been the full-time executive director of Liberal Gun Owners. I am a certified firearms instructor with the USCCA for their Defensive Shooting Fundamentals 1 curriculum. Liberal Gun Owners is a 501(c)(4) organization that is giving society a professional example of a company that does two things: embraces the importance of both gun rights/public safety equally (the idea that this is not possible is false) and provides advanced thought and action by bringing together some of the top minds in associated areas — a unique think tank to address all things guns. LGO has a different architecture than most people expect from gun groups regarding membership models. Our friends at The Liberal Gun Club have that membership thing covered. LGO501c4 is a concentrated company that provides opportunities for the general liberal gun-owner, but that is not the prime focus. We are set up to be a nimble, dynamic phenomenon that stimulates evolution. Socially, LGO501c4 isn’t an army or national guard — we are a special forces unit. Rabbi Hillel Norry fires a K98 Kurz with Nazi markings. His statement after: “You know what this feels like? Like ‘f*ck you! We have this rifle now!’” What is LGO’s origin story? RM: Our story starts in 2007 on Facebook with a small, turbulent discussion group started by Adam Sorum (who eventually became the cofounder of LGO501c4). The early years of that group were filled with typical internet dysfunction: very online people. I saw potential and asked for admin powers from Adam to help clean it up. Once I established rules and solid moderation, solid people were able to join and stay around. From that growing culture, I saw further potential and realized that we needed to protect what we had built. I formed a 501(c)(4) in 2017 to do just that and more. It was apparent that liberal gun ownership could provide both a representation of the wider gun reality and advancement at the nexus between guns and public safety. We set up the legal structure, slathered on an early mission, achieved some financing, built a small core of community support. The Trump-era boosted interest, and we were off. LGO developers receive instruction on defensive shooting fundamentals at Range 35 in Grandview, Texas. That’s a very “in at the ground floor” beginning for you. Now that you’re running the show, what are the primary threats to the 2A, as you see it? RM: There are two. The first threat is the anti-gun/high-gun-control sentiment represented by many American democrats and progressives. I don’t call them “liberals” because part of the logic that they embrace is illiberal at its base. Their main threat emanates from the lack of acknowledgment of armed self-defense as something legitimate. If they do acknowledge it, they do so poorly — something I call “hasty half-ass acknowledgment.” President Biden is a top example of this. These people simply don’t recognize that there is such a thing as positive or pro-social violence, which isn’t just a legal or rights-based falsehood in my estimation. This is a scientifically preposterous determination. Their political platform and stance is partially built on this undercurrent of bologna. The second threat is within the gun culture itself. American gun culture, particularly the activist section of it, runs on a typical tribal mechanism: our side is filled with angels/theirs with demons. So, in that echo chamber, the only enemies are anti-gunners. If this section of the gun community sees other gun owners as a problem, it is only “Fudds” or people who don’t acknowledge the deeper aspects of the individual right. Gun culture has typical in-group bias issues with seeing its own contributions as negative as it pertains to guns. The reality is that the American gun-owning community is filled with people who have egregiously immature and casual attitudes about violence, xenophobic attitudes about diversity-of-thought, some artifacts of overt bigotry, and a strong addiction to conspiratorial thinking. The other part of the community, the part that goes to SHOT Show, either refuses to see that it is attached to this, is guilty of ugly and dumb stuff themselves, or just ignores it. We know this because in order to get where we are, we had — and have — to contend with it constantly from the very online gun activist all the way to the top of the NRA. I am not sure how the gun community extols 2A as holy ground while simultaneously providing no pushback against such an adolescent treatment of the ideas surrounding rights and violence. LGO501c4 Executive Director Randy Miyan, also known as “Miyanovich.” “LGO isn’t here to follow” is prominent on your landing page. What are you here to do, and what best represents it? RM: What we’ve seen out of our political and cultural reality regarding guns and public safety is severely lacking. Our hypothesis is that treating these as rival concepts is remedial. Liberal Gun Owners has seen enough of this pattern and believes that much of the thinking and sentiment in this area needs to evolve. The beginning of this (much more to come) is a gray literature project called “The Liberal Gun Owners Lens,” which gives a comprehensive foundation for the reality of guns in 21st century terms. We have a podcast that also supports this idea. To lead, you have to begin at the beginning — with thinking. Poor ideas and falsehoods are all over the place in guns and public safety. What challenges do you face in accomplishing your mission to lead in this way? RM: There are two kinds of people here: people that are cognitively flexible (and open to better ways of doing things) and people who are not. A large percentage of gun owners are simply incapable of evolving: both right and left. Our attitude is more about going downstream and representing a constellation of ideas that are a better match for the actual 21st-century reality. We then desire to collaborate and serve the people that are able to make that journey. The idea that you need a giant mass of people and approval/support to evolve something is simply untrue. Many great accomplishments are only possible through a small, well-managed force of innovation. Buy-in is something that happens later as a result. Buy-in is not a necessary fuel for everything. We know many different kinds of people are fully capable of the journey — liberals, independents, libertarians, moderates, and reasonable conservatives — all fully capable. The problems on the left are manifold. But you have the same superficial conviction to moral-tribal ideas and then purity tests being created around those superficial understandings. We have the same attitude about kowtowing as it pertains to the left. As I said earlier, the entire idea of a membership model and having to garner interest for new “members” is not something we will be doing. We have a mission, and we will accomplish things that evolve the situation. People can support it or not. We aren’t “trying to appeal” to anyone … that’s marketing for membership. We don’t do that. We just want to educate people on our mission, show the results, and gain any additional support through showing results. Tactical Fitness owner Ron Grobman applies a TQ to LGO developer and Danish Special Forces veteran, Martin Nielsen. Where do you see yourself in the general spectrum of gun rights organizations? RM: I don’t see Liberal Gun Owners as measurable on that typical spectrum. We built a spaceship capable of multi-dimensional operation, and we are headed to a simple place downstream to start. People can meet us there or not, but this is an innovation. Most gun owners poll that they care about guns and gun-related negatives — and by the way, gun-related negatives means all of them to LGO501c4: murder, extrajudicial killings, xenophobic attacks against the marginalized, mass shootings, suicides, intimate partner violence with guns … all of it. Gun owners want to stop these things. LGO501c4 wants to start by mastering these things because the gun community is horrible at it. The Democratic party and the progressive reality believe that they are effective leaders in this area. I disagree entirely. So ultimately, we aren’t trying to score on the sociopolitical spectrum. Actual liberalism is supposed to transcend political boundaries when it’s required, not double-down on limits and echo chambers. Where do we fit? We don’t. LGO developers receive instruction on using a quick litter during medical training. The pandemic era has been impactful for most of us in a variety of ways. What, if anything, has the last three years impressed upon you that maybe wasn’t quite so obvious before? RM: That humans are not capable of dealing with exceptional problems well — not at the level of governance nor at the grassroots. For humans, the tendency seems to be automatic blame-shifting toward leadership figures and institutions when we deal with big problems. I don’t see how humans get to the point of being able to deal with exceptional problems unless they are able to look in the mirror at themselves as well. It’s not that clusters of power and officialdom aren’t regularly a problem — of course, they are. It’s a principal feature of liberalism to keep an eye on such things. Top-down abuses and failures are real and need to be dealt with. But everyday people being incompetent and selfish is also a giant problem. COVID, guns, public safety, the climate … you name it … when people have no self-awareness and no personal reflection it makes problem-solving too hard. Don’t like scenarios that end in authoritarian toxicity and/or ineffectiveness? Start by looking at yourself. That’s what I’ve learned. What have I learned about guns in the past three years? We need more mature and socially competent gun owners — as many as we can get. What are you most proud of having accomplished with LGO? RM: I am most proud of the fact that I laid out a vision and have had some of the top minds in the country, and in the world, getting on board with where we want to go: Professor David Yamane, Dr. Curtis Marean, John Van Dreal, Dr. Manny Tau, Chad King, Rabbi Hillel Norry, Deputy District Attorney Hunter Starr, Michael Sodini, and Rob Pincus. This is just the start of the list of our think tank network, and it represents millions of dollars of education and professional output. There was no potential collection of minds available to the gun world like this prior to LGO501c4 and, with the list I am garnering, no other gun-related entity will be able to go to the same place we are going. We are going to apply these brains to related issues, and we are going to show society the results of that. Very proud of the beginning of that list and proud to know these people. Wake Forest Professor of Sociology David Yamane operates rifle fundamentals from prone. How do you measure success in your mission? Is there a delineated point at which you’ll have done what you set out to do? RM: The first point of success will be when I am able to complete our subject matter expert network for all eight areas that we define as significant for gun-related negatives: homicide, suicide, mass shootings, xenophobic violence, intimate partner violence, violence in communities of color, accidents, and police misconduct shootings. We will be collaborating with subject matter experts and organizations in each category. We have other mechanisms coming from our Swiss Army knife approach, such as dealing with legislative realities. When the list is complete and that machine is running and running well, we will be at a significant level of success. Ultimately, the biggest marker for me will be when I get our mechanisms running well, employ the best people to run the company, and then I walk away. It will feel like a tremendous success. Where can people who want to know more about you or LGO go to do that? RM: Anyone can reach me at [email protected] — we keep our Gmail to remember humble beginnings. We have two websites: www.liberalgunowners.org and www.lgolens.com. People can find information and links to the podcast, other social media, and avenues for donations at those sites. 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