GOA Attacked for Holding a Compromising Politician Accountable

On Thursday of last week, a Florida gun group launched an attack on our state director Luis Valdes and, by extension, on Gun Owners of America.

One pro-gun writer described it as an “attack piece” against GOA.

GOA's Erich Pratt and Luis Valdes with FL. Rep. Sabatini

From left to right: GOA’s Erich Pratt, pro-gun Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R) and GOA FL Director Luis Valdes

This broadside was then reprinted by a national group, as well as another state gun group in Florida.

GOA has made it a practice not to speak ill of other pro-gun groups, and so I don’t intend to do so here. At the same time, given the coordinated attacks by several groups, it’s necessary that I respond to the false allegations because there are surely many GOA members who have read the articles, and they want to hear our side of the story.

You can read my full response to these accusations at The Truth About Guns.

NOTE: If you haven’t yet read my response at The Truth About Guns, I encourage you to stop reading here, click on the link directly above, and take a moment to read the article before continuing on. It will give you the best overview of the situation.

And make sure to read the comments at the bottom. They are universally supportive of GOA!

As you know, GOA is a no-compromise group, which means that we will never give politicians a pass for compromising — no matter what their party affiliation. GOA has been critical of many Florida legislators for refusing to pass substantive pro-gun bills. And ultimately, we are being attacked for holding accountable one legislator in particular: Rep. Cord Byrd (R).

After The Truth About Guns printed my response, the other author has doubled down and launched a second attack against GOA. If you have questions regarding what this is all about, I encourage you to read my original response to this organization from Saturday, and the second ad hominem “attack piece” against GOA on Sunday. And as you do, here are a few things you should notice between these two articles:

  • The author of the attack piece claims that it was GOA who attacked him, the “messenger because [we] couldn’t handle the message.” But if you read my Saturday article, you will see that I studiously avoided mentioning the author or either of the two groups he represents. In fact, if you read people’s comments at the bottom, the only somewhat “negative” comment is that I was too nice because I didn’t “name names.” The reason was that we wanted to stay focused on the real problem – which is the compromising politicians and avoid an “infighting” situation.
  • Our antagonist claims we erred in saying that the pro-gun champion of the Florida legislature, Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R), has introduced Constitutional Carry. For starters, the author ignores this statement that GOA made in our Florida alert last Friday: “Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-FL) stand[s] before gun owners at the State Capitol pledging to introduce Constitutional Carry for the third time in a row.” That clearly indicates the bill has not yet been finalized. Moreover, Sabatini is the past sponsor of the bill, and he has already submitted the draft to the House Bill Drafting Service for printing. You can read what Rep. Sabatini told our state director Luis Valdes about the bill’s status here.
  • The writer claims that the GOA leadership was “in a quandary” over what our Florida Director Luis Valdes did (in being critical of compromising politicians). Well, as the Chairman of Gun Owners of America, I can assure you that neither I, nor the top officers of this organization, ever expressed any regret or doubt – and we were never in a “quandary.” It’s a shame that being a reporter, the author never picked up the phone and called me or my two vice presidents for a comment, because we could have quickly disabused him of that notion.
  • The Sunday article claims that we err in not blaming the entire leadership in the Florida legislature for the failure to pass Constitutional Carry. He accuses us of only blaming one Republican lawmaker, and he claims that Luis is unable to find legislative offices to meet with. Sadly, a quick purview of our website would have revealed the error on both counts. In fact, we have repeatedly blamed the entire Republican leadership in the legislature for their compromises, including the House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson. See here, here, here, here, here, here and here – and notice how many times these reports reveal Luis meeting with state legislators (and the Governor’s office). Luis was able to meet with all these offices, even though the Capitol was officially closed due to COVID.
  • The author also attacks Luis as a political neophyte who has no prior 2A experience. Again, a modicum of research would have shown this to be false. Luis was involved in helping organize the Tallahassee gun rights rally in 2018 which drew hundreds of people. He has written dozens of articles (as a reporter) for The Truth About Guns over the past several years. And, in his former life as a cop, he publicly called out other officers for their actions during an arrest of Florida Carry members in Miami Beach.
  • Finally, in reading both GOA’s article and the author’s rebuttal, you should notice a stark difference. GOA’s article is packed with citations throughout. His article is a collection of ad hominem attacks and allegations without substantiation. His article is full of personal invectives against our Florida Director. GOA’s article has none of that, because again, our aim is to focus on the real problem – which is the compromising politicians.

GOA’s “no-compromise” approach wins key battles

Ultimately, this comes down to a disagreement over how GOA lobbies. Rep. Ron Paul said that, “GOA is the only no-compromise gun lobby.” If you ever wondered what that means, this is one such example.

GOA doesn’t compromise, and we never have during our 40-plus years in operation. And while that drives some politicians crazy, it also upsets some gun owners who are willing to compromise if it means that they can have a “seat at the table.”

So case in point: While the author is a board member of the state group that is attacking GOA, he also writes for a national gun group that, in 2013, was pushing the Manchin-Toomey gun control bill in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Yes, that’s right. A national gun rights group was pushing the Manchin-Toomey compromise – which was a Universal Background Check-lite bill.

Well, GOA took a different approach in 2013. We opposed ALL gun control that year (as we always do), and we blasted the compromises that some gun rights advocates were pushing.

Rather than taking what legislators give us — and simply tweaking it to make it “not so bad” – we rallied the grassroots with the message: “Oppose all gun control.”

We generated so much grassroots pressure, that Republican Senators who were thinking about supporting gun control-lite, quickly backed away.

Consider this report from Slate: “When Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, backed away from bipartisan talks to expand background checks earlier this year, he did so after Gun Owners of America and its members flooded the senator’s office with e-mails and phone calls.”

In the end, GOA’s approach won. And the New York Times even credited GOA with killing Universal Background Checks (UBCs) in 2013.

But notice: Our approach differed from other lobby groups that were trying to broker a compromise on UBCs. Again, their approach can be summed up as getting a “seat at the table” where they can negotiate gun control language that’s “not as bad” as the original.

That’s not how GOA operates. We mobilize YOU — the grassroots — because the millions of gun owners like yourself are the ones best suited to blast the compromisers and rein them back in. Sadly, other groups don’t mobilize the grassroots this way.

The state group which is attacking GOA only sent one legislative alert to its grassroots members this year. Only one! By contrast, GOA put out over 20 alerts into the state within the period of a few months. But what’s ironic is that in the past week, this group has sent double the number of alerts (2) as they have legislative alerts (1) in 2021 – but both alerts in the past week focused on attacking a fellow gun organization.

This has not gone unnoticed by Florida gun owners. On Sunday, in the wake of the second hit piece on GOA, one Floridian posted this on Facebook:

They [the state group] doubled down attacking Luis Valdes and Gun Owners of America-Florida today with a condescending yet entirely emotional ad hominem tirade. Literally the only two emails I’ve received from them in almost two years were to attack other gun groups. Yet they’re nowhere to be found otherwise.

In a nutshell: GOA is under attack for refusing to compromise. But you have my promise that GOA will never do that. We are NOT going to compromise. And we will continue to hold politicians accountable when they do, and we will be sure to “name names” and tell you who the oath-breaking politicians are.

So thank you so much for standing with us. We can’t do what we do without your activism.