It was early summer of 2008, I could see the writing on the wall; Barack Obama was going to be our next president. A quick look at the future President’s voting record and it was clear he would be no friend to gun owners passionate about their right to keep and bear arms. Like many gun owners, I frequently asked myself what I alone could possibly do to defend my favorite hobby and our most important right. I was already a life member of the NRA and GOA, I actively wrote my politicians, talked with others about the importance of the Second Amendment, and attended nearly every rally I could find. Despite this, I had an overwhelming feeling that more had to be done.
The more I got involved, the more I realized how unorganized the gun rights movement really was. The entire communication structure was primarily based on a top down approach, relying on magazines, newsletters, and emails sent from large, centralized organizations. Person to person communication was limited, and usually only occurred during visits to gun shops, ranges, etc. The entire movement appeared to be splintered, and without communication the organization of people is impossible.
Through a passion for trucks I had extensive experience with online forums, eventually leading me to seek out those pertaining to firearms. With a few exceptions, most I found were either brand specific or large national sites with too broad of scope to form any sort organized community. It’s difficult for activism efforts to be effective when the people participating are spread around the country.
The more I thought about this, the more my vision slowly began to take shape. I realized if we were to organize ourselves in an effective manner we would have to be fairly concentrated geographically. Being from Oregon, the Northwest region was my natural choice. I knew our regional scope needed to be big enough to attract a large audience, but small enough that it was likely you would find people reasonably close to you. I knew the real benefit of this community would not be the online banter, but rather the offline relationships formed through events and face to face transactions. The more gun owners a person knows the more likely they are to discuss their rights, carpool to events, and support the cause in general.
I also knew in order to realize my vision I had to make the community so appealing that people would visit frequently, ideally multiple times per day. The main reason for this is most anti-gun lawmakers work quickly and often under the radar, meaning us gun owners need to act quickly ourselves. Finding out about a last minute hearing doesn’t do any good if you’re a day late, so frequent visits were a must. To achieve this we needed to offer resources members found useful (and hopefully quite addictive!), such as an active, local classified section, maps to outdoor shooting locations, up to date event information, etc. To this day we’re constantly brainstorming, trying to come up with new resources for our members.
Another unique aspect of my vision was the goal of creating a true single issue community which welcomed everyone, regardless of their other beliefs. A place where if you were a gun owner, you were a friend. I wanted to build a place where all felt comfortable, rather than another conservative enclave. People aren't born pro or anti anything, it's something that takes time to develop, and even longer to change once an opinion is formed. To cast out others because they are of a differing opinion is to ignore an opportunity to explain our side and change their way of thinking.
On the evening of August 5th, 2008 my vision came to fruition with the launch of the NorthwestFirearms.com website. I spent the next year attending every gun show and event I could find to spread the word about what I was trying to do. My biggest surprise, starting out, was the amount of opposition and skepticism I faced. One veteran forum owner told me we'd never break a thousand members. I didn’t feel like this was an entirely new concept, but us gun owners are a leery bunch by nature. Luckily we overcame that, and as we developed a reputation in the region our membership numbers snowballed.
At this point it is clear the community has become an overwhelming success. While the day to day operations leave me no time to organize any real activism, others have used the site to step up and fill that role. We’re currently about to launch the second iteration of the website, a complete redesign. At that time we'll also be launching our first sister site, SouthwestFirearms.com, hoping to build an equally successful community for gun owners of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. With our passion for bringing people together, I have no doubt we will be successful.
Northwest Firearms LLC