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This message was sent to our members on August 31st, 2020. It is posted here for reference. If you have any questions, please contact @Joe Link.

============

For better or worse, Northwest Firearms has been my life's work. Watching this grow from a spur of the moment idea to a thriving community with nearly 50,000 members has been nothing short of incredible. All things considered, I feel truly lucky that this has been my life. I'm writing this private message to all of our members today because we're at an unfortunate crossroad, and where we go from here will determine the future of Northwest Firearms.

Running this site has never been easy. At times it's a job I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. While the phrase "herding cats" is fitting, it's also a gross understatement as to the difficulty in trying to manage what people say and do here on our portion of the internet. While it's always been a challenge, these past couple of years have been more difficult than any period before, and month after month it continues to get worse here. I'm going to be honest with you; personally, Northwest Firearms is no longer a site I enjoy visiting (and hasn't been for quite a while). When I started this I envisioned a place which would have a positive impact on the 2nd Amendment and the image of gun owners. A place where gun owners could come together without the ugliness, divisiveness, negativity, and politics associated with other gun forums. A welcoming place where the only reason a gun owner would be judged would be whether they preferred 9mm or 45ACP. In my mind, based on this, I've failed completely. In my opinion, we've never been further from our goals than we are today.

This has never been about money for me, I make very little money running this website and each month we struggle to pay our bills. I would literally make more flipping burgers than I make working 50-60 hours per week on Northwest Firearms. I've always had to have another job in order to make ends meet. I do this because it has been a labor of love for me, and as I said, my most important accomplishment in life (so far). At some point I have to ask myself, are these sacrifices worth it? Is what we're doing here important enough to forego 4x the pay of a cushy tech job, and the ability to leave my work at work? Not a night goes by that I don't wake up thinking about something related to this website. My doctor has been on me about my blood pressure for several years. Up until this point I've made excuses for why I need to keep going with this. As I get older, as we get further from our goals, it's getting harder for me to not sell out to some internet conglomerate for a six-figure check and close this chapter of my life. I'm very close.

It's always odd for me, being this open with our members on a personal level, I guess because I know it's not the norm. I do it because I feel like being honest and open is the only way to connect on a personal level; to let you guys know the reasoning behind the decisions I make here. I've always been huge on communication, which is why I've asked for your input so often in the past. As much as I'd like to solicit your input now, the fact is that unless I go with my gut and make the changes I think are necessary to return this to a place where I want to be, Northwest Firearms has no future.

We've never been able to make everyone happy, so going forward we're going to focus on the people who share our goals for this community and the things that bring us together: guns. This means getting away from the politics, the conspiracy theories, and all the other BS and getting back to the real reason we're here. I understand the considerable risks I'm taking. Some of our largest donors and most active members are also our most hostile, negative, divisive members. Many of our members don't agree with our rules, won't like stricter enforcement, and won't like the changes we're going to be making. I fully expect these people to leave and find internet homes more suitable to their type. My hope is that once these people leave we will be left with those who want to help us grow and maintain a positive gun community, welcome to gun owners regardless of literally anything else, and free from all the negativity found everywhere you turn these days. We can't control the election, COVID, riots, or any of the other things people allow themselves to be consumed by (always for the worse). What we can control is the impact we allow those things to have on our community. Northwest Firearms is going to be a place to get away from it, not to discuss it.

It absolutely kills me how often I meet gun owners, normal, average, everyday people, who won't come here because they don't want to get in an argument, feel unwelcome, were previously attacked by another member, etc. I have close personal friends who only use this site for the classifieds because of some of our members. Sure, they could toughen up a bit, but why bother? Normal people have better things to do than argue with people on the internet, so they simply leave and avoid it in the future. For another frame of reference, imagine yourself as an average person who's thinking about buying a gun, then imagine coming here and reading for a day or two. What would be your takeaway thoughts on the community and gun owners in general? Northwest Firearms isn't the only loser in that situation, it hurts all gun owners. If we lose a cantankerous member with 50,000 posts because he's upset he can't talk crap about someone's choice in EDC, but 20 of these new people with positive traits stick around (even if they don't post nearly as much) that's a win in my book. If we become known as a refuge for the weak and fragile? So be it, at least they're not jerks.

We aren't going to be making any drastic changes here but there will be some. For one, we're not going to be tolerating the behaviors I've outlined. We can't. Please re-read the rules. Second, the news section will probably be going away; there's way too much divisive non-firearm content there. If it's firearm-related news it can be posted in the section to which is pertains. Third, we'll be making changes to the private sections here as they affect other areas of the site. Look for the notices. Lastly, if your post history reflects a demeanor not in line with what I've outlined here, your time may be short. Please think about this message before you post.


IMPORTANT POINTS
  • If our goal is to create a (positive, supportive, welcoming, fun, educational, helpful, easy going, brotherly) environment, we have to eliminate the antonyms of those words (negative, toxic, polarizing, divisive, angry, partisan, unwelcoming, unfriendly, egotistical, aggressive, overly opinionated, extreme) to the best of our ability.
  • Our community welcomes all gun owners, period. One of our main goals here has always been promoting gun ownership, attracting new people and "showing them the light". Now that we've added millions of new gun owners, many here are doing their absolute best to push them away. The ONLY way to preserve the 2nd Amendment (and the rest of the Bill of Rights) is to remove any and every hint of politicization. Rights should never be a left/right issue, all you need to know is if someone is for or against, regardless of their other beliefs. The NRA runs negative, divisive ads because they want your money, not because they support the 2A. Support for your rights is support regardless of where it comes from. Whether socialists want to join our cause or Russian wants to donate a billion dollars to pro-gun groups, I'm all for it, because above all else my goal is preserving the 2nd Amendment. If you're politicizing the 2nd Amendment you are hurting our cause.
  • Many of our members couldn't care less about the image of this community or gun owners in general. If you ask them they'd spend an hour listing their pro-gun credentials, but somehow this is always lost on them. We all need to pause and thing about how it will appear to the casual observer every single time we hit that post button, because like it or not, you're representing more than just yourself. You cannot claim to support gun rights while simultaneously posting garbage on the internet suitable to be used against us. The biggest problem many middle-of-the-road "normal" people have with guns is the stereotypical gun owner, maybe you! The reoccurring casual misogyny, homophobia, thinly-veiled racism, and the like need to stop. Even if you're just joking, posting a meme, etc. Ad Hominem attacks are going to stop. There are going to be disagreements, which is fine, but unless you can disagree in a respectful manner don't respond at all. On that note, the lunatic-fringe conspiracy theory nonsense is a great way for us to be summarily dismissed as not credible. A hostile media already portrays gun-owners in a negative light, if not as outright nutbags, and many among us trip over themselves to give them easy ammunition. Members should not be using NWFA as their personal platform to share this sort of content.
  • The bad actors here need to be sent a message that it's not worth their time to post here. The good actors here need to be confident that the threads they post will not devolve into a dumpster fire. If you feel like the moderators are your enemies, you might be one of the members I've described elsewhere in this message. We have a very simple set of rules which the vast majority of our members have absolutely zero issue following. The moderators did not write these rules, I did, they are simply enforcing them. If you have an issue with a rule or the way it's written, contact me, don't take it out on them. These people have a thankless job and volunteer their time for zero compensation in an attempt to maintain civility here. They don't WANT to have to moderate your posts, it's no fun for anyone. Moderators are also not infallible, mistakes happen. If you have a problem with a moderator or if you see a moderator posting questionable content please contact me directly and we'll sort it out. Note that if you complain, I look through your history and see a bunch of rule violations, things probably aren't going to go your way. Never fails, the members who have the most trouble following the rules are the most likely to complain about mods. Moderators are free to read between the lines when evaluating whether content is against the rules, so trying to be clever and avoid the rules as they're written can still result in a ban.
  • Speaking of bans, in the past it has not been easy to get banned from here. I'm the only one who can permanently ban members from this community, and I've done so only after members have been giving plenty of opportunities to change. Honestly, I've been too lenient for too long with people who, when it comes down to it, are not conducive to what we're trying to do here. I try to work with people long past the point that I should, and I'm done. I need to find the courage to look at the evidence in front of me and make that call, and I intend to do so going forward. Most of the time bans are followed by one or more emails with a laundry list of excuses. HINT: If you've been contacted by the moderators several times regarding rule violations, you might be heading for a ban! Yes, we do keep track of how many times moderators have to talk to you. We're all adults here, act like it. If we talk to you simply re-read the rules and adjust, it's not difficult. Is this member a good fit for our community and our goals? Does this member help or hurt our image? Is this member welcoming and respectful of others? When considering a ban, these are the questions I ask myself while reviewing a members history (I look at several pages of posts, sometimes going back years).

REITERATION OF OUR GOALS
  1. Promote a positive image of gun owners and gun ownership.
  2. Increase the overall number of gun owners in the Pacific Northwest.
  3. Educate gun owners to increase knowledge and safety. Educate non-gun owners to increase knowledge and dispel common myths.
  4. Provide resources useful to Northwest gun owners, both online and offline.
  5. Provide a medium for members to organize pro-2A activist efforts on the grassroots level.

ISSUES WE NEED TO ADDRESS (copied from previous thread on this subject)
  1. COMMUNITY TONE/FEEL/FIRST IMPRESSION - I'll go back to the analogy I used in the other thread. If military recruitment began with a war zone tour, how many people would join? How many people aren't joining NWFA in the first place because of what they see? One of the reasons this site has been very successful in the past is due to us being local and welcoming to new people, and us doing our best to provide a helpful, unbiased firearm community. Many have made what will likely be lifelong friends here, despite eventually finding out they had political differences. If those differences were highlighted rather than their shared interest in guns, those friendships likely wouldn't exist. We need to make every effort to focus on the one topic that unites all of us: firearms.

  2. OUR IMAGE - Gun forums in general are a great argument against gun owners and the 2A. Empirical data shows that gun owners are generally law abiding, responsible, quality people. Unfortunately those positive character traits seem to disappear for many once they're in front of a screen. Others are simply so far out of touch that their constant preaching makes us all look like Jerry Fletcher. Even with irrefutable evidence, nobody would believe them because of their reputation. Image is every bit as important as the message one is trying to convey.

  3. CANNIBALISTIC BEHAVIOR - Snubbing and ostracizing others because they're not 'pro-gun enough' is a great way to kill our cause. It's so effective that opposition groups actually use it against us, and we fall for it every time. Who wants to keep company with people who behave like that? In the same way you have to crawl before you can run, it is extremely unlikely for someone to become 100% as-it-was-written pro-gun without being educated in a positive, respectful manner in a non-hostile environment. You will never convince anyone by talking down to them or telling them they're wrong.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
  • How do we create a positive, welcoming environment here?
  • What do we want peoples' initial impressions of our community to be?
  • What words do we want people to use to describe our members and community?
  • What words do we not want people to use to describe our members and community?

CLOSING

I hope that you understand that this place is my life's work, and if I do not do what I think is best for Northwest Firearms and for the 2A then there is no point in continuing. I have no doubt that this is going to stir up a lot of thoughts, opinions, and controversy, or that we won't lose any members over this. This wasn't an easy decision to make, but one that had to be made, so I hope you understand. If you'd like to share your thoughts feel free to reply to this conversation. I don't have for a lengthy back and forth with those who disagree, and I can't promise I'll be able to reply to each response, but I'll do my best.

Thanks,
Joe Link
 
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