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  • Reggie Peralta

Interview: LPOC Vice-Chair Terry Miller on Crossroads of the West Gun Show

"SWAT team prepared" by Oregon Department of Transportation is licensed under CC BY 2.0. / Resized and cropped from original

As the pandemic winds down and the world springs back to life, the Libertarian Party of Orange County has once again been able to participate in a local event that’s very relevant to our message of liberty! Gathering at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa this past March, the Crossroads of the West Gun Show brought firearm owners and hobbyists together after COVID-19 forced organizers to put the show on hold last year. On the bright side, the extended delay seems to have translated into increased support for the LP’s advocacy of gun rights, with dozens of attendees signing up for our emails and several even changing their voter registration to Libertarian! If you weren't able to make it to the show, fret not because the LPOC will also be participating in the next Crossroads show on June 4th through 6th!

While I unfortunately was not able to attend the show, LPOC Outreach Director Terry Miller did, with him showing up and helping out all three days. Though it was only his first time tabling the event, Terry was raised in a very pro-2nd Amendment household and attended Crossroads of the West shows growing up, giving him a unique history and appreciation for the event. Additionally, he was also voted in as Vice-Chair and Outreach Director of the LPOC shortly after the gathering, meaning we can expect to see him contributing to more party events and activities. We can definitely use people with his energy and enthusiasm, qualities that I hope will be conveyed through my talk with him.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

From a libertarian standpoint, I’ve been voting Libertarian and found libertarianism through Ron Paul somewhere in the early 2000s and have been voting LP since about 2008. I just sort of kept thinking to myself “Somebody else—probably wiser, bigger, better than I—had it handled,” and kept saying through the years “Oh, I should probably get involved.” Of course, every subsequent four years, I promptly did not, so finally somewhere around the end of 2016, I said to myself “I better start doing something,” and of course I still didn’t! But I finally got involved with the Jorgensen campaign in 2020, and started doing sign waving, getting involved locally, and met [LPOC Chair] David and everybody with the LPOC, and everything kind of went from there. Just recently, I was voted in as the Vice-Chair! I’m stoked to be involved with the Outreach Committee and trying to get things moving for 2020 now that things are finally opening back up.

For my day job, I’m an IT manager by trade. I like hiking, backpacking, bike riding, outdoor activities in general!

Can you tell us how the LPOC got involved with the Crossroads of the West Gun Show?

My understanding is we’ve been going there for at least the past four years. I don’t know how far back the history goes. What I do know is that in the past, it hasn’t necessarily been a huge hit for us. That is to say that obviously we’re there: we’re probably the most pro-2A [2nd Amendment] group there could possibly be. That being said, most people just really haven’t been interested historically speaking. But this year was quite a change. We couldn’t even get the booth completely set up before we had people lining up. This was from David’s standpoint since this was my first time, but compared to previous years he was quite surprised! We were flooded, and I’d have to say about half of those people who came just directly came to us saying “I’m ready to change my party affiliation!” I don’t know how we’ve been getting the word out, but people knew about us, were interested, and had questions.

Even just being able to talk to people about everything that happened in 2020 was nice. It’s a gun show, so you expect the crowd to be more right-leaning and conservative in general, but a lot of those people were unhappy with the past four years and ready to hear something different. Normally at a place like that, you think you’re going to hear things that are more adversarial. The people you're expecting aren't necessarily looking for trouble, they’re just not interested in anything different because they think they’ve got everything all figured out. Well, I was very surprised at just how open everybody was. I’d be talking to one person and all of a sudden, you’d have two or three people just waiting to talk to us who would start talking to one another and trying to sell each other on it!

Flier comparing the records of the Republican and Democratic parties on gun rights displayed at the show.

Guns are a super hot button issue at the moment, and in fact it can be difficult for libertarians to talk about gun rights with others, especially here in Orange County. What do you think it’s important for pro-gun control people to understand about the libertarian position on guns?

I think what’s most important when it comes down to it is that the right is very much a fair-weather friend when it comes to gun rights. It’s almost like the left when it comes to civil liberties, like it’s one thing for them to talk a big talk about it. Growing up, I was raised in a fairly conservative family and we always were pro-2A. Our thinking was “the left is trying to take your guns, and the right is fighting the fight to keep them!”, but as I got older and learned more, I realized that the right talks the talk but when the chips are down, they don’t vote in our favor, especially here in California.

Before the event, David and I set up a nice, big flier that showed all the California gun laws that were passed as far back as we could go up to current, and who voted for what. We couldn’t go in detail as to how each representative voted, but we were still able to show how each side voted and, honestly, even I was surprised by how often Republicans voted in favor of gun control. It was pretty much a challenge to find any votes where the right wasn’t basically hosing gun owners down. You could see the lawn signs and commercials they set up saying “Oh yeah, we’re fighting for you, we’re fighting for your right to bear arms,” but when the chips were down and you actually look at the numbers, they were voting for those same laws every single time. So, if I had to say one thing, I would say just look at the numbers. The numbers don’t lie, and it really comes down to them being fair-weather friends when it comes to anything on the topic of 2A.

What was the highlight of the event for you?

I haven’t been in many years, and it used to be a very big, flourishing event. Sadly now, because of the way things are with the pandemic, it’s just a big breadline for ammo, with people trying to grab whatever is left at the end of the day. You had people basically saying “I don’t even have this weapon, I’m just going to pick some [ammo] up for my buddy,” so it was kind of a sad state. There’s so many other things that used to be sold there, but now it was basically guys selling body armor and beef jerky, which was kind of disappointing.

But, I guess the overall highlight was seeing how diverse the crowd was. Obviously, Orange County is diverse to begin with, being part of Southern California and all. That being said, with as many people from different walks and different demographics becoming weapons-oriented and trained in the past year or two, it was a very diverse crowd. Friday, we had [LPOC volunteer] Matt there, and he was wearing his big “Black Guns Matter” shirt, and we had a lot of guys come up and say “Yeah, we’re all about it!” It was surprising for something that I always remembered as being very conservative growing up, but it was nice to see that the crowd has changed.

On Sunday, we had [LPOC volunteer and Libertarian Party of California Vice Chair] Rachel [Nyx], who is trans, helping with the booth, and we had people approaching us super happy and wearing “Armed Equality” shirts, so that was cool! That’s promising for the 2nd Amendment in general, and it’s promising that we have, here in OC at least, a large, diverse set of gun owners, gun enthusiasts, and freedom enthusiasts in general. I really liked to see that, and it made me happy that it wasn’t just what most people imagine to be a stereotypical gun show.

Where would you like to see the LPOC and libertarians in general go from here with events like this?

Well, the main thing is outreach has been so low and there just hasn’t been enough people to get things moving. My big push right now is to start having more meet-ups, like even just meeting up at a brewery or the beach. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, I just want to get people involved and excited to come out. From there, we can go into what they would like the Party to do but ideally, I want to keep growing outreach and have more events because that’s our life blood. That’s where we’re going to get more people, that’s how we’re going to get fresh ideas, and then go from there and doing things.

From there, it’s just up and up away from there. As long as we can get people that are enthusiastic and interested, we can do things. That’s the mechanism that I feel has been missing, but from a timing standpoint, coming off the Jorgensen campaign and with people ready for change, the iron is hot! We’ve got to get people involved before they forget because voters think the LP just shows up every four years and then disappears in between. This time around, we can’t disappear, we have to stick around!

Where do I see it in the next year? Hopefully we can— I don’t want to say double our numbers—but at least we can hopefully grow by a good 25 to 50%. I think we can because—if this gun show is any indicator—people are interested!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and interviewee, and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.

Reggie Peralta is a native of Santa Ana and UCLA graduate with a BA in Political Science. In addition to helping out as Blog Editor for the Libertarian Party of Orange County, he has volunteered and written content for local arts and cultural organizations like The Frida Cinema, Makara Center for the Arts, and LibroMobile.

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