“I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands.” The slogan popularized by National Rifle Association (NRA) bumper stickers has been a rallying cry for gun owners over the last several decades. It reflects the sentiment that too many politicians don’t respect the individual right to gun ownership ensconced in the Constitution. The challenge for most of gun owners is that amending gun policies isn’t usually a give-and-take issue. It’s often a take-and-take scenario facing even those of us willing to discuss policy reforms in good faith.

Most gun owners aren’t really Second Amendment absolutists. We don’t want violent felons carrying firearms. We’re comfortable restricting gun ownership for people who have adjudicated mental incapacities. We also support reasonable age restrictions for purchase. Even as some politicians suggest we allow teachers to arm themselves in the classroom, I haven’t heard anyone call for minor students to carry guns in school.

But even those reasonable restraints are concessions of individual gun rights. As best I can tell, gun control advocates aren’t credibly offering to liberalize any gun laws in exchange for reforms in other areas. Otherwise, we could have already addressed glaring problems with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) through the FIX NICS Act that passed the House in December of 2017. Democrats balked at the idea of requiring reciprocity for concealed-carry permits across state lines.

As such, it’s truly amazing that ideas like raising the age for certain firearm purchases, Texas’s mental crisis gun seizure law, and playing hardball with states who shirk NICS reporting are viable. Even in an environment with no additional policy consideration put on the table for gun owners, modest reforms aren’t definitively out of reach.

If all this back and forth were really about improving gun laws, we’d have Republicans and Democrats seizing that common ground on politically achievable ideas and making progress. I haven’t been shy about my personal willingness to engage, but my phone hasn’t been ringing with calls from Democratic policy makers.

Modest achievable compromises won’t be praised by the NRA or sufficient for anti-gun activists in the headlines. More specifically, reasonable policy consensus isn’t the way to raise political dollars.

Take the recently formed NoRA Initiative for example. According to reporting by Time, Parkland shooting survivor and political activist David Hogg, Alyssa Milano, Jimmy Kimmel, Alec Baldwin and others have joined forces to “expose public servants who have been stymying gun control legislation after taking money from the NRA.”

I’m not sure how they plan to “expose” information that is extremely well documented, public and campaigned upon. In most heavily Republican districts, NRA support is a critical advantage for candidates. They’re not hiding from it; they prize it. In toss-up districts, candidates are generally smart enough to know whether the NRA affiliation is an advantage or disadvantage, and they act accordingly.

Progressives will love and applaud NoRA’s “coalition” of liberals and liberals. Conservatives will largely ignore it. The NRA will point to the entity as an attack on gun rights by the leftist elite, raise more money, and increase membership. NoRA literally stands for “NoRifle Association.” Gun owners like me don’t see that as simply an anti-NRA stance; it’s an attack on people who share similar views about the government’s further encroachment on Second Amendment rights. It isn’t a call for reasoned discussion.

On a similar note, the NRA’s bellicose recent ads “coming for” the New York Times and warlike rhetoric toward political opponents are equally unhelpful. A “clenched fist of truth” sounds downright authoritarian. As much as I’m a fan of the Second Amendment, the first one is equally important. In fact, protecting the First Amendment is a primary reason I support the Second.

I don’t want another civil war, but I am adamant about defending the Constitution that’s served our nation well. At times, I’m going to agree with the ACLU on issues like free speech. On other occasions, it’s the NRA on gun rights. Sometimes it’s even stranger. I recently discovered that I agree with Kanye West on the importance of individual political expression.

We’re spending too much time conflating gun policy reforms with political objectives. If NoRA wants to be the anti-NRA and a political fundraising machine for progressives, so be it. We’re free to do that in America. But such efforts aren’t about making policy headway any more than the NRA’s fight ads.

Either we trade equal opposing political blows or genuinely seek common ground. It’s incredibly difficult to do both. The latter is far less emotionally gratifying, but it’s also more prudent. Gun owners give some ground, and the gun control crowd doesn’t get everything it wants. Votes aren’t there for a federal ban on AR-15 style guns. Aggressive federal licensure requirements are probably dead on arrival as well. Such compromise might make everyone a little unhappy, but good public policies usually do that.

I won’t be joining the likes of Hogg and Milano at the NoRA Initiative, but I’m happy to discuss achievable policy reforms. While many gun owners are similarly open to improving gun policies, we’re not interested in political surrender. The take and take tenor needs to find a little more give to law-abiding gun owners. That’s understandably a tall order for gun control advocates, but it’s much easier than trying to pry the guns out of our cold dead hands.

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