Home Opinion OPINION: How a ragtag bunch of volunteers beat a sitting governor

OPINION: How a ragtag bunch of volunteers beat a sitting governor

I’ve had the dubious “privilege” of knowing North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper for more than 25 years. I knew him when, as chair of the N.C. Senate Judiciary Committee, he killed our efforts to strengthen our concealed handgun permit law.

I knew Roy Cooper as N.C. Attorney General, when he callously added people deemed not to be a danger to self or others to the list of “mental defectives” — prohibited persons in the National Instant Background Check System. For the hearing on the bill, I sat in the front row of the committee room as he marched his entourage into the meeting, shaking hands and slapping backs.

When he got to me, despite our not having crossed paths in 10 years, his smile disappeared: “Oh. Hello, Paul.” His voice dripped with contempt. As I locked eyes with him, my reply was a hearty, “Hey, Roy.”

And finally, I knew him as governor, when he vetoed our church carry bills twice and our repeal of the Jim Crow-era pistol purchase permit relic once.

And now, I’ve had the pleasure of tangling with Cooper one more time — the time when we delivered on our promise to bring defeat to his doorstep by overriding his veto of Senate Bill 41.

How gun rights groups can win

What changed over those 25 years was our level of organization. What started as a few dozen Second Amendment stalwarts grew to thousands of grizzled and dedicated activists. We trained. We fundraised. We spent untold hours building our strength.

Equally important, we learned how to win elections. We did not, like some grassroots groups, simply throw money at a few politicians and call it a day. No, we created a serious candidate evaluation system, distributed 150,000 voter guides in election years, and used our political action committee to do independent expenditures via mailings, robocalls, automated text messaging, radio spots, e-mail and, most recently, sophisticated geofencing to deliver messages to mobile apps.

We worked tirelessly to create a supermajority in the N.C. General Assembly and finally, in 2022, our efforts paid off. What has elsewhere been dismissed as a “red ripple” in the 2022 elections did not take place in North Carolina. We got the “red wave.” We achieved a veto-proof supermajority in the N.C. Senate and were only one seat shy in the N.C. House.

Next, I wrote an open letter to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore, pointing out what gun voters had done for them and what those gun voters wanted. To their credit (and unlike most politicians), they “Danced with the one that ‘brung ‘em.”


What followed was the most efficient legislative operation I have had the good fortune to witness in my 29 years of gun rights leadership — something “There’s-not-a-dime’s-worth-of-difference-between-them” critics of the Republican Party should consider. Particular thanks are due to the bill’s sponsors, Senators Danny Britt, Warren Daniel, and Jim Perry, for their highly professional and outstanding work.

Yesterday, in the Senate and today, in the House, we overrode the veto of Senate Bill 41 by the most anti-freedom governor in North Carolina’s history. And make no mistake: This day is historic. All-volunteer Grass Roots North Carolina was central to the first override of Cooper’s many vetoes since 2018 — the first-ever override of a gun bill in North Carolina.

I am extremely proud of the ragtag band of gun rights volunteers whom I’ve had the privilege of flogging over nearly three decades, and I thank them for putting up with my flogging. We joke about giving “100%” pay raises and punishing screw-ups by promotion (which explains how I got to be president). I often say that Grass Roots North Carolina is a lot like the Israeli military: Our operations aren’t necessarily pretty, but we get the job done.

Like the concealed handgun law we engineered in 1995 and the Castle Doctrine we got passed in 2011, SB 41 will save lives. First, it will allow church parishioners to carry concealed firearms in churches which sponsor schools — exactly like the Coventry School and associated Covenant Presbyterian Church recently attacked in Nashville. Second, it eliminates an archaic permit system which enabled felons to circumnavigate gun purchase background checks.

It is this type of success I seek to propagate in other groups. It is precisely why I wrote “Rules for ANTI-Radicals: A Practical Handbook for Defeating Leftism,” which is the culmination of what we learned over nearly three decades.

The takeaway is that ragtag volunteers can indeed beat a sitting leftist governor. And I can add only that whatever office this term-limited governor chooses to run for next, we will relish the opportunity to beat him there too.

Paul Valone is president of Grass Roots North Carolina. Originally published at rulesforantiradicals.com.

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