Try bringing a pen to a swordfight.  In individual conflict, stabbing and slashing can always silence words. But unregulated speech and writing > association > petitioning—a process collectively known as politics, is weightier than all the massed weapons in the nation.  Putting it differently, it is the First Amendment that protects the Second (among others), and not vice versa. Note, for example, today’s announcement of a new coalition of organizations normally competing for the membership dues and shopping dollars of those who like guns—and the more and deadlier the better.

BELLEVUE, WA / SAN CARLOS, CA / MADERA, CA (January 3, 2013) – Firearms Policy Coalition, a new project of renowned Second Amendment rights advocacy organizations Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, Second Amendment Foundation, and The Calguns Foundation has been launched, noted managing director Brandon Combs.  The Coalition’s website was opened to the public in late December 2012.

The Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) provides for an effective, NATO-like response to gun control campaigns and efficient, low-friction advocacy of litigation, legislation, education, and grassroots efforts that advance Second Amendment rights. Of the Coalition, Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said, “I’m proud to help usher in the next generation of gun rights activism. The new paradigm is, and must be, coordination, mutual-support, and unity. Those who would disarm America’s law-abiding people are rabid in their desire to assault gun owners’ Second Amendment, privacy, and property rights.”

“FPC immediately brings to the table leading Second Amendment advocacy groups, leadership, staff, volunteers, and hundreds of thousands of active supporters. This,” said Combs, “will enable superior communication, real-time collaboration, and scalable action to advance individual liberties and defend against promised attacks on civil rights by extremists like U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Representative Carolyn McCarthy, California State Senator Leland Yee, and Illinois State Senators Dan Kotowski and Antonio Muñoz.”

It’s hard to tell whether this is just another instance of politically active groups seizing on the headlines to sound the alarm: “Your interests are threatened and we’re here to protect you: send money,” or whether the coalition reflects real anxiety that the NRA can no longer be counted on to keep Congress away from some kind of further gun regulation.  But what it does show is how fundamental free speech, press, association and petition are to protecting everything else. That the First Amendment is first is a historical accident but a symbolic reality as well.