It wasn’t that long ago that the forces of gun control were in the ascendant. The ‘assault weapons ban’ and the threat of lawsuits against lawful gun manufacturers by big city mayors left the firearms industry reeling. The tobacco settlement (remember that?) was still a hot issue and there was a widespread believe that gun prohibition could be achieved simply by driving the firearms industry into bankruptcy through wave after wave of lawsuits.
It was in this environment that the venerable firm of Smith and Wesson tried to cut a deal with the Clinton Administration and dodge the worst of the lawsuits.
With great fanfare, the company signed an accord to be more responsible in selling guns and in return it would be spared the litigation scourge. As an extra bonus, several mayors hinted that S&W guns would be adopted by their own police forces.
The latter provision almost immediately fell apart as procurement regulations prevent that kind of pre-selection (though it is telling that the majors offered this – it is the Chicago way, after all).
Still S&W figured they had dodged the worst of the litigation threat and could get on with business.
By cutting a deal with gun controllers (who by definition are never going to buy guns) S&W destroyed its reputation with gun owners. Sales collapsed.
Now I should mention at this point that S&W was owed by the British firm of Tomkins PLC. They regarded it as an investment, nothing more, and of course their leadership had a British sensibility regarding firearms (that is to say, they found them icky and loathed the people who bought them).
Smith and Wesson was finally sold (at a huge loss) to a consortium of American investors who immediately revoked all of the agreements and then proceed to produce the .500 Magnum, the most powerful production handgun in the world. Press announcements trumpeted the .500 Magnum’s ability to kill any thing that walks on the North American continent.
Sales surged and they been a going thing ever since.
The Boy Scouts are making the same mistake. No doubt they look at diminishing participation, official scorn from Democrat office holders and say to themselves “Gosh, this gay thing is killing us. We should just flip and save what we can.”
The problem here is that like Smith and Wesson, they are misjudging the times. Yes, it is true that scouting is not as popular as it once was, but this is a feature of helicopter parents and there being less children in general. Scouting is still held out to be unapologetically masculine, which makes it anathema to many millennials.
The primary supporters of scouting are therefore traditional religious groups, i.e. the ones who are likely to object to endorsing homosexuality and who support the time-honored notion of manly men and feminine women.
By shifting the burden onto these affiliates, the Scouts are not only committing an act of cowardice (“Hey, we’re not bigots, it’s those people, over there!”) they are destroying their own base of support.
I’m sure the leadership has been told that there are thousands of young men who would just love to go scouting but object to the gay thing. I think a bigger issue is the loss of corporate donations.
However, I suspect that the people who didn’t like the Scouts for banning gays aren’t going to like them much better even with gays. There is still that annoying love of country and God businesses. Maybe if they dropped those and became truly inclusive, membership would increase.
More likely, the Scouts will see their brand destroyed and their core supporters leave.
The problem here is that once one betrays one's core values, there isn't much left. Either the Boy Scouts are dedicated to a time-honored traditional vision of American manhood or they are just like everyone else, living on the moment and standing for nothing in particular.
If they truly lived their values, they should have been willing to accept that there may only be a few thousand Scouts, but each was a paragon of virtue. Maybe in time the pendulum would swing the other way and the Scouts would be vindicated and admired for their refusal to cave.
Instead, they've chosen an easier path, though it may end up being a harder one when all is said and done.