In Praise of an Uncompromising Bastard



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By Claire Wolfe, August 23rd 2014
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.

Aaron Zelman, JPFO's late, great founder, was a man of uncompromising principles. He wouldn't have yielded a millimeter on some things. If you'd have held him upside down and threatened to drop him over the rim of the Grand Canyon unless he repudiated pure, hardcore gun rights, he'd have probably said, "Go ahead. Do it."

And then, if you did, he'd have found a way to land safely on his feet. He was that kind of guy.

On the other hand, Aaron was a very reasonable human being. If you could make a good argument for something, he could change his mind faster than a Lamborghini goes from zero to 60.

Example: Back when he and I used to write together, he called me up one day and said, "I want to do an article in favor of X." He didn't really say "X," of course. He named an issue, not obviously related to guns, that was in big favor with certain conservatives and libertarians at that moment. The specific issue isn't important.

But as it happened, I knew quite a bit about it and I protested, "Oh, Aaron, I won't do that."

"Why not?"

"Well because X is really a terrible idea for reasons A, B, and C. And have you considered the impact it's going to have on Q, R, and S?"

He listened to me. Thought a moment. Then he said, "Then let's do an article against X."

And we did. It happens to be an issue that keeps raising its head every few years, so our 15-year-old article still gathers occasional comments and influences people's decisions.

Aaron went from being "pro-X" to "anti-X" in the space of a few sentences because those sentences were reasonable and informative. I knew what I was talking about and he knew I knew.

And Aaron being Aaron, he didn't just grudgingly admit I was right. He became passionate on the subject, delved into it, and as we wrote he came up with half a dozen more reasons that X was really a very bad thing and he insisted we put them all into the article because people needed to know.


As one of my friends noted this week, Aaron was a fanatic. But in the best way.

One of the things that made Aaron a great, effective fanatic was his willingness to listen and change. Another was his awesomely creative mind. I've spent a whole lifetime around writers, artists, and other "creatives," but Aaron's brain was more filled with creative ferment than anyone's.

If I ran into a patch of writer's block on a piece of non-fiction or couldn't think of how to get the protagonist out of a sticky situation in our young adult novel, RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone, Aaron could, without hesitation, throw out 10 ideas, one after another. Nine might suck, but that wouldn't stop him. He'd just keep 'em coming. The tenth would be exactly the needed thing.

Now when you've got a mind like that, you can afford to be a fanatic. Because unlike your garden-variety glassy-eyed true believer, you can change when reality smacks you upside the head.

If Aaron started down an unproductive path, he could turn on a dime and go down a different path with equal vigor and certainty.


Aaron was a giant. He was a giant because he was absolutely uncompromising in his beliefs, while also always testing his beliefs against reality. This is a rare, rare ability and when we lost Aaron, we lost someone with a rare talent.

Aaron was also courageous and relentless in expressing his beliefs.

Above all, compromise was not in Aaron's nature. And everything about JPFO, the group he created and made his life's work, reflected that.

No mealy mouthing from us. No wishy-washing. No sugar-coating the message. And above all, never, ever any bargaining with or yielding to evil.

And evil (among other things) is people who want to legislate or regulate away your fundamental rights.


There's nothing wrong with compromise. We need it to get through life. You want chocolate ice cream and I want vanilla? We buy a carton of Neapolitan, split those bits and give the obnoxious pink part to the dog. Voila! You like chick flicks and I prefer cerebral Swedish thrillers? We alternate on who chooses the weekly movie (or these days, we just agree to disagree and each stream a separate film).

Even on more serious matters, compromise has its place. Gun banners are always saying we're too intransigent and we should "compromise" with them more? Fine. There are some 20,000 gun laws in the country. I'd like to see them all gone, but I'll compromise with you and settle for repealing 10,000 of them.

To be a little more realistic, even compromise on gun legislation can be justifiable if we gain as much as we give -- and if what we give doesn't open the floodgates to something worse.

Aaron, for instance, would have recognized in an instant that you don't compromise on something like universal background checks under any circumstances because UBCs are a backdoor to confiscation and a front door to registration and denials of legitimate purchases. Absolutely nothing gained through "compromising" on UBC legislation could ever overcome such a monumental loss. Aaron would have seen that quickly. He would have grasped the implications faster than anybody else. And he would have shouted NO! to the rooftops. He probably would have worked the phrase "bagel brain" in there somewhere, too.

Aaron was also about capital-A Attitude.

Yes, compromise has a place. Unfortunately, too many "leaders" who dedicate themselves to "compromise" in the name of getting things done forget where that place is. They get so enamored of the very act of deal-making and compromising that they forget that they're compromising what simply cannot ever be compromised without deadly peril.

There are too many of that kind of "leader" left in the gun-rights world. There are no more like Aaron Zelman, a man who knew how to ferret out the truth and stick to it with all the passion of his life.

We are much, much poorer now that the go-along-to-get-along crowd dominates our organizations.

Was this information useful to you? If so, please consider donating, becoming a member or renewing your membership, or buying a DVD, book, tee-shirt, or other gear at our JPFO store.

Claire Wolfe hit the Internet back in 1996 with 101 Things to do 'Til the Revolution, which was followed by several other books. She came to the attention of JPFO's founder, Aaron Zelman, and became one of his main writing partners for seven years. Together they authored The State vs the People and the young-adult novel RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone. She is the author of The Freedom Outlaw's Handbook (successor to 101 Things), writes a monthly column in S.W.A.T. magazine and blogs regularly at Backwoods Home. The Claire Wolfe Archive

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