About This Episode
Want to gain valuable insights into the current state of gun ownership and the efforts being made to protect gun rights? In this episode of Tactical Business, host Wade Skalsky sits down with Chuck Rossi of Open Source Defense to discuss the importance of addressing problems through reasonable solutions rather than ideological beliefs. Open Source Defense is a non-profit organization that advocates for the use of open source technologies and collaboration in the defense and security sector. Watch this episode for a fun and interesting dive into this latest development in payments and firearms.
Insights In This Episode
- Facebook’s decision to remove firearms content in 2016 sparked a discussion on biased policies and the harm it caused to the industry and users.
- The objective of the organization is to increase the number of gun owners regardless of race, creed, religion, or belief.
- Encouraging closeted gun owners to live an authentic gun life can contribute to creating a stronger community.
- Taking newcomers to the shooting range can be a transformative experience, making them want to become more involved in gun ownership.
- The concept of self-defense may be repulsive to some people, so it’s important to introduce it gradually rather than leading with it.
- The gap between pro-gun and anti-gun groups has grown wider, with the pro-gun side becoming more aware of Second Amendment rights and the anti-gun side pushing for stricter regulations.
- And SO much more!
Chuck Rossi : Open Source Defense
Open Source Defense is a non-profit organization that aims to revolutionize the defense and security sector by promoting the use of open source technologies, fostering collaboration, and advocating for transparency and innovation in order to address complex national security challenges. They believe in the power of open source solutions to enhance efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and interoperability, ultimately ensuring a stronger and more secure future.
Featured on the Show
About Tactical Entrepreneur
Tactical Entrepreneur is the weekly business show for the firearms industry. The podcast features in-depth interviews with the entrepreneurs, professionals and technologists who are enabling the next generation of firearms businesses to innovate and grow.
Wade: Welcome to the Tactical Business Show. I’m your host, Austin based firearms entrepreneur Tony Smith. In each episode, we’ll be exploring what it takes to thrive as a business owner in the firearms industry. We’ll speak with successful firearms industry entrepreneurs about their experiences building their companies. We’ll also speak with leaders and legislators who are shaping the industry, as well as tech executives whose innovations will reshape the future of the firearms industry. Welcome to the podcast today I’m Wade Skalsky, your host. And today we’re going to be talking with Chuck Rossi. Chuck has worked as a software engineer for 30 years in Silicon Valley. He has held engineering and management positions at IBM, Silicon Graphics, VMware, Google and Facebook. After ten years of leading Facebook software release infrastructure team, he worked with Facebook’s policy and operations teams to help clarify and improve policies related to firearms and accessories for users and advertisers. Chuck was often a voice of reason in Facebook’s strong stance against firearms and a huge advocate for the industry. He is a USPSA and three gun shooter, an NRA certified instructor, an NRA certified range officer and leads corporate team building shooting events through the United States Digital Service. He has worked as a consultant at the FBI’s Cjis Division, working on the Uniform Crime Report and NICs 2.0. So that’s a lot of reading right there, Chuck. But you’ve been around. That’s quite a biography.
Chuck: Nice. That’s a very polite way to say I’m old, but I appreciate that.
Wade: Yeah, I feel that too. I just turned 50 this year, so I’d like to tell people that I’ve had about three lifetimes, so I get it. But I’m really excited today to talk to you about gun rights and doing a little bit of research on you and your background. I love your approach on how you basically are. I will say a kinder, gentler, nuanced approach to gun rights. Is that a fair assessment?
Chuck: Yeah, it is my experience at Facebook from 2016 to late 2018 2019, working on firearms issues really galvanized the vision for how to do this right, because it was very much in the context of social media, which was at its height during those times. So when I left Facebook in late 2018, I was one of the co-founders of Open Source Defense. So OpenSourceDefense.Org is kind of where I put those efforts that I couldn’t do any more directly at Facebook into a more broad organization kind of without constraints that would have had at Facebook to be an advocate for the Second Amendment. So open source defense is a kind of new generation of gun rights organizations, and it’s it takes a more open approach. That this is all our our right and how to basically get the most people interested as possible by the tagline is 100% gun rights 0% culture war. So we are only focused on gun rights and that’s our that’s our gig.
Wade: Well, I believe we can definitely accomplish more together than we can apart. And on these issues, I think the more consensus that you can get, the the faster we can move forward and where we need to go. And also protecting where we kind of the hard fought gains. Now, was there a specific time when you were working or a specific thing that happened that kind of spurred you to start the organization, or was it something that was kind of over over a longer period of time?
Chuck: It was really it was born out of the kind of the Facebook experience. In 2016, Facebook made a unilateral decision and it was quite high on the corporate ladder or it was made of like, okay, in 2016, we’re going to there was some like article, some BS article from some anti-gun rag about, oh, you know, you can buy guns on Facebook. And which was not exactly true, but the knee jerk reaction internally from the very one sided leadership at that time said, okay, we’re going to get rid of all firearms content on Facebook effectively. So they removed about six, seven, 8000 groups were removed, business pages were shut down. Anything related to firearms, business pages for magazines, for training, for manufacturers or all kind of at risk. So I saw that and immediately spoke up because to Meta, Facebook’s credit, it did have in those days still an open kind of discussion area where I and I was more of a leadership position. I think it was a director at that point where I could say like, listen, this is harming our users, it’s harming the industry. It’s very biased, it’s very uneducated. Here’s why it’s wrong. Here’s why it’s hurting people and here’s how we can fix it. Right? So and this is a good corporate lesson for anyone I’m sure you can agree with.
Chuck: It is like I’m not just going to whine like my Second Amendment rights, cold, dead hand. It’s not going to sway anyone because they that’s they might not care, honestly. But what does work is saying this is why it’s broken. This is why it’s biased and here’s how precisely we fix it. And that kind of approach, I’ve made this big kind of internal email that went all the way around and Zuckerberg saw it and other people saw it. And basically we reversed that decision. And Zuckerberg kind of blessed me to say, okay, go look at this with your approach and make it reasonable. And that’s what I started in 2016 to 2018. Now, I will say that it’s not been perfect. It’s been very hard to do that in that environment during those years, probably even harder now. But there was a willingness at the certainly at the engineering level, at the technical level, at the policy level, it was like they were much harder to get to move. Engineering moves fast and Facebook engineering was world famous for like very fast technology development. The policy side and the community operations and the user support side is that much slower in making any kind of change. So that’s what kind of got me going on this road and led to the founding.
Wade: It was probably the lawyers. So in defense of, my God, 100%, that’s why I’m a recovering lawyer. It’s probably the lawyers. We’re always the ones that are causing the problems. And I think you say it so offhandedly where you say, well, well, I decided I was going to speak up. Well, you’re in this corporate culture and and speaking up about Second Amendment, speaking up about gun rights, that is kind of a hot topic. Did you feel any heat when that happened personally or did you were you afraid that that might have some repercussions for your career?
Chuck: I’m not a career oriented person. I have a skill set in engineering that pretty much can ensure I can do what I want, where I want to do it. So that helped me. I’m also, again, don’t care about titles or or whatnot. So I had options. So that did give me freedom. A lot of people don’t have that freedom. So I would say evaluate your own situation. You’re worth out in the industry, various industries. And if you can and you have a good idea like, well, this is not going to be the end of me, then yeah, go out. But again, I cannot stress the skill is in walking that line of like pleading your case, getting things done, but not like going ideological even though you hold these beliefs. I’m not leading with from my cold, dead hands. I want to scream at the top of the roof on top of the roof and want a mail order machine guns. That’s my ultimate goal. Right? But I am not going with that. I am going with like, there’s a specific problem. There’s a solution that’s reasonable and I’m going to walk that tightrope to get what I want done for this problem.
Wade: Well, one of the reasons why we wanted to have you on the podcast is, is to support organizations like yours, because not everyone has that skill set. Not everyone has the ability to speak out. Not everyone has the ability to to do that. And so your organization helps to kind of to fill that gap for those people. And it’s worth supporting. Where do you see in terms of the objectives of your organization and in terms of like spreading that message? Because again, as I think it’s a tough message to spread nuance, it’s so much easier to say, hey, there’s Team A, there’s Team B, you’re either one or the other. And here are our talking points. So so walk me through a little bit sort of your objectives, how you plan to accomplish that and your thought process on that.
Chuck: So the objective is to make more gun owners regardless of race, creed, religion or belief, and we want more gun owners. This is in direct response to the fact that the mainstream media, politicians, even meta and YouTube and the socials have a the underlying every article you read about guns and gun control, the underlying base assumption. Is that guns are bad. Every article starts out with like, guns are a bad thing. We need to to lower the use of it basically comes down any anti-gun person their base premise is humans are too stupid to have these things. They are not responsible enough. They’re too dumb. These are too advanced, too powerful. Normal people can’t have these. I guarantee you that is the assumption of every single anti-gun politician person you will ever run into. And it’s not true. And the statistics clearly show it’s not true with the number of guns in circulation, number of people who own guns, and the ridiculously low, low number of accidents that happen with firearms. And even when we get to the all the stats, but basically given the number of guns that are out there, all the stats on firearms are actually very much in our favor. Right? So our approach to do this is, like I said, we are 0% culture war. We do not care about anything other than. Gun rights we don’t get into. I don’t think we’ve ever said the word Democrat or Republican in the 230 newsletters we’ve put out. We are 100% just driving people to be gun owners. So those are the things that we do.
Chuck: Some of our bullet points coming out of the safe. If you are a closeted gun owner, you should be living your authentic gun life. And that’s what did at Meta. That’s what some of the other people have done at their we’re all pretty much in sort of high tech, very much white collar environments, the seven of us. And we came out, as it were, in our various places, and it worked out very well for me. Right. It got me in a position where I could make a serious change. So. So again, evaluate for yourself, but don’t be a closeted gun owner. The other thing I want to say is the idea of culture and politics. We are not a lobbying organization, at least not yet. And it’s clear to us that like. Culture drives politics. So I’d rather start at the culture side and just make it so unattractive for politicians to go against gun rights, then try to lobby politicians to protect our rights. And that was traditionally kind of the grass roots idea of how you could drive the change you wanted. Just make it so. And it’s worked all through the 80s and 90s, right? You kind of remember the Blue Dog Democrats and the. The other how more broad support was for firearms rights back in those days. And that was because the culture demanded it. So that’s the second order effect of getting more people involved. Opening up the base is we get that effect as well. So these kind of approaches are what we were kind of working on.
Wade: And I think you’re smart to come from that education side because if you take a journalist who writes an article, a negative article, let’s say, about a gun, some gun issue, right. You can as a gun owner and someone who fires guns and practices safety and is around them. And you know that they have never shot a gun just by how they write their article. So if you can get them out to the range and you can have them meet people at the gun range, because in my experience and this is pretty uniform, is the gun range is one of the most helpful, pleasant places that you can be, regardless of what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or if you’re poor or or any anything. It’s one of the best places in terms of accepting to try to help people who want to get better. So so you’ve got this education component and I know part of it too, from reading your literature is that is a lot of that stems from like the base foundational principle of self-defense. Kind of walk me through a little bit about that.
Chuck: So you’re right. One of our bullet points is take a noob to the range and that like you’ve said, I don’t think I’ve taken any single person to the range who didn’t want more when they were done. The highlight of this for me was during those years 2016 to 2018, I took over a thousand Facebook employees to the range in terms of we did off sites, we did corporate, we lived the corporate life. You do these corporate off sites once every quarter, once every half where you do a team building exercise somehow got roped into doing. Shooting off sites so secured a range had an instructor and me as an instructor, two instructors and a group from anywhere from 10 to 20 people. Majority of these people had never seen a gun in real life, yet alone fired one vast majority there from all over the world. As you know, the tech industry is mostly is not mostly, but it has a very large percentage of people from Asia, India, Eastern Europe, South America. It’s a very diverse group of people who wind up in tech and think three people out of a thousand were like, This is not for me. So that was a very strong onboarding for them. Also does range days where we take people in our group, our circle, we one thing about open source defense, we have a very you don’t have a huge, huge following, but the people we have are quite. We have good quality. They’re quite influential. There might be some C-suite people, there might be some executives from various forms, more quote unquote influential people. We take those people to the range and give them range days. And that has been this is saying nobody goes to the anti gun range or nobody goes to the anti gun store. It’s no fun.
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Wade: It’s kind of twofold, right? Is that the one is that people see that owning a gun and firing a gun can be a viable way of self-defense. So your first point where it’s talking about how people can be too stupid to own a gun, right? Like that’s like the view of the people who are anti-gun. But when you actually go and you meet people and you meet the level of competence and you it’s just like anything else, it’s like everyone just wants to be safer. That becomes, okay, maybe this is an option for self-defense. And I know that self-defense as a principle is like your core principle. Walk me through your thinking on why that is and how that influences everything with your organization.
Chuck: This is really important. This shocked me as you’re not going to believe what I’m going to say here. But not everyone has this concept of self-defense. Certainly people from Europe or from outside the US, even people in Europe and in the UK actively do not believe in self-defense. As we understand, as you and I understand it. So for all these outings, we never introduced the idea that you’re going to shoot a person with this gun. We’re going about the mechanics, the how to do it, the physical mechanics of you, the mechanics of the gun, which is all interesting. The marksmanship, the speed, the accuracy. We can do dynamic shooting in form of uspsa style gaming, but not until they’ve got that comfort level with the firearm and they start asking and they usually do. Do we get into like, well, here’s why this is useful for self-defense. Here’s what we’re doing, why it’s useful for self-defense. But I will tell you, if you’re bringing people out, do not lead with a self-defense angle. Get them there naturally, because many people this I can’t explain why, but the self-defense idea is repulsive in today’s modern, enlightened society, the idea that I have to use violence for an instrument that I think is the epitome of violence, that I have to use this violence against another human is repulsive to them, and they don’t want to go into it with that mindset. Now, you can certainly get them to there because I think the natural order is you’re going to finally get to that point. But so be cautious about that. That surprised me.
Wade: Well, there you go with the new once again, Chuck. It’s one of those things where you have to meet people where they are, okay? And that’s why if we just are shouting at each other and it’s Team A and Team B shouting each other and we’re going to do this or do that, it’s like, no, no, let’s just put all that aside. Let’s go to the gun range and let’s just have you hold and shoot a gun and then just start there. And then maybe it’s for you. Maybe it’s not for you. But we don’t even have to. All those other issues are a problem and we’re on a right. Exactly. So you’ve taken 1000 people to the ranges. That’s I thought was cool. Just taking my neighbor to the range. So that’s a lot of people. So your organization and I think you you’re on top of this in terms of you have your pulse on where the culture has been. You have a pulse, your finger on the pulse of where it is now. What do you think the current state of the culture is on gun safety, on gun laws, and to a.
Chuck: I would say it’s the most divergent I’ve ever seen it. I’ve been in this fight since 89in college when I had my first kind of debate on on gun control in upstate New York. And that was after, I think it was the Stockton shooting, which was the first the first kind of really shooting that started the media cycle, the media obsession with this stuff. So all through the 80s and 90s, even into the 2000, we had a pretty good handle. The gun control groups were really crippled in that their message was not resonating. The Brady The Handgun Control Inc., all those were not really getting traction, not getting funding. I would say when Bloomberg entered the equation and funded millions upon millions of dollars for that gun control empire, that is the only thing sustaining at least bootstrapped and sustaining the gun control orgs right now is the Bloomberg machine that’s behind it. So the Everytown stuff, the Mayors Against Guns, the the various splinter orgs, the Trace, all these sites that have the same narrative and just push the same bogus stats and manipulated data that the media just eats up. And the result of that is you have, in my experience, the widest gap. Like we were all kind of this way on guns the pro and anti and we have diverged like the pro people are even more pro and even more kind of aware of the true meaning of the Second Amendment and of the natural right and against like all the NFA and ATF regulations that are being inflicted on us. So they’re going harder into like now want body armor and want nods.
Chuck: Now I want like all this advanced stuff. I want electronic triggers, I want fire control systems and the anti side is going like, you can’t have anything. We’re going to put $10,000 taxes on all the guns. We’re trying to regulate ammo. We’re going to ban every semi-auto or and so this it’s a strange extremism. I guess you can see this against everything. But certainly in the firearms group, we’ve gotten more rights, We’ve got constitutional carry or permitted carry. And I think every in all 50 states at this point, we’ve had other wins at the same time. It’s the extremism of the anti side has gotten just crazy stuff. They wouldn’t have dared said back in the 90s. They say freely now. So I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re in a very divided spot and I guess this is just another example across the country on all issues. But I will say of all the crazy issues, the social issues, I am the most optimistic for the firearm stuff. One, because the courts have generally been so strong because it’s such of the clarity of the natural right and the clarity of the Constitution in preserving it and the whole Covid and the riots and all the mess of 2020, 20, 21, 2022 drove a lot more people into the think want a gun camp. So unfortunately because of those events but it did was a little poke to say like maybe you should pay attention here and not lose your rights.
Wade: There’s a very powerful thing where when think you alluded to it is meeting people not just in the self-defense, not just in the hey, we want night vision or whatever, but like the tradition of Family gun and the tradition of I got a shotgun when I was 12, like Ducks Unlimited single shot, 20 gauge from my dad right when I was 12. But I grew up in North Dakota and we all have to do hunter safety. But that as that diminishes because that experience diminishes for everyone, we we have to, as advocates for the Second Amendment, is draw people’s attention to the history of this. Right. Like it hasn’t always been, like you said, so divisive. It hasn’t always been where it’s like there’s one camp and if you are pro gun, then you belong to a militia. And then if you’re anti-gun, it’s like you can’t even have we want you to register your knives at your house. So and I think I think that you have this new crop of gun owners and I think organizations like you that educates them on that, that history and that nuance is critical. Do you guys have any partnerships that you’re of organizations or people that you’re partnering with that are helping you in this in this fight or. I shouldn’t call it a fight. I should call it in this collaboration?
Chuck: Yeah, not really. We’re kind of unique in that we don’t want to if we could find organizations that were not super biased one way or the other or just use language that’s not going to help one side or the other, it would be easier, but we find it easier to be independent. We can walk our own line, so that’s good. Personally, I have I work with the the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is a great organization. They’re the industry body for the shooting, hunting and outdoors industries, and they have been helping their members with all the social media problems and leverage me to help with their social media problems. So give presentations. And if I’ll say this to your listeners as well, if anyone has their Instagram or Facebook account restricted, removed, deleted because of what they call regulated goods, or basically because you have firearm content, let me know. And I can generally try to escalate things like that or give you advice or help you navigate that problem. And it’s a very common problem. And and I have worked I mean, six hours just got nuked a couple of weeks ago. Aero Precision got nuked a couple weeks ago. Springfield. Armory. Nevsky gets nuked and stuffs taken down. Just it’s an endless battle and they’re all false positives. It’s all mistakes by Meta or YouTube or whoever that just have to be escalated to the point of like you just nuked a 1 million plus account for a major manufacturer with no recourse incorrectly.
Wade: And when you say escalate things you mean escalate it above the chain of command. So it’s basically to take it up to where it’s like the to get it back in the decision making process. Or do you mean like, no, let’s get aggressive and draw some attention to it.
Chuck: Escalate in terms of like working with any contacts in YouTube or at Meta to say, Hey, you did something wrong, clearly wrong. Can you help fix this? And generally the employees, almost regardless of their persuasion, will say, Oh yeah, that’s incorrect because the firearms policy on meta is quite good, that it’s a strong word, it’s reasonable enough that you should be able to publish a fair amount of content, won’t get into the details, have many talks about this and I’m happy to go to corporations and educate them, but as written it gives you quite a bit of leeway. The problem is they don’t follow their own policy and when they don’t, we can bring it to their attention and they still have a desire to fix it.
Wade: Well, the reason why I ask that question is because I think it’s important that people realize that is that this is not a passive place that we’re in right now. If people with a Second Amendment are passive or and unfortunately, in all aspects of our life, not fortunately, it’s encroaching everywhere. We have to stand our ground and we have to. And that’s a loaded, loaded term. But we have to be able to push back a little bit and say, hey, look, these are your rules. We follow the rules. Just treat us like everybody else. That’s all anybody wants. We just want to be treated just like everybody else on the platform going forward, where do you see your organization, let’s say, the next year, two years?
Chuck: It’s a good question. So we were constantly growing our user base and if people want to follow us @OpensrcDefense on Twitter, we are pretty active there. Our newsletter is exceptional. Our Substack. So if you go to open source defense. Org you can look at the newsletter on substack. You can sign up. It is very high signal, low noise once a week, lightweight, but very thought provoking, very well written arguments for the two way that you’re not going to get absolutely anywhere else. So if you want a fresh approach, you want something new, then the old talking points from the NRA from 1985 or 1990, please do that. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Wade: In preparing for this interview I read you got a lot of content on there. I’m also an email copywriter kind of guy, and I love headlines and stuff like that. You’ve got some great headlines. Did you do those just come to you naturally or do you have a process that you do that or.
Chuck: So we have Kareem is mainly writing the newsletter and kind of the creative engine behind. So we have a Slack channel where we’re all in it all day and we hash that stuff out. We have an incredible designer of Daujy 999 defense and he does our graphics and our really stylized look and feel branding, if you will. We got great photographer. We have a good team of creatives. So yeah, that’s having good creative people from who use these skills outside of the gun world is what you want, So you get that creativity from their other professions.
Wade: And I’m and I think and we’re getting close to time here. I want to wrap it up a little bit, but just to be respectful of your time. It seems to me, though, that even though we have all this division in some ways the most that we’ve had on this issue in a long time, you still seem rather optimistic about sort of the direction forward. Are you bullish or bearish? Where do you stand on the next five years or do you think it’s going to be tough for a few years then it’s going to be at the end, though it’s going to be okay? Or do you see a general good, positive trajectory?
Chuck: We’re all optimistic at OSD and our newsletter reflects that and our approach reflects that. And the reason why is just our experience has been once you demonstrate what it’s about and what we’re about and what the ability is about, it’s attractive. The other side is not attractive. There is no natural beauty. There’s no natural attractiveness to being anti-gun. It’s once you’re informed and once you have firsthand experience, it’s a very natural progression to not want to lose what is yours. So that’s why we’re optimistic. It’s not hard to change minds. If you can get a one on one or any sort of exposure. That’s just not the it’s such a one dimensional attack from the Bloomberg side that it’s just easier. It’s kind of good that it’s just this one source of kind of misinformation and just bad kind of bad feelings. It’s all negativity coming out of them and it’s just all fear, uncertainty, doubt. It’s all fear mongering. It’s like exploiting shootings. I remember when clubhouse was a thing. It was in a clubhouse during Covid, the height of Covid, and in one of the Bloomberg groups or Bloomberg affiliated groups. And they were basically lamenting that there was no schools in session because there was no school shootings and they weren’t doing it consciously. But listening to them talk, it’s like they need that. That’s their lifeblood. If it was not for that kind of quote unquote, school shooting or quote unquote, mass shooting thing that they just tried every angle to do, their whole portfolio would fall apart. They have nothing if not for that, and they just live off that. So it’s hard to overcome that because of the emotionalism. But that’s the only thing we have going against us, honestly.
Wade: Well, I’m optimistic, just like you are, and mostly because there are people like you and your organization who are really out there fighting the good fight, doing it with nuance and realizing that we can bring people together. We have a much higher chance of not only having the status quo, but having a very positive future. So, Chuck, I’ve really enjoyed talking to you today. Tell us one more time where people can find you.
Chuck: Sure. Thanks, Wade. We are at OpenSourceDefense.org. And on Twitter and Instagram we were @openSRCDefense and we also have a discord, which you’ll see in the newsletter. You can join the discord if you want a more real time experience.
Wade: Well, it has been great today. Thank you so much for joining us and look forward to having you on the podcast again.
Chuck: Any time. Thanks, Wade.
Wade: You’ve been listening to the tactical business show by Tactical Pay. Join us again next episode as we explore what it takes to start, grow and thrive in the firearms industry.