These famous words in the Bill of Rights have stirred countless emotion and action for centuries: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
The right to keep and bear arms is what Leadership Institute graduate Phil Watson has devoted his time and talent toward preserving.
“You are born sovereign with rights given by God, not government. The right of self-defense is one of those rights,” Phil told the Leadership Institute. “Gun rights groups are here to protect your human and civil rights. The police can't be everywhere at once and are technically not even bound by law to protect you, so you have to take your Second Amendment rights seriously.”
Phil is the Second Amendment Foundation’s (SAF) director of special projects, where he researches Second Amendment court litigation and news surrounding gun issues on a national and international scale.
“Keeping track of the dozens of current Second Amendment lawsuits and opposing the UN Arms Trade Treaty takes up a lot of my time,” Phil said. “Our network of member groups now extends to 23 groups in 15 different countries. Communicating with your base and your members in a timely manner is very important. I also assist in writing and editing various Second Amendment publications.”
Additionally, he’s executive director at the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arm Rights.
“The numbers don't lie: gun-free zones suffer from high crime rates and only create more victims,” Phil said. “People who have a problem with self-defense usually have a problem with other freedoms and rights as well, which are historically why tyrannical governments like to disarm their people. We are here to stick up for your rights and speak out against those that would force others to be helpless.”
However, Phil hasn’t always been involved in public policy. It’s been a career in the making.
Phil was raised in a “minimum-wage-working world,” where he delivered newspapers to neighbors to earn an extra dime. He also remembers doing yard work and washing dishes at a local restaurant to collect some additional money.
“After I graduated high school, I entered the military and waited awhile to start college,” Phil said. “History, economics, and politics became my favorite subjects after trying most other classes. Later, I had the pleasure of graduating from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Political Economy.”
With a degree in hand, he met some political activists who were regular patrons at the large neighborhood convenience store where he worked.
After several long talks, one of the individuals invited him to work on his campaign.
“It sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a shot. Several people highly recommended the Leadership Institute, so I took the Campaign Management School and was off and running,” Phil shared.
In April 2010, Phil came to LI’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia to attend the week-long Campaign Management School.
Shortly after, he was asked to be the deputy campaign manager for the 2010 WA-6 congressional race. The opponent was a 17-term incumbent, Rep. Norm Dicks, and while Phil’s candidate didn’t win, Phil valued the experience he gained.
After the election, Phil fought against Proposition 1 – a local sales tax increase. “We won with some creative campaigning and tactics I picked up from LI’s Campaign Management School,” Phil said. “We were outgunned on money by 95 percent, but ended up winning. We defeated the sales tax increase.”
After the campaign, Phil came to the Leadership Institute in the spring of 2011 to intern in the Grassroots department. He’s taken 16 LI trainings from Public Speaking, Campaign Management, New Media, High-Dollar Fundraising, Television Techniques, Youth Leadership, and Conservative Career workshops and schools.
“LI is a political boot camp in many ways,” Phil shared. “I jumped in the political world and was serious about learning how to be effective as an activist. The Leadership Institute taught me how to be effective within a political organization and I still talk with a lot of the people I met there. LI is a great place to learn and connect with other people on the same path.”
After LI’s internship, Phil received a press internship in the office of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, vice chair of the House Republican Conference and highest ranking Republican woman in Congress.
Next, he trekked across America back to his home state of Washington to influence public policy and protect the right to keep and bear arms.
Read Phil’s interview with the Russian Legal Information Agency here.
His employer—the Second Amendment Foundation—has their 2012 Gun Rights Policy Conference in Orlando, Florida in a few weeks. To learn more, go here.
“LI trainings helped give me a good foundation for the journey ahead,” Phil said.
You too can build a good foundation for your public policy career. Register for one of LI’s upcoming trainings here.
Please welcome Phil Watson as LI’s Graduate of the Week.
To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member to be featured as LI's spotlight of the week, please contact LI's External Affairs Officer Lauren Hart at LaurenHart@LeadershipInstitute.org.