State GOP Leaders Plan to Sell Out Gun Owners

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

State GOP Leaders Plan to Sell Out Gun Owners

by Ari Armstrong, September 1999

Colorado Republican State Chairman Bob Beauprez sent a letter in late August to state legislators in his party calling for a united front in passing new gun control laws in the 2000 session.

A message from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners sums up the message of the letter: "[G]un rights supporters are told, in essence, to sit down, shut up, and take their medicine."

Taking a cue from anti-gun lobby organizations, Beauprez referred to the alleged "loopholes in our gun laws" that need to be closed. As Beauprez commented favorably about Governor Bill Owen's recent gun control proposals, the party leader's letter can be taken as a support of mandatory gun locks, an expanded government database on gun owners, and the move to disarm adults between the ages of 18 and 21.

Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, has said that earlier in the century, before the modern gun control laws and when the violent assault rate was significantly lower than it is today, there was "one big loophole" in the gun laws -- it was called Freedom.

Republicans who support new gun control laws, including Beauprez, Owens, and Congressman Tom Tancredo, have yet to offer a shred of evidence or reasoning that suggests the new anti-gun laws might make society safer. Their proposals, then, must be seen as pure political compromise promoted in what the officials perceive to be political expediency.

Indeed, the newly proposed anti-gun laws can only make society less safe by empowering criminals and disarming honest citizens. Forcing gun owners to store firearms with a trigger lock or in a vault will effectively render guns useless against crime. When a burglar or rapist breaks into a home in the dark, the crucial minutes it would take to free a weapon from a lock or vault could mean the difference between life and death. True, families must take steps to keep guns out of the hands of young children, and families have an excellent safety record in this regard. But only a minority of households even have children, and out of that minority many will find alternatives that maintain safety from accidents as well as from criminal assaults. Besides effectively disarming households, mandatory locks would also vastly expand the powers of government agents to monitor honest citizens and search their property.

Raising the age at which adults can legally purchase firearms will only help turn young adults into the victims of crime. If a 19 year old woman is threatened by a jealous and violent stalker, is she supposed to wait for the police to stuff her in a body bag? Young, disarmed women are the favored targets of rape. Adults of all ages need more rights to defend themselves, not fewer.

At gun shows, licensed dealers are already required to conduct background checks. Private sellers are not. The claim is that this is a "loophole." (Another way to describe it is a camel's nose poking in the tent.) If private sellers are required to conduct background checks at gun shows, criminals will automatically acquire their guns in other ways, such as through private sellers outside gun shows, on the black market, or through theft.

In other words, expanding background checks will not reduce crime. Probably it will increase crime by making the black market in guns more profitable. But background checks will make it more difficult and more expensive for honest citizens to purchase guns for self-defense. In addition, such checks expand the government's database of honest gun owners, which is an important step in the confiscation of firearms. Most of the leaders of the anti-gun lobby groups who support expanded background checks also support the eventual ban of all guns. Registration has already led to the confiscation of guns in California, New York, and in numerous nations such as Australia.

So what is the GOP (read, "Gutless Old Party") doing supporting laws that will empower criminals and threaten the freedom and safety of law-abiding citizens? It has to do with power. The Republicans, notes Beauprez, now control the state's political machinery. Their power "will be squandered," in Beauprez's view, unless they compromise with big-government advocates. But what is the result of compromise? In Ayn Rand's words:

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil... [T]he man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway... In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. (Atlas Shrugged)

But will growing a spine really cause the Republicans to lose political power? I doubt it. The majority of Coloradans are freedom-minded, at least if they understand why freedom means the betterment of human life. If the Republicans would stand on principle and explain why gun rights increases public safety and reduces crime, they would find ready converts to their position. Apologetic compromises will only lose them the support of those who advocate civil liberties and gun rights.

To take a case from national politics, many hypothesize that George Bush would never have lost to Bill Clinton had the former stood up for gun rights. By passing executive orders that restricted the rights of honest citizens to defend themselves and their families, Bush lost millions of votes and earned the contempt of gun owners. Colorado Republicans appear ready to follow a similar path.

I long for the day when I can vote for a winning candidate who has the courage and convictions to stand up for civil liberties and the Bill of Rights. That won't be any Republican who takes to heart Beauprez's message.

Following is part of the text of Bob Beauprez's letter.

I think we all can expect the issue of guns to play a very public role in the next legislative session... Here is where I think we do agree on this issue:

Guns did not cause the Columbine tragedy. However, there are also loopholes in our gun laws that may allow criminals to take advantage of our freedoms and infringe upon the rights of law abiding citizens.

As I see it, we have two options. We can act as if nothing is wrong and that no anti-crime legislation is needed to stop criminals from getting guns or we can take meaningful steps towards cracking down on crime.

If we choose not to proactively offer up legislation addressing some of these issues, we are practically guaranteed of having one draconian proposal after another from our friends across the aisle. We have seen the foreshadowing of such tactics already. Democrat leaders and certain members of the press / media can be expected to use the gun issue shamelessly and without any regard to truth or logic. Always remember that in this debate the Democrats will use emotion over logic and, unfortunately, emotion may very well carry the day.

On the other hand, we can take advantage of the situation and assume our rightful role as leaders of the party and of the state. We must be seen as sensitive to the issue of crime, particularly in our schools, and we should try to make sure that the debate is about crime and punishment not guns.

The Governor and the Attorney General have put forward a bi-partisan effort to begin to look at some of these issues. In it, they make a number of policy recommendations that attempt to find solutions to our problems. Like anything that is bi-partisan, broad and political, there are lots of things for people to agree with and lots of things for them to disagree with. The important thing is that a dialogue has begun.

If we come together, functioning as a team, we can shape and control this dialogue and give a clear distinction of the differences between Republicans and Democrats. There is no reason why we cannot take proactive steps to passing solid anti -crime legislation that punishes the criminals and liberates law -abiding citizens. I strongly believe that we must be proactive instead of reactive on this issue.

As I said before, this is an issue that reasonable people can have disagreements about - especially when we start to debate the details. I strongly urge our legislative leaders, the Governor and his staff, and all of the leadership of the Colorado GOP to go the extra mile to treat one another with respect and dignity as we grapple with a controversial and critical issue.

The Colorado Freedom