An Open Letter to Rathburn and Dean
January 10, 1999
Dear Ms. Rathburn and Representative Dean,
I thought both of you were unfair to Dudley Brown today on the radio (KNUS 710).
Of course, I realize that Brown and GOA leader Larry Pratt have been pretty harsh toward Dean as well. As I point out in a compilation of public commentary concerning the recent debate between Dean and the GOA (http://www.freecolorado.com/2000/01/goavsdean.html), Pratt's letter, while technically accurate, did not give the whole story behind some of Dean's actions. For instance, the letter failed to note that Dean indeed supported a "preemption" bill before Columbine, and it also seemed to imply that Dean whole-heartedly supported expanded background checks at gun shows, when in fact Dean only expressed an over-eagerness to compromise on that issue, in my view. (In my original article on this issue, I quoted Dean directly and included a link to Dean's entire original article, so as to provide my readers with the entire context of Dean's remarks.) On other issues, unfortunately, the GOA letter was completely right (again in my view).
I believe Dean today gave an inaccurate account of the history of Representative Fairbank's "criminal negligence" bill. Dean suggested that all along he and Fairbank had planned only a minor law to close a "loophole." However, that is not what Fairbank told me on January 7 -- he said he was initially planning a comprehensive new law, and only later decided to drop that idea and go with a narrower bill. Fairbank explicitly told others that he rethought his initial position at least in part because of the concerns raised by Dudley Brown.
In addition, the alleged "loophole" to which Fairbank referred is in CRS 18-12-108.7. However, after reading that law, I don't see how the changes you suggest would be anything other than cosmetic. Sub-section (1)(a) of that law already makes it a crime for any adult to unlawfully provide a handgun to minors. True, sub-section (2)(a) specifies "parent or guardian," and this is the wording Fairbank suggests changing to "any adult," but I fail to see how this would have any significant impact on the interpretation of the law as a whole. But perhaps there are some nuances to that provision of which I'm unaware (if so, please enlighten me).
I'm very happy that Dean and Fairbank have backed away from a more comprehensive "criminal negligence" law that would have had a chilling effect on the use of guns for self-defense. However, I still have a small problem with even the law Fairbank now proposes. The law is intentionally offered to appease the left, not to increase safety. Wouldn't it be more effective to explain how civil law already covers negligence, how it's a bad idea to usurp civil law with legislative law except in unusual circumstances, and that accidents involving children and guns, while tragic, are very rare relative to the use of guns in the home for self-defense?
In other words, by seeking to appease those who oppose the civil right of gun ownership, you're missing out on a wonderful opportunity to stand up on principle for civil gun rights and win the hearts and minds of Colorado voters. But I realize we differ on matters of strategy, and I am happy to consider your arguments as to why your strategy will work better than the one I propose.
My problem with Dean's support of raising the age to purchase some guns to 21 is similar in nature. Yes, it's already federal law. But it's unjust federal law! I don't see that entrenching unjust law is doing much for the cause of civil rights. Again, it strikes me that standing on principle and explaining the reasoning behind your position has the best chance of winning support from the people. Why isn't the NRA and the Republican Party leading the charge in challenging unjust (and Unconstitutional) federal laws at the state level? The states preceded and created the federal government, did they not?
But these matters are open to debate. What really gripes me about your comments on the radio show today is that you made ad hominem attacks against Brown. Dean even had the gall to accuse Brown of being contentious simply to line his own pockets. How absurd! If you're going to start making those kinds of claims, you'd both better be prepared to give up your own salaries for political work. You can question Brown's tactics, but you cannot with intellectual honesty impugn his motives. He's doing what he's doing because he believes strongly in the right to bear arms. And God bless him for it.
Ms. Rathburn, you in particular accused Brown of refusing to work with others. I know your accusation is false. Today, I helped coordinate a meeting of FREE youth and interested adults. In that meeting, Brown sat down with Dave Kopel, Linn Armstrong (who is highly critical of Brown), and numerous NRA members. He even bought lunch for the kids of some NRA members. That was an open, honest meeting where people were free to express their differences even as we cooperated toward a mutual goal. He's really not as evil as some people want to depict him. And Dean, you were pretty good friends with the guy at one point, right?
RMGO has roughly twice as many members as CSSA. And there's a reason for that: gun owners are scared to death they're going to completely lose their right of self-defense (over the next few decades). We've been losing that right slowly since 1934. You say Brown should work with CSSA, but he has a legitimate beef with some of your compromises. Why don't you work with Dudley to support and extend the uninfringed civil right to bear arms?
Of course, I recognize that, in your hearts, you are trying to do just that. The debate really is one of strategy, not of fundamental beliefs. So what I hope starts to happen is that you call Dudley Brown whenever you disagree with something he's said or done, and realize that he's going to call you when he disagrees with you. It's all part of the open debate. I've said before that my ideal is a situation where we can have our heated, knock-down debates, and then share a drink as we discuss the many issues on which we can cooperate.
I realize I'm a young whipper-snapper and that you guys have been around for a long time. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong. If I don't raise these issues, I doubt anyone else will.
If any party wants to publicly reply to this letter, I will be happy to include such replies in full within this very document.
Thanks for considering my points.
Ari Armstrong comments, January 14 -- I have received replies from Aimee Rathburn, Doug Dean, and Dudley Brown. I make a few comments below each letter. Also, there is the matter I neglected to cover in my original letter: on the radio show, Dean denied having signed a pledge to support Vermont-style concealed carry, while Brown said he did. I include additional information that explains the history of this side-debate.
From: "Aimee Rathburn"
Please take me off your distribution list.
Armstrong: So much for the spirit of open discussion...
Yes, you are indeed young and have not had to experience I and many others have had with Dudley Brown. You stated in your letter that he would call me if he had a problem. NOT ONCE!!!!!! Not any more than you called me before you put out your hit piece on me. I even called HIM and invited him to sit down with me to rationally discuss the issues, but he has refused to do so. Any time I have tried to hold a conversation with him, he has twisted my words and sent them out as a fundraising letter. Mr. Brown has created the problem, and it is so severe, that it goes well beyond me. The ball is in his court to prove that he is worthy of my trust, and that will take a LOT. These type of tactics only alienate people on a long term basis.
This attack only takes away from the time I can be spending FIGHTING anti-gun bills, working with pro-gun groups that represent nearly 20 times more dues-paying members as Brown's group.
Watch me on KBDI Wednesday night at 8:00. Along with Kopel, I will be debating Ken Gordon and Tom Mauser. Hear for yourself what my positions are.
Armstrong -- The mere fact that Dean replied is encouraging. He didn't address the issue of "criminal negligence," however. By here criticizing Brown's "tactics," Dean seems to be easing up on his previous assertion that Brown is motivated by financial considerations. That's progress. Dean writes, "You stated in your letter that he would call me if he had a problem." I never made any such assertion in my letter. And, while we're on this topic, Dean has accused me of misquoting him in a previous article. I deny all such accusations. I did put a line in quotes that was meant to summarize Dean's position, but I did not attribute that line as a direct quote, and context makes clear that it is not one. The line in question is, "But the feds are doing it!" It is found in the article at http://www.freecolorado.com/1999/10/dean.html.
Brown agreed to offer the following letter as his formal reply.
Mr. Dietrick - A message to your folks, if you wish to forward it.
CSSA chaps -
I misspoke yesterday on KNUS.
When asked whether RMGO would cooperate with other organizations, I should have said "Yes, when they don't support gun control" instead of "No, we won't work with groups that support gun control." (not an exact quote, but paraphrased anyway)
We want unity. We'd love to have others working with us to defeat Gov. Owens' gun controls. Personalities aside, if you want all gun control dead this session, there is a lot of work to do.
Ask Ray Hickman. Though Ray and I had known each other for years, we often disagreed on tactics. In fact, Ray and I exchanged some rather nasty e-mails at times.
But our invitation is always open: fight gun control with all your might, and we'll work with you. I know I speak for GOA when I say that we'd rather be united.
That doesn't mean that if we see gun groups supporting gun control we won't say anything. We have never been shy about that: we'll shout it to the mountains.
We know our tactics don't make politicians happy. Clearly, that is not our goal. Defeating gun control in any manner (within the confines of the law) is our goal.
Rep. Doug Dean is not our enemy when he is fighting gun control, which he has at times. But if he is actively working to pass measures that make it more difficult to buy, transfer, or carry firearms, he is a problem, just like any politician. We'll fight against that at every turn, especially the "let's make the (insert gun control bill here) bill a little better and get it passed because it isn't as bad as (insert Pat Pascoe's stupid ideas here)" strategy.
I'm afraid we disagree with Mr. Bowman, who this fall wrote:
"Therefore, if I have to vote to give up the right of citizens in the 18-21 group to purchase firearms so that I can get a 'Concealed Carry' and 'Preemption' bills I will. Besides, it's already against the federal law -- so what?" -- Richard Bowman, President, Colorado State Shooting Association, October 30, 1999
"...it may become necessary to shield your true beliefs and offer up a public position which would be appealing to the sheep among us." -- Richard Bowman, President, Colorado State Shooting Association, October 30, 1999
If you really think the strategy above wins more than standing firmly on principle, ask yourself: is anyone running a "Negligent Storage of a Weapon" or "...Firearm" bill? It was pulled, and changed. That change happened to coincide with 20,000 pieces of mail by GOA and a few thousand from RMGO. Coincidence? We doubt it.
Unless "Safe Storage" rears its ugly head, that issue is over with. We won't argue about it anymore, unless it looks like it might be raised from the dead.
We (RMGO and Gun Owners of America) strongly believe that we are less free than we were 30 years ago because we have too often given up the ranch to our enemies. It makes it rather difficult to tell the sheriff "Those crooks stole my ranch" when we actually gave them half of it. Since the 1968 Gun Control Act, we have tried to preempt our enemies by accepting gun control. (Even Dave Kopel, in the American Guardian, admits that the NRA endorsed the GCA). Clearly, that strategy is not working.
We (RMGO and GOA) also believe that many in our movement are simply "too afraid to fight." Their fear of public opinion makes them move to the left quickly, backpedaling from a fight they think is already lost.
To those who think we have already lost, we say this: just TRY fighting it for once. TRY to generate calls from citizens who do not want to lose their rights because of Columbine, which was not their fault. TRY to activate your members against ALL of this ludicrous legislation, that even Owens has said won't stop a Columbine.
When addressing the 2 dozen youngsters we helped Ari Armstrong get into the capitol, Dave Kopel said that GOA had single-handedly put the pressure on Congress to defeat Hatch's Horror Bill even though the NRA had thought it sure to pass. (I'm paraphrasing Kopel so correct me if I am wrong, as I only caught part of the speech) GOA won. Gun owners in Colorado could win, if we all fought hard.
Recently, I asked a head-honcho of another group (not important who, as we want to get some agreement here) what their group thought of [legislation X] (frankly, I don't remember what bill I even asked about, but suffice it to say we wanted to know their position on a gun control bill to see if we actually COULD work together). The head-honcho said "I haven't seen the bill yet." I asked again "Well, I mean, conceptually, are you guys going to fight XXXX?" The response? A monotone "I haven't seen the bill yet." It is clear that it would be impossible to assume anything but that they either wanted wiggle room to make a deal, or weren't opposed to it in even concept.
The deal-making that gave us Brady is the deal-making that will give us trigger locks, Brady Registration checks for all firearms purchases, and/or a government license to purchase a firearm. it will also be the deal-making that will give the Federal or state government the power to kick down our doors and demand our teeth of liberty.
Ok, we'll get off our soapbox. We want help defeating all of this garbage. Though we might have to face some of it in a referendum, who knows if SAFE or the others can get enough cash together to even get the signatures. None of us needs to read the legislation to know that we oppose gun control: Let's kill it all now. Who cares who gets the credit if we can stop all this garbage.
If you have ideas on how to do it, and more importantly, the time to commit to implement these ideas, let us know. Call us and we'll talk about it. In the mean time, we go full steam ahead.
Armstrong -- In my view, this is the kind of open-spirited debate that's worth having. Brown criticizes CSSA's Richard Bowman; I would encourage readers to see all the positive things Bowman has to say as well, at http://www.freecolorado.com/1999/10/bowman.html. When Brown writes, "Even Dave Kopel, in the American Guardian, admits that the NRA endorsed the GCA," that's a bit of an over-statement. Kopel wrote about this matter in the January 2000 edition, "Senator Dodd and other backers of President Johnson's plan compromised with the NRA, making the deal that allowed the passage of the Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968." Kopel continues that "the NRA had not opposed the GCA." There's a difference between "endorsing" a piece of legislation and "not opposing" it, though I agree with Brown that the NRA handled the situation badly.
Concerning the matter of whether Dean pledged to support Vermont-style concealed carry, a 7-3-96 RMGO survey asked, "Would you be willing to sponsor or cosponsor Vermont-style legislation which would eliminate all requirements to pay fees and register weapons and simply allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms for any reason except for the commission of a crime?" Dean claims he interpreted this to not pertain to concealed carry, but I've never heard the term "Vermont-style" used in any situation other than to describe a completely liberalized concealed carry law. Dean signed a pledge with the same wording on March 30, 1998.
On the same day (March 30, 1998), Dean signed a pledge which was worded differently: "Would you support Vermont-style legislation which would eliminate all requirements to pay fees and register gun owners and simply allow law-abiding citizens to carry firearms openly or concealed (at the individual's discretion) for any reason except for the commission of a crime?" The same page defines "Vermont-style" as having "no government bureaucracy or license."
Whatever factor we might attribute to Dean's comments on the matter on the KNUS radio show, it's clear now that Dean does not support Vermont-style concealed carry. During a January 12 debate on Channel 12, Dean said he supports licensing, background checks, and mandatory training for those who wish to carry concealed.