More Hypocricy from Gun Controllers
by Ari Armstrong, March 24, 2000
This article was updated April 2, 2000 to include Dick Sugg's reply and additional comments by Ari Armstrong. That material follows the main article.
Dick Sugg of Golden published a letter in the Rocky Mountain News March 24 which is hypocritical in its criticism of the NRA's Charlton Heston and other civil gun rights advocates. Sugg's letter is also factually errant on numerous points, and it carries a trace of bigotry toward those who oppose additional restrictions on firearms.
It's important to note that Sugg claims to own a handgun. He also argues that disarming "law-abiding citizens" is unconstitutional. His letter implies support for handgun registration and unnamed other "gun-control measures." Thus, Sugg's position is much closer to my own that are the positions of the leaders of disarmament groups like Handgun Control, Inc. and Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic (the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease), but I strongly disagree with laws Sugg advocates, and I take issue with the way Sugg frames his arguments. Sugg writes:
During the Cold War the gun pushers said that gun registration would make it easy for invading Soviet forces to disarm citizens. Now they are saying that our own government would use gun registration to illegally disarm law-abiding citizens. This is a ridiculous scare tactic to protect the gun and ammunitions business.
Sugg's comment is bigoted in two ways. First, by referring to civil gun rights advocates as "gun pushers," he clearly intends to evoke the image of a "drug pusher." This is a slanderous ad hominem attack. Second, Sugg implies that civil gun rights advocates are motivated by personal financial gain -- they are allegedly trying to "protect the gun and ammunitions business." This is ridiculous. Of course I advocate justice toward firearms manufacturers, just as I advocate justice toward all businesses. But that issue is derivative of the basic right of self-defense which I and others advocate. Out of the hundreds of civil gun rights advocates I've met, exactly one profits from the "gun and ammunitions business," and that is Bob Glass, owner of Paladin Arms, who entered his business because of his political beliefs, not vice versa. For Sugg to suggest that civil gun rights advocates are motivated by financial greed, rather than by a sincere desire to defend civil rights, is again a manifestation of his bigotry.
Sugg is also a hypocrite. For, while he accuses Heston of using "ridiculous scare tactics," he himself is guilty of that flaw. Sugg writes:
...Heston compared any government move to register handguns to Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. Heston knows full well that distrust and hate of our government has already led to tragic violence at Waco and Oklahoma City.
So Sugg uses the "scare tactic" of likening Heston's political views to the murderous acts of Timothy McVeigh! Sugg's statement is so morally revolting I can hardly believe the News chose to print it.
Sugg's comments are also factually incorrect. Opposing handgun registration is often a sign of patriotism, indicating respect for the U.S. Constitution and for the inalienable right of self-defense. Also, it is not "distrust and hate" of government that led the ATF to burn dozens of men, women, and children at Waco -- it was instead the out-of-control, unconstitutional, terrorist behavior of that federal agency. (See David Kopel's No More Wacos.) As for McVeigh's acts of murder, I've analyzed that issue extensively at www.freecolorado.com/cfrsept1999/waco.html and www.freecolorado.com/perpetual/cfrphil.html.
Sugg makes several other errors in his short letter. He says, "[H]andgun registration can help law enforcement agents trace the origins of guns used illegally." Does Sugg believe criminals are going to register their guns? Handgun registration, like most gun restriction laws, will have little impact on criminal activity but will make it more difficult for honest people to keep and bear arms for self-defense.
Sugg also expresses incredulity at the notion that gun registration laws might lead to confiscation. He asks, rhetorically, "Who believes that our senators and representatives would permit such unconstitutional actions, or that our military and law enforcement agencies would participate?"
Oh, no! Government officials in the United States would NEVER do anything that's unconstitutional! For instance, those officials would NEVER:
No, it could NEVER happen.
The truth of the matter is that Heston's argument is a pretty good one. In his research, R.J. Rummel found that, in the 20th Century alone, governments killed more than 169 million of their own people. How many of those people were adequately armed? The obvious answer is: not enough.
No, registration would not lead to confiscation immediately, but it would lead to confiscation inevitably. The explicit goal of many leaders of the disarmament movement is to incrementally pass laws leading up to the confiscation of at least all handguns and semiautomatic rifles. For instance, Michael Dukakis, while governor of Massachusetts, said, "I do not believe in people owning guns. Guns should be owned or possessed only [by the] police and military. I am going to do everything I can to disarm this state" (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~karl/firearms/bigotry.html). The threat of confiscation is not some wild-eyed bout of paranoia: it is the explicit goal of many activists in America today. If all handguns (or all guns) are registered, any political crisis could set off confiscation. If we look several decades down the road, the chances of that happening are quite high.
But Sugg treats the argument about confiscation as if it were the only argument being made. Nothing could be further from the truth. Civil gun rights advocates point to numerous problems with handgun registration, besides the threat of confiscation. Sugg pretends these arguments do not exist. Thus, he creates a straw-man version of his opponent. He writes:
Just as silly as associating handgun control advocates with both Nazis and socialists is the single, repeated argument that all gun-control measures are designed to allow gun confiscation from law-abiding people.
Again, the number of errors in this short statement call for a detailed reply. First, Nazis are socialists; fascism is a sub-type of socialism. ("Nazi" stands for "National Socialist.") But note how Sugg refers to the argument about confiscation as the "single" argument being made. Allow me to acquaint Sugg with some of the other arguments against registration.
So, while Sugg still might find some rational ground to support the registration of handguns, he certainly has not stepped upon that ground to date.
Sugg closes with one final, incorrect remark. He concludes:
[P]rotesters of gun-control laws falsely claim that they represent the opinions of all of us handgun owners and that they represent the majority opinion of Colorado voters.
I have rarely heard a civil gun rights advocate make any such claim. Instead, the argument I generally hear, and the one to which I subscribe, is that majority opinion is irrelevant on this point. Injustice is injustice, whether initiated by an individual or by a majority. The mob has no right to violate individual rights. The Bill of Rights was written specifically to prevent a tyranny of the majority. Truth and justice are not dependent upon public opinion, and I for one will fight for the civil right of self-defense, whether public opinion takes my side or not.
Dick Sugg Replies
29 March 2000
Even though you called me a bigot and a hypocrite in your web page article, I accept your offer to respond.
I don't just claim to own a handgun, I have two Service 45s, one that my dad carried in WW II, and one that I used in competitive marksmanship when I was an Army lieutenant -- I was an NRA member then, too. I had to register my guns when I lived on Army posts, but no one was threatening to confiscate them. I have no fear that my guns, or those of any other law-abiding citizen, will be confiscated.
The main reason I was so disgusted that Heston compared any U.S. attempts to register guns to Hitler's Nazi Germany is that my dad defended our country, our freedom against the Nazis. I don't believe that our country has ever been, or ever will be like Nazi Germany. I think Heston's statement does encourage hate and distrust of our government. He was wrong to say things like that; it is unnecessary, and it actually destroys the credibility of gun rights activists with patriotic Americans. But you say "that Heston's argument is a pretty good one" because Hitler and Stalin killed millions of their own people.
The unconstitutional confiscation of guns will not happen because the American people will not permit it; I have faith in our democracy. But you say "that the majority opinion is irrelevant." If our federal government ever tried to illegally confiscate all guns from law-abiding citizens, they would have to employ our military forces against our own people to do it. I am a veteran -- two combat tours in Viet Nam. As a military professional I never would take such action against our people, and I respect those currently serving enough to be sure that they would also take the citizens' side and not support the unconstitutional confiscation of guns from law-abiding citizens.
The credibility for your cause would be better if you would admit that not all gun controls are unconstitutional. Most of the acts that you cite in your article as being unconstitutional are not about gun controls, but if you think that those that are about gun controls are unconstitutional, why haven't they been tested before the Supreme Court -- the NRA has plenty of lawyers and money for that.
P.S. I assume that you are the web page editor; I am just an ordinary citizen exercising my free speech rights. I am probably crazy for replying and leaving myself open for more personal attacks, but you have my permission to publish the above letter, if you will not edit it in any way.
Ari Armstrong Replies
It's important to stress our general agreement. While we differ on a number of important details, we hold a similar political outlook, at least so far as the issue of firearms is concerned. I never impugned your character, as you imply; from what I can tell you are a respectable, thoughtful gentleman of strong character. I never called YOU a bigot or a hypocrite. Rather, I said that your LETTER is hypocritical and that "it carries a trace of bigotry." I wouldn't presume to judge your general character based on one short letter in the newspaper.
I too am an "ordinary citizen" who happens to edit a quality web page. I am fair to my opponents and liberal in my policy of printing replies. (In fact, I have never refused to print a reply to one of my articles.) I appreciate your reply.
Unfortunately, you should fear that guns of "law-abiding citizens will be confiscated." In fact, some semiautomatic rifles are being confiscated RIGHT NOW in California at the direction of state law. Gun confiscation is not some far-distant possibility; it is a present fact. It is also fact that many "gun control" groups, such as the Bell Campaign, explicitly call for the national confiscation of certain firearms, and that many politicians explicitly support such goals.
I think you miss the point of Heston's comparison of U.S. policies with those of mid-century Germany. Gun confiscation under the Nazi regime followed gun registration and confiscation under the democratic Weimar Republic. Heston's argument is that, historically, registration has generally lead to confiscation, and that confiscation has sometimes preceded mass slaughter. You don't believe such a thing could happen in America. I believe you are naive. No, a totalitarian state won't rise up in America next year, or in the next five years, but, given current trends, it's highly possible within the next several decades (which encompass the expected span of my life).
You take my comment, "majority opinion is irrelevant," out of context. My point was that justice is not subject to the whim of the majority. You state that the American majority will always uphold the civil right of self-defense; I hope you're right. But if you're wrong, I intend to advocate that right, regardless of the will of the majority.
You state that my "credibility... would be better" if I would "admit that not all gun controls are unconstitutional." However, my credibility would hardly be enhanced if I were to claim support for a proposition I believe to be false. I have expressed support for laws which punish the use of firearms in violent or negligent acts. I have also expressed support for laws which subject to parental consent the possession of guns by minors. Beyond that, laws which restrict the purchase, possession, or use of small arms by law-abiding adults are, in my view, both unjust and unconstitutional. But my position is not grounded in the Constitution; it is grounded in individual rights and the principles of justice. I support the Constitution insofar as it manifests those principles.
As for the position of the Supreme Court, note that the Court did not have great occasion to rule on the matter prior to the 1934 National Firearms Act, the first federal legislation pertaining to firearms. From 1791 to 1934, it was assumed that the right to keep and bear arms was not to be infringed by the federal government. Besides, I do not accept the subjectivist view that the Constitution means whatever the Supreme Court says it means. Rather, I believe the Supreme Court can err and in some cases has erred, especially since Roosevelt politicized the Court. That said, I sincerely hope the Supreme Court will eventually decide to strike down all federal legislation pertaining to firearms, as per the Constitution.