TRT Protests Disarmament Proposals

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

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com

TRT Protests Disarmament Proposals

by Ari Armstrong, April 14, 2000

See the photo gallery.

Anti-Gun Groups Tout Gangster Shoes

On Tuesday, April 11, disarmament groups displayed 4,223 shoes at the Colorado Capitol which they alleged represent innocent victims of gun violence. But that's an outright lie related to the bogus claim that 12 (or 13) "children" die of gun violence each day in America. The truth is that most of those shoes represent violent gangsters who killed each other while committing crimes.

Yet speakers at the anti-gun rally claimed that new laws like mandatory locks and expanded background checks would reduce gun violence, even though violent gang members don't obey current laws.

A full 85% of the shoes represented "children" ages 15-19 -- a group which includes adults. As David Kopel has noted, accidental shootings have been on the decline, and children are at a greater risk of drowning in a 5-gallon bucket. Kopel writes:

The assertions about "X children per day" are based on counting older teenagers, or even people in their early twenties, as "children." The claims are true only if you count a 19-year-old drug dealer who is shot by a competitor, or an 18-year-old armed robber who is shot by a policeman, as "a child killed by a gun." (http://www.nationalreview.com/17apr00/kopel041700.html)

Fortunately, about two dozen civil arms advocates showed up at the event to point out the lies and make a stand for civil liberties.

Clinton Pushes Expanded Federal Background Checks

On Wednesday, Bill Clinton rolled into town to push the petition drive to expand background checks on law-abiding citizens. That proposal was initiated by the Colorado group Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease.

At least 365 members of the Tyranny Response Team and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners showed up to protest the Clinton rally. A common theme was that guns stop rape -- a particularly poignant point given allegations leveled against Clinton. Bob Glass wore a Clinton costume and pointed out Clinton's hypocrisy.

Anti-Gun Crowd Manifests Dogmatism, Disrespect

Carol Greenhill, shown in the final picture on the photo page, offered an attendant of the SAFE rally a copy of the U.S. Constitution. He took the copy, threw it on the ground, and turned his back. Greenhill tapped the man on the back with her American flag and asked to have a word with him. The man's wife urged the man to file a complaint with the police, who cited Greenhill for alleged "assault" because she tapped the man with her flag. In this writer's view, the charge is a nuisance case pursued by the anti-gun man and woman based on their bigotry against civil gun rights advocates.

Another young woman who accompanied a group of government school students took a copy of the Constitution and pretended to wipe her butt with it.

I handed out copies of a fact sheet pertaining to background checks. Many of the crowd in line to see Clinton took the flyer in a friendly manner. However, quite a few returned the flyer to me without even considering any of the points outlined there. One man crumpled up the sheet without reading it. I asked him, "Why don't you consider alternate points of view instead of dogmatically accepting your present position?" Unfortunately, many anti-gun advocates are more interested in distorting the facts and demonizing gun owners than in discovering the truth.

Denver Schools Participate in Clinton Rally

At the invitation of Democratic Mayor Wellington Webb, Denver Public Schools allowed students to attend the partisan Clinton rally with parental consent. Jim Bryan, a conservative radio show host on 710 KNUS, expressed concern that DPS may have used tax dollars to fund part of the effort. SAFE paid for bussing, but it's unclear who paid for the permission forms, the staff, and other items. What is certain is that Denver students were NOT invited by the schools to join the protesters who support civil arms rights.

According to The Daily Camera, "Sixth-graders from Shaffer Elementary School near Columbine High School said they'd been studying gun-control laws and supported SAFE's initiative" (http://www.thedailycamera.com/news/local/13aclin.html). Somehow I doubt these children in the government schools were ever exposed to the ideas of Dave Kopel, John Lott, or Thomas Jefferson pertaining to civil arms.

NRA Backs Down

Originally, the Firearms Coalition, a group associated with the Colorado State Shooting Association and the NRA, had planned a civil arms rally on Wednesday at the Capitol opposite the Clinton rally. That event was cancelled. Dave Ewing of the Coalition released the following statement:

The survivors of Columbine have said they would prefer not to have their tratragedy (sic) used a political football. The FCC and Colorado State Shooting Association, therefore have no plans or intent to use the east and west steps of the Capitol for pro-gun demonstrations on April 12, 2000.

However, it is Tom Mauser, his group SAFE, and Bill Clinton who chose to politicize the Columbine tragedy. Do the Coalition and other NRA-affiliated groups plan to back down every time their opponents might criticize them? Unfortunately, CSSA's opposition to background check expansions has been luke-warm at best. But I suppose that's hardly a surprise, since the NRA helped write the Brady law.

Popular Media Reports with Mixed Quality

In the Rocky Mountain News, Carla Crowder discussed the shoe demonstration at the Capitol without once questioning the use of those statistics (April 12). Never once did she mention the fact that many of the shoes represent criminal gangsters who are not likely to obey new gun restriction laws. Nowhere did the News mention the two dozen civil gun rights advocates or quote their viewpoints.

Fortunately, Jeff Kass covered the TRT rally on Wednesday. He did a fairly good job of accurately representing the pro-arms point of view. His story reveals just a few problems. First, he claimed 225 protested Clinton, even though RMGO conducted a hard count with numbered tickets and recorded 365 participants. Kass wrote, "Some demonstrators wore camouflage, others came dressed as 18th century patriots." I suppose the fact that OTHERS came dressed in ties, sports jackets, or dresses was not sufficiently dramatic for Kass to report. Kass recorded a nice quote by me pertaining to the dangers of waiting periods (and he even mentioned the Colorado Freedom Report by name!).

The April 13 News also included a story about those critical of Denver Public Schools participating in the Clinton rally. That story, by Brian Weber, was very well balanced. The News also ran a story about Lance Kirklin, a victim of the violence at Columbine, who expressed opposition to new gun restriction laws -- including expanded background checks -- at the NBC event with Clinton. Lynn Bartels wrote a story about the view of Republican legislators Mark Hillman and Shawn Mitchell that Clinton has pushed sales into gun shows by severely reducing the number of licensed dealers. In short, even though the News spent a lot more ink on Clinton and Safe, the paper's staff did a pretty good job of fairly covering both sides of the issue.

But results were also mixed at Denver Post. On April 12, Mike Soraghan and Bill McAllister quoted TRT leader Bob Glass about the link between disarmament laws and rape. Unfortunately, Soraghan was as uncritical of the "12 children" statistics as was Crowder. In his story about the NBC media event with Clinton, Soraghan quoted Doug Dean, the House majority leader, about the inefficacy of background checks. In general, Soraghan did a good job. Patricia Callahan and J. Sebastian Sinisi, on the other hand, couldn't resist making gratuitous jabs at civil rights advocates.

And one photo caption was particularly offensive. That caption mentioned "protesters calling themselves the Tyranny Response Team" (16A). As if we're not really the Tyranny Response Team, we just "call ourselves" that. I have yet to read a Post caption that mentions "Tom Mauser, Wellington Webb, and other anti-gun advocates calling themselves Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic..." A little fairness, please? But I suppose we should be happy that the Post chose to publish a photo at all. The photo includes the RMGO banner.

Nationally, CNN provided fair coverage of both sides (I have not researched other national news outlets) -- see http://www.cnn.com/2000/ALLPOLITICS/stories/04/12/clinton.guns/index.html.

On television, News 4 aired a comment by me about the mis-use of the statistics by anti-gun groups concerning gun violence. 9 News included a substantive comment by Bob Glass. I missed most of the news broadcasts from Wednesday, since I was busy with the protest events. But in general it seems these television stations are giving the civil gun rights side a fair shake.

A Note on Rally Etiquette

I've spent considerable effort publicizing the various TRT rallies, so I think I've earned the right to offer my friendly advice on the topic of rally etiquette (which of course people are free to take or leave).

In my view, the rallies serve two main purposes: to put political pressure on politicians who don't support civil gun rights, and to win the hearts and minds of the public. Towards those ends, it's important that we maintain a good image. No, that doesn't mean everyone should show up in suits, but it does mean that people should look clean and respectable. Blue jeans are fine -- tattered blue jeans are not.

I'm all for "street theater," as Bob Glass is fond of conducting. Indeed, I donned my own Clinton mask as a publicity stunt. Similarly, I'm all for people wearing ATF costumes -- SO LONG AS they carry signs that make clear the nature of the demonstration. Signs like "visualize world police" and "this is the face of gun control" work well in this regard. In my opinion, military clothing should be avoided in all other cases. We want to show people that we're the friendly neighbors next door -- because we are -- not give the impression we're oddballs.

But more important than clothing is behavior. I saw one man taunt police. I saw a small group behave rudely to members of the opposition. That kind of behavior is not going to win hearts and minds. Fortunately, the vast majority of participants held amiable conversations with police and with the opposition. But the few cases of rude behavior tend to stick out. A handful of jerks can ruin the good impressions of hundreds of other participants. On a bright note, following the Capitol rally on Wednesday, Bob Glass publicly thanked the police for their professionalism, as he has done on many other occasions, and the entire crowd applauded for the police. That's how to win hearts and minds.

In general, signs and messages which appeal to people's desire for safety and freedom are better than threatening signs. That said, I agree with the argument that tyranny would likely follow civil disarmament, so I think it's appropriate to make that point. But that can be done in an intelligent manner.

In general, all of the rallies have gone exceedingly well. The problems have been few and minor. Press coverage has been sometimes fair, sometimes unfair, but that's par for the course. Still, I think it's appropriate to think about how to maintain as positive an image as possible.

Incidentally, I believe claims by some TRT members about the biased media are exaggerated. Sure, some stories have been flagrantly slanted against civil gun rights. But others have been fair, some even sympathetic. So I think the appropriate step is to make friends with fair reporters, criticize the unfair ones, and in general evaluate media coverage as fairly as we expect the media to evaluate us.

Quadro-Partisan Opposition to Background Check Expansions

Both the large Denver papers have taken to calling SAFE a group with "bi-partisan support." But that claim is meaningless -- a handful of prominent Republicans support expanded background checks. But members from at least FOUR political parties oppose expanded background checks. Dudley Brown is a Republican, I'm a Libertarian, and Dave Kopel is a Democrat. In addition, members from the American Constitution Party have attended many TRT rallies. So the next time the press mentions the "bi-partisan support" for SAFE, I hope it also mentions the "quadro-partisan opposition" to SAFE. That's what would happen if the popular media were consistently fair.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com