Freedom Updates: December 27, 2000

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

The Colorado Freedom

Freedom Updates: December 27, 2000

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.

Campaign "Reform" Counter-Productive

Campaign reform doesn't work. Or, from a different perspective, it works great: it works to further entrench the political elite and stifle independent activism.

The Rocky Mountain News ran an article on the subject by Patrick Basham of the Cato Institute on December 24, distributed earlier by Scripps Howard and available on-line at

Basham notes that "spending limits prevent a challenger from buying publicity and thus overcoming the inherent advantages of incumbency..." This especially hurts third parties, which have to build both candidate and party recognition.

Campaign restrictions also foster more negative campaigning. "[L]acking money, politicians spend nearly all of it on negative attacks," Basham notes, "This Canadian election was the most negative and disingenuous in memory." (Basham is comparing Canada's more restrictive campaign laws with the United States' relative freedom.) It may be no coincidence, then, that Colorado campaigns also got ugly in the aftermath of campaign "reforms" here.

The biggest problem with campaign restriction laws, however, is that they interfere with the rights of free speech. Campaign restriction laws are by their essence attacks on free speech. Basham describes some of the problems with the Canadian system:

Heavy regulation of broadcasters is also a vital part of the American campaign finance reform agenda. During the course of the Canadian campaign every broadcaster was forced to allow the parties to purchase (at the lowest available commercial rate) up to 390 minutes of airtime. To make matters worse, this restricted amount of airtime was allocated among the five major parties based largely on their performance in the 1997 election - an arrangement that constitutes nothing more than an "Incumbents Protection Act." The eventual winner, the center-left Liberal party, received 113 minutes on the air, almost twice as much as their main competitor, the conservative Canadian Alliance party. Unsurprisingly, only 36 percent of defeated incumbents were Liberals.

Seventeenth Amendment Lawfully Passed

A previous Freedom Update stated:

I don't know what to think of the flyer's assertion that the Seventeenth Amendment is illegitimate because it was only ratified by 37 states, one shy of the 75 percent requirement. I'm skeptical of the claim. If any reader has more (well-substantiated) information on this point, let me know.

Here's what my annotated copy of the U.S. Constitution says:

"The Seventeenth Amendment was proposed by Congress on May 13, 1912, when it passed the House, 48 Cong. Rec. (62d Cong., 2d Sess.) 6367, having previously passed the Senate on June 12, 1911, 47 Cong. Rec. (62d Cong., 1st Sess.) 1925. It appears officially in 37 Stat. 646. Ratification was completed on April 8, 1913, when the thirty-sixth state (Connecticut) approved the amendment, there being then 48 States in the Union. On May 31, 1913, Secretary of State Bryan certified that it had become a part of the Constitution. 38 Stat. 2049."

Whoever wrote the flyer apparently forgot that Alaska and Hawaii were not admitted as States until 1959 and 1960 ... nearly fifty years after the 17th amendment had been ratified. Incidentally, Louisiana ratified the amendment on June 5, 1914 (over a year after it had become part of the Constitution). And Utah was the only state to reject this amendment explicitly -- on Feb 26, 1913. Three weeks before Utah gave it thumbs down, Colorado approved it (2/5/13). -- David Bryant

Why Canadians Lost Their Rights

Alas, our gun owner friends in Canada are finally registering themselves with the government as gun owners. But Canadians were slow-boiled: handgun registration has been equired for some time. James Brooke reports for the New York Times Service December 27 that upwards of 80 percent of the gun-owning population is expected to register by the new year deadline ( Of course, the number of gun owners can only be estimated: it's possible that many more people own guns but are mum about it. And by any standard, 20 percent civil disobedience is pretty high. A lot of Canadians will become instant "criminals" in the eyes of the state.

The article contains a hint of why Canadians lost their rights in the first place:

"Instead of targeting criminals, we are targeting all the law abiding hunters and target shooters," said Jim Hinter, president of the National Firearms Association. "They are the ones that will get licenses. The criminals won't."

Hinter's quote is true, and the point about criminals not registering their guns is a good one. However, Hinter's point about "hunters and target shooters" doesn't carry much weight. Neither hunting nor target shooting are essential to living, or even a small part of most people's life. Surely increased safety is worth some inconvenience to hunters and target shooters. Of course, Hinter may have said a great deal more that didn't make the papers. Regardless, the crucial point is that guns are useful tools for self-defense, both against criminals and tyrants. Government registration renders guns less useful for self-defense, because it erects barriers to obtaining a defensive gun and it allows tyrants to steal the guns. Registration isn't merely an inconvenience: it interferes with the primary purpose of gun ownership.

Shame on the NRA

Keith from Los Angeles writes:

In your article "Project Gestapo in Action", did the gunshop owner know he was selling guns to gang members? If he did then he should go to jail. If he knew they were gang members and knew their intent, let him hang. BUT...if he was selling to somebody that purchased more than the usual amount of guns, and the person said the guns were for himself/herself, free the man.

Since President Elect George W. Bush is in, maybe the "laws on the books" can be removed because of their unconstitutionality. Shame on the NRA for wanting those crazy gun laws on the books to be enforced.

Unfortunately, Keith, the police "posed" as gangsters and entrapped the gunshop owners into selling them guns. Prosecutors relied on statistical data to target the shop: more guns from the shop ended up in gang members' hands, relative to the average. Again, it comes down to the "crime" of not reading minds. If a person says the gun is for personal use, there should be no burden to second-guess otherwise.

I only wish I could share your optimism about Bush. Unfortunately, Bush has already endorsed major sections of Handgun Control's platform, such as expanding Brady registrations to private sales at gun shows. Don't forget that Papa Bush banned the importation of select semi-automatic rifles and otherwise abused gun owners.

The Colorado Freedom