Freedom Updates: January 16, 2001

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

The Colorado Freedom

Freedom Updates: January 16, 2001

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.

SAFE's Proposals Discriminate Unjustly

Colorado's anti-gun lobby group Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic (the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease) wants to discriminate against young adults and gun owners generally.

Even though the right of lawful adults to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by both the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions, SAFE wants to prevent peaceable adults ages 18-21 from purchasing a firearm for self-defense. Oddly, a young adult can operate heavy military equipment in foreign wars, come home to get married, buy a house, and have a child, and yet still be prevented from protecting his family with a handgun, the most useful gun for self-defense.

SAFE wants to discriminate against every gun owner by targeting them with special prosecution. If a parent lets a young child get ahold of poisons or matches and injury results, the parent may be sued for negligence and prosecuted for child abuse. We don't need a special law for every possible dangerous item. Indeed, if the law mentioned some items by name, the implication would be that negligence with other items isn't as bad.

SAFE wants just such a special law to discriminate against gun owners. Guns are used defensively somewhere between half a million and 2.5 million times every year in the U.S. Obviously, if your gun is locked away, it is useless for self-defense. Indeed, Yale scholar John Lott found a significant and large relationship between the passage of mandatory storage laws and an increase in rape, robbery, and burglary. Unfortunately, politically motivated prosecutors and their hand-picked "juries" will ignore the defensive benefits of firearms when enforcing SAFE's unsafe law. Instead, as with other "laws on the books," this law would only be used to stigmatize gun owners and make gun ownership more difficult. The law would have a "chilling effect" on the right of self-defense.

The anti-gun lobby knows it can't succeed in an overt gun ban. So instead the gun banners hide in the sheepskin of "public safety" and pass laws that make gun ownership increasingly more difficult and more dangerous. It should come as no surprise when the new gun restriction laws increase crime, yet the anti-gun lobby pushes for more of the same laws.

* * *

Thankfully, the Rocky Mountain News published a sensible editorial on the subject on January 14. The writers concluded:

Of course the law should deal severely with adults who negligently permit a gun to fall into a child's hands. We don't mandate how adults keep matches, gasoline, drain cleaners or other dangerous materials out of the reach of children; we simply prosecute those adults who don't. The same principle should apply to guns -- nothing less, but nothing more. (

Compare the reasonable position of the News with the ridiculous position taken by the Denver Post on January 10:

[Denver District Attorney Bill] Ritter says that it is his sense... that since a special session in 1993 prohibited possession of handguns by children under 18, "we've seen a downturn in violent crime committed by people under 18. We also saw a downturn in violent crime by persons over 18, so it's difficult to say how much is a result of a law.

In other words, Ritter is merely making a simple before-and-after comparison while completely disregarding pre-existing trends. It's outrageous that the Post would cite such obviously fallacious statistics while completely ignoring the thorough and competent study by Lott, which actually bears upon the issue.

But the Post is obviously not concerned with something as trivial as telling the truth, for its editorial continues,

When you consider that about 72 percent of all 1998 gun deaths in Colorado were suicides and that, nationally, 10 children under 21 die of gunshots each day, the two [SAFE] measures... make perfect sense...

In Lott's examination of mandatory gun storage laws in other states, he found that such laws have no impact on suicide rates. The "10 children" statistic consists mostly of gang members who already disregard the law. It's absurd for the Post to suggest that gang violence will be solved by passing storage laws and age restrictions.

In their anti-gun zealotry, the Post writers are unable to muster a coherent argument or take an objective glance at the evidence. But what's new?

Owens' Militia

Governor Bill Owens and members of the legislature are flagrantly violating the Colorado Constitution. Yet nobody seems to know this (relative to the particular point discussed here); even I was surprised to discover it.

Both the governor and the legislature are bound to maintain a state militia, and obviously they aren't doing it. An entire Article of the Colorado Constitution is devoted to the issue ( Article 17 is entitled simply "Militia." Here's what it says, in block quotes:

Section 1. Persons subject to service. The militia of the state shall consist of all able–bodied male residents of the state between the ages of eighteen and forty–five years; except, such persons as may be exempted by the laws of the United States, or of the state.

So the next time a reporter comments about a "militia group," you might point out that the reporter (or her spouse) is probably a member of the militia, as well. I've even heard Denver police officers comment negatively about "militia types," even though they're IN the militia, and sworn to uphold the Colorado Constitution, which requires militia membership!

Section 2. Organization - equipment - discipline. The organization, equipment and discipline of the militia shall conform as nearly as practicable, to the regulations for the government of the armies of the United States.

Apparently, our current political leaders regard this clause as a joke. (I suspect most members of the legislature haven't bothered to read the Constitution, anyway.) The Colorado militia has absolutely NO organization, equipment, or discipline, at least that I've ever seen.

Section 3. Officers - how chosen. The governor shall appoint all general, field and staff officers and commission them. Each company shall elect its own officers, who shall be commissioned by the governor; but if any company shall fail to elect such officers within the time prescribed by law, they may be appointed by the governor.

Section 3 states the governor SHALL appoint leaders of the state militia. Has Owens appointed even one such leader? If so, I haven't heard about it -- and failing to do so is a violation of the Constitution.

Section 4. Armories. The general assembly shall provide for the safekeeping of the public arms, military records, relics and banners of the state.

If the general assembly SHALL protect "the public arms," that implies there must be public arms. Are there? If so, where do I go to get in some practice time with these arms?

Section 5. Exemption in time of peace. No person having conscientious scruples against bearing arms, shall be compelled to do militia duty in time of peace; provided, such person shall pay an equivalent for such exemption.

Maybe somebody with lots of time and money will sue Governor Owens and the members of the state legislature for failing to uphold Article 17 of our Constitution.

Columns Defend Norton

Two recent articles support Gale Norton. (My previous comments can be found at The first, by Vincent Carroll of the News (January 14,, argues that, while Norton has made some poorly construed comments, she isn't what the leftist environmental groups are making her out to be. He explains that these groups

can't say, "We oppose Bush's nominee for secretary of interior because we disagree with her over the extent of government's duty to compensate private property owners under the Fifth Amendment, and because we part company with her over how much land should be managed as untrammeled wilderness."

If they said that, they couldn't scare donors into big contributions or jack up their memberships... So instead, they say that Gale Norton is a nature-hating, right-wing extremist... -- and [she] may be a bigot to boot.

It's sleazy, but at least they get their soundbite.

William Perry Pendley's January 1 article also accuses the leftist groups of the "politics of personal destruction." He says these groups

launched a personal assault.... Norton's nomination was a "declara[tion] of war on the environment," "a natural disaster," and "an anathema to the environmental community." "[Norton] is James Watt in a skirt," cried the Sierra Club. The attack is not only needlessly shrill; it is non-substantive... because, as the broad, bipartisan support for Norton demonstrates, she is a tactful and talented problem solver with a balanced view on environmental issues. Yet, because most Americans do not know Norton, environmental groups believe they can create a myth that will derail her nomination or destroy her effectiveness." (

Hopefully the leftist groups will succeed in neither goal. Norton deserves our support. We who know her best must defend her before the nation.

Political Sprawl

The real problem we face isn't the "sprawl" of the suburbs, it's the sprawl of politicians' power.

Now, politicians want even more power to run our lives and control our communities. In his Reason Magazine article "Room to Grow: What's so bad about the suburbs?", Sam Staley argues that growth controllers "want to take a problem they believe was fundamentally caused by politics, and solve it with... more politics. To them, the problem isn't the rule of experts -- it's that the wrong experts have been in charge" (

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. has (characteristically) harsh words for the statists. He writes of the " Dangers of Anti-Sprawlism" in the January 12 edition of Spintech:

[T]he urban sprawl issue is a non-issue. For the most part, the problem has been trumped up by environmentalists who oppose all forms of economic development, and are looking for another way to impose their anti-human agenda on us. (

We shouldn't take Rockwell's critique too far, however: only some environmentalists "oppose all forms of economic development" and most people who think of themselves as environmentalists want to see humans flourish. Libertarians are "environmentalists" in the benevolent sense of the term.

Rockwell argues more effectively that growth controls are promoted by those who seek to profit from them -- existing property owners and businesses. He further notes that many of the problems associated with sprawl are really problems caused by politicians, such as the congestion of government-run roads.

The Colorado Freedom