Freedom Updates: July 9, 2003

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

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.freecolorado.com

Freedom Updates: July 9, 2003

All Freedom Updates by Ari Armstrong unless otherwise noted.


Colorado Deals with Race
In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling allowing tax-supported colleges to admit students partially on the basis of race, Colorado Republicans are planning to squash "affirmative action" at the state level. And of course the ACLU and the Democrats are preparing to fight the effort.

Of course, if the legislature would simply stop interfering in education, the matter of college admissions would not be a political matter. Individual colleges could set whatever admissions policies they deemed appropriate. I personally believe there is some room for colleges to strive to achieve a diverse campus, though of course the consideration of diverse ideas is most important.

In the July 8 Denver Post, Julia Martinez writes, "Gov. Bill Owens said Monday that he objects to using race as a factor in university admissions and would sign legislation prohibiting the use of race in deciding who gets into Colorado universities." State Senator Jim Dyer has already said he's considering legislation for next year.

At the same time, the Denver Police Department is taking heat because an officer shot a 15-year-old kid with disabilities. The youth was holding a knife at the time.

Clearly racism and racial tension are not things of the past, though of course the problems are less acute than they were even decades ago. John Rebchook wrote an article for the July 8 Rocky Mountain News about recent allegations that the local real-estate market is tainted by racial discrimination. The article describes a black real-estate agent who suggests to his black clients that they take down family photos during showings. Rebchook continues, "Last week, the nonprofit Housing For All released the results of an investigation that claimed 20 percent of the minority buyers in the study were treated worse than white buyers."

Of course, the "20 percent" figure gives a false impression of precision. The survey deals with subjective evaluations, and anyway the survey lacked the strict controls that would render more reliable data.

But, even granting racism continues to plague our society, that doesn't imply anything about affirmative action. Many critics of race-based admissions argue the policy actually hurts the very minorities it seeks to help. Regardless of what one concludes about affirmative action, surely everyone can agree the root problems are best addressed long before an individual applies for college. If blacks scored as high on standardized tests as did, say, Asians, the issue would be moot.


New Gun Laws Baffle Post Reporter
Kelly Pate, allegedly a "Denver Post Business Writer," wrote a ridiculously sensationalistic article June 29 titled, "New gun laws baffle businesses."

Pate quoted Victoria Vialpando, a clerk at Media Play on 16th Street Mall: "If a person came in here legally carrying a gun and looked at you the wrong way, how would you know whether he intentionally wants to harm you or wants to rob us? I wouldn't know... Thinking about it scares me."

Pate writes, "They don't want guns in their establishments, yet few are willing to post a sign banning them. And some bar, restaurant and shop owners are queasy about telling a customer with a gun to leave." But most business owners will not post a sign simply because they want to do business with gun owners. Concealed carry permit holders rank among the safest customers in the world, and they generally have high incomes. And I simply will not do business with Media Play or any other establishment that bans concealed carriers. Yet Pate chooses to focus her story on "queasy" clerks.

Pate is ignorant about the subject matter. She writes, "Previously, Denver issued such permits, but only under special circumstances." She neglects to mention permits were issued only a handful of times, and the "special circumstances" mostly were being politically connected. Pate also claims "citizens can carry a gun in the open, in their hand," something that obviously isn't true. It isn't until the very end of her article that Pate admits, "It is illegal to point a gun at another person or threaten or alarm someone with a gun."

Pate claims store owners "say the state has offered no guidance about how to keep guns off their property." Uh, you put up a little thing called a "sign." It's a piece of paper or words on it.

Pate writes:

Nick Frangos, owner of the Congress Lounge on Capitol Hill, put a "No Guns" sign next to the front door, but he knows that won't necessarily stop someone.

"Eight or 10 years ago, this guy came in and he was intoxicated," said Frangos, who has had the bar since 1958. "I wouldn't serve him, and he took a gun out and put it on the bar. And you know what I did? I said, 'What are ya drinkin?' "

But what does this have to do with the changes in Colorado's laws? The man's actions were illegal then, and they would be illegal today. Obviously, the legal changes will not impact criminals who carry guns illegally regardless of what the law says.

Pate writes:

Citizens who have called police regarding the new laws most often ask whether gun-related crimes increased in states with similar laws to Colorado, after those laws went into effect, said Steve Cooper, division chief for the Denver Police Department.

"Thus far, we don't have any data that supports that," he said, referring to about a dozen cities, including Dallas, Houston and Miami.

There is, however, convincing evidence that liberalized concealed carry laws reduce violent crime. See the work of John Lott and his various co-authors. For Pate to ignore this evidence in her article, while citing groundless fears and prejudices on the other side, is irresponsible.


How a Democrat Could Win the Presidency
I think a Democrat could beat George Bush next year if he or she adopted a civil-libertarian platform. The candidate should pledge to repeal the PATRIOT Act, block renewal of the "assault weapons ban," and stop persecuting users of medical marijuana. The convenient thing about this plan is that Bush is on the wrong side of all these issues, yet a large proportion of the population supports the libertarian side.

Yes, I think a lot of gun owners would leave Bush to support a more pro-gun Democrat. In the South and in rural areas, many Democrats already support the right of self-defense. Sure, this position would piss off some of the Democratic base, but, as Bill Owens might say, "What are they going to do -- vote Republican?" I think most Democrats are sufficiently angry with Bush that they'd happily look past this issue. Many gun owners are also unhappy with the PATRIOT Act.

The Marijuana Policy Project recently sent out a release about the medical marijuana issue. The time is ripe to address this matter, given federal fascists are violating state laws and hurting sick people. Part of the MPP release follows.

On July 2, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told New Hampshire medical marijuana advocate Linda Macia that he was "in favor of" medical marijuana... Kerry added that he is "in favor of its prescription." This is a positive statement from Sen. Kerry, who is a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The next day, Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) told MPP's Aaron Houston that although as president he would not sign legislation that would allow seriously ill people to use marijuana, he would respect and defer to the laws of the individual states...

On July 6, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) told GSMM that he would "probably" sign legislation to allow seriously ill people to use medical marijuana with their doctors' approval and that he is "sympathetic" on the issue...

Meanwhile, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean continues to struggle to nail down his own position on medical marijuana... As governor, Dean blocked legislation that would have protected patients in Vermont.

Schwartz Defends CCW in Camera
Some might call it the "Daily Comrade" (perhaps fewer since the introduction of Jon Caldara's column), but Boulder's major newspaper was good enough to publish an excellent article by Brian Schwartz titled, "Guns on campus? We'd be safer" (June 29).

Schwartz reviews that Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar said the concealed carry law doesn't apply to the CU campus. Schwartz writes, "[N]o one has demonstrated that disarming permit-holders makes the campus safer. Instead, the prohibitionists resort to prejudice and intolerance." Further along in the article, Schwartz cites one professor who told him, "[T]hose gun people are nuts."

Schwartz continues, "The principles of economics apply to criminals: they prey on victims who can't defend themselves. Both interviews with convicted felons and Lott's study of liberalized concealed-carry laws confirm this hypothesis: Criminals fear armed victims more than they do the police, and rates of murder, rape and aggravated assaults decline in areas where concealed-carry is allowed. Further, criminologist Gary Kleck found that guns are used defensively 2.5 million times every year, at least three times the rate of crimes committed with guns."

However, Schwartz adds, people's rights are more fundamental than statistics: "If people own their own bodies, self-defense is a basic human right. Artists and writers need not apply for 'self-expression permits' and prove to government censors that their activities will never harm innocents in any imaginable way. Self-defense is a right, not a privilege."

Schwartz' article is well-reasoned and well-written. The Camera showed good judgment in publishing it.


RMGO Announces Gun-Sales Website
Following is part of a July 7 release from Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Now that gun shows are being used to register gun owners -- thanks to Tom Mauser, Governor Bill Owens, Charlton Heston (htpp://www.rmgo.org/ol.html) and a large number of the public who believe gun control works -- by forcing all private sales to undergo the Brady Registration Check -- the only marketplace to privately sell firearms was the newspapers.

(For more information about the Brady Check, and how it became law, go to http://www.nrawol.org/nix.htm.)

... Just 7 months ago the Denver Newspaper Agency announced that it would become politically correct, and would no longer take ads in their classified ads section for privately offered firearms. This follows a long-standing policy of refusing to accept advertisements for "assault weapons."

With this in mind, where are citizens to turn?

Today, that all changes. There is now a marketplace for firearms owners and purchasers.

http://www.ColoGunMarket.com is a meeting place for those who wish to buy and sell firearms without government intervention...

Who can post firearms and/or accessories on the site? Only RMGO members. For a minimum donation of $20 per year (that's minimum -- what is freedom worth to you?), which you can make via credit card at http://www.rmgo.org/donate.html you can place an unlimited number of advertisements on Colorado Gun Market...


LPCO Board Seeks Convention Organizer
The following announcement is from the board of the Libertarian Party of Colorado.

The Board of Directors of the Libertarian Party of Colorado is now accepting proposals by responsible firms and/or individuals for operating the 2004 Libertarian Party of Colorado Convention. LPCO conventions are typically operated as a private business venture by individuals or companies. The LPCO does not, usually, support the convention financially in any way. The LPCO does assist the convention operators in other ways pursuant to the operator's proposal once accepted by the LPCO. The legal requirements are:
1) it must be held in Colorado,
2) must be held on or after April 1, 2004 but before or on June 30, 2004,
3) a venue and time slot for a two hour Party business meeting must be provided for, and
4) the business meeting arrangements should be made such that members not attending the convention will be able to attend the business meeting without serious inconvenience.

Please submit questions and proposals to Norm Olsen; 3879 East 120th Ave, #166; Thornton, CO 80233-1658; or call at 303-837-9393 option 3.


Denver Post Two for Three on Liberty
On June 27, Denver Post editorials sent a mixed message about individual liberty and the appropriate sphere of government. The paper's writers argued, "[W]e believe it's really personal responsibility and control that should keep people from overeating." Likewise, they wrote, "The U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow for human rights on Thursday when it threw out a Texas law banning sodomy as an unconstitutional violation of privacy."

But when it came to smoking bans, the Denver Post sided with intrusive government. The Post suggested overeating and smoking "should not be lumped into the same category when it comes to public health," but the paper offered no good reason to believe this claim. Yes, "people who smoke... continue to put themselves at risk -- as well as those around them," but this would be relevant only if smokers forced other people to breathe their smoke. That isn't the case. It might provide a rationale for a law banning smoking in one's own home around one's children, but it provides no rationale for banning smoking in a bar or restaurant, where anyone is free to leave or avoid entering in the first place.

The Post argues, "Only about 20 percent of Coloradans smoke... [W]hen government doesn't listen to the people it represents, it's time for citizens to take matters into their own hands." But by this rationale, if people want to ban homosexuality or fast foods, they should likewise "take matters into their own hands" and employ physical force to alter people's behavior.

The Post continues, "Denverites who are tired of breathing toxic secondhand smoke and want to protect restaurant and bar workers who have to breathe the fumes while on the job should petition to put the matter before voters." Of they could simply go to a voluntarily smoke-free establishment.

By the way, a disturbingly large percentage of the population thinks the government should censor the press. Irresponsible journalism is surely more dangerous than second-hand smoke -- would the Post suggest people "take matters into their own hands" here, too?


Criminal Sanctions for Car Passengers?
In Eastern Colorado, two teenagers got in a car crash. The passenger walked away and failed to call the police, and the driver died in the meantime. This has prompted a political reaction, as John Sanko describes for the July 1 Rocky Mountain News: "Rep. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Sen. Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, said the case at least merits a re-examination of existing law under which a passenger faces no criminal penalties for not reporting an accident."

This is a rare example of a case I think might actually warrant a review of existing law. Remember that the government runs the roads. As long as this is the case, the government will necessarily set the rules for the usage of roads.

Should "hit-and-run" be a crime? I think so, even if the original auto wreck did not involve criminal activity or negligence. It doesn't seem too much of stretch to apply penalties to passengers who could easily contact emergency help but fail to do so.

However, this poses a danger of crossing an important line. Do people have a positive obligation to help others, and one that can be legally enforced? It's easy to see how such a notion could get out of hand. If we see a crime in progress, and fail to call the police, are we to be subjected to criminal sanctions as well? If we simply drive by a wrecked car, yet fail to call the police, are we again subjected to criminal penalties? In many situations, an observer may be totally unaware that somebody is in danger. Even in the case in question, I suspect the young passenger thought the driver was already dead. That doesn't excuse his behavior, but it does point to the serious problems of enforcing such a law.

The law cannot substitute for social pressure. Unless a very strong case can be made outlining a clear and enforceable change to the law, I think such matters should be left to the civil courts, or to social ostracization.


KeepAndBearArms.com Announces Second-Amendment Petition
A July 3 release from KeepAndBearArms.com is reproduced below.

A Second Amendment lawsuit was petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court today -- just in time for Independence Day. The case Silveira v. Lockyer, which originated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, was previously appealed to the U. S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, resulting in a deeply divided ruling. The lawsuit seeks to address at least two specific aspects of the Second Amendment, namely: does the Second Amendment apply to the states in the same way that the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendments apply, and does it guarantee an individual right, in the same manner as those other amendments to the Bill of Rights.

The case began when several plaintiffs in California decided to challenge a state gun control law, enacted by the Democrat-controlled legislature of that state, that affected their freedom to own and use certain firearms.

Lead attorney for the lawsuit, Gary W. Gorski, says the law clerks and Justices will note the care, depth, and thoroughness that went into preparing the Petition for Writ of Certiorari...

Gorski filed the Silveira v. Lockyer certiorari petition just before July 4th, as he believes Independence and the Second Amendment are cousins. "Our nation's Founders knew exactly what they were doing when they put the 'gun clause' right next to the 'free speech and religion' clause," says the California-based attorney. "After fighting a bloody war for freedom, of course they meant 'the people' when they penned the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, many politicians today no longer understand the importance of freedom. And millions of innocent Americans face potential prison sentences for merely exercising their constitutional right, and their natural right of self-defense. We think the Justices will review our Petition and realize that this hearing is long overdue."

The last time the Supreme Court ruled on a Second Amendment case was in 1939, in United States. v. Miller.

Gorski believes the high court will announce in early October whether or not it will hear this case. "Until then," he says, "we've have a great deal of work to do to prepare our brief and oral arguments. This is one of the most important things I've ever been involved in -- I'm committed to doing it right, and doing it well."

On the Web
Silveira v. Lockyer
Petition to the Supreme Court


The Prudence of Gun Ownership
Bruce Tiemann wrote a reply to a recent column concerning gun ownership:

In his June 22 column, the News Tribune's Jim Heffernan opines that only people intending to shoot others could possibly want to carry guns. Does he think the police should change their motto from "To Protect and Serve" to "We Intend to Shoot People -- That's Why We Carry Guns"? He appears to fear gun mayhem, but without good reason: It hasn't happened in any of the other 30-odd states that have already adopted "shall-issue," despite the repeated predictions of doom from the gun prohibitionists.

Carrying his argument further: Why do women carry rape whistles around, who are not intending to get raped? Why ever buy burglar alarms, unless intending to be burgled? Why carry life insurance, if you're not planning to die early? Pointedly, why would nightclubs have fire insurance, extinguishers or sprinklers, if they're not intending to go up in flames? Of course those with protective equipment don't necessarily intend to use it; it's merely better to have and not need, than need and not have.

It just means that one prudently covers one's bases.

Like it or not, criminals do exist and violent crimes do happen. How to cover that base? Police aren't everywhere, and have no duty to protect individuals. Some people might prefer to be killed by a criminal than fight back with a gun, and they may freely choose this option. But is it morally acceptable to prevent others from having the same choice?

Heffernan seems to think so. It is true that guns can be used for evil purposes, or to commit suicide. Then again, insurance is also criminally misused, such as collecting on fraud, arson or murder for hire. Consider this paraphrase of Heffernan's criterion: "Well, then ask yourself this question: When was the last time you needed life or fire insurance?" Probably never.

Olsen Dissolves 1142 Committee
The following message was sent by Norm Olsen on July 3 concerning the dissolution of a political committee created to fight HB 1142, a bill (now a law) that interferes with the nomination of minor-party candidates.

It is time for the quarterly report to the Secretary of State. With this report, I intend to wrap this effort up.

There is an effort afloat to challenge the law with a law suit. I'm no lawyer, but I suspect you have to be an aggrieved party to be a part of the law suit. Thus, this issue committee could not bring the suit itself. It could, of course, raise money and contribute to the effort that way.

In any case, I do not have the time or inclination to maintain the legal status of this committee, especially since there hasn't been much activity. I suspect most folks, like myself, have more important fish to fry.

So, unless I hear form someone to the contrary, I'll assume that we're done on this issue and terminate the status.

Some people have discussed filing a law suit against 1142, but so far no concrete plans have been made.


Media Notes

Colorado Springs ID -- Terri Cotten wrote an informative article for the June 30 Denver Post explaining the city council in Colorado Springs no longer requires people "to show photo identification and sign their names to enter city hall."

Concentrated Benefits, Dispersed Costs -- In responding to a Denver Post editorial, David Aitken notes (June 30), "Most of the people I know are working folks who can't afford to take time off and camp out at city hall or the legislature to shine a light on the murky things that go on there."

It's the Spending, Stupid -- In a July 1 letter to the Denver Post, Howard Botnick writes, "Giving a tax break to the few people who have more than enough disposable income isn't going to help the economy. Giving a few extra bucks to the many thousands who are barely able to keep their heads above water - those who have been laid off because of the big corporate frauds, those who can't get a better job because of budget cuts that the present administration has created - will give them some extra money to buy the necessities they need and put more money into the economy." But Botnick's view is nonsense. If tax cuts are not offset by spending cuts, the economy will not be improved. If a tax break is given that is accompanied by a spending cut, it really doesn't matter in economic terms who gets the tax cut. Additional arguments, though, suggest taxing the poor is especially harmful (to them). Thus, I propose a progressive tax rate as a better alternative to the current one: 0% for poor people at 1% for rich people.

Alternatives to Prison -- I am convinced that today's prisons are fundamentally counterproductive. They only make criminals worse, they sanction inhumane treatment, and they cost the public a fortune. Eric Hubler described one alternative in the July 1 Denver Post: "Ridge View Academy [is] a unique reform school that teaches young offenders what most successful citizens learn at home: how to balance liberty with responsibility. The only fences at Ridge View's verdant, boarding-school- style campus on a former bombing range are to keep cows out, not kids in. Student-athletes, as they're called, are brought to court dates in shackles, as the state requires, but the shackles come off when they get back. There are mentors called coaches, but no guards. Boys are expected to get to classes and therapy on time, on their own, without being prodded."

Montrose Grocery Tax Update -- Aaron Porter wrote an article for the June 30 Daily Sentinel describing the progress of the effort to repeal the grocery tax in Montrose. He writes, "Ballots are in the mail for a special election to determine if a tax will stand on food for home kitchens. The city of Montrose mailed 6,228 ballots to active registered voters Thursday, reported City Clerk Mary Watt. The ballots should reach voters by today, she said. The Western Slope Libertarian Party, a local political group, is challenging the city's sales tax on food groceries." Noelle Hagan issued the predictable hysterical character attack: "Since there is no means of replacing the revenue, this is merely an attempt to cripple government. These are people who don't like government, that's my belief." Another interpretation is that "these are people" who like a responsible government that doesn't hurt the poor or squander resources. Taking a cue from the Montrose Libertarians, Frank Atwood is checking into repealing the grocery tax in Lakewood. This strikes me as a project that can and should be repeated all over.

Drug War Obfuscation -- Robert Weiner, formerly of the White House Drug Policy Office, and Amy Rieth, write in a recent article: "The answer to the war on drugs does not lie in decriminalizing marijuana. Doing so could very well mean heading down a dangerous path that will likely require societal and legislative corrections in the future. Do we really want to reproduce problems of the '70s and '80s, when drug use and crime were at their highest?" But the only reason "drug use and crime" are associated is because of drug prohibition. And prohibition is not what's responsible for fluctuations in drug use. It is responsible only for the crime.

Cat Mutilations -- The leading theory is that the cat mutilations in the Denver area were caused by a demented person. But Brian Crecente sensibly offers a competing theory in the July 3 Rocky Mountain News. Previous cases of suspected mutilations were in fact the result of animal predators, and animal-inflicted wounds are often mistaken for human-inflicted ones.

Elevator Risks -- The Rocky Mountain News also provided some useful perspective in its July 3 "Extra!" section, noting "30 people are maimed or killed by faulty escalators every day. 85% of accidents are caused by worn, damaged or faulty equipment. 15 safety devices are on an average escalator."

Wright Laments Deficit -- The Rocky published a letter from Jeff Wright July 3 concerning the deficit: "With the current Republican administration in place we are already running a $400 billion deficit. The deficit spending is now expected to extend far into the future... Now the Democratic presidential candidates are proposing another huge federal health-care entitlement. This plan will suck additional hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy through either new taxes or through debt by adding to the deficit... "

Groundhog Sprawl -- Marcos Mocine-McQueen writes for the July 4 Denver Post: "Three years after the city of Boulder passed a law protecting prairie dogs from poisoning, the animals once again may be threatened. The problem is that the rodents are doing well - too well. Colorado law protects a property owner's right to exterminate pests. The state classifies prairie dogs as pests. But Boulder City Attorney Joe de Raismes got around the law by arguing that the city had plenty of open space to house nuisance prairie dogs... What was once a relatively small rural population of prairie dogs is now suffering sprawl and overcrowding... The prairie dog explosion on open space also threatens the grassland ecosystem and the other species living there," according to one report.

The Loser War on Drugs -- The July 6 Denver Post published an article by Michael Holzmeister titled, "In the War on Drugs, everyone's a loser." He writes, "The War on Drugs has had a profound effect on me. I used to be a proud Republican, but the more I listened to law-and-order Republicans chatter about the dire need for ever more enforcement of the controlled-substance laws, the more Libertarian I became." He concludes, "The War on Drugs is a resounding failure. Drugs still flow freely. The War on Drugs has had some success, however. It has successfully battled the Constitution and helped to quash our freedom."

What Revolution? -- The quirky Ed Quillen wrote an interesting article for the July 6 Denver Post speculating what might have happened had the American Revolution not been successful. Of course, the leaders of the revolution would have been hanged. But the World Wars of the last century might have been avoided. And probably North America would not today boast the "largest prison population in the world." On the other hand, we'd probably have socialized medicine, something Quillen seems to imagine would make life better. So I'll struggle a little harder to direct some righteous indignation toward the heretical Quillen.

The Incumbent Protection Act -- Peter Blake wrote a provocative article for the June 28 Rocky titled, "Labyrinthine election 'reform' great for incumbents." Unfortunately, I cannot describe the details of the article, because reading it gave me a headache. Apparently, though, Blake is arguing that's the point of the law.

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