Gun Rights and the Rise of the LINOs
[For more material about Mark Brophy's Libertarian nomination for the Colorado legislature, along with commentary about the Liberatrian Party of Colorado, please see Mark Brophy Updates.]
[Editor's note: Following are several commentaries about a potential Libertarian Party candidate for the Colorado legislature -- Mark Brophy -- who answered a survey put out by Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Brophy expressed support for several laws that restrict gun ownership. The discussion continues from A Libertarian Against Gun Rights? Editorial comments are enclosed in brackets. -- Ari Armstrong]
Dudley Brown, May 11
[In the following e-mail, Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners responds to a letter from Dan Cochran, reproduced below.]
First, understand that RMGO isn't partisan: we aren't owned by any political party. We are VERY critical of politicians of every stripe, and some would even suggest we concentrate our fire most often on Republicans.
Our PAC has in the past endorsed a Libertarian -- Shawn Elke Glaser [Glazer] -- and given her campaign considerable advice (to no avail -- those who ran Glaser's campaign were FAR too intelligent to take any advice). We've even had a very active member of the LP on our staff (Ari Armstrong), and have attempted to strategize with the LP leadership a number of times (see Glaser campaign, above, for results). I've met with the 2000 Libertarian Presidential candidate, urging him to use the gun issue as a real platform to gain votes (again, see above).
I don't know Mark Brophy personally, and doubt I've ever met him. He is, however, a politician. Like any politician, he is unlikely to vote better than he fills out a survey (though, I'd also suggest he's unlikely to ever be elected). And since he has never been in office, we can only take him at his word.
Your explanation of his positions is precisely -- mark my words, PRECISELY -- the way Republican loyalists defend anti-gun politicians from their party. In no way could you have proven the point of the RMGO alert better than to defend Brophy for his positions.
By his word (he signed the survey as an oath, which you can read at [this COFREE page,] he does not oppose banning "assault weapons" or high capacity magazines, he's in favor of forcing Brady checks for all sales at gun shows, he's opposed to full preemption, he's[...]
Now, it's entirely possible that the survey we received was not signed by Mr. Brophy but instead was stolen by a neighbor. If that is the case (all Mr. Brophy needs to do is say it is not his signature and explain how this came to be), then we will apologize profusely. [This was not the case.]
But if that is not the case, we will take Mr. Brophy at his word. If elected, he would vote for gun control.
Dan, I can assure you, THAT is what we (RMGO and GOA) call "anti-gun". Maybe by your book it is being "reasonable", but not ours.
RMGO would like nothing better than to find out that the Libertarian candidate for Senate District 14 was rock solid on the gun issue. We have no love for Ray Martinez, and we don't care whether he has an "R" or a "D" next to his name: he's an avowed leftist, and we'll oppose him.
We take heat from GOP leadership when we won't support their anti-gun candidates, but, as stated earlier, we aren't owned by any political party.
Dan Cochran, May 10
Afer considerable thought I feel I must respond to this e-mail [by Dudley Brown] regarding Mr. Brophy's response to the RMGO survey. I've even had people from other states call my home. I, like everyone else, was shocked that an "anti-gunner" is running as a Libertarian. What I've discovered is quite the contrary.
I spoke directly with Mr. Brophy, whom I have known for some time, so I could understand what is going on. Mr. Brophy informed me that he is definitely pro gun. When he answered the RMGO survey he claims that he indicated that he supports repeal of machine gun laws as well as a number of other pro-gun stances. [The RMGO survey did not ask a question pertaining to machine guns.] He didn't agree with RMGO on issues he interpreted as arming criminals or being soft on crime. Clearly, we may differ in our perception of the effects of some specific questions. The background and details of some of these issues isn't always clear to someone if gun rights isn't their primary focus. Regardless, it should have been clear to Dudly Brown that Mr. Brophy isn't anti-gun.
As libertarians, Mr. Brophy and I understand that the Second Amendment isn't just about gun ownership, but more about the right and ability of citizens to overthrow a tyrannical government. Some libertarian purist would even claim private ownership of chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons should be allowed. After all the Second Amendment doesn't differentiate between types of arms. And if we allow the government to restrict one weapon, then we have given government the power, under incremental extension of the argument, to restrict any weapon.
I, Mr. Brophy, and most libertarians recognize that in today's complex society such extremes are unacceptable and we must fight the battle somewhere in the middle. Where each of us would draw the line is likely slightly different. Just because Mr. Brophy would draw the line at a point slightly more restrictive than Mr. Brown, doesn't make Mr. Brophy "anti-gun". Mr. Brown should recognize how closely aligned he is with Mr. Brophy and discuss the points where they differ rather than launching an attack.
I believe that Mr. Brown's has been looking for a reason to attack Libertarians and Mr. Brophy provided him with an opportunity. Mr. Brown's general attitude toward Libertarians, and his support of Republicans at all cost, is why I refuse to financially support RMGO even though I have been a long-time supporter of GOA.
We should all recognize that the real obstacle to our freedoms is big, powerful, government. Republican administrations traditionally have expanded the power and size of government. We only have to look at our current Colorado and U.S. administrations to see this. Then, when a Democrat administration is elected, they have the mechanism in place to take away our rights and freedoms, including gun rights. As long as gun owners continue to support Republicans over Democrats, our gun rights and freedoms will slowly disappear. We must recognize that Republicans along with Democrats are the problem, not the solution. We must stop supporting the problem and look for a solution. I believe Libertarians offer the best solution.
Specifically, in Mr. Brophy's race for Colorado Senate District 14 we have two Democrats vying for their ticket and a BIG government, tax and spend, socialist Republican who is currently the mayor of Fort Collins. Mayor Martinez's record is clear, if he wins, you loose. Does anyone really want to waste their vote on the Republican? I challenge those who find none of the candidates to their liking to get involved with the Libertarian Party so in the next election year you can run as "your ideal candidate". I will support anyone who is willing to fight to reduce the size and scope of government. And I will disagree with almost everyone on some specific point.
In closing, I applaud Mr. Brown's efforts to preserve our limited gun rights. I hope he will continue the fight and I sincerely hope that some day he will come to recognize that supporting the Libertarians are his best option.
Ari Armstrong, May 11
If you'd been on my weekly e-list, or if you'd read my web page, you already would have known that Mark Brophy did indeed answer his RMGO survey in support of the ban on select semi-automatic rifles and magazines.
Dudley Brown was exactly right in criticizing Brophy for his survey results. If anything, Brown was far too lenient -- particularly if you care to read the state chair's tepid and unprincipled reply.
Brophy later wrote in an e-mail, "...I oppose banning semi-autos and high capacity magazines and any form of gun control." However, this is in direct contradiction to his signed survey. Thus, I am forced to conclude one of three things. 1. Brophy's views change with the wind. 2. Brophy in fact favors the gun ban, and his e-mail statement is false. 3. Brophy in fact favors repealing the ban, in which case he filled out his survey incorrectly (in which case I must question his competence as a candidate). Brown and the rest of us have every justification in taking Brophy's SIGNED survey as representative of Brophy's views.
Notably, in his e-mail, Brophy wrote, "I don't know what a 'full preemption' law is or what 'Project Gestapo' is." This statement of Brophy's simply is not believable. On the survey that HE SIGNED, questions 2 and 11 explicitly define what these things are.
If a Republican or Democrat signed a survey the way Brophy signed his, principled Libertarians would criticize the Republican or Democrat in the harshest of terms. If you care to see Brophy's reply to question 3 on the survey, you will find that Brophy supports a disarmament measure that was precisely a major focus of the 2002 Libertarian campaign against Governor Owens.
An unprincipled Republican or Democrat is merely pathetic. An unprincipled Libertarian directly undercuts the freedom movement. What is remarkable and disturbing is that some Libertarian leaders have chosen to apologize for anti-rights positions based on the philosophy of pragmatism. That is totally inappropriate for the self-professed "Party of Principle." For instance, Dan, your explanation of libertarianism as the "middle" ground between two "extreme" positions completely obliterates any possibility for a principled argument. (Even Barry Goldwater got that one right.) If we're just "drawing the lines" differently, based, presumably, on whim, then there can be no justification for holding one view over any other, provided some other view is considered more "extreme."
None of this, of course, is a denial of reasonable disagreements. For instance, many people, including me, argue that, *on principle*, weapons that can *only* be used in such a way that killing innocent people is unavoidable, may be banned for private ownership. This argument clearly does NOT apply to semi-automatic rifles. The point is that, even in disagreement, (actual) libertarians must return to the principles of reason, self-ownership, and individual rights to back up their positions. The moment we surrender sound principles for an arbitrary "drawing of lines" is the moment that politics becomes nothing but a tribalistic quest for power.
It would seem, then, that the RINOs have been joined by the LINOs.
Mark Brophy, May 11
I answered "no" to question 2 because I believe government should have the right to prevent people from carrying firearms inside courthouses and police stations. You and Dudley Moore [?] are too soft on crime. Our party will never grow as long as it is perceived as coddling criminals.
I answered "no" on question 3 because I don't want criminals to have guns. If government needs a couple of days to check all 50 states, that's fine with me. Again, you are too soft on crime.
I answered question 4 wrong. Ordinary citizens have been deprived of their liberty to sell marijuana and other banned substances and successfully deterred police, using assault weapons, from entering their homes and ruining their businesses. The Second Amendment was intended to prevent government oppression, so this is working well.
I'm not a very bright guy, so sometimes I need a reminder of why things are necessary. I answered this question wrong because it did not mention these business owners, and I don't buy or sell banned substances, so the issue has not been a part of my daily life.
I oppose private use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons because these are trade secrets owned by the state. Assault weapon technology is widely available, so I believe there is a distinction.
I believe you are wrong that the drug war constituency is unimportant. About 10% of the U.S. population smokes pot, which would vastly increase our membership, if we could bring them over to our side. I object to your disparagement of the Ninth Amendment because I believe it is as the Second or any other Amendment.
The drug war has caused an enormous increase in crime. The need for guns would substantially reduced if we had less tolerant of violent crime.
I didn't answer question 10 because I believe it is reasonable to deprive citizens of their right to carry firearms when they in courthouses and police stations. I oppose all government tracking of guns and ammunition. I oppose all government regulation of TV commercials, bus advertising, and other First Amendment abridgements.
I answered "no" to question 11 because it misrepresents the position of the NRA and slanders an effective organization. I cannot believe the NRA opposes the First Amendment and supports the Second. RMGO has no credibility when they make such claims, which is why their membership is so low. The NRA is effective, and I wish similar organizations would successfully protect the other 9 amendments in the Bill of Rights.
I also wish you would stand up for the other 9 amendments, too. I will be voting against any office you are seeking until such time as you become an advocate for all freedoms, and an opponent of violent crime.
Dudley Brown, May 11
A quick correction to Mr. Cochran and Mr. Brophy:
You made a rather odd assertion that I did not address.
"As libertarians, Mr. Brophy and I understand that the Second Amendment isn't just about gun ownership, but more about the right and ability of citizens to overthrow a tyrannical government. Some libertarian purist would even claim private ownership of chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons should be allowed. After all the Second Amendment doesn't differentiate between types of arms. And if we allow the government to restrict one weapon, then we have given government the power, under incremental extension of the argument, to restrict any weapon."
Our founding fathers routinely defined the right to keep and bear arms as bearing "small arms". A short definition of a small arm is the weapon the average infantryman would carry. A long book, yet a good primer on firearms history, is "Unintended Consequences" by John Ross (a Libertarian author). [Actually, Ross ran as a Democrat for U.S. Congress some years ago.]
I don't share your view of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. In fact, I don't know of an organization which does.
As for the NRA, Mr. Brophy, I could write for the next two weeks about the NRA's horrid sell-outs of gun issues, largely to placate the political ambitions of the leaders of the Republican Party. Any Libertarian candidate for office should be well-versed on the NRA's proclivities (i.e. supporting a candidate because that candidate will win, not because that candidate is truly pro-gun).
The e-mail we sent to our members stands by itself: the LP is no different than any other party if it promotes candidates who dance around starkly contrasting freedom issues like the assault weapons ban.
Mark Brophy, May 11
There's nothing "odd" about it at all. For instance, Joseph Story in "Commentaries on the Constitution" (1833) wrote: "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."
The entire section is [here.] It says nothing about "small arms" because there were no weapons of mass destruction at the time the Constitution was written. The Gatling gun, using trade secrets, was a weapon of mass destruction during the Civil War, but would be considered a "small arm" today. The Story quote was used by the NRA in one of their legal briefs.
One of the reasons the Free State Project chose New Hampshire is a clause in their Constitution explicitly granting the right of revolution.
Ari Armstrong, May 12
Brophy's citation does not address Ross's claim about the "small arms" implication of the Second Amendment. But the argument expressed by Cochran and Brophy is ridiculous, and one I've heard from those who wish to ban all guns. Cochran essentially argues, "Because we don't support private ownership of nuclear weapons, therefore it's okay if a Libertarian candidate supports restrictions on rifles and handguns." Obviously, Cochran's argument is completely bogus, and it is merely a diversionary tactic to try to get us to ignore Brophy's very real and very obvious proposed property-rights violations. (By the way, Brophy's argument about "trade secrets" is both bizarre and irrelevant.)
At least Brophy backed away from his support of the production ban on select rifles and magazines. Thus, he has demonstrated he is as good on gun rights as many Republicans. But that's hardly the appropriate standard for a Libertarian candidate.
Brophy's position with respect to background checks is contradictory. On question 3 of the survey, he supports background checks for private sales at gun shows. More recently, he justifies this position on the basis that the opposite policy allegedly allows "criminals to have guns." Brophy's position is precisely that of Sarah Brady, precisely the opposite of the truth, and precisely the position against which libertarians and other gun-rights advocates fought in 2000.
And yet, on question 7 of the survey, Brophy answered "yes" to the question, "Will you support the repeal of computerized 'instant' Brady background check legislation since it centrally registers gun sales and gun owners?" Background checks at gun shows are a particular expansion of the general Brady registration system. One can't (coherently) oppose the broader system and at the same time support a specific application of that system. Which demonstrates to me that Brophy is hopelessly ignorant about this issue -- though that didn't stop him from filling out the survey.
Notably, Brophy writes he even supports Brady checks that take a "couple of days." Thus, he supports delaying the right of Americans to obtain a gun -- Americans who have never been convicted of any crime.
And yet, more disturbing than Brophy's expressed views that contradict the right to bear arms, are the lame apologies for Brophy's views by some leaders within the Libertarian Party of Colorado.