Brophy Issues New Gun-Policy Statement

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

The Colorado Freedom

Brophy Issues New Gun-Policy Statement

by Mark Brophy; reply by Ari Armstrong

[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.]

Mark Brophy, June 8, 2004

Complete statement on self-defense

People should not be placed at a disadvantage to criminals by their own government. I oppose government efforts to ban or restrict the use of mace or other devices that people use for protection. I oppose attempts to ban weapons or ammunition on the grounds that they are risky or unsafe.

"The Right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" means exactly what it says (Article 2 of the Bill of Rights). Government should observe the provisions of our federal and state constitutions, which are our fundamental laws. If these restraints upon government power are no longer warranted, the people governed should remove the provisions. The current practice of government simply ignoring anything it finds too restrictive is unacceptable.

The right to keep and bear arms is clearly an individual right that specifically precludes licensing or registration of firearms. It also prohibits any restriction on the ownership or possession of any type of firearm. Guns in the hands of good and moral people are the best defense against crime. An armed populace is the original and best "Homeland Security."

I oppose any firearm legislation that does not apply specifically to the criminal misuse of firearms. Only a criminal conviction and specific finding of incompetence may be used to restrain this or any other right. I oppose any database containing firearms sales to citizens who have not been convicted of a crime. I support repeal of unconstitutional concealed carry laws.

The only legitimate purpose of a background check when purchasing a firearm is to assure the seller that the buyer is not a wanted or convicted criminal. I support an anonymous criminal records check that does not require the make, model or serial number of the firearm to be reported. I oppose the effort by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association to eliminate the requirement for a criminal check because it is essential that only citizens who respect our laws carry firearms.

The check should operate similarly to the criminal records check that any policeman would run on you when, for example, you are stopped for speeding. It should be available to the general public, so that other businesses may utilize the data. For example, a car dealer would benefit from being aware that the person about to try out a new car is not a wanted or convicted car thief.

I oppose the effort by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association to eliminate all restrictions on firearms possession in public buildings. I support restrictions on firearm possession inside courthouses and police stations where there is a special risk to government employees who protect our lives, liberty, and property. I oppose restrictions on public property such as parks where no there is no such special risk.

I urge all firearms owners to join the National Rifle Association because it is one of the most effective grassroots political organizations in our country. Their techniques have been widely studied and emulated by other advocacy groups seeking to influence the legislative process. Although they have been unable to stop Democrats and Republicans from enacting thousands of laws that flaunt the Second Amendment, we have fewer restrictions than most other countries. Ordinary citizens need to become more involved in politics because voting alone is insufficient to deter tyrannical government.

Mark Brophy Libertarian Party candidate for Senate District 14

Ari Armstrong, June 9, 2004

On June 5, I sent five questions to Mark Brophy in an attempt to ascertain his current thinking on gun policy. While Brophy did not directly respond to those five questions, he released the comments above, which answer some, but not all, of the questions I asked. Unfortunately, Brophy's statement is long on rhetoric, short on substance, on some points misleading, and on some points contrary to the libertarian position.

First, the good news. Though on March 25 Brophy said he supported the so-called "assault weapons" ban, on May 11 he changed his position to opposing that ban. Brophy also wrote, "I would follow the example of Vermont and Alaska, for all 50 states, and ban the practice of requiring a permit to conceal a firearm."

On other policies, Brophy seems to be stronger. For instance, he offered a strong critique of drug prohibition. As the June 5 Coloradoan points out, Brophy is currently active in an effort to repeal the grocery tax in Fort Collins.

Now the bad news. While Brophy offers rhetorical support for the Second Amendment, and some of his positions are consistent with the right of self-defense, some of his key positions are not.

Notably, in his new statement Brophy does not change his position with respect to background checks for private sales at gun shows. So on this issue he is in the camp of Tom Mauser and Sarah Brady.

Nor does Brophy retract his previous written support for waiting periods on gun purchases in conjunction with background checks.

Though Brophy previously supported the Brady registration system, he slightly modifies that position with his new statement. However, the background check system he now advocates is untenable. I described some of the problems with such a system previously. There's no such thing as an "anonymous criminal records check." If it's anonymous, it's not enforceable. If it's not anonymous, it necessarily opens the door to registering gun owners with the state. Beyond that, background checks are a proven failure. They don't work, they don't stop criminals, and they do interfere with the rights of privacy and self-defense of law-abiding citizens. On this issue, Brophy's position directly contradicts libertarian theory and values.

Brophy writes, "I oppose the effort by the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association to eliminate all restrictions on firearms possession in public buildings. I support restrictions on firearm possession inside courthouses and police stations where there is a special risk to government employees who protect our lives, liberty, and property. I oppose restrictions on public property such as parks where no there is no such special risk."

Brophy again speaks of "courthouses and police stations" as if they had something to do with local ordinances. As I've explained repeatedly, state law handles those cases. To my knowledge, RMGO had never taken a position with respect to courts and police stations. In a June 9 e-mail, Brown writes, "RMGO has never advocated a law to allow private citizen's guns in courthouses or police stations. Clearly, these are the two areas that law enforcement should have a monopoly on self defense, as they have a very explicit duty to provide for citizens' defense in these areas." Notably, Brown's explanation is considerably different from the one Brophy provides. In courts and police stations, all people are scanned, all people must hand over their weapons, and a security force is in place to stop violence. So Brown's position is reasonable, though others may disagree. Brophy's position with respect to parks is correct, though for reasons other than what Brophy describes. The reason people have a right to carry a gun in parks is not that "there is no... special risk" to government employees, but rather that the government has taken no special precaution to protect citizens in parks.

Interestingly, a recent case described in the June 4 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette involves precisely this issue. Bill Toland writes for the paper, "A judge has ruled that a security ordinance allowing for metal detectors and X-ray machines to be placed in the courthouse doorway to conduct weapons searches, conflicts with state law that says 'no county [may] regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms.' State law, which takes precedence over local ordinances, already regulates firearms in courthouses, saying that gun possession in a 'court facility' is illegal. But those court facilities, argued William Strong, the plaintiffs' attorney, include courtrooms, the district attorney's office and judges' chambers, but not the whole building. That means a person carrying a legally registered handgun should be allowed access to, say, the assessor's office, Strong said." In this case, the "courthouse" contains a lot more than simply courts. And not even Strong argued people have the right to carry a gun into court proceedings, though others might do so.

Regardless, the matter of "courthouses and police stations" is trivial compared to Brophy's support for background checks and waiting periods.

But the point of the discussion is not merely to determine Brophy's new positions on gun policy. The only reason that matters is that Brophy is a Libertarian candidate for the Colorado legislature.

Given Brophy's stated views, including his most recent statement, Brophy strays too far from libertarian policies to appropriately represent the Libertarian Party as a candidate, especially for the legislature. He should step down, and the state LP board should ask him to step down.

The Libertarian Party of Colorado should not nominate somebody who has publicly expressed support for anti-gun laws. Even though Brophy modified some of his positions, a Libertarian candidate should be stable in his or her key positions, not in a state of flux during the nomination process. And Brophy's latest comments are barely an improvement.

I'm glad Brophy is working to repeal the grocery tax. But that doesn't make him a good Libertarian candidate. After all, Republicans and Democrats participated in the effort to repeal the grocery tax in Littleton. I'm glad Brophy is opposed to the drug war, but so are many of my socialist friends. Brown accurately describes Brophy's latest statement about gun policy: "Mark Brophy is adept at sophistry. He sounds like a leftist Republican more than a Libertarian." The purpose of the Libertarian Party is to run libertarian candidates. And libertarians consistently advocate liberty. Two-out-of-three doesn't cut it. Even Republicans and Democrats often do that well. Of course, if Brophy steps down as a candidate, it would be great for the LPCO to continue to work with him on compatible goals.

The problem of Brophy's nomination arose not primarily because of Brophy (though he didn't help), but because the LPCO board and some other leaders within the party shirked their responsibilities and knowingly nominated a candidate with anti-libertarian positions.

If the LPCO is to recover, its leaders must first commit to running libertarian candidates. They must reaffirm libertarian values and libertarian philosophy. Further, they must put into place a set of protocols to avoid similar problems in the future. First, potential candidates should be carefully screened to make sure that they are, in fact, libertarians. Second, potential candidates should be given useful advice about how to begin their campaigns. For example, they should be encouraged to review surveys with knowledgeable LP leaders. Third, the board should clearly communicate to the membership the facts about potential candidates. Instead, some LPCO board members intentionally buried relevant information about Brophy. That was bad for the board, bad for Brophy, and bad for the Libertarian Party of Colorado.

The Colorado Freedom