Pete Coors Talks Sense On Guns
by Ari Armstrong, September 15, 2004
The Rocky Mountain News published a hysterical, biased story September 4 about Pete Coors -- the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate -- and his position on the right of self-defense.
The story, by Gwen Florio, discusses several federal anti-gun laws. The only one now "in play" is the ban on the production and importation of arbitrarily selected semi-automatic guns and regular-capacity magazines. This so-called "assault weapons ban," set to expire September 13, targets guns that are functionally identical to other semi-automatics.
These tools are useful for self-defense, and the law has had no impact on crime. Economist John Lott points to a study funded by the Justice Department during Bill Clinton's administration that found the law's "impact on gun violence has been uncertain." In a second study, Lott looked at the national law and similar state laws and found that, "after accounting for law enforcement, demographics, poverty and other factors that affect crime, the laws did not reduce any type of violent crime." (Lott did find a small though not statistically significant increase in the crime rate associated with the law.)
The reason Coors addressed the matter of other federal gun laws is that Steve Gresh asked Coors and his then-opponent Bob Schaffer some questions on May 13 when the candidates spoke to the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition.
Gresh asked the candidates which federal laws they would vote to repeal: "A. the National Firearms Act of 1934, B. the Gun Control Act of 1968, C. Brady background checks, D. the assault weapons ban, or simply E. all of the above." Coors replied "all of the above." You see, Coors hadn't learned how to speak politician.
Schaffer had been so trained. Coors's entire answer was 20 words, while Schaffer's answer was 467 words -- even though Schaffer didn't actually say anything related to the question. What he did say, though, was prescient: "There are people here in the media and others who are just dying to misrepresent a pro-Second Amendment candidate for office."
Pete, welcome to politics!
Not surprisingly, Florio found that James Brady, whose wife Sarah is the original namesake of the "Brady law", doesn't much like the idea of repealing that law. Florio notes that, according to Brady, the Brady law disarms criminals. But Brady's claim is false.
Even an article in the generally anti-gun Journal of the American Medical Association, in which Jens Ludwig and Philip J. Cook look at homicide rates, admits the Brady law failed to reduce homicides. Lott also conducted a study that found the Brady law has failed to cut crime. Lott found the Brady law is associated with an increase in rape, possibly because the law has made it harder for some law-abiding citizens to purchase tools for self-defense.
Florio also claims Coors wants to repeal a federal law that "outlaws machine guns." There's just one tiny problem with Florio's account: no such law exists. Several of my friends legally own fully automatic rifles. Buying one requires paying a $200 tax and passing an extensive background check.
Florio neglects two important matters of context. First, it's quite possible that Coors wants to remove the mentioned laws and replace them with new laws that incorporate some elements of the old. That seems to be the track Coors is taking. Second, perhaps Coors believes gun policy is properly left to the states, not the federal government.
Many of us believe the laws in question are generally unjust, ambiguous and thus arbitrarily enforced, and counterproductive.
Brady told Florio -- who dutifully quoted the vicious attacks -- that Coors "must be dipping into" his own product, beer, or "swimming in" it. In other words, according to the unchallenged comments, only drunk people could possibly believe the Bill of Rights offers robust protection for the right of self-defense. Brady also said Coors "ought to have his head examined" for suggesting a demonstrably ineffective law should be repealed. So Coors may be insane, according to a special-interest leader.
We deserve far better than the one-sided personal attack that Florio offered.
Postscript (not included in original release): On September 2 ("Coors is no fan of many gun laws"), Gwen Florio claims that, under federal law, "people can't own machine guns." On September 4 ("Brady blasts Coors"), Florio claims federal law "outlaws machine guns." Florio's claims are wrong. On September 11, Kevin Vaughan and Todd Hartman ("Power struggle brewing on guns") claim, "Colorado law currently bans machine guns and silencers." However, statute 18-12-102 allows an affirmative defense for police, guard members, and anyone with "a valid permit and license for possession of such weapon." Of course, the so-called "assault weapons ban" (now expired) pertained only to semiautomatic guns, NOT to fully automatic machine guns. Thankfully, some of the coverage in the News has been quite good. A September 14 editorial pointed out, "Advocates of a ban like to say that crimes committed with assault weapons have declined since the ban went into effect. Maybe so. But there's no reason to think gun crimes went down from what they would have been without the ban. Assault weapons are used in a relatively small percentage of crimes - an estimated 2 to 3 percent." For more complete information, see Dave Kopel's web page. Also on September 14, Jim Sheeler wrote a fair and factually solid piece about the ban.
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