Mauser and I Debate Guns

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The Colorado Freedom

Mauser and I Debate Guns

by Ari Armstrong, April 21, 2005

Tom Mauser, an outspoken advocate of sweeping new gun restrictions since his son was murdered at Columbine High School six years ago, joined me on Reggie Rivers's television show, Drawing the Line, on April 13 to debate gun laws. (Rivers's show appears on Channel 12 on Wednesday nights from 8-9 pm.)

Mauser explained that he'd recently been arrested for trespassing on the property of the National Rifle Association. He called it an act of civil disobedience, a protest of the NRA's refusal to answer his letter. I told Mauser I'd be happy to answer his letter, but he said he wanted the NRA to do it. (Nevertheless, I answer his letter below.)

During his visit to the east, Mauser also joined with the Brady Campaign to protest a bill endorsed by the NRA intended to limit law suits against gun manufacturers and sellers.

My purpose here is to review the points we debated on the show as well as to provide supplementary material, given that an hour isn't much time and there are some points I wish I'd added.


Mauser and I reached some common ground when it comes to liability. We both agreed that actual negligence should remain actionable, and we both agreed that acts that aren't truly negligent should not become the subject of a law suit. For instance, in response to a caller, Mauser said it would be absurd to sue a manufacturer or seller of a camera if that camera were used illegally to produce child pornography.

We disagreed over the nature of law suits against gun manufacturers and sellers. While Mauser described one case that plausibly warranted a legal suit, depending on the specifics of the case, many other suits seem to have less justification. Indeed, in general the suits seem to be a coordinated, politically-motivated attack on the gun industry and a back-door attempt to restrict gun ownership.

Unfortunately, I didn't have descriptions of specific cases at hand. The May, 2005, edition of America's 1st Freedom, an NRA publication, spends much of its space supporting "The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act," or S.397. The magazine described a case that seems to be clearly bad: "The woman [who worked for Wal-Mart] was tragically shot in the head by her husband during an altercation inside a Wal-Mart, before he turned the gun on himself. Earlier that evening, he had purchased ammunition at the same store. The employee sued Wal-Mart for negligence in failing to protect her from her husband and for negligent entrustment for selling ammunition to him. Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that they owned no duty to protect the woman from her husband's criminal act. On March 3, in a non-published opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the decision for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granting summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart" (60).

That does seem to be an example of a frivolous case. However, Wal-Mart won, which undermines the case for a new law to limit liability. The article notes that costs of defending cases "are well over $200 million," but I am not persuaded that the sort of law the NRA endorses is the answer. One document published by the NRA suggests that courts have generally been opposed to frivolous suites, and another document notes that many suits have been dismissed. This is evidence that the courts are working properly, not that a new law is needed. At the same time, another of the NRA's documents suggests the legal suits are politically motivated.

How else might the problem be addressed?

Dave Kopel argued for state legal protections to "prohibit abusive lawsuits against the exercise of Second Amendment rights." Indeed, the NRA notes 33 states have already passed such legislation. Robert Levy of the Cato Institute argues that "the power to control frivolous lawsuits belongs to the states," not the national government.

While I do want to limit frivolous suits, I also want to protect suits in cases of actual negligence. Perhaps all that is needed is to better-ensure that those who file frivolous suits are required to pay the legal costs of the other side.

One of the principles I explained on Rivers's show is that law suits should be initiated by private parties, either individually or as part of a class action, not a tax-funded entity. The incentives are all wrong when bureaucrats and legal officials can use tax dollars to pursue legal suits. Those who rely upon tax funding to pursue legal suits do not bear the costs if a suit is frivolous or destructive. They have no incentive to make sure the victims (if any) are actually compensated. They have vast financial resources on which to draw, unlike the private parties they sue. They are often motivated by political reasons.

Another crucial point I mentioned on the show is that law enforcement agencies should actively go after criminals. For instance, the case Mauser described was of a gun seller who sold 12 guns to a single buyer who in turn illegally distributed those guns to violent criminals. Whether or not this constituted actual negligence depends on the specifics of the case. Nevertheless, the main function of government is to capture and prosecute known crimials. In general, government should do all it can to restrain known criminals but leave peaceable citizens unmolested. Under current law, as someone who saw the show pointed out in an e-mail (and as I've confirmed with three experts on gun laws), multiple purchases of handguns must automatically be reported to the police and to the ATF. So if there was good evidence that somebody was criminally providing guns to violent criminals, where was the police response? If the gun seller sold handguns and followed current reporting laws, then that would undermine the claim that the seller was negligent.

The upshot is there does seem to be a problem with politically-motivated lawsuits against gun makers and sellers, and the purpose of such suits is to financially damage the victims of the suits rather than address cases of actual negligence. However, the NRA's proposal seems to overreach in some ways and avoid more fundamental reforms in other ways. In addition, I wonder whether supporting S.397 is the best use of resources, given reforms such as "The Fairness in Firearm Testing Act" is unambiguously a good idea.

Ideology and Guns

I asked Mauser whether he supported gun ownership prior to Columbine. He said no. In other words, Mauser's views about guns did not change because of Columbine: instead that horrible event encouraged Mauser to become an activist and spokesperson on behalf of the views he already held.

I summarized another case in which a woman became a gun-rights activists after witnessing a violent murder. Here is one journalist's 2001 description of that case:

Texas State representative Suzanna Gratia Hupp, whose parents were killed in a mass murder of 22 people at a restaurant in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, said it was "a bright sunny day" when the murderer drove his car through the restaurant window and started shooting.

Gratia Hupp, who cowered behind an overturned table with her parents in the restaurant, said she remembers seeing her purse and feeling frustrated knowing she had a handgun in her car but couldn't get to it.

While she climbed out a broken window to escape the gunman, her father was shot in a dash to disarm the killer, she said. Her mother, whom she thought escaped out the window with her, had returned for her husband and was murdered by his side, said Gratia Hupp.

At that time, Texas law prohibited the concealed carry of a firearm, she said. Afterward, she was angrier at the Legislature for not allowing her to protect herself than the man whom opened fire in the restaurant, she said.

Concealed carry laws cannot save all the victims of violence, she said. "But it really can change the odds," she said at the press conference.

Too often, opponents of the right to own guns merely point to cases of tragic misuses of a gun, as if that were all that were necessary to establish their case. But of course various other issues must be considered. Do people have a right to defend themselves? Would various legal restrictions expand or curtail the beneficial uses of guns, and would they yield the results intended?

Much of the bigotry displayed against gun owners by disarmament advocates arises from the failure of those advocates to recognize their own ideological presuppositions. Gun owners and advocates of the right of gun ownership acknowledge that some people do bad things with guns, but they also recognize that almost all gun owners use almost all guns appropriately, safely, and beneficially. Too many disarmament advocates, on the other hand, totally ignore the beneficial uses of guns and pretend their opponents are evil. It would be useful if those advocates would realize that two people can look at the same case and reasonably count it as evidence for quite different conclusions.

International Comparisons

Mauser argued that the relatively low incidence of gun violence in various other countries proves that gun ownership is too prevalent, and gun laws are too lax, in the U.S.

My reply included the use of two quotes:

"Worldwide, there is no relationship between gun ownership and crime rates. Many countries, such as Switzerland, Finland, New Zealand, and Israel, have high gun-ownership rates and low crime rates, while many other countries have both low gun-ownership rates and either high or low crime rates" (John Lott, More Guns, Less Crime, Second Edition, page 113).

"In reality, the English approach has not reduced violent crime. Instead it has left law-abiding citizens at the mercy of criminals who are confident that their victims have neither the means nor the legal right to resist them. Imitating this model would be a public safety disaster for the United States.... In the two years following the 1997 handgun ban, the use of handguns in crime rose by 40 percent, and the upward trend has continued. From April to November 2001, the number of people robbed at gunpoint in London rose 53 percent" (Joyce Lee Malcomb, Reason).

Unfortunately, I made a couple of minor mistakes. I correctly argued that we must look at overall rates of crime, not just crime associated with gun use. The reason this is so is that unarmed criminals can more easily attack disarmed civilians. However, I did not properly emphasize that Malcomb does discuss the rise of gun violence in England. Thus, Mauser was wrong both in his statements about gun violence and about violence generally.

I also should have added an obvious point: non-gun-related violence is higher in the U.S., too. Differences in gun ownership and gun laws cannot explain that, and so we must look to other cultural factors. Thankfully, I did stress that trends over time are important. For instance, England had low rates of violent crime also when rates of gun ownership there were higher and gun laws were more liberal.

Though the causes of crime in the U.S. are complex, I did address one of the important causes. In his new book Drug War Crimes, economist Jeffrey Miron examines prohibition in the U.S. over time and compares U.S. policies toward drugs with those of other nations. Miron finds that the prohibition of drugs is responsible for a huge increase in violent crime in the U.S. The reason this is so is that prohibition creates a large and violent underground market in which violence substitutes for courts and police protection. If disarmament activists wanted to actually reduce violent crime in the U.S., they would advocate the repeal of prohibition laws in the U.S. rather than persecute peaceable gun owners.

The Risk of Genocide

One caller noted that various states have slaughtered over a hundred million people in the last century. Mauser argued correctly that disarming the U.S. civilian population would not likely lead to genocide here. He pointed to other countries with severe disarmament laws that remain relatively free. On the show, I did not properly recognize the validity of Mauser's point.

The documentary Innocents Betrayed, produced by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO), points out that the various genocides of the past century were preceded by civilian disarmament. So, even though Mauser is partly correct, he doesn't acknowledge the legitimate claims made by the other side. Nevertheless, the JPFO film overstates its case. Historically, civilian disarmament does seem to be a necessary condition for genocide, but it does not seem to be a sufficient condition. That is, tyrants have difficulty committing genocide against people who are well-armed, but disarmament does not necessarily lead to genocide.

So then what are we to make of the argument that disarmament can lead to genocide? Obviously, much more fundamental are the philosophical views of the culture. A society in which racism and irrationality are rampant and plunder and violence are widely tolerated is more prone to political oppression and genocide. Genocide is much more likely among the racist tribes in parts of Africa than it is among the intellectual children of the Enlightenment in England and America.

If somehow tomorrow the state could confiscate every gun the U.S. (not that that's possible), the culture here would remain basically the same, meaning that genocide, at least in the short term, would be highly unlikely.

That does not mean, however, that the argument concerning genocide is totally irrelevant. Kopel recently reviewed the importance of guns among African Americans in protecting themselves against violent racists. While an Enlightenment culture is dominant in the U.S., it is hardly pervasive, either historically or today.

Most people living during the time of the Weimar Republic would have scoffed at the notion that they would soon be living under Nazi totalitarianism. Yet that's precisely what happened. Sometimes a culture changes very quickly, either for the better or for the worse, in ways that are difficult to predict.

Gun ownership for the prevention of genocide, then, is sort of like long-range insurance. There is a low risk of genocide within the next few years or even decades, but there is some risk of genocide and tyranny at some point in the future. The consequences of totalitarianism are so horrible, including the likely slaughter of millions of people, that preventative steps such as maintaining civilian arms are imperative. (I owe part of this analysis to Bruce Tiemann, who probably disagrees with other aspects of my argument.)

Of course, even if Mauser (and his allies) could prove that civil arms are useless in preventing genocide and totalitarianism, that wouldn't defeat the case for gun ownership. It would merely remove one of the arguments in favor of gun ownership. There are at least three other arguments. First, gun ownership is useful for stopping and deterring crime. Second, gun ownership is useful for stopping and deterring attacks by foreign aggressors. Third, gun ownership involves significant value as recreation, something that philosopher Michael Huemer takes seriously in his case supporting the right to own a gun. Nevertheless, the argument that civilian gun ownership is useful in preventing genocide is true, even if the argument requires more qualification than some of my political allies recognize.

The Murders at Red Lake High School

One of the issues I thought we'd discuss on the show, but didn't have time for, was the recent case of murders at Red Lake High School. I thought I'd present some of my thoughts here.

The murderer obsessed about Adolf Hitler and called himself the Angel of Death. Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News reported the killer was "identifying so closely with the Columbine killers." MSNBC reported that the murderer spoke of suicide and once said, "That would be cool if I shot up the school." Clearly, this was a very disturbed student.

There is clearly some element of a "copycat crime" at work. Unfortunately, some elements of the media give the school shooters exactly what they wanted: excuses and infamy. Consider this headline from a March 24 story about the murders by the Denver Post: "Many theories, little solace: Too little parenting. Too many guns. Boredom." Boredom!? It is true that "boredom" has exactly the same explanatory power as "too many guns" in explaining the murders, which is to say none. Irresponsible journalism perpetuates the false notion that the killer was a victim of circumstances, a notion in which the killer must have found comfort as he committed his crimes.

What about volition? The murderers at Red Lake and at Columbine chose to kill people. They deserve the harshest moral censure, not a palate of excuses.

I am not arguing that external factors are never relevant. MSNBC also reported that the killer's "father committed suicide four years ago, and his mother lives in a Minneapolis nursing home because she suffered brain injuries in a car accident, the relatives said." That makes for a tough life. Other things equal, a person raised by responsible parents is more likely to turn out better than a person not so raised. But there are many examples of good people with bad parents and bad people with good parents.

I don't believe government should operate schools, and many who share that belief point to the problems of today's schools as a factor in school violence. I think there's something to this, as some students are subjected to brain-numbing classes, bullying, and drugs. A story from the New York Times quoted one of the aunts of the Red Lake killer, "They kept upping the dose [of Prozac] for him, and by the end, he was taking three of the 20 milligram pills a day. I can't help but think it was too much, that it must have set him off." Several incidences of school violence, including the one at Columbine, have been associated with the use of such drugs. Nevertheless, many students who take such drugs (and far too many do) don't hurt others.

Likewise, most students who are bullied, who sit through insufferable classes, and who read stupid excuses for violence in the media do not act out violently.

My argument, then, is that people's motivations are largely independent of external factors. Obviously, external factors can have a significant impact on the development of a person's moral character, but volition is primary.

External factors can play a large role in determining incentives. For example, some people are prone to commit crimes because they choose the path of irresponsibility, yet they're often less likely to violently attack somebody who may be armed. The fact that the killers at Columbine and Red Lake were able to get guns increased their incentive to carry out their crimes, but so did the fact that they knew they could expect little or no immediate armed resistance.

Unfortunately, by the short-circuited logic of many disarmament activists, the fact that people intending to commit a violent crime should not have a gun is taken to imply that the rights of people who have no such intention should be curtailed. If a law is unlikely to hinder criminal attacks, and very likely to hinder the defensive use of guns to ward off criminal attacks, as is demonstrably the case with all the anti-gun laws Mauser supports, then the law is a bad idea.

The killer at Red Lake stole guns from his grandfather (whom he also murdered), a police officer. Is the lesson that all police officers should be disarmed? Of course not. Neither is the lesson that guns should be mandatorily locked away, because that would make defensive uses of guns difficult or impossible, and it wouldn't hinder criminals. For example, a gun safe can be broken into with common electrical tools, so mandatory storage laws are unlikely to hinder somebody willing to murder his own grandfather.

On one television clip, I saw a sign proclaiming that weapons were banned at the Red Lake school. Somehow, that sign was insufficient to stop the murderer, who quickly murdered the unarmed guard and several others in the school. Had a few teachers at the school been armed with a concealed handgun and quality training, the killer would have faced a rapid armed response and perhaps therefore been deterred at the outset. Does that fact, by itself, establish that some teachers should be armed? No, but I see no reason to prevent teachers with the desire and training to carry a gun from doing so. As it was, armed police finally shot the killer and thereby ended the killing spree. An armed person started the murders, and another armed person stopped them.

In his book The Bias Against Guns, John Lott describes several cases when an armed civilian stopped a mass murder: in 2002 at the Appalachian Law School; in 1997 at a school in Pearl, Mississippi; and in 1998 in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. In 1998, a student in Springfield, Oregon, tackled and stopped a murderer. The student's father was an NRA member, and the student had experience shooting guns, which explains how the student knew when to attack.

If students were encouraged to "fight or flee," rather than cower under their desks waiting to get shot by the next international superstar, school shootings would stop. Some students understand this. I recall a student of Columbine who said something like, "I wish I'd had my hunting rifle," in order to respond to the murderers. (That statement was aired exactly once on television, to my knowledge.) Another student armed with a knife was prevented from entering the school to confront the attackers -- prevented by the same police officers who refused to enter the building themselves. I'm not saying the student should have been allowed to enter the school, but I am saying that indoctrinating children to be pacifists is counterproductive. The victim mentality is self-fulfilling.

Years ago many students took guns to school and shot them at school ranges. My father tells me that students used to keep shotguns in their lockers when he went to school. Precisely how many school shootings took place when this was allowed? Again, I'm not arguing that students should be allowed to keep loaded shotguns in their lockers -- I think schools should have shooting ranges and keep guns locked up. My point is that criminals are deterred when people are willing to fight back, and criminals are encouraged when people aren't so willing.

Disarmament rests on the presumption that people are fundamentally too irresponsible to safely use a gun or defend themselves with a gun. Disarmament rests on the presumption that criminals are created by the objects around them, not by their own choices. At root, disarmament emaciates the concept and reality of volition. The same philosophy lies behind pacifism, the view that aggressors don't really make evil choices but merely react to the circumstances around them. It is the same philosophy that allows "boredom" to be listed in a newspaper headline as a possible cause of murder. Those who believe people are fundamentally in control of their own actions tend to advocate the right to own a gun and other liberties. Those who believe people are fundamentally at the mercy of forces around them tend to advocate disarmament and centralized political power. Though many express inconsistent views, that is the root of the debate.

My Answer to Tom Mauser

Dear Mr. Mauser,

After Columbine, you wrote a letter to Charlton Heston and the NRA. You have insisted that the NRA answer your letter, yet I'm going to do so here. I do not claim to speak for the NRA, though I have been a member of that organization.

Mauser: "Unlike others at the rally in Denver, I did not necessarily object to the NRA meeting in Denver. In fact, I'm wondering, why did you cancel the large convention? If you indeed feel no kind of responsibility for the events at Columbine High, WHY cancel the convention? I believe you said that the cancellation was 'out of respect' for the children. Can you explain to me how this is showing respect?"

I partially agree with you on this point. The NRA held no responsibility for the murders at Columbine, and the NRA was wrong to scale back its convention.

Mauser: "My son was shot by a Tec DC9, a 9 mm, semi-automatic gun with a 30-bullet clip. What practical purpose is there to this gun? I have never known a hunter to use this type of weapon to shoot a deer. Have you?"

The brand of the gun isn't relevant (except that the Tec guns had a reputation for poor quality). Nine-millimeter semi-automatic handguns are common for self-defense and for recreational shooting, though most handguns use magazines (not "clips") that hold fewer bullets (usually 10-15) because that's what more easily fits into the grip. However, semi-automatic guns that accept magazines generally accept magazines of various sizes. Thankfully, switching magazines is quick, because sometimes more than 10-15 rounds is useful in defensive situations (say, if more than one attacker is involved). The most popular alternative to the semi-automatic is the revolver, which usually holds 5-12 rounds and can be reloaded somewhat less quickly by most shooters. Both for semi-automatics and for revolvers, one pull of the trigger fires one bullet.

The most common practical purpose of any semi-automatic gun is recreational shooting. Every year, Americans fire billions of rounds of ammunition safely for recreational purposes (according to criminologist Gary Kleck). At least half of all households own a gun, and "well under 1% of all guns will ever be involved in even a single violent crime," Kleck notes. I believe the most important practical use of a semi-automatic gun is for self-defense. Thankfully, most gun owners will never have a need to defend themselves with a gun, but should the need arise a gun can save a life. Various surveys indicate that Americans use a gun in self-defense at least 100,000 times per year (and probably much more often), usually just by brandishing the gun, not firing it. In addition, because criminals fear attacking people they think might be armed, non-gun owners also benefit from the deterrence against crime provided by gun owners, who provide a "positive externality," to use a term of economics.

Hunters don't use a 9 mm to shoot a deer, because it's too small a caliber. However, hunting isn't mentioned in the Second Amendment, and it isn't central to the argument that gun ownership is a right.

Finally, the Bill of Rights does not pertain only to those things that politicians and activists believe to be "practical." Is there any "practical purpose" in allowing two competing papers to operate in Denver, or in allowing the publication of the sort of Neo-Nazi hate literature the Red Lake murderer found so appealing, or in requiring a search warrant when the police already know the guy is guilty? Of course there is a practical purpose to such things: the purpose is to protect individual rights and a free society. So, while semi-automatic guns are demonstrably practical for use in self-defense (as well as for recreation), it is a dangerous road to restrict liberties based on what some ideological group deems is "practical."

Mauser: "As I understand it, this gun can no longer be sold new. Is it not true, though, that the NRA fought the attempts to outlaw this and other similar types of assault weapons? If so, why?"

Thankfully, the so-called "assault-weapons ban" has expired, which means that arbitrarily selected semi-automatic guns are no longer subject to unconstitutional restrictions on production and sales. No evidence suggests the ban decreased crime, and in The Bias Against Guns John Lott (whom you attempted to dismiss with an ad hominem attack on Rivers's show) finds that, if anything, "the data appears more supportive of an adverse effect of an assault weapons ban on murder and robbery rates" (214).

Mauser: "This gun is advertised as 'fingerprint-resistant.' I find this repugnant. Do you? How do you feel about being part of an interest group that would make such an outrageous advertisement?"

Fingerprint resistance probably means resistance to the corrosive effects of skin oils. Regardless, your suggestion that the NRA is "part of an interest group" that includes a particular gun manufacturer implies an organizational relationship that, in fact, does not exist.

Mauser: "The NRA deserves credit as a promoter of gun safety and representative of hunters. But I believe it and other gun organizations deserve our condemnation for the relentless promotion of gun proliferation and protection of all types of guns, regardless of their dangerousness."

Well, Tom, which guns, precisely, to you deem sufficiently non-dangerous for us civilians to own? Please specify. (Likewise, please explain why you don't similarly criticize the ACLU for "the relentless promotion of speech proliferation and protection of all types of speech, regardless of their dangerousness.")

The truth is that the NRA promotes only safe and responsible gun ownership, and it consistently condemns and works against the criminal misuse of guns.

Mauser: "The NRA argues that countries that have gun restrictions aren't as 'free' as us. But when was the last time you heard of kids killing kids with guns in Japan, or France, or Italy, or Germany?"

I realize your letter is dated, so I will but mention that, since then, Europe has experienced deadly school shootings, too. I might also notice that Japan, Italy, and Germany (and France by extension) were, just a few decades ago, considerably less-free and less-safe than they are today.

Mauser: "This is a sickness. I think there are a hell of a lot of parents and grandparents out there who'd love to experience a freedom these other Free World countries may have: the freedom to live without so much fear of violence and guns!"

As is noted above, since England put in place restrictive gun laws, people there have been forced to live in greater fear of criminal attack. There are a hell of a lot of parents and grandparents out there who are grateful that they or a loved one was able to save his or her life by using a gun for self-defense. Why, Tom, do you relentlessly focus only on the harms of guns, and completely ignore the proven benefits of gun ownership?

Mauser: "Can you understand that some unlimited freedoms come at too high a price?"

Can you understand that freedom and the protection of individual rights are necessary prerequisites for safety and all other human values?

Mauser: "I feel that I have (unwillingly) paid the ultimate sacrifice for the NRA's twisted defense of the Second Amendment."

No, Tom, you have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the choices of two deranged murderers, and everyone feels bad about that. But the only thing "twisted" about the NRA's defense of the Second Amendment is that it is not strong enough. That is, the NRA allows too many violations of the Second Amendment, violations which demonstrably damage individuals and their safety. It is unfortunate that you choose to demonize people who aren't and weren't responsible for your son's murder.

Mauser: "For years the NRA has told us that if we just locked up our criminals, we'd be safe. Well, we've built thousands more jail cells and locked people up, but the killing goes on. My son was not killed by criminals -- they only became criminals once they pulled the triggers. Isn't that true?"

No, your statement is obviously not true, Tom. The murderers broke numerous laws long before, many months before, they ever "pulled the triggers." It is indeed unfortunate that neither their parents nor the police noticed that the two were building explosives in the garage or planning a massive assault on their school, even though their threats were reported to police before the fact.

But the NRA's position is not that building more jails will eliminate crime. It is generally true that getting violent criminals off the streets makes people safer, mostly because those violent criminals aren't then able to attack others.

Curiously, at the same time you attack the NRA for promoting a simplistic theory of crime -- a theory the NRA does not in fact promote -- you promote your own simplistic theory of crime, and one that is obviously false. You blame gun ownership for the death of your son, even though the overwhelming majority of gun owners are responsible and use guns to reduce crime. You blame lax gun laws for the death of your son, even though every restrictive gun law you promote is a proven failure that harms peaceable gun owners. You blame the NRA for the death of your son, even though the NRA had nothing to do with it.

Mauser: "NRA members complain about the number of existing gun control laws and their ineffectiveness and loopholes. Perhaps. But isn't it true that the NRA has often fought for those loopholes?"

Freedom is not a loophole.

Mauser: "Over the past twelve days my family has been comforted, thanks to our faith in Jesus Christ and the support of so many people. Jesus has spiritually comforted us. Do you believe that if Jesus were here on earth physically at this moment that He could care less about the 'right' to own a gun? Do you think He would support 'right to carry' laws and tell us that's a good thing for a society?"

Is so happens, Tom, that we do not live under a theocracy, and church and state are properly separated.

Nevertheless, Jesus in fact supported the right of self-defense. Dave Kopel wrote an article about this. Kopel quotes Jesus, "[I]f you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

Mauser: "And the time has come for the NRA to make some sacrifices and quit protecting the dark side of the gun trade."

The NRA doesn't do what you allege, unless you think "the dark side of the gun trade" includes any gun trade.

What is this "dark side?" The only plausible meaning is the violent underground market for guns, in which, notably, people completely ignore every single gun law that has ever been written and that will ever be written. I've already pointed out a major driver of this underground market for guns: the prohibition of drugs. If you want to actually save people's lives, you should stop promoting counterproductive disarmament laws, and start promoting the repeal of drug prohibition.

I won't reply to your concluding ad hominem attacks against Charlton Heston and the NRA. I've responded to your letter: now I challenge you to respond to mine. I look forward to reading your rebuttal and publishing it in its entirety on my web page.

Ari Armstrong

The Colorado Freedom