THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 3, December 1995

Way to Go, Hairspray!

by L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Years ago I observed that if liberals really want to see fewer firearms manufactured and sold every year in this country, all they have to do is shut up.
         They can't do anything about the 750,000,000 -- three quarters of a billion according to the industry, three times BATF estimates -- already in circulation. But whenever one of these cretins thinks up a new way to harrass those whose only crime is exercising the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right of every man, woman, and responsible child -- to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon any time, anywhere, without asking anyone's permission -- every time the media start yapping it up, folks go out and buy as many new guns as they can afford.
         The phenomenon is well known to those who claim to worry about how many guns there are in America. It's kept the personal weapons industry afloat so tidily, I'm often tempted to wonder whether Handgun Control -- founded by members of the Nixon-era CIA -- isn't financed by one of the larger firearms corporations. On the other hand, a conservative editor of mine once suggested that, whenever you're tempted to believe there's a conspiracy afoot, you should consider the possibility that they're just stupid. His advice has stood me in good stead over the years and helped preserve whatever sanity I possess.
         Now, recent events cause me to question this advice. For some time, I've been pretty unpopular with my erstwhile allies over my bitter opposition -- rooted both in principle and practicality -- to licensed concealed carry. I've had screaming arguments in my home with the better-known litigants on this issue. I've publicly debated it with its most photogenic advocate. And -- because I persuaded Colorado libertarians to instruct me to write a letter asking the governor to veto any licensed carry bill the legislature sent him -- one of the leaders of the nation's oldest pro-gun organization sent me E-mail when the bill in question was withdrawn, saying "I see you finally got your way".
         Yeah ... sort of.
         My opponents think I'm simply being perverse. But the principle here is that the Bill of Rights doesn't say a word about needing some bureaucrat's consent to own and carry weapons. Nor did Thomas Jefferson, who advised a nephew to "take a gun on all your walks". It's manifest from an abundance of such evidence that the Founders expected us to go about our everday business armed.
         The Constitution doesn't create rights, it only seeks to protect them. If any of the amendments were repealed today, we'd continue to possess our natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual and civil rights. It sets an intolerable precedent to allow anyone to give us a license (which they can always deny or revoke) to do what we already have an absolute right to do. It converts rights into privileges -- about as practical an objection as there is!
         But there's another practical objection. Some view licensing as a step toward what we really want. When it's shown beyond doubt -- as in Florida -- that armed citizens not only do no harm, but actually shrink crime, we'll go back to the legislature to reduce regulations or eliminate them. But here's what will really happen: when crime has dropped by double digits and we go back for our changes, politicos (especially those who never wanted us to be armed) will simper, "See what good the law has done -- why fix something that ain't broke?" And we'll be stuck forever with whatever latterday version of the Sullivan Act we stupidly agreed to instead of demanding what's ours by right.
         So far I've failed to convince my pro-license comrades, so caught up are they in a fervor to do something. But now I have an ally, of the liberal sort who sells millions of guns each year to those who think it may be their last chance: Ward Lucas of Denver's Channel 9. As mediacs will from time to time, he decided his viewers need to know who's licensed by Colorado sheriffs to carry concealed. Given those sheriffs' long, well-documented conspiracy (most of them are also just stupid) to deprive their constituents of their rights (with the commendable exceptions of Weld and El Paso Counties) people with licenses generally turn out to be the sheriffs' friends or political cronies.
         My county sheriff -- who's all over the place on this issue -- decided to resist any attempt to expose the lucky half-dozen he generously allows to exercise their rights in his fiefdom. When the legal dust had settled, the Law of Unintended Results had worked another miracle. The judge (quite rightly) decreed that licenses issued by a sheriff are a matter of public record.
         Lucas must be given the list. Weld County Sheriff Ed Jordan, observing much of this comedy, tells me he's always favored unlicensed "Vermont Carry", and that any requirement that licensees be "outed" is another strong argument in its favor. Jane Prendergast of S.W.A.R.M., once the Colorado lobby for licensed carry, tells me publication of such lists is a major reason why her rapidly-growing organization overwhelmingly favors unlicensed "Vermont Carry".
         Nobody wants to be named on TV as a gun toter. It strips them of their privacy. It exposes them to unpleasant social pressure at work, in church, and other places. It makes burglary easy -- putting more guns in the hands of criminals. Creatures like Lucas know this. They count on it, as part of their ideological drive to discourage their victims -- pardon me, viewers -- from defending themselves. Widespread, successful self-defense is a disaster for the hairspray crowd: they can only report a dramatic decline in violent crime once. When there are no more rapes or muggings, what do they report on, then?
         Happily, this latest attempt to chill self defense has only solidified support -- among those who used to scream at each other at the top of their lungs -- for unlicensed "Vermont Carry".
         Way to go, Ward -- keep on sniffing that hairspray, willya?


L. Neil Smith is the Prometheus Award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Lever Action and Bretta Martyn. An NRA Life Member since 1973, founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, and publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, he has been active in the movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living writer.



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