L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 84, August 7, 2000
Has Your Bookshelf Been Approved by the BATF?
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
The Bill of Rights has an integral structure, like a castle. Folks who believe they can give up one of the first 10 amendments to the claim of "compelling government interest" -- yet still keep the others intact -- are like soldiers who fight to defend nine of a castle's gates while leaving the tenth gate open and unguarded.
The ninth amendment, for instance, tells our government that the people retain inalienable rights too numerous and obvious to enumerate. One of these is clearly the right to manufacture, possess, and traffic in alcohol, tobacco, and any other medicinal plant derivative we please, including opium, cocaine, and Indian hemp.
We know this because our great-grandparents were free to do all these things without any government interference from 1607 until 1916, and because a specific constitutional amendment (the 18th) had to be enacted to ban a single one of these drugs -- alcohol -- in 1919 (an amendment since wisely repealed.)
Since no parallel constitutional amendment has been ratified to allow the "War on Drugs," all current drug laws violate the Ninth Amendment. Yet do we jealously guard this medical liberty? No, the mass of modern Americans figure, "What the heck, as long as they say it'll 'keep kids off drugs,' let them do whatever's necessary."
As a result, we have subsequently lost most of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable search and seizure, with random traffic stops and police SWAT teams breaking down doors in the middle of the night becoming routine features of our evening news. And as for the Fifth Amendment -- ever tried to get "just compensation" for a truck full of government-seized drugs or guns?
Likewise, most Americans today figure it's OK to let the government violate the inconvenient Second Amendment, so long as we're promised that jailing or killing gun owners and dealers for possessing a rifle with a bayonet lug might "save the life of a single child." But were the Americans who thus ignored Pastor Niemoller's advice prepared for this single open gate to subsequently erode their First Amendment right to read any book or magazine they please?
Already, in the 1997 Viper Militia prosecution in Arizona, defendants were charged with "conspiracy" to pass around books and magazines and show each other videos that described how to build weapons.
Now, novelist and federally licensed machine gun collector John Ross, author of the magnificent novel of the gun culture Unintended Consequences ($33 postpaid; 800-374-4049; P.O. Box 86, Lonedell, MO 63060) has apparently been singled out for federal intimidation for writing a fictional novel in which American gun owners finally get fed up and start offing their oppressors, including characters clearly based on Janet Reno and gun-grabbing N.Y. Rep. (now Sen.) Charles Schumer.
In a June 30 letter to BATF Director Bradley Buckles, writing on behalf of Ross, attorney James H. Jeffries III of Greensboro, N.C. states:
"Mr. Ross is an investment broker and financial adviser with a respected investment firm in St. Louis. He ... is the grandson of President Harry Truman's press secretary, Charles Ross, and was himself the Democratic Party candidate for the United States House of Representatives from the Second District of Missouri in 1998. In short, Mr. Ross is an upstanding and productive member of his community. ...
I called John Ross in St. Louis this week to ask how he feels about having his literary efforts singled out for such attention.
"This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but I would ask that they reflect and imagine how they would feel if it happened to them, if they had written a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece or gone on a talk radio station or something like that ... how would they feel if they were suddenly confronted with incontrovertible evidence that a federal agency had targeted them to suppress their viewpoint?"
BATF Director Bradley Buckles could not be reached for a comment last week, though the BATF public information office promised someone would call back.