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L. Neil Smith's
Number 514, April 12, 2009

"Deny the consent of silence to tyranny"

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Damned If You Do
by L. Neil Smith

Distribute widely; attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

From time to time, various publications and organizations offer online opinion surveys concerning the Second Amendment and the unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right of every man, woman, and responsible child to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon—rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything—any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission.

That's right, I said, "the unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right of every man, woman, and responsible child to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon—rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything—any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission".

Usually, these polls take the form of a heavily-loaded question like: "Does the Second Amendment give individuals the right to bear arms?"

Herein lies a trap. If you answer "yes", as might be expected of a supporter of the Second Amendment, then you've agreed that the right to own and carry weapons derives from the Constitution. You have converted a right into a government-granted privilege, which can be taken away from you any time the enemies of liberty wish to to so and have the power to get it done, if only by repealing the amendment in question.

All of your rights are inherent in your existence as a human being.

Never forget that.

This is one reason I have always opposed the concept and practice of licensed concealed carry. I remember a time, not so very long ago, when gun people vehemently resisted every effort to license them and to register their weapons. Now the damned silly sheep are begging for it, demanding it, even going to court to have their rights transformed for them into government-granted privileges. And of course, if the confiscation roundup ever begins, you know who they'll come after first.

But as usual, I have digressed.

If you answer the poll correctly, and tell them "no", you will be willfully misunderstood and counted, despite what you believe, among those who hold that there is no individual right to own and carry weapons.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't, just they way they like it.

A few of my correspondents have attempted to dismiss my concerns about loaded questions as trivial. They keep trying to drum up support side for the deadly "yes" side of the question. They're exactly the same type of personalities who have attempted to dismiss my concerns about licensed concealed carry, so desperately anxious to receive a pat on the head from their masters they fail to notice they've become slaves.

Or collared dogs.

A more charitable (or gullible) person than I am might contend that such questions are simply composed by someone who is ignorant of the history of the Second Amendment, of the convictions and intentions of the Founding Fathers, or of the ethics involving the basic human right to self-defense. Or he might just dismiss the questioner as stupid.

Having fought this battle since the 1950s (yes, I was an ardent advocate of gun rights long before I realized I was a libertarian), and having seen in technicolor and 3-D, many times, the depth of the viciousness that characterizes the anti-freedom side of the issue, I'm far more inclined to believe that questions like these are being posed maliciously, and that (as designed) there is no good way to answer them.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

There may be one way to deal with them, though. The most recent poll somebody sent to me was from USA Today. You may be aware that, like many another socialist undertaking (Al Franken's late, unlamented "Air America" comes to mind), this publication, this Weekly Reader for public school graduates, this pseudojournalistic foe of everything Thomas Jefferson believed a free press should protect—has somehow managed to lose money by the bushel basketful every year that it has existed.

Maybe that kind of market "strategy" worked when it seemed like there were endless resources to back it up, but those high times are clearly over. Anything that drives a publication's bottom line deeper into the red may finish it off completely. Even if it loses money, it depends on two kinds of revenue to keep it soggily afloat from day to day.

The first is advertising. Our tactic must be to pick out the half dozen largest advertisers and inform them that, since the publication their money supports seems hell bent on destroying the Bill of Rights, you will no longer do business with them until they stop advertising in it. Don't write the paper (unless you simply CC their advertising department); ignore the editorial side completely (this might even eventually cause them to get ulcers and go bald). Let their money- monkeys do the arguing for us; they'll be more articulate than we can be.

Keep it up and they will change.

We're the ones with integrity.

One caution: the opinion poll that was sent to me is two years old. I have no idea if it's still operating or not. Be sure you're dealing with a live opponent before you invest your precious time and effort.

Finally, the other source of a newspaper or magazine's income is the cover price paid for each copy. Don't buy one. Pick it up from a coffee-shop counter, a restaurant table, or the rack in a barber shop. Find the six big advertisers and write them down. Find their addresses online.

Write to us, let us know what you're doing.

Together, we can change the course of history.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, or at


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