About once a month, Dave Kopel produces a free e-mail Newsletter containing short summaries and links to important new research and writing involving the Second Amendment and firearms policy. The newsletter also reports on Kopel's latest writing.
The content of this newsletter is produced by the Second Amendment Project at the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colorado. The newsletter is electronically distributed by the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, Washington. Thus, the Second Amendment Foundation will be given your e-mail address.
Archive of past issues.
The Second Amendment Project is based at the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colorado. http://i2i.org
Table of Contents for this issue:
1. Web resources: Don Kates; Guncite; Bloomfield Press;
Congressmen gives away free guns.
2. "Why the President is Wrong on Gun Control." By Rick Castaldo
(father of Columbine victim).
3. "The Founders' Reading of Ancient History." By David B. Kopel.
From the February 2000 issue of Chronicles.
4. "The Results Are in on British Gun Laws." By Dr. Michael Brown.
1. Web Resources
A. Don Kates, who is perhaps the most important Second Amendment scholar of the twentieth century, now has a website.
You can read Don's forthcoming article from Homicide Studies and lots of other important material.
B. "Guncite" provides an excellent one-stop shopping of facts on all kinds of firearms issues.
The site provides quick, documented information on almost every topic in the modern gun control debate.
B. "Congressman gives away free guns.
Campaign to draw attention to Second Amendment website."
WorldNet Daily reports on U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah).
D. Bloomfield Press. http://www.gunlaws.com
The website for Alan Korwin and his "Gun Laws" series of books, which supply the full text of gun laws for the U.S. and various states. Also, the site has many informative articles by Korwin,
including some excellent articles on the instant check.
2. "Why the President is wrong on Gun Control."
By Rick Castaldo
Bill Clinton once again used the Columbine tragedy as a prop in pushing his big government, liberal agenda. To make matters much worse, he claimed to be acting in the name of my family. You see, my son is in a wheelchair because of Columbine. But our family doesn't believe that more gun control is the right answer.
In what was thankfully his last state of the Union speech, the President asked for still more gun control. He offered a typical "big government" solution on how to cut crime, asking honest Americans to fill out more forms, pay more money, and get another license. How much bigger would he make the BATF so that it could administrator a new licensing law? How many more of our tax dollars would disappear in fees and licensing costs? Would his minions create a new federal agency that further intrudes into law-abiding citizen's lives. Once again the President has shamefully demonstrated that he does not understand the problem. It's the criminals, stupid.
Selected for special attention during the Clinton speech was Tom Mauser, who lost his son Daniel at Columbine. Mr. Clinton spoke about Mr. Mauser, who has dedicated himself to removing guns from the streets. Mr. Clinton, disingenuous as usual, spun a good yarn about how Columbine has galvanized people like Mr. Mauser to unite and work to reduce crime. Mr. Clinton would have us believe that everyone affected by Columbine feels more gun control is the answer. Although working to accomplish that is certainly Mr. Mauser's right, Bill Clinton is using him as a pawn, as he has done with so many others during his political career. Passing more laws and instituting more regulation will not force criminals to change their behavior. Putting them in prison will.
Does the President really believe that criminals are going take the time to get owners licenses? Does the president believe criminals are worried about consequences from the federal government? Does the president believe in anything other than big brother running our lives? Will he fire Janet Reno if she doesn't prosecute the new laws? What will be the fine for using a handgun when you have no license, Community service?
After my son Richard was injured at Columbine, I did a little of my own research. I found that there were literally thousands of laws regarding guns, some twenty thousand, both Federal and State. The two murderers at Columbine broke at least seventeen (maybe more) different laws. Richard was asked early on about how he felt about guns and if America needed more laws.
His response: a few more laws wouldn't have made any difference at Columbine. I found that of some 6000 students who had brought guns to school, a federal crime, the Clinton justice department prosecuted 13. Of the thousands of felons who violated the Brady Bill, Ms. Reno found time to prosecute only a few. I wonder how many of these felons bought their guns illegally when Ms. Reno let them walk. I wonder how many innocent lives they impacted. I'm sure that if Mr. Clinton gets the license law through Congress, she'll do a better job. Right.
My son and I both believe that if criminals received swift prosecution followed by meaningful punishment, crime would drop in this country. It was interesting to note that Clinton took credit for dropping crime rates in the U.S. As shameful as it is, the federal government has done nothing to contribute to this trend. I give credit to a law and order agenda by many of the Governors and Mayors recently elected, replacing the failed, big government liberals. A few of the biggest cities in America account for the huge decrease in crime. New York City alone accounted for a huge fraction of the decline in violent crime in this country. Of course that was after a liberal was replaced with a mayor who put criminals in jail. It is no surprise that it has been accomplished by enforcing the law. It is also no surprise that it isn't Clinton clones who are doing it.
Criminals will never change their behavior until our leaders change theirs. Passing more gun laws in this country won t help reduce crime. Where was the rush to outlaw fertilizer and diesel fuel following the Oklahoma City bombing?
If politicians really care about the Columbine victims and all the Suffering they have endured, they should stop using us to score cheap political points. Mr. Clinton obviously doesn't feel my family's pain.
Richard Castaldo is the father of a student who was shot at Columbine, and must now use a wheelchair.
3. The Founders' Reading of Ancient History. by David B. Kopel.
From the February 2000 issue of Chronicles.
[This version is slightly different from the version
published in Chronicles.]
Why is the Second Amendment, like much of the rest of the constitutional limitations on abuse of government power, under such consistent attack? One of the most important reasons is depressing historical ignorance of most Americans, even those with a college education.
When the new semester begins at your local liberal arts college, count the number of classes where the ultra-p.c. autobiography "I Rigoberta Menchu" will be required; compare this with the number of classes where Tacitus, Livy, Plutarch, or any other classical historian, will be required reading.
The Menchu book has been proven to be a hoax; for example, she claims that she became a Communist because the Guatemalan army stole her father's land. It turns out that her father just lost a boundary dispute with one of his relatives. She claims that she was a dirt-poor illiterate peasant. Actually, her family was far from poor, and she learned how to read at the private school her family sent her to. Yet American professors continue to insist that students, in order to acquire a well-rounded understanding of the human condition, must read lies from a Communist rather than true accounts of the story of Western civilization.
But suppose that modern education was turned upside-down, and students were required to read Tacitus and Livy and other classical historians, rather than modern prevaricators. The Founders of the American Republic had all learned the sad story of the Roman Republic. What the Founders knew, and what very few current college students will ever learn, are lessons that illustrate the importance of a virtuous armed populace, as an essential check on the inevitable depredations of a central government and its standing army.
Although the fact that almost all the Founders had a classical education is well known, Carl Richard's excellent book The Founders and the Classics: Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment is the first book to examine exactly what the Founders learned from ancient history. Let's look at some of the lessons which illuminate the Second Amendment.
While the gun prohibition mentality declares the Second Amendment obsolete, the Founders understood that events of many years past could provide useful guidance for the present. John Adams wrote that whenever he read Thucydides and Tacitus, "I seem to be only reading the History of my own Times and my own Life."
While virtuous Romans and Greeks were models to the Founders, the anti-models were no less important. And no-one stood was worse than Julius Caesar, the murderer of the Roman republic.
Nor did the founders believe that tyranny should be resisted only passively. Sarah Brady's lead attorney, Dennis Henigan, claims that anyone who believes that illegitimate government can be resisted by force under the Second Amendment is an "insurrectionist." Actually, the Founders carefully distinguished between legitimate resistance to tyranny, and illegitimate insurrection against lawful authority. In the Founders' eyes, the former was clearly appropriate.
For example, after the imposition of the Stamp Act in 1765, John Adams praised "the same great spirit which once gave Caesar so warm a reception" and "which first seated the great grandfather" of King George III on the throne of England
Ceasar's assassin Brutus was venerated, as was the much earlier Lucius Brutus, who was credited with leading the overthrow of the Rome's Tarquin monarchy in 510 B.C.
Thomas Jefferson lamented that so many good Romans chose suicide rather than life under an Emperor, when "the better remedy" would be "a poignard [a small dagger] in the breast of the tyrant."
Caesar's use of the standing army to subdue Rome, after Caesar had subdued Gaul, was used by anti-federalists to show that even an army drawn from the best and most faithful and most honorable parts of society (in contrast to the British Redcoats, whose lower ranks were from the dregs of society) could still be used to enslave their country.
Even those, such as James Madison, who felt at least a small standing army to be necessary were aware of the dangers. As Madison wrote in Federalist 41, "the liberties of Rome proved the final victim to her military triumphs."
Denunciations of the perils of standing armies frequently pointed to the many coups perpetrated by Imperial Rome's standing armies. During the final months of Watergate, many citizens worried that President Nixon would mobilize the 82d Airborne Division, in order to retain power. This was precisely the fear of the imperial presidency articulated by George Mason: "When he is arraigned for treason, he has the command of the army and navy, and may surround the Senate with thirty thousand troops. It brings to recollection the remarkable trial of Milo at Rome."
Here, Mason was referring to the famous trial of T. Annius Milo in 52 B.C. Milo and Clodius were rival demagogues and gang leaders in the decaying Roman Republic. When Milo and his gang ran into Clodius and his gang on the Appian Way (the main intercity road), Clodius ended up dead. Milo was put on trial, with the great orator Cicero serving as his defense attorney. But while Cicero wrote a brilliant argument in Milo's defense, he was intimidated into not delivering it as written, after Milo's enemy Pompey surrounded the courtroom with troops.
Although Milo was deprived of the benefits of Cicero's eloquence, history was not. The written version of the speech survived, and was studied by the many high school and grammar school students in colonial America who were expected to read Cicero in the original in order to master the Latin language:
"There exists a law, not written down anywhere, but inborn in our hearts; a law which comes to us not by training or custom or reading but by derivation and absorption and adoption from nature itself; a law which has come to us not from theory but from practice, not by instruction but by natural intuition. I refer to the law which lays it down that, if our lives are endangered by plots or violence or armed robbers or enemies, any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right. When weapons reduce them to silence, the laws no longer expect one to wait their pronouncements. For people who decide to wait for these will have to wait for justice, too--and meanwhile they must suffer injustice first. Indeed, even the wisdom of a law itself, by sort of tacit implication, permits self-defense, because it is not actually forbidden to kill; what it does, instead, is to forbid the bearing of a weapon with the intention to kill. When, therefore, inquiry passes on the mere question of the weapon and starts to consider the motive, a man who is used arms in self-defense is not regard is having carried with a homicidal aim."
Thus, natural law and common sense make it "morally right" to use deadly force to defend against a deadly attack. James Wilson quoted the above words of Cicero, in full, in a lecture series he gave to the law students at the College of Philadelphia (later named "Penn") in 1790. The lectures were attended by President Washington, Vice-President Adams, Secretary of State Jefferson, and other leaders.
Today, more than half of all Americans live in states where an adult with a clean record can obtain a permit to carry a firearm for lawful protection. Handgun Control, Inc., which opposes armed self-defense in all circumstances, naturally opposes these laws, and claims that they will lead to murder. But Cicero points out the logical distinction in Roman law: carrying a weapon for lawful defense was perfectly lawful; only carrying with malign intent was a crime.
Later in the written speech, Cicero declared, "Civilized people are taught by logic, barbarians by necessity, communities by tradition; and the lesson is inculcated even in wild beasts by nature itself. They learn that that they have to defend their own bodies and persons and lives from violence of any and every kind by all the means within their power."
This lesson, unfortunately, has been unlearned by too many modern Americans who live in what attorney Jeffrey Snyder, in his brilliant Public Interest essay, terms "A Nation of Cowards."
[http://www.saf.org/journal/6_nation.html] The Founders greatly feared the vicious cycle of corruption of the citizenry fostered by Rome's ever-expanding government. The Roman free bread program produced a vast body of citizens too lazy to work to earn their daily bread. Similarly, modern American police chiefs who warn citizens not to use force to protect themselves from force "have created a population of millions of people without the courage or character to protect themselves or their families from deadly assault."
The Roman historian Livy wrote a 142 volume history of Rome; 35 of the volumes survived to be available to the American Founders. Despite pressure from the Emperor Augustus Caesar, Livy refused to revise his history, which strongly supported Rome's honorable past a republic, rather than its degraded present as an Empire.
Livy tells us that in the days before the Republic was established, under the Roman King Servius Tullius (578-535 BC) "the right to bear arms had belonged solely to the patricians." But then "plebians were given a place in the army, which was to be re-classified according to every man's property, i.e., his ability to provide himself a more less complete equipment for the field..." Thus, all citizens "capable
of bearing arms were required to provide" their own weapons.
This was obviously a militia.
But when Rome moved away from a militia system, toward a mercenary standing army, the character of the citizenry began to decay, so that they eventually became unfit for self-government. Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire explains: "In the purer ages of the [Roman] commonwealth, the use of arms was reserved for those ranks of citizens who had a country to love, a property to defend, and some share in enacting those laws which it was their interest, as well as duty to maintain. But in proportion as the public freedom was lost in extent of conquest, war was gradually improved into an art, and degraded into a trade."
As the Roman standing army secured the vast Roman Empire against barbarian incursions, the people of the Empire, having lost their martial valor, lost their capacity for self-government. "They received laws and governors from the will of their sovereign, and trusted for their defense to a mercenary army," Gibbon explained. The once-great Romans became, morally speaking, "a race of pigmies," and an easy target for the German tribes whose conquest of decrepit Rome finally "restored a manly spirit of freedom."
From the destruction of the Roman republic by Julius and Augustus Caesar, to the later conquest of the degenerate Roman people by the barbarians, what was the lesson drawn by Gibbon? "A martial nobility and stubborn commons, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into constitutional assemblies, form the only balance capable of preserving a free constitution against the enterprises of an aspiring prince."
To the American Founders, private ownership of the tools of liberty (such as firearms and printing presses) was important, but even more important than owning tools of liberty was understanding liberty's importance. In the 1772 annual oration in memory of the Boston Massacre, Joseph Warren recalled Roman history: "It was this noble attachment to a free constitution which raised ancient Rome from the smallest beginnings to the bright summit of happiness and glory to which she arrived; it was the loss of this which plunged her from that summit into the black gulph of infamy and slavery."
As Carl Richard summarizes, "The founders' immersion in ancient history had a profound effect upon their style of thought. They developed from the classics a suspicious cast of mind. They learned from the Greeks and Romans to fear conspiracies against that liberty. Steeped in a literature whose perpetual theme was the steady encroachment of tyranny on liberty, the founders became virtually obsessed with spotting its approach, so they might avoid the fate of their classical heroes. It is been said of the American Revolution that never was there a revolution with so little cause. Whatever his faults, George III was hardly Caligula or Nero; however illegitimate, the moderate British taxes were hardly equivalent to the mass executions of the emperors. But since the founders believed that the central lesson of the classics was the every illegitimate power, however small, ended in slavery, they were determined to resist such power."
The Second Amendment, besides its practical effect in ensuring that physical power will not be a government monopoly, helps to preserve a "noble attachment to a free constitution" by teaching the people that resistance to tyranny is not "insurrection," but is the command of the Constitution.
The ownership of firearms by modern Americans is important not just for practical reasons (such as protecting homes from criminal invaders) but for moral ones. A homeowner who never has to use his gun for self-defense still possesses something that his unarmed next-door neighbor does not: he has made the decision that he, personally, will take responsibility for defending his family. The armed homeowner's self-reliance has powerful moral consequences, as does the disarmed neighbor's decision that his family's safety will depend exclusively on the government, and not on himself.
The moral, character-building aspect of defensive firearms ownership is one of the most important reasons why tyrants--as well as more benign people who believe in the supremacy of the state--are so determined to disarm as many people as possible. Not only does firearms ownership interfere (as a practical matter) with government domination of society, firearms ownership creates a population which is independent and self-reliant, and which does not see itself as dependent on the state.
Weapons prohibition has deadly practical consequences. The moral consequences are even worse, as our Founding Fathers learned from their study of the sad fate of the Roman people.
4. "Results are in on British Gun Laws."
By Dr. Michael Brown
Many advocates of gun control point to Great Britain as an example of a gun free paradise where violence and crime are rare.
Well, there may be trouble in paradise. Our friends across the Atlantic did tighten their already strict gun laws, with the Firearms Act of 1997, making self defense with a firearm completely impossible for ordinary people. Obedient British subjects generally maintained a stiff upper lip as they surrendered their guns and their rights. How much did crime drop as a result of this sacrifice? It did not drop atall. In fact, according to the local newspapers, England is being swept by a wave of crime, including plenty of gun crimes.
The London Times published a story on January 16th that sums up the situation rather well. The headline reads, "Killings Rise As 3Million Illegal Guns Flood Britain". Armed crime rose 10% in 1998 and the numbers for 1999 may be even more dramatic. The British experiment with gun prohibition has resulted in the same outcome as other forms of prohibition. Since guns are banned, every criminal wants one and it is very profitable to smuggle them in. According to a police spokesman, weapons from Eastern Europe, some still new in their boxes, are turning up during investigations. Criminals now have unprecedented access to high quality guns at affordable prices.
The Manchester Guardian, on January 14th, laments the fact that their city is being called "Gunchester". Police sources were quoted as saying that guns had become "almost a fashion accessory" among young criminals on the street. Some gangs are armed with fully automatic weapons and the generally unarmed British police say that they risk confronting teenagers on mountain bikes brandishing machine guns.
The Sunday Express sent a team of reporters out to investigate the problem and their story of June 20, 1999 said, "In recent months there have been a frightening number of shootings in Britain's major cities, despite new laws banning gun ownership after the Dunblane tragedy. Our investigation established that guns are available through means open to any criminally minded individual."
The government is expected to respond by further tightening the laws on weapons of all sorts. Additional regulations controlling knives and airguns are said to be in the works, although this might be
likened to beating a dead horse. The very act of armed self defense is already punishable by law. That right has been handed over to the government in return for a promise of protection.
Perhaps motor vehicles need to be more heavily regulated as well. According to a commercial security report titled "New Wave in Retail Crime", British bandits are using vehicles to smash storefronts in a type of crime called "ramraiding", which would be impractical if shopkeepers had the option of arming themselves. The report states that, "Many retailers have actually gone out of business because of the repeated attacks on their premises."
This recent rise in crime is part of an upward trend that correlates well with the gradual tightening of gun control over the last several decades. The relationship between increasing gun control and rising crime is well documented in a scholarly 1999 report by Olsen and Kopel, "All the Way Down the Slippery Slope - Gun Prohibition in England".
[Available at http://www.goa-texas.org/kopel-2.htm]
The traditional view of England as a low crime society has also been seriously damaged by the 1998 study titled, "Crime and Justice in the United States and in England and Wales", which is available from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. This report concludes that English crime rates in the period from 1981 to 1996 were actually higher than in the United States due to differences in the way crimes are reported.
The negative result from gun control laws should not surprise us. American cities have had similar counterproductive results whenever gun control has been implemented locally. Reports from Australia are similar. It is no coincidence that crime typically goes up after a government enacts new gun restrictions. Several American researchers and criminologists have explored this effect. Whenever people give up their right to self defense in return for a promise of government protection, the results have been negative. No amount of social engineering will change this basic consequence of human nature.
Unfortunately, the downward progression of gun control goes only one way. British subjects will never regain the basic human right to armed self defense.
Proponents of gun control in America have a lot of explaining to do. Unfortunately, with the aid of their media allies, this new information will probably be ignored completely or brushed off with a few carefully chosen sound bites.
The author is an optometrist in Vancouver, Washington and moderator of an e-mail list for discussion of gun issues in Washington State. He may be contacted by e-mail at: mb [at] ez.net
No payment is required for use of this column, but please notify the author if you use it and please include his email address for readers to respond.
Dr. Michael S. Brown - moderator of the WA-CCW email list
As always, the Independence Institute website contains extensive information on:
Criminal Justice and the Second Amendment:
The Columbine High School murders:
The Waco murders: http://i2i.org/Waco.htm
The Independence Institute's on-line bookstore. Start your
browsing at the Second Amendment section:
That's all folks!