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.
No issue next week.
1. Kopel: Gore Screws on the Silencer: Al goes mum on guns to avoid a Dukakis-like blunder. Kopel on the role of Second Amendment rights in the 1988 election
2. Kopel on Labor Day and the Ludlow Massacre.
3. Kopel on Handgun Control's hate mail about NRA patriarch Harlon Carter.
4. Request for volunteer help for Independence Institute website.
5. Links special: The Violence of Gun Control.
Please enjoy a restful and refreshing Labor Day Weekend - so
that on September 5 you're ready to get to work defending
the blessings of liberty!
1. Gore Screws on the Silencer: Al goes mum on guns to avoid a Dukakis-like blunder.
National Review Online, Aug. 31, 2000.
By Dave Kopel.
Remember the spring of 2000? Al Gore's strategists were proclaiming that gun control would be one of their core issues for the coming election. But these days, gun control gets only passing references from Gore, while the major focus is taxes and spending. Has Gore had another change of heart on guns? Perhaps a reverse of his shift from an NRA-"A"-rated Congressman (who almost always voted like Dick Cheney) to the most anti-gun veep in history?
Of course not. Should Al Gore win the election, his anti-gun agenda
( http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment050500a.html )
would exceed even Clinton's.
Rather than reflecting a change of heart, Gore's new, muted approach to guns reflects a sensible awareness of political reality. The reality is based not just on what Gore's internal polls on guns must be showing; a realistic approach to gun politics must also take account of the history of one of the greatest Democratic debacles in presidential history - the 1988 Dukakis campaign.
During the summer of 1988, most political reporters were praising Michael Dukakis's "flawless" capture of the Democratic nomination. With his double-digit lead over George Bush in the polls, Dukakis looked like a sure winner in November. A few astute reporters, though, saw trouble ahead.
Donald Lambro caught on early. On July 14, he reported that local politicians in Pennsylvania were beginning to worry that Dukakis's history on gun control might be "wounding his thus far error-free campaign." Lambro was right; Dukakis lost Pennsylvania - a must-win state for him - by less than 2%. Nationally syndicated columnists Jack Germond and Jules Witcover attributed Dukakis's problems in Pennsylvania to gun control and other crime issues. His 2% margin in Pennsylvania was smaller than the number of voters from NRA households. (And not all people who vote on the gun issue belong to the NRA.)
Michigan was another state that Dukakis had to win, but barely lost. At the time, Bush's campaign coordinator told the New York Times that he had seen more NRA "Defeat Dukakis" bumper stickers than Bush campaign stickers.
Said Ted Mondale, Midwest political director for Dukakis, on the eve of the election: "If [rural voters] are talking about the pledge of allegiance and gun control, we lose."
In Maryland, a voter initiative to overturn an anti-gun law came up short, but it still hurt Dukakis. In September, political analyst Horace Busby put Maryland in the "probable" column for Dukakis. In October, Busby reversed the call, correctly. Why? "[A] gun control vote there is forming a very conservative electorate in the state, to Dukakis's advantage."
The state's voter-registration coordinator observed a record surge in last-minute registrations. She said the gun vote had been "instrumental" in the surge. An official in Anne Arundel country attributed "the biggest last-minute surge we've ever had" to "mostly the gun bill." Officials in other counties told the same story. One eighty-year-old fisherman, who had never voted before, registered so he could vote against the gun law.
On election night, one of the networks called Maryland for Dukakis. But as the western, more-rural part of the state came in unexpectedly strong for Bush, the call was reversed. Bush won the state.
Misfiring Across America
It wasn't just the Northeast where gun control crippled Dukakis. The Chicago Tribune reported that "Political analysts say the issue has been devastating Dukakis in the South and West. It may be one of the main reasons that Dukakis is trailing in Texas."
In Texas, Jeannie Stanley, a professor of political science at the University of Texas, explained that gun control had swung "Reagan Democrats, independent voters and rural voters" to Bush. Southern pollster Claibourne Darden observed Dukakis running even in Texas, until Republicans fanned out in rural areas, and told Texans about Dukakis and guns. "In two or three weeks, Texas was gone."
Darden added that NRA members "vote the company line more than any other wide-based interest group."
"The gun issue is how the Republicans broke Texas," he said. Even Time magazine noted that Texas was highly receptive to Bush's stand on gun control, and added "in Texas, rifle racks rank with the flag as badges of honor."
The story was repeated throughout the South. At the Democratic convention, Tom Murphy, the Democratic Speaker of the House in Georgia, called Dukakis "a right smart fellow." Later, he withdrew his support, because of Dukakis's views on gun control and the death penalty. Said Mr. Murphy, "My people are right opposite on those issues."
A Georgia pollster explained that because of the gun issue, even yellow-dog Democrats had deserted Dukakis.
Gun control ravaged Dukakis in the West, as well. In California, Time noted the evaporation of Dukakis's lead in the polls. The magazine indicated that some of the social issues Bush was hammering on, including opposition to gun control, "have already been endorsed overwhelmingly by California voters in recent ballot initiatives." In 1982, California rejected a "handgun freeze" by a 2-1 margin.
The story was the same in the Rocky Mountain states. Suffering from economic depression, and resentful of Reagan-Bush environmental policies, these states all could have fallen into Dukakis's hands - but for the gun issue.
After the election, Idaho's Democratic chairman complained about a nomination process that ignored issues important in the West. New Mexico Democratic leaders stated that Dukakis's stand on guns made it nearly impossible for him to carry the state.
Meanwhile, NRA ads featuring Charlton Heston ran in 20 states. The NRA spent more on advertising around the presidential race than almost any group in the history of American politics.
In short, the gun issue may have cost Dukakis as many as 154 electoral votes - enough to have won the election.
After the election, defeated vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen of Texas discussed the "incredible effect of gun control," and observed "we lost a lot of Democrats on peripheral issues like gun control and the pledge." Columnist Ernest Furgurson wrote that Bentsen believed that "to win the parts of the country where he grew up and where he campaigned most this fall, any politician will do better without the baggage of gun control."
The Dukakis-like Candidate
Is Gore as vulnerable as Dukakis? Probably not. While he was governor of Massachusetts, Dukakis compiled an unusually extremist record. He supported a statewide referendum to confiscate handguns. (The referendum lost in a landslide.) He repeatedly stated that the Constitution does not guarantee the right of an individual to own a gun, and even signed proclamation to that effect. And in a quote that the NRA put on the cover of its membership magazines, he told Roy Innis (head of the Congress On Racial Equality) in 1986, "I do not believe in people owning guns, only police and military. I am going to do everything I can to disarm this state."
On the other hand, Dukakis's promised presidential agenda on guns is not much different from Al Gore's. Dukakis told the New York Times he favored "stiff federal gun control," including national registration of concealable handguns, and licensing for handgun ownership. Gore formally claims to favor only licensing and registration for handgun purchasers, although the Clinton-Gore White House Working Group report
( http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment050500a.html ) envisions complete licensing and registration for all firearms.
Like Gore, Dukakis was an enthusiast for banning "assault weapons" - in other words, outlawing guns based on cosmetics that have nothing to do with firepower.
At a "Domestic Disarmament Day," Dukakis told handgun owners to turn their firearms over to the police. Today, the Clinton-Gore-Cuomo Department of Housing and Urban Development pays people to turn their guns over to the government. (Never mind that Congress never appropriated money for this Scheme. http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment051500b.html
Although Dukakis was attacked for his ACLU membership, he never understood that in many areas he was seen as the anti-civil-liberties candidate. Most Americans are far more concerned with their right to own a gun for self-defense than they are about their right not to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
Outside of secure, suburban Brookline, many Americans believe they must be ready to protect themselves and their families - a desperate call to 911 will not suffice.
2. Labor Day and the Ludlow Massacre.
To be published in the Sept. 3 edition of National
By Dave Kopel
The summer barbecue season that began on Memorial Day and peaked on Independence Day now ends with Labor Day. What connects Labor Day with the other two holidays, however, is more than just charcoal.
Independence Day celebrates the revolution against British imperialism. Memorial Day, originally called "Decoration Day," was set aside to honor the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War; in modern times, the Day honors all American soldiers who have given their lives for freedom. And Labor Day, like the other two summer holidays, honors men and women who suffered violent death so that others might live free.
At the turn of the century, companies like Colorado Fuel & Iron earned handsome profits from the rich bituminous coal fields near Pueblo, Walsenburg, and Trinidad. The coal miners, though, suffered in what the Colorado Bureau of Labor Statistics called "a condition of peonage...that was but little removed from downright slavery."
Paid according to how many tons of coal were extracted in a day, the miners were cheated on the company scales. What little that the miners were paid came not in U.S. currency, but in scrip -- worthless paper that could only be spent at the company general store. Prices at the store were far above competitive levels.
Miners found little help from the Colorado Legislature. As a Colorado Fuel & Iron employee reported to his supervisor in New York City, the coal companies controlled the legislature "by graft and bribery undercover."
The United Mine Workers led a statewide strike in 1903-04, that was finally crushed when the Colorado National Guard invaded southern Colorado on behalf of the coal companies. Guard commander Zeph Hill abolished freedom of assembly, established press censorship, took control of the phone system, and confiscated firearms from strikers.
National Guardsmen raped the miners' wives and daughters. This particular atrocity of the National Guard was not unusual; for during ordinary times the mine guards and foremen would do the same, threatening a wife that her husband would be fired if she did not submit.
In the summer of 1914, the miners struck again. Again, the coal companies refused to negotiate, or to recognize the existence of a union.
Instantly expelled from the company towns, the strikers and their families set up a tent camp at Ludlow, north of Trinidad.
The coal companies had deliberately imported miners of many different nationalities, hoping that ethnic hostilities would prevent recognition of common class interests. But over the cold winter at Ludlow at least 22 different nationalities came together as friends. "I saw a true melting pot at Ludlow," reported State Senator Helen Ring Robinson.
Again the Governor sent the Colorado National Guard to the coal fields. Despite assurances that the Guard would be a neutral force, the Guard instantly aligned with the coal companies. As many disgusted Guardsmen deserted, their places were taken by corporation thugs. A new round of weapons searches and confiscations began.
Still, the strike wore into the next year, and the strikers showed no intention of relenting.
On Sunday morning, April 19, 1915, the Greek miners led the entire Ludlow colony in a celebration of Greek Orthodox Easter.
The next morning, the Colorado National Guard and the company mine guards opened fire on the Ludlow Tent Colony, and set the tents ablaze. Nineteen people, including eleven children, died in the Ludlow Massacre. A small civil war erupted in southern Colorado, which was ended by the intervention of federal troops against the strikers.
Sensational as the Ludlow Massacre was, it represented only the most visible part of corporate violence against the miners. The year before, seventy-five Colorado miners had died in accidents, mostly caused by companies' deliberate disregard for existing safety standards.
All three of Mary Petrucci's children were slain at Ludlow. After the massacre the twenty-four-year-old woman joined other Ludlow survivors on a national speaking tour to tell the nation what had happened. Overcome by grief and unable to speak at rallies, she had to return to Colorado in midtour. Before leaving for home, she told a reporter: "I suppose I'll live a long time, but I don't see how I can ever be happy again...I can't have my babies back. But perhaps when everybody knows about them, something will be done to make the world a better place for all babies."
National outrage at the Ludlow Massacre forced CF&I to spend even more on publicity in 1915 than it had on guns in 1914. Company head John D. Rockefeller Jr. made a much-advertised trip to Colorado, and promised better conditions.
After many generations of struggle, the working people of Colorado and the United States eventually did win the right to decent working conditions and collective bargaining. Like the men who died at Lexington or Gettysburg, the heroes of America's labor wars -- including Mary Petrucci -- have earned a day to honor their sacrifices in building a free nation.
3. Misfiring at Harlon Carter.
By Dave Kopel
National Review Online
Aug. 14, 2000
A few days ago, the Washington Post ran a thoughtful, mostly accurate, and carefully-researched article about the internal politics of the National Rifle Association. Amazingly, the article dealt with the NRA's pro-freedom worldview in a respectful, nuanced manner, rather than with the shrill contempt which so often characterizes the old media.
The article did have some factual errors, such as mistakenly claiming that it was the 1995 Republican Congress, rather than the 1993 Democratic Congress, which was responsible for passing the (failure known as the) "Brady Bill."
A much more serious error, however, is the description of the late Harlon Carter, the leading architect of the NRA's transformation from a sportsman's club into the most powerful civil liberties organization in the history of the world. According to the Post, "Asked in 1975 if he would rather let convicted violent felons and the mentally deranged buy guns than endorse a screening process for gun sales, Carter did not hesitate to say yes. That's the 'price we pay for freedom.'"
Not really. At the 1975 congressional hearing, a congressman asked the question described by the Post, but when Carter began to answer, the congressman cut him off, saying he wanted a different witness to answer. In the official transcript, Carter's answer is "The price we pay for freedom - ".
The Post's inadvertent distortion of Carter's meaning was doubtless the product of an interview with someone from a Washington anti-gun lobby, where the politics of personal destruction have been the norm for decades.
Misrepresenting Carter's statement was pretty mild compared to other attacks that Handgun Control, Inc., launched on Carter. One fundraising letter from HCI featured a picture of Harlon Carter on the envelope. The letter screamed that Carter "has seen to it that thousands of life-loving people like you and me DIE every year - shot with a handgun."
The Handgun Control letter continued: "50 years ago, Carter shot and killed a 15-year-old boy and was convicted of murder."
The letter omitted the fact that Carter was defending his mother's ranch against a gang of intruders led by the "boy," and that the "boy" was menacing Carter with a knife. At the trial, the judge was the prosecutor's father-in-law, and he refused to let Carter introduce evidence of self-defense.
Having left out the crucial facts about Carter's innocence, the Handgun Control letter complained that the conviction "was reversed on the technical grounds that the judge had not given the jurors adequate instructions about the law of self-defense." Actually, it wasn't just the instructions that were inadequate; all the evidence about self-defense had been excluded.
Most people would think that a citizen's shooting of a criminal should be judged by whether the citizen was acting in self-defense. But Handgun Control apparently considers innocent persons who shoot criminals to be as bad as common murderers - since self-defense is only a "technicality."
This fits rather well with Mrs. Sarah Brady's standard: "To me, the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes." (Tom Jackson, "Keeping the Battle Alive," Tampa Tribune, Oct. 21, 1993.) Al Gore claims that the NRA is against "family values" because they don't back the anti-gun proposals which he copies from HCI - the nation's leading anti-defense lobby.
What kind of family values hold that a young man shouldn't protect his mother from violent gangsters with knives?
4. Want to help spread the facts about gun rights and the Second Amendment?
The Independence Institute website has 50,000 to 75,000 visitor sessions per month. We'd like to post some new law review articles by Dave Kopel, and we need someone with the skills to turn these text-only articles into well-formatted HTML articles. You don't need advanced skills for complexities such as Java-just the ability to format articles. If you're comfortable using, say Microsoft FrontPage, you can do it. These law review articles are long, require a fair amount of work (e.g., putting links between endnote markers and the hundreds of actual endnotes). If you'd like to volunteer to fix up an article so that it can be published on the web, just send an e-mail to Dave Kopel.
5. Special Links Section: The Violence of Gun Control.
a. Pitchfork murderer kills two children, thanks to California gun
"No Easy Answers: Gun Advocates Say Fear Of Liability Keeps Parents From Teaching Survival Skills."
By Kimi Yoshino FRESNO BEE. 08/26/2000, Page A1.
"The first thing Jessica Carpenter asked for was a gun. When the 14-year-old girl ran to a nearby house to escape the pitchfork-wielding man attacking her siblings, she didn't ask her neighbor to call 9-1-1. She begged him to grab his rifle and "take care of this guy.'" The victims' family had a gun at home, but the 14-year-old couldn't save her younger siblings from the murderer, because the gun was locked up.
The article is available in the archives of the Fresno Bee website, www.fresnobee.com , for $1.95.
b. A good way to prevent future tragedies:
"First Annual "Turn In Your Gun Locks" event at the Takoma Park Folk Festival on Sunday, September 10, 2000. Maryland Citizens Defense League. The locks will be smelted into ingots for manufacture of new firearms to be raffled off at a later date.
c. "Anger as Army is given shoot-to-kill powers for Games"
The Times. By Roger Maynard.
"The Australian Government is under mounting pressure to water down draconian new security laws that would give the military the right to shoot civilians on sight during the Olympic Games next month."
4. More violence from the "Million" Mom Marchers.
The Boulder Weekly reports on an assault in Fort Collins, Colorado.