L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 54, August 31, 1999
"We didn't start the fire ..."
An Open Letter to Colorado (and other) Republicans
by L. Neil Smith
Special to TLE
I have an internet transcript of a letter here, supposedly written to
Colorado Republican legislators by your state party chairman, Bob
Beauprez. I've every reason to believe it's real; it's perfectly
consistent with every other stupid mistake I've watched you make, at
the state and national level, over the past four decades.
It also demonstrates better than any lecture of mine could that the
only difference between Socialist Party A, the Democrats, and
Socialist Party B, you Republicans, is that you can put the Bill of
Rights through the shredder cheaper and more efficiently.
In his letter, Beauprez says that, owing to what he terms "the
Columbine tragedy" (as if it were a morally neutral natural disaster
like a hurricane or earthquake, not a coldly-calculated series of
murders committed by two criminals who bear sole responsibility for
it) you should expect pressure in the coming session from Democrats
-- and the round-heeled media that service them -- to further
restrict the right of the individual to own and carry weapons.
Beauprez urges you to face this challenge exactly the same way the
GOP has faced a thousand similar crises over the past several
decades: well-prepared to surrender before the fighting ever starts.
What's more, he wants you to be sneaky about it. " ... our
disagreements ... need to take place outside of the public arena. We
should avoid talking to each other through the newspapers. Pick up
the phone, send an e-mail, walk down the hall ... Please do any of
these rather than criticize one another in the press." In other
words, at all costs -- especially to those who elected you believing
you'd protect their rights -- don't wash dirty Republican laundry in
I'm sorry to say that, in my experience (and yours as well, I'll bet)
that's the only way that dirty political laundry ever gets washed.
And this is some of the dirtiest I've seen, or smelled.
There's so much about Beauprez' letter that's just plain gutless,
spineless, and brainless it's hard to decide where to start
commenting on it -- except to say that if you follow his advice, you
should drop the elephant as your symbol and adopt the jellyfish. You
could cover the body with stars and color each tentacle red, white,
It's popular these days to say that "in politics, perception is
reality". What pusillanimous, self-serving drivel. The only people
peddling their perceptions as reality (not really perceptions, but a
murderous agenda as dark and premeditatively evil as what happened at
Columbine) are the Old Media -- newspapers and television -- who were
originally supposed to have opposed oppressive government, but have
turned out, instead, to be its most enthusiastic advocates.
Reality is reality. And some of the more salient -- and
obvious -- aspects of it that you're going to be urged to ignore are these:
The first 10 amendments to the Constitution -- commonly known as the
Bill of Rights -- are the highest law of the land, superior to every
other ordinance, statute, law, custom, precedent (or other
Constitutional clause), ever passed, proclaimed, promulgated, or
Given the history and personalities involved, if the guarantees those
amendments represent hadn't been intended to be absolute and
perpetual, the Founders wouldn't have bothered making them.
Even so, rights aren't a gift of the Founders, they've existed since
the dawn of human history. Repeal the Second Amendment and my
fundamental and inherent right to the means of self-defense would not
be altered or diminished.
Guns save vastly more lives than they take. A few thousand each year
suffer wrongful death where a gun is the instrument. Millions
use guns to defend themselves, usually without having to fire a shot. It
isn't pro-gun folks who should be answering pointed questions, but
anti-gunners who apparently want to see those millions injured or
dead. As a friend of mine puts it, Handgun Control is an organization
that would rather have a woman raped in an alley and strangled with
her own pantyhose, than see her with a gun in her hand.
The dead and wounded at Columbine were not victims of too many guns,
but too few. No one there had the machinery and the moxie to defend
them. Novelist Robert Heinlein put it elegantly: "An armed society is
a polite society." Sociologist John Lott puts it bluntly:
More Guns, Less Crime. Should the unalienable individual, civil,
Constitutional, and human right to own and carry weapons be
restricted further, more, not fewer, of these "tragedies" will happen
and more, not fewer, will be killed. Only this time it will be your
The last two decades of legal and historical scholarship show beyond
a shadow of a doubt that what the most radical pro-gun interpretors
of the Second Amendment say is true -- and has been true all along --
that the Founders meant for individuals to be armed at all times, not
to hunt ducks, kill bears, or battle the British or the Indians, but
for the timeless purpose of keeping the government and its minions
intimidated and within Constitutional bounds. You are the very sort
the Founders meant to protect us from. Is that what you wanted
to grow up to be when you were little?
Another thing: putting children in uniforms, suppressing their
individuality, forcing them to say "sir" and "ma'am" to collectivist
functionaries they have no objective reason to respect, none of that
makes them better-behaved human beings. That -- along with
transparent backpacks, ID badges, metal detectors, and locker
shakedowns -- simply prepares them to live out their lives in the
drab, gray, Europeanoid police state those collectivist functionaries
have planned for us all. (It also drives another nail into the coffin
of public education, an unintended consequence and a good
But I digress. In the most feeble-minded, ungrammatical part of his
letter, your leader says, " ... we can ... be the greatest example of
why the beliefs of personal responsibility balanced with personal
freedom, lower taxes, limited, smaller Government is what leads to
economic prosperity and the American Dream."
Only a socialist cretin mouths this kind of garbage. There's no
"balance" in the matter of individual liberties, especially those
enumerated in the Bill of Rights which you've sworn to uphold and
defend. It's your job to enforce the Bill of Rights, come hell
or high water, not to think up excuses to pick it apart bit by bit and
flush it down the toilet. Lower taxes are not an acceptable
substitute for freedom, they're only one aspect of it. My "American
Dream" is to pass that freedom on, unmolested, to my children and
Later, Commissar Beauprez mumbles, "Our cause is greater than any
single one of us. We must put ego ... aside and remember why each of
us is involved in politics ... we can move our agenda forward and
prevent the Democrats from taking advantage of any internal discord."
Why should they need to, when he's doing their work for them? What he
means is that he's brought the Vaseline -- gun owners had better bend
over, take what's coming to them, and be damned quiet about it.
Someone among you is bound to ask why I'm giving Republicans such a
hard time. Partly it's because your friends the Democrats are beyond
redemption. For the past 60 years or more it's been just as if they
were pursuing Moscow's interests, rather than America's, and it now
appears they're actually being run from Beijing. Partly it's because
Democrats don't piously claim to be the party of freedom the way you
do -- when in fact, in terms of the survival of individual liberty it
no makes no difference at all which party is in power.
What it comes down to is that, although you're in the majority, you
let the media -- and the Democrats who pull their strings -- run the
state. The technical name for rule by the media is "mediocrity".
Until now, you've gotten away with it because, just as there was no
defense at Columbine, there's no mechanism to punish politicians who
violate their oath and rape the Bill of Rights. Whatever gets the
most votes, no matter how stupid, cowardly, or evil, it's okay. In
the end, there's no moral distinction between, say, your guy Beauprez
and Bill Clinton. I think it's time to make it more costly for
politicians to abuse the Bill of Rights than to enforce it.
Elsewhere I've written of what I call the "five percent solution".
Republicans elected by less than that margin can be targetted by
third party candidates to deny them reelection, the purpose being to
erase Republican majorities from Congress and state legislatures. As
those like Beauprez continue to influence the GOP (Tom Tancredo's
recent -- and typical -- betrayal comes to mind), it should become a
more and more attractive idea, not just to gun people, but to
smokers, drivers, and all the other constituencies you've stabbed in
It might be augmented by a national campaign urging people to pledge
in writing never to vote for Republicans again, the idea being to
consign your party to the same historical fate as the Whigs.
How can you prevent it? The situation's totally in your hands. As
long as you're more dedicated to enforcing the Bill of Rights
than I am, why should anybody listen to me? (As a token of good faith, you
might start by putting Beauprez his place -- on a street corner
selling pencils out of a tin cup.)
Given the shabby way you and your predecessors have treated the Bill
of Rights, we need a new oath of office, consisting of your pledge,
in public and on TV, to uphold and defend without reservation,
separately and individually, each of the 10 Articles in its most
radical interpretation. You should be strapped into a polygraph,
subjected to simultaneoue voice stress analysis, with an arm full of
sodium pentathol or its most modern equivalent.
The best gesture you could make now would be to pass a package of
repeals, swiftly and cleanly, establishing "Vermont Carry" -- no
restriction on carrying weapons -- throughout the state. It's the
only measure consistent with the Second Amendment, and it should be
noted that Vermont is often cited as the safest state to live in.
Forget the governor, he's always been a weenie on this issue. And
don't even think about licensed carry. Given the vicious campaign of
outright confiscation being waged out in California, only a moron
would continue to support such a program of half-respected rights.
Nor can you legally forbid people to carry weapons on state, county,
or municipal city property. An accurate understanding of the
Founders' intentions leads inexorably to the conclusion that it's on
government property that the Second Amendment applies most of all.
Where federal authorities attempt to abrogate the Second Amendment,
the state, county, or city should cordon such facilities off -- with
a police line if necessary -- as if it were a condemned building.
"But the media!" I pretend to hear you scream. "Even if we do as you
say, they'll cut us up for French fries!" Nonsense. The media can be
handled with ease. I'll tell you how -- but it'll cost you.
Look: if you're firm in the conviction that guns save lives, and
cogent in your arguments that Democrats are demanding that those
lives be brutally expended to suit their vile political ends, then
you can make Bill of Rights enforcement a winning strategy. All it
takes is guts, backbone, brains -- and you don't have a choice,
Come on, Republicans, are you a party of the 21st century, or
tomorrow's Whigs? Elephants or jellyfish?
I'm betting on the latter.
Award-winning author and lecturer L. Neil Smith, a widely recognized
authority on the ethics of self-defense, has been called "the William
Bennett of the libertarian movement". His
more than 20 books include
The Probability Broach, Henry Martyn, Bretta Martyn, Pallas,
Star Wars: The Lando Calrissian Adventures, The WarDove, The
Mitzvah (with Aaron Zelman), Lever Action, (forthcoming
late 1999), Forge of the Elders (forthcoming early 2000), and his
current work, The American Zone. For more, click on
[There's really no such thing as an "anti-gun advocate", at
least that I can identify. What we tend to call "anti-gun" zealots
are really anti-freedom, anti-individual collectivists. They want
the police and military to have guns. They want to use guns to
control crime. They want to use guns to enforce laws. They want
to use guns to control foreign policy. They just don't want you to
use guns ... to express your freedom. When you get right down to it, it's
really as much a First Amendment issue as it is a Second. It's just
not an ACLU, limousine liberal, wine and brie, Hollywood kind of
First Amendment issue. -- TLE]
to advance to the next article, or
to return to the previous article, or
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 54, August 31, 1999.