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.
No issue next week.
1. New op-eds from Dave Kopel & Ari Armstrong.
2. Rabbi Nachmanides on morality and weapons.
3. Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership: Alert regarding
violations of medical ethics.
4. H.L. Mencken on gun control.
5. How to become 500 times more powerful politically
Civil Disobedience in Canada. National Review Online. Aug.2, 2000.
With Drs. Paul Gallant & Joanne Eisen.
Cheney's Cop-Killer Rap. If you can't handle the truth, be very
afraid of W.'s running mate. National Review Online. July 31, 2000.
The Cheney Glock-n-Spiel. Bush's Veep-in-waiting proved he won't be
seduced by mindless gun lobbying. National Review Online. July 27, 2000.
"Baby Brady" Doesn't Work Either. Gun shows. By Ari Armstrong.
Over 700 years ago the famous Rabbi Nachmanides - also spelled
Nahmanides - wrote the following in his commentary on Genesis 4:23.
Lamech, a descendant of Cain invented the art of casting of iron
and taught one of his sons this art, including how to forge swords
and spears. Lamech's wives were fearful that Lamech would be
punished, because he had brought murder into the world by inventing
weapons, just as Cain had been punished for murdering Abel albeit
without weapons but with fists and rocks. Lamech, however,
reminded his wives, "well saying, that not only with the sword or
the spear can a man kill but also with bruises or lacerations and
in a much worse death than with a sword, and the maker of the sword
does not bear sin, but the evil-doer does."
Do you own a gun? How many guns do you have? Do your children have
to guns in your home? Did you know that having a gun in your home triples
your risk of becoming a homicide victim?
These are questions your doctor may ask you or your children as part
routine physical examinations or questionnaires. All the gun-related
questions you are likely to encounter in doctors' offices, especially
pediatricians, are based on doctor groups' political movement against gun
owners. That movement is spearheaded by the American Academy of Pediatrics,
although the AMA and other physician groups have launched similar efforts
against gun owners.
With a few very rare exceptions, such questions about guns do not
physician's concern about gun safety. Rather, they are intended to
intimidate or prejudice impressionable and trusting children (and their
parents) into thinking that guns are somehow bad.
That political motive makes these questions ethically wrong. This
professional misconduct is known as a boundary violation. Any doctor who
asks these politically motivated questions about your guns, either directly
or on a questionnaire, should be disciplined.
And who can discipline the physician? You, the almighty consumer.
right. If you, the patient or parent, file a formal written complaint with
the offending doctor's HMO or medical group, your complaint will be taken
seriously. The doctor will be asked to respond to it. In any case, your
polite but firm protest will be a black mark on his or her record that will
likely make him or her think twice before repeating the offense.
Patients not enrolled in a health plan (HMO) may see a private
doctor in a small group or solo practice. Unethical behavior by such a
doctor can be reported to your county medical society, which is likely to
have a public service committee whose job it is to review complaints from
the public. Although federal anti-trust laws have mostly stripped these
committees of their enforcement powers, they can still get an erring
Medicine has become an extremely competitive service industry. HMO's
medical groups are trying harder than ever to please consumers and not anger
them. The last thing a doctor wants these days, next to a malpractice suit,
is a health plan member complaint alleging unethical conduct.
If the doctor persists or is especially inappropriate, you can send
formal complaint to the doctor's state licensing board. You can search your
state government's web site to find your state's medical licensing board.
This site should describe the procedure for formal consumer complaints.
Also you can look in your phone book under state government for your state
Medical board's consumer hot line. Boards generally accept only written complaints.
A consumer complaint to the medical licensing board is a last
resort, and it
will be a definite blemish on the doctor's career. But it may be necessary
for repeat offenders. This step will apply enormous pressure on the
boundary-violating physician, even if the state board takes no official
action against his or her license.
To summarize: you don't have to suffer in silence, and you don't
disclose personal information about your gun ownership to politically
motivated doctors. And most important, you can strike back at unethical
doctors who abuse your trust to advance a political agenda against
law-abiding gun owning families.
I discuss the ethical basis for all this in my article at the
Institute's web site, "Boundary Violation: Gun Politics In The Doctor's
Office." You will find it at
Please save this message and forward it to others you know who have
targets of anti-gun political activism in the doctor's office.
Timothy Wheeler, MD
Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
a Project of The Claremont Institute
The eminent Nation [note: Mencken is referring to the leftist magazine, "The Nation"] announces with relish
"the organization of a national committee of 100 to induce Congress to prohibit the inter-State traffic in
revolvers," and offers the pious judgement that it is "a step forward." "Crime statistics," it appears, "show that
90% of the murders that take place are committed by the use of the pistol, and every year there are hundreds of cases of accidental homicides because someone did not know that his revolver was loaded." The new law or is it to be a constitutional amendment? We'll do away with all that. "It will not be easy," of course, "to draw a law that will permit exceptions for public officers and bank guards" to say nothing of Prohibition
agents and other such legalized murderers. "But soon even these officials may get on without revolvers."
More than once in this place, I have lavished high praise upon the Nation. All that praise has been deserved, and I am by no means disposed to go back on it. The Nation is one of the few honest and intelligent periodicals published in the United States. It stands clear of official buncombe; it prints every week a great mass of news that the newspapers seem to miss; it interprets that news with a freedom and a sagacity that few newspaper editors can even so much as imagine. If it shut up shop then the country would plunge almost unchallenged into the lowest depths of Coolidgism, Rotarianism, Stantaquaism and other such bilge. It has been for a decade past, the chief consolation of the small and forlorn minority of civilized Americans.
But the Nation, in its days, has been a Liberal organ, and its old follies die hard. Ever and anon, in the midst of its most eloquent and effective pleas for Liberty, its eye wanders weakly toward Law. At such moments the old lust to lift 'em up overcomes it, and it makes a brilliant and melodramatic ass of itself. Such a moment was upon it when it printed the paragraph that I have quoted. Into that paragraph of not over 200 words it packed as much maudlin and nonsensical blather, as much idiotic reasoning and banal moralizing, as Dr. Coolidge gets into a speech of two hours' length.
The new law that it advocated, indeed, is one of the most absurd specimens of jackass legislation ever heard of, even in this paradise of legislative donkeyism. Its single and sole effect would be to exaggerate enormously all of the evils it proposes to put down. It would not take pistols out of the hands of rogues and fools; it would simply take them out of the hands of honest men. The gunman today has great advantages everywhere. He has artillery in his pocket, and he may assume that, in the large cities, at least two-thirds of his prospective victims are unarmed. But if the Nation's proposed law (or amendment) were passed and enforced, he could assume safely that all of them were unarmed.
Here I do not indulge in theory. The hard facts are publicly on
display in New York State, where a law of exactly the same tenor
is already on the books the so-called Sullivan Law. In order to
get it there, of course, the Second Amendment had to be severely
strained, but the uplifters advocated the straining unanimously,
and to the tune of loud hosannas, and the courts, as usual, were willing to sign on the dotted line. It is now a dreadful felony in New York to "have or possess" a pistol. Even if one keeps it locked in a bureau drawer at home, one may be sent to the hoosegow for ten years. More, men who have done no more are frequently bumped off. The cops, suspecting a man, say, of political heresy, raid his house and look for copies of the Nation. They find none, and are thus baffled but at the bottom of a trunk they do find a rusted and battered revolver. So he goes to trial for violating the Sullivan Law, and is presently being psycho-analyzed by the uplifters at Sing Sing.
With what result? With the general result that New York, even more than Chicago, is the heaven of footpads, hijackers, gunmen and all other such armed thugs. Their hands upon their pistols, they know they are safe. Not one citizen out of a hundred that they tackle is armed for getting a license to keep a revolver is a difficult business, and carrying one without it is more dangerous than submitting to robbery. So the gunmen flourish and give humble thanks to God. Like the bootleggers, they are hot and unanimous for Law Enforcement.
To all this, of course, the uplifters have a ready answer. (At having ready answers, indeed, they always shine!) The New York thugs, they say, are armed to the teeth because New Jersey and Connecticut lack Sullivan Laws. When one of them wants a revolver all he has to do is to cross the river or take a short trolley trip. Or, to quote the Nation, he may "simply remit to one of the large firms which advertise the sale of their weapons by mail." The remedy is the usual dose: More law. Congress is besought to "prohibit the inter-State traffic in revolvers, especially to bar them from the mails."
It is all very familiar, and very depressing. Find me a man so vast an imbecile that he seriously believes that this prohibition would work. What would become of the millions of revolvers already in the hands of the American people if not in New York, then at least everywhere else? (I own two and my brother owns at least a dozen, though neither of us has fired one since the close of the Liberty Loan drives.) Would the cops at once confiscate this immense stock, or would it tend to concentrate in the hands of the criminal classes? If they attempted confiscation, how would they get my two revolvers lawfully acquired and possessed without breaking into my house? Would I wait for them docilely or would I sell out, in anticipation, to the nearest pistol bootlegger?
The first effect of the enactment of such a law, obviously, would be to make the market price of all small arms rise sharply. A pistol which is now worth, second-hand, perhaps $2, would quickly reach a value of $10 or even $20. This is not theorizing; we have had plenty of experience with gin. Well, imagining such prices to prevail, would the generality of men surrender to the Polizei, or would they sell them to the bootleggers? And if they sold them to the bootleggers, what would become of them in the end: would they fall into the hands of honest men or into the hands of rogues?
But the gunmen, I take it, would not suffer from the high cost of artillery for long. The moment the price got really attractive, the cops themselves would begin to sell their pistols, and with them the whole corps of Prohibition blacklegs, private detectives, deputy sheriffs, and other such scoundrels. And smuggling, as in the case of alcoholic beverages, would become an organized industry, large in scale and lordly in profits. Imagine the supplies that would pour over the long Canadian and Mexican borders! And into every port on every incoming ship!
Certainly, the history of the attempt to enforce Prohibition should give even uplifters pause. A case of whisky is a bulky object. It must be transported on a truck. It can not be disguised. Yet in every American city today a case of whisky may be bought almost as readily as a pair of shoes despite all the armed guards along the Canadian border, and all the guard ships off the ports, and all the raiding, snooping and murdering everywhere else. Thus the camel gets in and yet the proponents of the new anti-pistol law tell us that they will catch the gnat! Go tell it to the Marines!
Such a law, indeed, would simply make gun-toting swagger and fashionable, as Prohibition has made guzzling swagger and fashionable. When I was a youngster there were no Prohibition agents; hence I never so much as drank a glass of beer until I was nearly 19. Today, Law Enforcement is the eighth sacrament and the Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals is itself the authority for the sad news that the young of the land are full of gin. I remember, in my youth, a time when the cops tried to prohibit the game of catty. At once every boy in Baltimore consecrated his whole time and energy to it. Finally, the cops gave up their crusade. Almost instantly catty disappeared.
The real victim of moral legislation is almost always the honest, law-abiding, well-meaning citizen what the late William Graham Summer called the Forgotten Man. Prohibition makes it impossible for him to take a harmless drink, cheaply and in a decent manner. In the same way the Harrison Act puts heavy burdens upon the physician who has need of prescribing narcotic drugs for a patient, honestly and for good ends. But the drunkard still gets all the alcohol that he can hold, and the drug addict is still full of morphine and cocaine. By precisely the same route the Nation's new law would deprive the reputable citizen of the arms he needs for protection, and hand them over to the rogues that he needs protection against.
Ten or fifteen years ago there was an epidemic of suicide by bichloride of mercury tablets. At once the uplifters proposed laws forbidding their sale, and such laws are now in force in many States, including New York. The consequences are classical. A New Yorker, desiring to lay in an antiseptic for household use, is deprived of the cheapest, most convenient and most effective. And the suicide rate in New York, as elsewhere, is still steadily rising.
(Copyright, 1925, by The Evening Sun. Republication without credit not permitted.)
"I was a Precinct Committeeman for 16 years and I eagerly encourage
to do likewise."
Phyllis Schlafly, President, Eagle Forum
"I hope this (essay) gets wide distribution."
Hon. U.S. Rep. Phillip M. Crane
Yes, I admit it. The title of this essay is a little misleading.
Clinton (alas) is the most powerful man in the world, so I guess,
technically, the U.S. Presidency is the "Most Powerful Office in the
World." But what if I told you there is another public office that
(ultimately) chooses who will be President plus virtually every other
elected official in the United States? If that were true, wouldn't that
office (ultimately) be the "Most Powerful Office in the World?"
Conservatives take pride in their knowledge of the Constitution and
outward forms of American Government. Many can quote the Found Fathers
"The least governed are the best governed" (Jefferson), "Government is like
fire, a useful servant but a deadly master" (George Washington), etc. We
work hard electing a few tokens (like Reagan). But the bottom line is, we
know next to nothing about the real system of American government, which
isn't the fairy tale we're taught in school.
That's why, years after the "Reagan Revolution", taxes (and tax
abortions) are up, the Federal debt (and crime) continues to skyrocket,
government regulations and mandates multiply like rabbits. Public schools,
the Second Amendment, "gay rights"---I dare you to find one public policy
issue that isn't worse from a conservative perspective!
If you are tired of seeing things continue to go down the drain, you
understand how liberals dominate our government. You must understand the
seven laws of American government:
1. If you want to change things, change the laws. Remember all the
nonsense we learned in school about "Coequal Branches of Government"?
Actually the Found Fathers made Congress far and away the most powerful
branch because it was "closest to the people."
The President can't spend a dime unless Congress authorizes it.
can reject treaties and Presidential appointments, mandate programs the
President doesn't want (by overriding vetoes) and even determine if the
Supreme Court can rule on a case (Article III, section 2, "...the Supreme
Court shall have original Jurisdiction...with such exceptions and under
such Regulations as the Congress shall make.")!
Because our state constitutions are modeled after the Federal
it's the same story at the local level. Governors and State Supreme Court
Justices have some influence, but ultimate power lies in the same
legislature that passes the laws and determines what happen in our society.
Unfortunately, most legislatures are dominated by liberals.
2. To change laws, change the lawmakers. No citizens or group can
possibly keep up with the thousands of laws passed each year by U.S.
legislatures. Sure a big campaign (like the recent one against the
anti-private school provisions of H.R. 6) can change a vote or two. But
after all the shouting is over, sometime down the road liberal legislators
quietly pass whatever they wanted in the first place. There's really no
substitute for legislators we can count on whether our eyes are on them or
3. Our people have to be on the ballot to get elected. When was the
time you were really enthusiastic about a candidate? How often do you vote
for the "lesser of two evils"? Ever wonder why, despite the rhetoric,
both major parties promote anti-conservative policies after they are
4. To get on the ballot, our people have to win a major party
Except in very rare cases, everyone we elect in the fall won a major party
primary. In 90% of elections, winning a major party primary is tantamount
to winning the fall election. Usually no more than 20% of the registered
voters bother to vote in these all important primaries. In primaries that
have multiple candidates (very common in "open seat" dominant party
primaries), often less than 7% of the registered voters determine who goes
to the legislature. Since only half of the eligible population registers to
vote, I estimate about 4% of the voters are telling all the rest of us what
As this point, I should say something about third parties. Some
conservatives are falling for the third party appeals of "conservative"
leaders (who are more interested in fundraising than results). The fact is
our "winner take all" system (like England and Canada) does not provide for
proportional representation. 10% of the voters in a general election gets
nothing. 10% of the voters in the primary of the party that dominates an
electoral district usually wins a legislative seat.
5. Party endorsed candidates the primary. Sometimes candidates
by their party lose primaries, but it's rare. Endorsements mean you get
party money plus party workers who will pass out sample ballots with your
name prominently endorsed. Primary voters are no different than anyone
else. They don't have a lot of time to study the qualifications of primary
candidates and their stands on the issues. Usually they see the party
endorsements, assume "the Party knows best" and punch the appropriate
There are state, ward and township party organizations, but the
of U.S. government is the county. In nearly every case, the party
endorsements the primary voter sees are made by a county executive
committee. This executive committee is usually elected by the county's
precinct committeemen. These committeemen are elected in the party primary
from every precinct (normally about 500 voters) in the county.
In some states the office of precinct committeeman goes under
(in Michigan, they are called precinct delegates; in Ohio, it is precinct
executive). Sometimes (as in Illinois' Cook County), the county executive
committee is elected by primary voters from an entire ward, township or
county. But such widespread voting for a major party's county executive
committee, is the exception, not the rule. Normally it is the locally
elected precinct committeemen who ultimately control endorsements.
Each state has slightly different rules for getting on the primary
as a committeeman candidate. For example, in Illinois (outside Cook
County) you must file the signatures of any 10 registered voters in your
precinct 90 days before the primary. In Ohio, you must file 5 signatures
75 days before the primary from voters who either voted in you party's
primary or didn't vote in any primary in the last two years. The rules
(and the name of the office) may differ slightly from state to state, but
it's usually easy to get on the ballot to run as a committeeman.
6. It's not necessary to have a majority of the county committeemen
influence the endorsement process. Here's how it works in my home county,
Lake County, Illinois. Lake is overwhelmingly Republican. To advance their
agenda, liberals get elected as Republican committeemen.
There are roughly 400 precincts in Lake County. About 100 are
i.e., nobody ran for Republican committeeman in the last primary. Of the
300 or so committeeman elected, about 10% are conservatives, 15% are
liberals and the rest are "regulars" who are mainly interested in patronage
and power and usually could care less about issues like abortion, "gay
rights", gun control, etc.
Say X and Y are running for Lake County's executive committee. Each
half of the "regulars". Where are they going to get the necessary voters
to get a majority? From 45 liberals or 30 conservatives? And once
elected, who do you think the winning candidate is going to endorse in the
next primary---a liberal Republican or a conservative? That's why most of
Lake County's officials vote liberal, despite an overwhelming Republican
vote. That's how 45 people in a county of 520,000 control the endorsement
process. In my county, it's not 4% telling all the rest us what to do,
it's less than one hundredth of 1%!!
Occasionally, some rich amateur will dump millions into a campaign
become a senator or governor overnight. But for the vast majority of
politicians, it's a long, slow grind to the top. Each step of the ladder,
they need a party endorsement---endorsements which in both parties are
dominated by liberals. Is it any wonder why we get the government we do?
In summary, to change things, we must change the laws. To change the
we must change the people making them. To get elected , our people must
get on the ballot. To get on the ballot, they must win a major party
primary. To win the primary, they should get endorsed by their party. To
get a party endorsements, we must find, train and elect precinct
committeemen who will in turn elect the people who make party endorsements.
Precinct committeeman is the most powerful office in the world because
committeemen ultimately determine who goes to Washington and the state
7. The Powerful Office in the World is Easy to get!! Lake is typical
among U.S. counties. 25% of the committeeman spots of the dominant party
are normally "vacant". In these precincts, if you get on the primary
ballot with no primary opponent, the only way you can lose is through an
almost impossible write-in campaign.
In the other 75% of precincts, you will probably have to oust an
committeeman (sometimes they withdraw rather than fight). But most
incumbent committeemen are patronage hacks who do little besides drop off
party literature and endorsements. (When was the last time any
committeeman came to your door?). $50 for literature, a few weekends
visiting the hundred or so homes that might vote in your party's primary
and any dedicated conservative can win.
In my experience in Illinois, it's very rare for a conservative who
the formula above to lose to a "Regular" Republican committeeman---even a
"regular" who has had the office for decades. I've even seen one issue
zealots who insisted on converting everyone to their cause (pro-life, gun
rights, etc.) eke out wins. Those who follow our advice and say "I'd like
to represent your views to the Republican Party. What do you think are the
most important issues?" usually win 2 to 1.
Of course, being a conservative is harder in the Democratic party.
there are many "Reagan Democrat" areas where conservatives can win and the
Democrat party is the only game in town. As the 1992 Presidential election
proved, it's a mistake to put all our conservative eggs in one party's
rickety basket. Believe me, liberals never make that mistake. They always
join the dominant party of their area, no matter which it is.
Voting for the Executive Committee and critical primary endorsement
far the most important power of precinct committeeman. But there are
1. Access to Neighbors. The media makes conservatives look like
No wonder conservative politicians have problems. As the dominant party's
committeeman, you can reach people who would never come to your church,
social club or home. Most voters are eager to know about their government
and the people they elect. Even the most apathetic have some interest in
an institution that is taking about half their income in taxes, mandates
2. Respect from Politicians---Committeemen represent 500 voters and
key party endorsements. Any call or letter from a committeeman is going to
get a lot of attention form elected officials of their own party.
3. Launching point for other offices---running for committeeman is
best place to learn how to build winning coalitions. One of the big
problems among conservatives is the notion that running for office is like
running a business. Levelheaded businessmen, who wouldn't dream of being
their own lawyer in court, somehow think they can win against experienced,
entrenched liberals without any prior political experience.
4. Control of party leaders and platforms----Committeemen influence
control most party matters. If the Republicans dump pro-life and other
conservative positions from their party platform, it won't be because of
election results. It will be due to handful of liberals who have patiently
wormed their way to high party positions, starting as a precinct
Now you know how our Government actually works, just like the
liberal does. You can can continue to picket, write letters to the editor
and your Congressman or work in another losing, non endorsed primary
campaign---all the things that have gotten conservatives nowhere the last
60 years. Or you can stop wasting time, run for precinct committeeman and
start using the liberals' secret weapon against them!
Permission is granted to reprint or even sell this essay as long as
is altered without the author's permission. Grant D. Noble, P.O. Box 146,
Lake Forest, Il. 60045 847-234-3520 Fax: 615-0281 firstname.lastname@example.org
Australian Institute of Criminology finds licenced owners largely
responsible for gun murders.
Lawsuit against Heckler & Koch thrown about Second District Court of
in California. Court rejects theory of "ultrahazardous products liability"
THE TROUBLE WITH CANADIANS. By Scott Carpenter. July 15, 2000.
Interesting article on a high-quality libertarian website.
The Second Amendment Police Department.
The Anti-Gun Bogeyman.
Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws
"County takes another shot at FBI sniper."
County appeals decision finding that federal agents can violate
state homicide laws while on the job.
Criminal Justice and the Second Amendment:
Kopel short articles: http://davekopel.org .
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!