May 10, 2004

The Hobbesian Arguments: Round 3 (?)

Why absolutism doesn't work is the latest post by Greg of the Hobbesian Conservative in our exchange. It's a response to this post of mine & it all traces back to a post I did on a speech given at the NRA meeting by Chris Knox.

There are a couple of factual errors that I believe Greg made in his last post & I'll try to address them as well as the errors in logic I think he is making.

Greg feels that the NRA helped write some gun laws in an effort to make them less restrictive than they would have been. If it were the reason then I'd be a little disappointed that the NRA would concede defeat so easily, but this is not the case.

In 1934 the president of the NRA gave his input to Congress on what was to become the National Firearms Act of 1934. At no time did the president of the NRA bring up the conflict with the constitution that it would have; instead he suggested lowering the fees & changing some other things around. In the testimony he gave he states quite clearly that he was personally involved since before 1920 in instituting firearms licensing laws in certain areas of the country.

That was not a case of trying to create a less restrictive law because there was no hope of stopping it.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed with the approval of the NRA. The reason the NRA approved of this dreadful piece of trash masquerading as something congress was empowered to enact was because of the provisions of the GCA it wanted enacted into law.

In 1967 you could order a surplus Mauser '98 through the mail & have it delivered directly to your doorstep. The gun industry (except for the importers & mail order distributors) thought that more people would buy their products if those damnable cheap Mausers weren't available so cheaply. So they came up with the idea of eliminating mail order sales & requiring all imported firearms to pass a "sporting purposes" test. The NRA went along with & actively supported the additions requested by the firearms industry & because of that supported the GCA.

That was not a case of writing a law to make it less restrictive because passage was inevitable. Its passage was desirable.

Matter o' fact the NRA went through some changes right after the GCA of '68 passed. Ya see the radical element of the NRA (those who thought gun control was bad) wanted to change the NRA's stance on gun control. That's what the Harlan Carter revolution in the 70's was all about. This link is from the Violence Policy Center so you might notice a certain distaste with which the subject is treated, but it gives a decent overview of the "Cincinnati Revolt" & sadly it’s the most complete I could find on line (searching for NRA Cincinnati revolt of 1977).

To surmise Harlan Carter & Neal Knox lead a fight for NRA members to have control over certain aspects of the NRA. Among other things they fought for & won was the ability of the members to have more control of the NRA (The membership elected the executive vice president instead of the board of directors, were given more say in the election of board members as well as membership approval of by-law changes). They saw the leadership in the NRA as more or less being too close to Fuddites for their comfort & felt the NRA should take a more active role in defending the 2nd amendment from being disrespected by the legislature.

Sadly the reforms were short lived, as Knox & Carter fell out (which resulted in Knox being fired from the NRA-ILA). Knox had a more aggressive lobbying style than his replacements & I imagine the NRA saw this is a bad thing. This seemed to me as a sign of the return of the old NRA because while Knox was “offending” representatives & senators there was no new gun control laws enacted. 4 years after he was fired we got the Firearms Owners Protection Act.

The FOPA is treated in depth by David T. Hardy in The Firearms Owner's Protection Act: A Historical and Legal Perspective.

The gist of the FOPA is that it was an almost good idea (based on a flawed premise) but what it gave up was far too expensive for what it gave. It sought to make the chains of gun control rest easier on the people instead of trying to break the chains altogether. Nevertheless most people see it as an attempt at correcting some problems with the gun control laws we had & the enforcement of them. The downside to it that outweighs any arguable benefits is that it froze the supply of fully automatic weapons available to the people.

A bastard named Hughes (who is as far as I can tell currently an ambassador to Panama – who says crime doesn’t pay?) sought to add all sorts of amendments that would have made the FOPA worse than it was. One of them was successful & that was the language that has been interpreted as a ban on the sale & registration of newly manufactured (post 1986) machine guns to civilians. Another provision of the FOPA was that single parts, as opposed to parts kits, were illegal to possess if their purpose was to convert an unregistered NFA firearm (i.e. legally owned machine gun) into a fully automatic firearm. Because of the GCA of ’68 having suspended registration of pre-1968 machine guns, & the FOPA suspending registration of any post 1968 machine guns a person in possession of a small piece of metal was a felon. There was/is no way to register it & it’s possession is illegal unless it’s registered with the sole exception of it being used as a repair/replacement part in a registered machine gun.

So the FOPA not only killed any incentive for a John Moses Browning to rise up in this country (some of his designs are still being used by the military – most notably his belt fed heavy machine gun chambered in the .50 Browning Machine Gun cartridge otherwise known as the M2) but let the ATF go after people who possessed a small piece of metal. Not gun runners or unlicensed dealers or gangsters – ordinary people who had one part that could be used in combination with other parts (& was useless without those other parts) to make a semi-automatic firearm full automatic.

Lemme clue you in on something that should scare the hell out of you: with most semi-automatic .22 rimfire firearms inserting a paperclip, matchstick or some other object in a specific place (with a specific shape &/or angle to it) can convert that firearm into a fully automatic firearm. The ATF hasn’t (as far as I know) succeeded in prosecuting anyone for possession of a paper clip yet, but give the bastards some time (& add a little bad publicity near a time when their budget is in jeopardy) & it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Hell, I wouldn’t be shocked if some bottom feeding ATF agent (that was redundant wasn’t it?) thought this paragraph constituted a “conspiracy to violate federal firearms laws” because I generally mentioned a common object that could be used to turn a semi into a full auto.

In any event the NRA’s support of the FOPA was not a good thing. Well unless you think that civilians shouldn’t be allowed fully automatic firearms, that they should be persecuted prosecuted for owning a single small piece of metal & that government employees will be more than capable to handle all of our firearms design needs. Then the bad stuff in the FOPA isn’t a big deal – but I suspect neither would be a law requiring one to have a pink bow tied around your firearms’ barrel at all time (& I would not be surprised by all the pink bowed barrels I’d see the day after such a law was enacted).

Cop killer bullets? The NRA helped write that one. On that piece of legislation one could make a plausible argument that the NRA sought to help write it in order to minimize its scope but there’s another problem that I’ll address in a bit with that line of reasoning.

The “assault weapons” ban was opposed by the NRA but not to any great extent & according to this post (which is based upon this report) the opposition was token at best.

The Brady bill was supported by the NRA. The NRA wasn’t crazy about the 5 day wait initially imposed, but they were crazy about the provision of the bill they wrote which was the National Instant Check System. This is despite a much better system being available that would eliminate many of the downsides associated with NICS. The NRA’s current position is that the NICS is in need of some improvement but this is a far cry from being opposed to NICS or supporting its replacement.

The problems with the NICS are numerous. It serves as a de facto gun owner registration system which although it is not currently being overtly used as such it wouldn’t take much effort to utilize it in such a manner. It also serves as a most efficient “emergency gun purchase ban system” & if you do any talking to gun shop owners you’ll hear stories of them not being able to make any firearms sales for up to several days because the system “crashed” (or was taken off-line). & these occurrences while rare are not uncommon. Then there are the principled arguments about needing permission to buy a firearm in the first place: some of us simply feel that if you are not confined or imprisoned then you should not need permission to purchase a firearm. After all, requiring permission degrades the idea of exercising a Right. You might object to violent criminals being able to purchase a firearm but the truth is the violent criminals aren’t usually hindered by gun control laws. A better solution to the fears of violent criminals being able to purchase firearms would be to give harsher sentences for violent offenders – not inconvenience & in some cases punish those with no harmful intent who wish to purchase a firearm. This would not only result in a “safer” society but in a society in which Rights are respected & not degraded at the whims of the legislature.

But getting back to the point, the NRA saw the NICS as a good thing & Brady was the vehicle for them to get it passed. They didn’t just come up with the idea because Brady was inevitable; they wanted this legislation.

The Lautenberg Amendment (which can be found at 18 U.S.C. §922(d) (8) & (9) respectively) disqualifies anyone subject to a restraining order or convicted of a misdemeanor involving domestic violence from legally possessing or purchasing a firearm. It is my understanding that the NRA did oppose this (despite their support of its strict enforcement under their Project Exile doctrine) but it passed anyway. I do not know the extent of their opposition but I won’t pin the blame on them for legislation that (I presume) they opposed but passed anyway.

That should cover all the major federal gun control laws & the NRA’s involvement.

Now to get back to something mentioned earlier:

Even if it is a case of the NRA writing or helping to write a gun control law because they felt the legislation was inevitable & they genuinely attempted to minimize the damage, what the hell kind of strategy is that?

Despite my principled views on a number of issues I can see the pragmatic arguments & I’m not a fan of sugar coating things or distorting the facts. But for this theory to hold true (that the NRA’s support of gun control laws was merely damage control) then I’d say we’re in a helluva lot worse shape than we thought.

What that theory implies is that our situation is hopeless. It’s not too different than the coach of a football team saying, “Men, we’re gonna get our ass kicked & badly – but if you help the other team score a few points we might get out of this thing without being permanently crippled”! What if Patton had this outlook on things? Or what if MacArthur conceded that the Philippines would always be held by the Japanese? What if the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 figured they were doomed anyway & they might as well go quietly into that good night?

In fact, this sort of attitude was exhibited by some Jews in Hitler’s Germany. This led to them helping out the Nazi’s in exchange for a slightly more comfortable (or less painful) existence. I have no doubt that in every tragedy initiated by a government on its own people you’ll hear tales of people with such an outlook who not only acquiesced to the evils perpetrated upon them, but helped those who committed such acts in an effort to appease them.

If that’s the justification of the NRA supporting & in some cases helping to write gun controls laws then it’s worse than I imagined.

Moving on to another error I feel Greg made, he says the following:

“So there can be no reasonable restrictions on the Bill of Rights? What of yelling "fire" in a crowded theater? What of kiddie pron (sic)?”

The “yelling fire in a crowded theater” exception (& I use the word loosely) is not comparable to gun control laws. Gun control laws are for the most part based on the idea of prior restraint – that is preventing an action whose results may be harmful. The “yelling fire” exception is a justification of punishment for an act after it has been committed which may have caused harm. For the comparisons to be equal one would have to expand the “yelling fire” exception to the First Amendment’s acknowledgement of Freedom of Speech into a federal mandate that all theater patrons must wear gags upon entering a theater in order to prevent the capability of yelling “fire”. Or one could restrict the comparison to laws that punish one for yelling “fire” & laws that punish someone for shooting deliberately into a crowded theater. But comparing the “yelling fire” exception to prior restrain based gun control laws or using the “yelling fire” exception to justify prior restraint based gun control laws is flawed at its foundation. For more on the “yelling fire” exception & its inapplicability to prior restraint based gun control laws please look at Concealed Carry & Prior Restraint: Why it’s not like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

As to “kiddie pron (sic)” (not to be confused with kitty porn) that’s something that involves the nonconsensual acts of another. In our society we have an age that we regard as being the required minimum for consenting to sex (although the age varies from state to state). Most of what we consider kiddie porn involves those below the age of 18. While there are sound arguments that the age may be too high to too low a measure, I think most of us agree that a 10 year old isn’t capable of intelligently consenting to any sort of sexual acts. Photography depicting a 10 year old (or a person of some other agreeable age) in a sexual manner would not constitute free speech under most circumstances (the exception that comes to mind is evidence of a crime being committed against a child). This does not mean it’s an exception to a Right, but rather it simply isn’t a part of the Right. After all one could argue that as humans we all have the Right to Property. This doesn’t mean we have the Right to steal property from another as that would be conflicting with their Right. So kiddie porn isn’t a great example of why prior restraint based laws are valid under any sort of Rights theory since they invariably involve harming the kids in question through actions which cause direct as opposed to potential harm. It’d be more accurate to argue that kiddie porn is a justification for banning all photography so therefore it could be used as an analogy to prior restraint based gun control. It be flawed as I think you can see, but it’d at least be more consistent.

”Why, then, should citizens be barred from owning nuclear devices? That is a reasonable restriction, is it also flawed?
The fact is that everyone has some idea of what a reasonable restriction is. Publicola surely wouldn't advocate that just anyone should be able to walk into a surplus store and buy a functional ICBM if they have the money to do it. (Would he?) That's a restriction, and it's reasonable.
The question then becomes where the line needs to be drawn. Publicola obviously disagrees with the NRA on where the line should lie, but surely there must be a boundary somewhere.
The NRA thinks that, since most states already have CCW permits, then a step in the right direction is to make sure the permits are issued on a non-discretionary basis. That's what "Shall Issue" is-- it's a move from rule by man (whereby a policeman determines your suitability as a gun owner) to rule by law (whereby objective criteria determines the same thing). Sure, the CCW laws are still there, but they're better and less arbitrary. ”

Actually it’s not so much that I disagree with the NRA on where the line should be drawn as I disagree that a line needs to be drawn in this area.

The nuke thing always comes up – usually from the gun prohibitionist side but I occasionally see it from non-prohibitionists.

Short answer – no I don’t think anybody should be able to own a nuke. But that’s mainly owing to my definition of “arms” in which nukes wouldn’t necessarily fall. I look at any weapon that may be fielded &/or operated by a single person against a single target as falling under the definition of “arms”. Nukes wouldn’t fit because (as far as I know) they are definitely crew served weapons. It’s possible that a single person could operate an ICBM but then we have the obstacle of targeting. Yes, you could say that a city is the target & it’d therefore meet the second test for “arms”, but by individual target I mean an individual person or vehicle. It’s true that a nuke would eliminate an individual target but in order to do so it’d have to eliminate much of the surrounding area. It’s simply does not discriminate enough to fall under my definition of “arms”. Now an artillery piece that could be operated by a single person would be capable of destroying an individual target. It’s true that depending upon the projectile there would be collateral damage but not enough to eliminate it from the definition of “arms” I have. Plus there is historical precedence for field artillery to have been included in the definition of “arms” since many cannon (on land & sea) in the Revolutionary War were privately owned.

The line should not be drawn on what type of arms (according to my definition) should be available to the people, but what type of people are free in our society.

I can agree that I don’t want a Jeffrey Dahmer type walking around with a 1919 Browning, but the problem isn’t what he possesses; it’s his intent. The line should be drawn at separating violent people with no respect for others from the rest of society – not at letting them loose but limiting their access to certain objects. Most serial killers have done quite nicely for themselves without using firearms. I can only think of two that used firearms at all. The rest used knives, clubs, tire irons, etc… & racked up more victims than I think any of us are comfortable with. & our solution is to let them out of prison but making it a crime for them to possess firearms? & in order to do this we have to punish people guilty of certain offenses against the state despite their lack of harmful intent.

So it’s not that I think we need to set different limits in order to solve a problem (which will never be solved as long as human nature remains what it is) but we need to address an entirely different set of issues than the ones we’re focusing on. In other words we need to stop making it difficult for people with no harmful intent to acquire the means of defense & start making it harder for those with harmful intent to be admitted into society.

& I would point out that in many states there is a rule of law which governs the issuance of CCW permits. But it makes no difference since in those few states the rule of law is a complete prohibition. My railing isn’t against one person being able to deny the possession of arms to another, but rather any system (be it rule of man or rule of law) which places limits on a Natural & inherent Right. Again, it’s addressing the wrong issue in a vain & ultimately harmful way.

The problems that CCW laws (shall issue or may issue) are supposed to solve (at least in part) are simply beyond the scope of the legislature to solve. By allowing a few hundred or even a few million people in a state to jump through hoops & beg permission to receive permission to carry a firearm you do not make enough of a dent in the overall problem. Not that people carrying firearms is to be discouraged – quite the contrary. But unless you do not hinder anyone in their choice to go about armed or not & go a few steps further to educate them that self defense is but one reason for them to carry then you simply have scattered amongst the people of a state a minority who are capable of repelling most attacks by criminals.

The other reasons for carrying are community defense. Not that residents of a neighborhood should ban together to kick out the federal & state oppressors (but then again…) but that their role in society is similar to that of the police. Where crime got a leg up was the point when individuals of a community abdicated their responsibility for crime control to a group of paid professionals. Instead of intervening to stop &/or prevent crimes they learned to dial 911. as I’ve said before crime won’t go away completely because human nature won’t change in the foreseeable future. But crime can be reduced if among other things the individual citizen takes a more active role in its prevention as well as in interfering with crimes as they are committed. But that topic probably deserves a post (or dozen) of its own.

”Let's be clear on this: Bush didn't "Support" the AWB. He said he'd sign it if it came across his desk, but he did nothing to get it to his desk. Can you say the same of Kerry?
This was one of those pesky "election" things again. There are a whole lot of ignorant people out there who think the AWB does something, and nobody's going to educate them about it. The opposition holds most of the media, and the outlets that we can get the message out on are outlets the opposition doesn't read. As long as the New York Times insists that the AWB is actually about crime, people will believe it. The principled thing to do would be for Bush to get up and tell people that the ban is a farce, but principle doesn't win elections.
And Bush "begrudgingly" supported a law that went from permitting nobody from having a gun on a plane to a law that permitted some people from having a gun on a plane. This is a step in the wrong direction?”

Actually Bush did/does support the existing AWB. Quoting from a New York Times Article (registration required) entitled Irking N.R.A., Bush Supports Ban on Assault Weapons dated May 7th, 2003:

“…the White House says Mr. Bush supports the extension of the current law…”

”Advocates on both sides of the issue say the White House appears to have made a bold political calculation: that the risk of alienating a core constituency is outweighed by appearing independent of the gun lobby, sticking to a campaign promise and supporting a measure that has broad popular appeal. The president has claimed the middle road — supporting an extension of the current ban but not endorsing the stronger measures that gun-control supporters say would outlaw many "copycat" assault weapons.”

”But White House officials said the assault-weapons ban was one case in which the president and the N.R.A. did not see eye to eye. ‘There are times when we agree and there are times when we disagree,’ said Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman. ‘The president makes decisions based on what he believes is the right policy for Americans.’ Mr. McClellan added that the ban was put in place as a way of deterring crime and that Mr. Bush ‘felt it was reasonable."

That was from one of many articles that discuss Bush’s support of the AWB.

& the armed pilots thing – Bush was opposed to it! He signed it into law but before the votes were tallied & it had passed congress Bush was on record as not liking the idea. He did sign it into law, but since it has been speculated that’d he’d sign a third person 3 year unlimited warranty if it hit his desk I don’t think it signified a change of heart. Here’s a page devoted to the firearms & planes issue. But personally I don’t see how making pilots “Federal Flight Deck Officers” while imposing extremely burdensome requirements for becoming one of the elite is somehow seen as a good thing while virtually no mention is made of the (constitutionally prohibited) banishment of firearms from the persons of citizens the second they enter an airport.

But the point was that Bush did not support the arming of pilots & his subordinates have done a miserable job of implementing the program congress intended.

Greg speaks of us being in a defensive position & if you judge the NRA’s actions this is accurate. But I feel the reason we’re in a defensive position is that the NRA (& others) have neglected to go on the offensive when they very well could have.

The FOPA of 86 was flawed in many ways & should have been scrapped, but its intent was at least a partial repeal of some of the more burdensome provisions of the GCA of ’68. Since then the NRA has supported a measure to repeal the AWB (in 1996 if I recall) & they wisely urged the Lawful Commerce in Arms act to be voted against when the Senate added gun control measures to it this past May. Other than that the NRA has not (to my knowledge) proposed or attempted to repeal any gun control laws. They’ve attempted to make the chains rest a little more comfortably existing gun control laws a little easier to bear but that’s quite different from advocating their repeal.

We are on the defensive not because we don’t have the resources to go on the offensive, but because we lack the focus. The NRA is the big dog in this & they feel that fighting defensively is the preferred strategy. For a multitude of reasons I disagree with that idea, but I’ll limit it to saying that anytime a Right is restricted by a government the only effective remedy is to mount an offensive against said restrictions. A defensive action is not much better than appeasement & in the long run it’s just as damaging.

Greg then moves on the absolutists in general & how they affect (or could affect) our government. He refers to our system as a republican democracy. This is inaccurate. While we do have a republican form of government elected in part by a democratic process the most important part of our system is that it’s a Constitutional Republic. In a mere republican form of government or (shudder) a democracy the will of the majority is enough to enact any measure. In ours a 51% vote of the people is not enough to enact a measure that conflicts with the constitution (in theory at least – in practice a simple majority is often all it takes). But Greg speaks of this to state that unpleasant choices are necessary in our system of government. What I don’t think he appreciates is that the only unpleasant choice that should be involved in enacting a law that harms or negates a Right acknowledged by the constitution is whether to try to delay the tar & feathering or get it over with.

”An absolutist is a person who would rather lose big than win little. And we're winning little; the AWB is expiring, CCW permits are moving from discretionary to shall-issue, armed people (Yeah, they're ‘Pigs,’ but it's more than what we had before) are getting on planes legally.”

& that’s the problem – in the short term these may seem like advances, but in the long run they’re disastrous. In each example Greg listed you have conditions which are arguably becoming more favorable for gun owners (in the practical sense) through the benevolence of the state. By having a state pass a law that says a person may carry a weapon if he/she meets certain conditions you are not making any permanent progress. Any activity that a legislature permits may also be restricted by the legislature. Currently we have states making it relatively easier to carry firearms concealed, but rest assured those states do not wonder if they have the authority to prohibit such activity at their whim. The AWB expiration is consistent with the idea that Congress can legislate this matter as it sees fit. If the ban expires that does not prevent them from enacting another ban the next damn day. & federal agents being allowed to fly with firearms is doing nothing to restore the respect for the 2nd amendment that congress should have had in the first place.

In order for any of these to be a step in the right direction they’d have to acknowledge that a legislature is confined by the constitution on the subject of the people bearing arms. But as they are they’re simply reinforcing the idea that a legislature can impose it’s will on the people despite the constitution. The bright side to many is that the legislature in question are allowing us a little more than they previously did. That shouldn’t overshadow the principles at work, but it often does.

Greg also takes exception with my scale; namely that the NRA starts at 1 (My scale has Absolutists such as myself at 1, the NRA at 4, our current level of gun control at 4.5 & gun prohibitionists at 10). The only retort I have for this is that the NRA’s PR has triumphed over the facts.

The NRA has always supported what it considers to be reasonable gun control. Always, or at least ever since gun control was a legislative issue that they gave input on. If we agree that the NRA is at 1 on the scale then we’ll have to move the absolutist ideology to -4. The NRA has never been absolutist. It got closer to that than its current position in the years immediately following the Cincinnati Reforms but has backslid since then.

But the idea that we’re at 4.5 & not 7 being due to the NRA’s willingness to compromise is laughable. Appeasement doesn’t work. The only reason we’re not at 7 is because the people who want us to be there know that can’t pull it off until the majority of people are more used to gun control. Hence the compromise strategy actually moves us closer to 7 as it shifts the starting point.
If the NRA had chosen an absolutist, no-compromise position we might not be at 1, but we’d not be as far along as 4.5 either. We can’t win everything, this is probably true. But by conceding everything we definitely can’t win.
The NRA isn’t holding the line – they’re constantly shifting it & even in cases where they move the line closer to one they do so in such a way as to set up moving the line further away from 1.

Greg doubts the effectiveness of an offensive campaign designed to roll back gun control laws. His main doubts seem to stem from his belief that the majority of people are at best indifferent to the gun control debates. & this is where the NRA has the potential to do the most good but fumbles it. If the NRA would focus its PR campaigns away from hunters & target shooters & instead concentrate on the principles of the Right to Arms generally & the 2nd Amendment specifically then through education we’d have a majority on our side.

If the NRA started a series of ad campaigns that emphasized the malevolence of government &the necessity of the people to be armed equally to the military as the reason for the 2nd amendment & took a view that any prior restraint based gun control conflicted with the constitution then perhaps we’d see more popular support for the repeal of gun control.

But as it stands now the NRA’s response to the “yelling fire” analogy is to talk about hunters. Their answer when asked about gun control is that we have enough as it is. It turns it into a policy debate despite it more accurately being addressed as a Rights question.

Many people think the NRA is absolutist in nature. This is false. Many people think the NRA does a lot of good. This is partially true. When it comes to promoting the shooting sports & teaching firearms safety the NRA as an organization has done us all a valuable service. But when it comes to our Rights, they’ve generally done more harm than good.

One last thing: I do plan on voting for someone other than Bush or Kerry. Right now Aaron Russo looks mighty promising. But to say that my voting for someone other than Bush may land Kerry in the White House is not really accurate or persuasive. To say that third party votes take away from a candidate is to assume that the vote in question was the rightful property of said candidate. While gun owners typically are inclined to vote Republican this does not mean that all gun owners will vote Republican no matter what.

That aside if more people voted because of principle instead of pragmatic or partisan concerns then I doubt that our situation would be any worse than it currently is. The major parties will adopt to the desires of the people (if they can’t change the desires of the people that is) & if a significant number of people showed disapproval at the polls of a party’s candidate then said party would be forced to change its views & its candidates in order to win. But voting for someone who is of your preferred party because he’s the lesser of two evils is not a long term solution. In fact it helps shift your party away from what you want it to be.

If Bush loses & the loss is attributed towards his support of gun control then it won’t change much for 2008. But if for two or three elections a republican candidate lost due to a support of gun control then the party would wake up & smell the nitrocellulose.

In the short term Kerry would be a bad thing in general. But in the long term letting the opposition party shift closer to a Kerry-like view would be worse.
So if my vote causes Bush to lose then I don’t see it as the end of the world as we know it. But even if it was I don’t see how Bush would be such an improvement that I should do a thing that I know is not right.

Being principled & even being an absolutist does work – it’s just that the success is not usually measured in the short term. For those seeking instant gratification the principled/absolutist positions will be disappointing. But for those who see that perhaps laying the groundwork for positive changes that may not occur until their children or grandchildren’s lifetime is not a wasted effort, then the principled/absolutist position is better than the pragmatic.

I’ll leave you with some links to look at (some were included in the text of this post).

Neal Knox Alert 1998

Neal Knox Alert 1998

The NRA's Management Made the 1994 "Assault Weapons" Ban Possible by Nicki

NRA President's Testimony During Congressional Debate of the National Firearms Act of 1934

The Firearms Owner's Protection Act: A Historical and Legal Perspective by David T. Hardy

NRA Praises and Gripes Page from

Update: edited to clean up a few bad links

Posted by Publicola at May 10, 2004 06:13 PM
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