L. Neil Smith
736 Eastdale Drive
Fort Collins, Colorado 80524
March 9, 1993
John Fund, Editorial Page Editor
The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281
Dear Mr. Fund:
I first heard about you from our mutual friend Marshall Fritz, and later read what Rush Limbaugh had to say about you in his book. (I'm one of his half-disgruntled, half-delighted Libertarian listeners.) I see also that we'll both be speakers at the '93 LP convention in Salt Lake next September.
It's that "half-disgruntled, half-delighted" part I wanted to write to you about. Rest assured this isn't a complaint -- I know you may not be the right one to consult -- but the issue is urgent, so maybe you can pass this on or direct me better if I'm writing to the wrong "department":
To the point: does Limbaugh know yet what he'll say when he addresses the National Rifle Association at their convention later on this year? He'd better, and on precisely the same basis that he says Republicans can't afford to let 80s left-revisionism pass uncorrected.
There are 65 million gun owners in America. Maybe 20 million of them are political about it, at least 5 million are single-issue voters. Now somewhere between that 5 and 20 million effectively sat the last election out -- that is, they didn't vote their issue -- because Clinton was clearly anti-gun, Perot was all over the map, and Bush was seen as having betrayed the very principle behind the Second Amendment. If I'm right about the numbers, this alone cost him the Presidency.
Adding insult to injury, William F. Buckley is said to have encouraged passage of the Brady Bill, George F. Will called for repeal of the Second Amendment months before former NBC News president Michael Gartner, and on Face the Nation, Jack Kemp just advocated a universal ban on semiauto weapons. In their magazines, at gun shows, on computer bulletin boards across the country, gun owners are asking themselves if there's anyone left in the Republican Party with any brains, integrity, or courage.
What makes it even more complicated is that the NRA is doing as bad a job leading the fight for the right to own and carry weapons as the Republicans are in the fight against socialism. Increasingly the NRA is seen (by its own members) as weak-kneed, eager to compromise -- they actually wrote many of the laws we suffer under today, including the Maryland handgun ban -- and committed to defensive strategies rooted in a conviction of eventual defeat.
Their embarrassingly submissive "Operation Crime Strike" and advocacy of computer background checks as an alternative to waiting-periods (when neither of these police-state preconditions on the exercise of a Constitutional right is acceptable) lend credence to a story that in the 30s they proposed a ban on a new, "excessively powerful gun with no conceivable civilian use", the .357 Magnum, in order to forestall laws that were passed instead. There's even an element within the NRA today that apparently wants all gun owners legally forced to join their organization.
As a result, many groups (Gun Owners of America, the Second Amendment Foundation, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, the Firearms Hard Corps, dozens of state Firearms Coalitions, and my own Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus) have sprung up to correct the NRA's deficiencies and develop strategies to take the fight to the enemy -- none of which would be necessary if the NRA had done their job in the first place.
Okay, all of this might appeal to Limbaugh as background on a group he's speaking to, but there are places it leads. The NRA need to be told publicly what they already know: that 75 years of bitter experience added to recent legal scholarship (Kates, Kleck, Levinson, et al.) demonstrate beyond doubt that there isn't a gun law in this country that complies with the Second Amendment; that every one of them must be repealed, nullified, or otherwise set aside; that compromise -- creating our own gun laws or phony programs to prove what good little citizens we are -- is not the way to do it.
Instead, the NRA must take the offensive. Pardon and restitution must be granted to anyone ever prosecuted under these unconstitutional laws. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms must be abolished (especially in light of current events in Waco) and prosecutors appointed to investigate the many crimes of its agents. Elected and appointed officials who attempt to contravene the Second Amendment must be prosecuted, fined, and jailed under civil rights and other laws already on the books.
The same message -- this is the main reason I'm writing -- must then be taken to Republicans. God knows they need it. I saw them on C-Span the other night, a pathetic rabble of drunks (like Dick Armey) scrabbling to regain equilibrium. If, instead of temporizing, they took the initiative on this issue -- if they offered to repeal all existing gun laws and whatever else passes in the next four years (rendering it a "dead letter" before the fact) -- it would guarantee Bill Clinton a place in history beside Jimmy Carter.
If the NRA and Republicans don't take the initiative, somebody will. I'm personally determined that it be the Libertarian Party. But if we get those 5 million votes, Clinton will get his second term. And party considerations aside, I don't want that to happen. So please pass the word to Limbaugh, or help me do it. The painful truth is that, among gun owners, he appears to be a trifle cowardly on this issue, and dreadfully ignorant. (I say it only because he needs to know it.) But he's the only thing the Republicans -- and the rest of the country -- have going right now.
L. Neil Smith
L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.
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