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Responses to David Kopel

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From: David B. Kopel < >
To: Phoenix Publications < > [no longer valid address]
Subject: Re:Letter to Diane Rehm

At 08:21 PM 7/4/96 -0400, you wrote:
>I ran across my name in your posted letter to Diane Rehm.
>I'm not going to attempt to change your mind about gun policy,
>but I do want to correct two statements you made:
>1. I _do_ care if people have guns personally for self-defense.
>The fact that I also support gun ownership
>for other purposes does not mean that I am indifferent
>to gun ownership for personal protection against
>individual criminals.
>2. I do not believe government to be per se illegitimate.
>As you are aware, I have been a government
>employee. Believing that we have too much government in certain
>subjects is hardly the same as objecting to
>government _per se_.
> >Especially in the context of emotional issues like gun control,
>people sometimes make incorrect assumptions
>about the motives of people with whom they disagree. This is an
>understandable error, so all I ask is that,
>now that you know, the error not recur in the future.
>Thank you,
>Dave Kopel

From: Phoenix Publications < >
To: David B. Kopel < >
Subject: Re:Letter to Diane Rehm
CC: Diane Rehm < >

Dear Mr. Kopel:

I have made no error in characterizing your position. I will continue to quote your words as written in 1988: "The tools of political dissent should be privately owned and unregistered." I will continue to point out that the revised version in Larry Pratt's 1995 collection Safeguarding Liberty, "The tools of freedom...," is a matter of hedging on what is an extremely radical assertion. It is symptomatic of the degeneracy of the political culture that no one has held you accountable for it. Those day are coming to a close. I will hold you accountable.

If on Diane Rehm's program you describe yourself as "progun/procontrol," that is another hedge on your fundamental position. "Progun/procontrol" would characterize the advocacy of the Firearms Policy Journal although I would shun the specific words because they give respectability to the gun lobby's "progun"/"antigun" demagogic appeal. Before thinking you might need to change my mind, you might study the FPJ and discovery what it says. Your position, however, is not "progun/procontrol" but the refusal of the consent to governed.

The issue of gun ownership is the consent to be governed. The consent to be governed is the foundation of all political authority under this political system. Do gun owners consent to be governed under the laws of this government? Stephen Halbrook explains the basic position in That Every Man Be Armed which was published by the Independence Institute [see correction below] with which you are associated. According to Halbrook the citizenry has to be armed first before it can consent to be governed. Halbrook calls his doctrine "libertarian republicanism," a designation peculiar to him but it explains much. The Libertarian Party declares "individual sovereignty" and the right to "secession." Sovereignty is the defining attribute of a state. Individual sovereigns are armed as sovereigns. Contrary to Halbrook's ideological formulation, sovereigns do not consent to be governed and, therefore, do not acknowledge the legitimacy of government or any authority higher than themselves. They are deluded out of their political adulthood. These are points which, to my observation, you have not specifically made. That may be because you do not understand the fundamental concepts any more than does Diane Rehm or for that matter any elected official in this country. Your fundamental position still has to be analyzed on those terms.

There is a larger category which I have called the "libertarian fantasy" which you can find explained more fully, but not yet completely, elsewhere. Your fundamental position whether you understand it or not puts you in that category. To disassociate yourself from that category would required much more than a simple repudiation of your fundamental position as stated in 1988. I would take the repudiation as another insincere hedge made for reasons of respectability. You would have to explain quite explicitly where you stand on the consent to be governed and follow logically to where you stand on why the gun lobby has to keep gun ownership outside of accountability to public authority, outside of the rule of law. You would have to engage in a process of arriving at your political adulthood.

You would also have to explain where you stand with regard to the enormous body of pseudoscholarship that has been published in recent years in very respectable places and then repeated and cited without the slightest critical examination. I have to be very mistrustful of the real agenda— or is it the self-delusion— of people who have to be so blatantly dishonest to make their case. I also have to wonder who is paying for the dishonesty and pseudoscholarship. Historian Garry Wills began the long overdue examination of the pseudoscholarship in the New York Review of Books last Sept 12 [1995]. Wills makes many points I have been trying to bring attention to for seven years. (I did not read Wills' article until the end of May. That he uses independently from me some of the same language is not remarkable. It does not take a great intellect to see through the obvious fraud and nonsense.) Wills misses much and leaves out much but if you want to argue in public you can ignore me and argue with Wills. If you want to respond to me, respond to the articles in the FPJ. Start with "Addressing Gun Violence" and "The Armed Citizen and the Rule of Law." You are mentioned in both.

I single out Diane Rehm as representative of the dereliction to introduce this subject into public discourse on its proper terms only because I have been sending the basic information to her longer than to anyone else. Having been informed, it is most reprehensible that she gives respectability to libertarian fantasts like yourself, Sanford Levinson, Nelson Lund, Daniel Polsby, and Newt Gingrich by putting you and them on her program (also found at times on NPR are Joyce Lee Malcolm and Glenn Harlan Reynolds and probably also others I have missed) without any announcement of what you and they really stand for or inquiry into what you really want. There is however nothing unusual in the spectacle. We do not have a functioning political culture.

If you are seriously interested in public debate and serious about your own advocacy, it is not too late to work on getting the question put to presidential candidates this year: "Is there a principle of political liberty in the Second Amendment that prevents gun ownership from being brought under the rule of law?" A more specific, provocative, and controversial question would be: "Would you as president nominate justices to the Supreme Court who are committed to incorporating the Second Amendment into Fourteenth Amendment protections?" Civil libertarians like Nat Henthoff (not an informed voice on the 2nd Am.) and surely many others reject judiciary litmus tests under any circumstance. The latter question should provoke and require a civics lesson on whether or how much the judiciary should be politicized. The civics lesson would be valuable in itself.

With regard to your first point above, the gun lobby's self-defense appeal is part of a very cynical strategy to have anyway the doctrine of political liberty the courts have denied it. I will have more to say on that eventually and will not elaborate now, but again I am not sure you understand what you are a part of.

The website has not been updated since January because I am preoccupied developing new material which will be out later this year. No one pays me for this work and I also have to make a living. Truth and reason have no sponsors. Nothing I have written on this subject is wrong but it is incomplete. There is a quantum elevation of the analysis in the works none of which, I might add, will be original. The source material is readily available to anyone who makes an objective, thorough inquiry.

I will send the following under separate transmissions:

1. Letter to NPR on program 2/19/96.

2. Testimony before the Md. leg committees, 3/12-13. You are mentioned.

3. Response to Ludwig.

I have not had time to mark these up and put them on the website.

The first letter below was published in the Washington Post Mar 9 and was included with the statement before the Md Assembly. The others were not published.

The Washington Post has a long way to go to become a responsible organ of public enlightenment.

The last letter below went out to NPR this week. The comments on Levinson apply equally to you. Other comments on Levinson can be found in "Taking up the Second Amendment." You can bring the comments to his attention. He has more to explain than you do.


From: David B. Kopel < >
To: Phoenix Publications < >
Subject: Re:Letter to Diane Rehm

At 01:46 AM 7/7/96 -0400, you wrote:

>The point of my communication was not to make you like me.
>The point was to correct factual errors in statements you
>made about me.

>This being a free country, there is nothing I can do to
>prevent you from quoting my words, and attaching to
>them meanings I did not intend, and which you consider to
>be the necessary implications of my position,
>even though I have no such understanding.
>One further fact:
>"That Every Man be Armed" was published by the Independent
>Institute, in California. I work for the Independence
>Institute. They are two entirely separate organizations.
>I hope that one day you realize the same thing that I have
>been telling gun rights activists for years:
>People who disagree with one's position on the gun issue may be
>profoundly mistaken, but they are not evil.
>Dave Kopel

From: Phoenix Publications < >
To: David B. Kopel < >
Subject: Re:Letter to Diane Rehm
CC: Diane Rehm < >

The problem is not so much of evil but of danger. The danger is in your understanding or rather misunderstanding. This is very serious business.

Thank you for correcting me on the difference between the Independence Institute and the Independent Institute. I will correct the false association in the future.

Otherwise, your words speak for themselves. You still have much to explain as a public matter. It is not a matter of personal likes and dislikes.


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