Gun Owners Protest "Million Mom" Politics
by Ari Armstrong, February 23, 2000
On the eve of February 22 in Fort Collins, civil gun rights advocates clashed with state leaders of the "Million Mom March," a group that advocates new gun restriction laws and plans to march in Washington, D.C. this spring.
The Tyranny Response Team, assisted by Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, led over 200 civil rights advocates in the protest. The Million Mom group, joined by members of Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease, turned out about 40 members.
Debra Collins, a state organizer of Second Amendment Sisters and the Armed Informed Mothers March, has expressed opposition to the political agenda of the Million Mom organization. Collins plans to lead a group of Colorado women to Washington, D.C. to advocate civil gun rights counter the Million Moms.
Kathleen Hopkins, an organizer of the Million Mom group, made allegations that she feels "threatened" by the civil gun rights protesters. But that's ridiculous, counter members of the Tyranny Response Team, which works peaceably for political change. Hopkins called police concerning the meeting.
Hopkins has also refused to debate publicly with Bob Glass, an organizer of the Response Team and the owner of Paladin Arms in Longmont. Glass has publicly and frequently offered to debate Hopkins on the right to keep and bear arms, at a location and time of Hopkins' choice.
Before the meeting, Carla Crowder of The Rocky Mountain News contacted several members of the Tyranny Response Team. These members joined Norm Resnick's show on the American Freedom Network at 1360 AM and complained that Crowder was impolite to them.
Crowder's story in the News today is obviously biased in favor of the Million Mom organization. This author sent a letter to the editor of the News which reads:
Maybe the *News* ought to send Carla Crowder back to journalism school for a refresher on the difference between an editorial and a news story. Her February 23 article was flagrantly biased against civil gun rights advocates.
The story's headline claims the Million Mom March group "tires of being target." Well, law-abiding gun owners are getting pretty tired of being targeted as well.
The sub-head claims the gun-control group was "taunted by gun-rights activists." Yet in the same edition of the *News*, the Justice for Mena Committee is defended for using bull-horns to defend their civil liberties. Why the double-standard?
Crowders' lead two paragraphs are condescending to civil gun rights activists and slanted to the perspective of the Million Mom March group. In addition, the caption by the photograph claims gun-rights advocates "blocked the entrance of the church to prevent people from attending a meeting of Million Mom March." That's a flat-out lie.
If Crowder can't learn to see past her biases to write fairly on gun issues, perhaps she should cover some other issue or find a new job.
That's not the first time Crowder has written with bias on gun issues. On January 26, she described the gun law "preemption" bill in terms used by opponents of that bill. Crowder wrote, "Throughout Colorado, municipalities use local ordinances to address gun issues specific to their needs." That's written as a point of fact, even though it is just an opinion. Another opinion is, "Throughout Colorado, municipalities use local ordinances to violate the Constitutional liberties of honest citizens and increase victimization at the hands of criminals."
In fairness to Crowder, she did a good job of covering the January meeting of the group FREE, or Firearm Rights Endorsed through Education. And there were a couple good things about the News story today. The photograph displays prominently a sign which reads, "Guns Stop Rape."
Crowder also included an excellent quote from Brown: "If someone proposed a new Jim Crow law in the South, do you think blacks would support that? No, they'd stand up and scream bloody murder. That's what we're doing."
Gun Owners Protest Owens in Fort Morgan
by Ari Armstrong, February 22, 2000
Last night (February 21) over 300 civil gun rights advocates congregated in Fort Morgan, Colorado to protest Governor Bill Owens at a Republican fund raiser.
Ralliers chanted, "You lied!" and "One-term Owens!" Owens won his 1998 race by a narrow margin with the support of the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment advocates. He has since supported a slew laws that would infringe the right to bear arms, including a bill to expand background checks conducted on honest citizens, a "guilty until proven innocent" provision with background checks conducted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and mandatory storage laws. Owens has also opposed pro-gun-owner laws, such as a provision which would overturn Unconstitutional local ordinances that discriminate against gun owners. Many feel Owens "stabbed gun owners in the back," earning him the nick-name, "Governor Gun Control."
Protesters drove to Fort Morgan from around the state, coming from Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs, as well as from the surrounding area. The fund raiser was held at the Quality Inn off of I-76 at Exit 75, about an hour north-east of Denver.
A grass-roots, loosely organized group called the Tyranny Response Team helped organize the event. Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and Bob Glass of Paladin Arms also helped publicize the protest, and around a dozen Libertarian Party members joined the group.
Most of the civil rights advocates arrived by about 6:00 in the evening. Protesters initially lined the street in front of the hotel. Owens ran late, showing up just before 7:00, prompting protesters to gather near the hotel. Owens slipped in the back door of the hotel in order to avoid the protesters, which prompted the rally cry, "Back-door Owens!" Only Glass and a few others had been in back of the hotel to meet Owens.
The ralliers regrouped and led deafening protests until 7:30 by the back door Owens had entered. At that point, a regional Republican leader came out and said, "You god damn people disrupted our prayer." Brown replied, "You should have come out and told us, and we would have joined you." But the hotel managers had had enough: they requested the protesters to leave.
Ray Hickman, who handled security for RMGO, asked the protesters, out of respect for private property rights, to move down the street to the Loaf and Jug convenience store, which graciously extended its hours to accommodate the picketers. The crowd left peacefully to regroup.
Numerous participants noted the difference between this totally peaceful, respectful rally and the often violent protests conducted by leftist groups such as in Seattle. Several ralliers took the time to talk respectfully with Fort Morgan police officers, who were uniformly polite. One member of the Libertarian Party commented that the hotel had actually been quite accommodating in allowing protesters to meet on its property for about an hour and a half.
Many members left shortly after 7:30. No doubt this was largely due to the fact that many had brought children and driven long distances. Nonetheless, over 60 participants gathered in the parking lot of the Loaf and Jug to socialize and wait for Owens to come out. The line at the store for coffee and snacks went out the door.
The civil rights ralliers were blessed with beautiful weather. Scores shared stories, talked philosophy, and met with new friends for two hours as the fund raiser continued. One elderly gentlemen brought bagels to share and handed out copies of the U.S. Constitution.
Finally, around 9:40, the Republican gathering began to break up, which gave ralliers reason to renew their chants. Owens smiled and waved as his vehicle drove by and protesters shouted, "You lied!"
As the rally wound down, the air was charged with a spirit of camaraderie and victory. People glowed with smiles and expressions like, "That was great!" This probably has a lot to do with the fact that gun owners are so frequently demonized and attacked politically in our society that they enjoyed standing with like-minded friends and loudly proclaiming that they have rights, and that the practice of keeping and bearing arms is a noble endeavor rooted in the heritage of American freedom.
* * *
Owens' response to the protest was to spin it as the actions of a "very, very, very small minority," as he told 9-News. "I think what I'm doing is backed by the vast majority of Coloradans, except for a few people outside tonight."
However, as Hickman pointed out, the ralliers were more numerous than those who attended the Republican fund raiser. Given the remote location of the event, its timing on a week day, and its lack of formal organization, the number of protesters was remarkably high.
More significantly, the ralliers expressed the sentiments shared by thousands of Coloradans across the state. Even though the NRA has not sanctioned the Tyranny Response Team's protests, many NRA leaders and members have spoken out against Owens. The NRA is widely regarded as the most willing to compromise of all the gun groups, so when its members oppose a politician they supported at the ballot box, that's a significant change. In addition, many gun owners from Grand Junction reportedly oppose Owens now, even though much of Owens' support came from the Western slope and the eastern plains in 1998.
Owens may learn the limitations of mass-polling the hard way. Sure, the majority of Coloradans support Owens' "gun control" package -- when pollsters skew the results by phrasing the questions in favor of an affirmative response. For instance, most people will answer "yes" to a question like, "Would you support a law requiring the safe storage of firearms?" However, that's not the actual result of such a law. Instead, the law would make it more difficult for gun owners to defend themselves against violent criminals. But that doesn't make its way into the polling questions.
In addition, many gun owners refuse to divulge personal information on such polls, which automatically skews the results. Of those who answer, most don't vote -- only about 40% of the potential vote shows up to cast a ballot in any given election. Most of the masses don't have firm political beliefs anyway. Only the smallest minority have actually conducted significant research on any of the gun proposals.
In elections, a small minority can decide the outcome. Owens won with the gun vote. Can he win without the gun vote in 2002? Sure, incumbents always have the advantage. But not only are Bill of Rights advocates not going to vote for Owens, they're going to actively campaign against him. And those who favor more controls on gun owners are still going to vote for the Democrat.
Owens also told 9-News, "It's not even a Republican issue -- these are people against any gun legislation."
Owens' statement simply isn't true. The ralliers generally support several categories of gun legislation: laws providing criminal penalties for the use of a gun to commit violence, laws providing penalties for the willful transfer of a gun to another who intends to use it for violence, and laws preventing the sale of a gun to a minor absent parental consent. So Owens' statement can be taken only as a calculated effort to marginalize the protesters.
If we limit consideration to new laws which further restrict the right to bear arms, it's strange of Owens to claim that Republicans do support such laws. Certainly many Republican legislators in the state side with the ralliers -- that's why Owens has been trying to strong-arm other Republicans into supporting his proposals. But then, with Owens relying on Democrats Ken Salazar and Aristedes Zavaras as his point-men on gun control, the governor may not be qualified to judge what is a "Republican issue."
Many gun owners have vowed that Owens will serve at most one term as governor. Owens seems to believe he can overcome that kind of opposition, but his Democratic friends and skewed polling data won't help him in November of 2002.
Second Amendment Civil Rights March
by Ari Armstrong, February 3, 2000
Between 300 and 500 civil arms activists marched to Governor Bill Owens' mansion tonight to advocate their civil rights to keep and bear arms. The march started at Governors' Park at 7th and Logan in Denver around 7:00 pm and lasted just over an hour, progressing to the governor's mansion and then back to the park for closing speeches. Hundreds of signs and several American flags danced above the crowds.
Bob Glass makes a speech defending civil gun rights.
Bob Glass, owner of Paladin Arms in Boulder and publisher of Partisan magazine, helped lead the march and its organization. He said Owens was singled out for protest because the governor campaigned on pro-Second Amendment promises but has since "stabbed gun owners in the back." Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners was also instrumental in publicizing and organizing the event. Both Brown and Glass spoke of the event on the Freedom Network on AM 1360. In addition, the Libertarian Party of Colorado encouraged its members to attend and passed out literature at the event.
The march was uniformly peaceful, though spirited. Protesters chanted, "No more gun-control!" "One-term Owens!" "More guns, less crime!" "Benedict Owens!" And, "You lied!"
Owens was dubbed "Governor Gun-Control" by RMGO and others after he introduced a slate of disarmament proposals, including one to discriminate against law-abiding adults ages 18-20 and another to put the burden of proof on Colorado citizens who are denied permission to purchase a gun based on faulty records. Owens selected Democrat Ken Salazar, Attorney General, and Aristed Zavaras, formerly of Democrat Governor Roy Romer's administration, to head his gun-control team.
Even though many members of the National Rifle Association have openly expressed disapproval for Owens' recent tactics, some leaders of the state's NRA affiliate, the Colorado State Shooting Association, snubbed the civil rights march, opting instead for traditional political strategies. One of the marchers referred to the NRA leadership as "wimps." One protester held a sign saying he didn't support the NRA because the organization compromised. Brown said the NRA's politics of appeasement hasn't worked.
The 1998 Libertarian candidate for governor, Sandra Johnson, won more votes than Owens' margin of victory. Now many predict Owens will lose in 2002 because he is alienating gun owners in the state. Owens found much of his support on the Western Slope and on the Eastern Plains, more so than in the urban Denver area. Reports from Grand Junction suggest wide-spread disgust with Owens because of his push for new gun restriction laws. Owens told the Denver Post last fall in reference to gun owners, "What are they going to do -- vote Democratic?" Many have said they may do just that -- or vote Libertarian.
Dave Kopel, author of numerous books and articles supportive of the right to bear arms, said in a 9-News interview that Owens is the greatest impediment to pro-gun legislation in Colorado. Others have said Owens is worse than Democrat Gail Schoettler would have been, because at least the Democrat wouldn't have been able to pressure Republican legislators.
The march was publicized through the internet and the radio and with a few hundred dollars worth of postage. On the other hand, the disarmament group Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease, purchased a multi-thousand dollar ad in a major newspaper and drew a smaller crowd for its rally last month. It's ironic that the disarmament lobby claims it has grass-roots support and demonizes the NRA, when in fact the disarmament lobby is driven by big-dollar donors and the civil gun rights movement is composed of dozens of different groups and thousands of individuals acting cooperatively to preserve civil rights.
Marchers line the street in front of Governor Owens' mansion. Other activists -- unshown -- also lined the other side of the street from which the photo was taken.
The fact that some NRA leaders snubbed the civil rights march, yet the march still pulled a large crowd, should demonstrate to the main-stream press once and for all that those who advocate the Bill of Rights do not necessarily even endorse the NRA, much less bend to its leadership. Whether main-stream reporters will acknowledge this now-obvious fact remains to be seen.
Of course, plenty of NRA members did attend the march. Many gun owners join a variety of groups, even when the leaders of those groups don't get along. Brown and CSSA leaders have suffered a strained relationship, but recently Brown publicly called for renewed cooperation in defeating gun restriction bills.
The principles for which our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor are alive and well as the United States move into the 21st century.
Long live the Bill of Rights!