Legislature Tries to Restrict Guns, Abortion

The following column originally appeared in Grand Junction’s Free Press.

February 18, 2008

Pick your poison: Dems and GOP both violate rights

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

A legislative committee heard two bills in two weeks. Both votes split along party lines. The first week, all the Democrats voted to violate our rights. The second week, all the Republicans did so.

Senator Sue Windels sponsored Bill 49 to impose criminal penalties on gun owners who do not store their guns the way that district attorneys deem proper after the fact. On Monday, February 4, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee heard the bill. Windels joined with fellow Democrats Chris Romer and Abel Tapia to pass the bill to the next committee, over the objections of Republicans Bill Cadman and David Schultheis.

On February 11, the committee heard Schultheis’s Bill 95 (which Cadman cosponsored) to impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to observe a 24-hour waiting period for their clients seeking an abortion. Both Republicans voted for the bill, though the Democrats killed it.

While the bills cover quite different situations, they have much in common. Both bills would impose useless additions to Colorado’s already-massive books of statutes. Both would create arbitrary and onerous restrictions on activities that people have a right to pursue but that some ultimately want to ban altogether.

Let’s first look at the gun bill. As the Daily Sentinel pointed out earlier in the month, existing laws already cover cases of placing children in danger. The effect of Bill 49 would be to discourage citizens from keeping firearms for self-defense. When citizens are too afraid of prosecution to defend themselves, the advantage goes to the real criminals.

As Cadman said in a Republican press release, “We have a good balance right now between the need to keep kids from misusing guns and the right of homeowners to be able to defend their families. This bill would upset that balance by giving home intruders the upper hand and tying the hands of homeowners… This bill likely would have a chilling effect on gun ownership.”

Originally, Bill 49 stated that it applied if a gun owner “reasonably should know that a minor would be able to gain access to the firearm” without permission. And who gets to decide what’s “reasonable?” Prosecutors, some of whom are unfriendly toward defensive gun ownership. The committee dropped that language in favor of a line that says the bill applies in cases of “criminal negligence.” In other words, you commit “criminal negligence” if you commit “criminal negligence” — again as determined by prosecutors.

Another problem with the bill is that it says it doesn’t apply if a minor obtains the gun through burglary or robbery. So does the criminal prosecution of the gun owner hinge upon the criminal conviction of the minor? Who decides whether the minor should face charges? Apparently, again the prosecutor gets to make the call.

Of course, while many Colorado Democrats don’t express this motivation, many activists who favor storage laws, waiting periods, and other restrictions ultimately want to ban the use and ownership of guns, at least for defensive purposes.

What about the abortion bill? Bill 95 would have required a doctor to provide information about ultrasounds to all women seeking an abortion, then imposed a 24-hour waiting period. But women already know what abortion implies — the destruction of a potential but not actual person — and are already free to order ultrasounds.

As Jody Berger of Planned Parenthood pointed out to us, an ultrasound cannot even detect a pregnancy before five weeks. And Planned Parenthood already administers an ultrasound for every abortion in its clinics, which offer abortions from around five to eighteen weeks of pregnancy. (The clinics offer “morning after” medications up to 72 hours following intercourse.)

Berger said, “What would have been onerous is the 24-hour waiting period. In a lot of rural areas, a doctor is available only one day a week. And clients who drive three or four hours to come to the Planned Parenthood center in Denver have to make that drive twice. If they come with their husband or boyfriend, that means two people have to take two days off of work.”

So Schultheis, who is on record opposing waiting periods for purchases of firearms, is the sponsor of the bill to impose waiting periods for abortions.

Mike Saccone recorded the hypocrisy of Republicans and Democrats alike in his January 23 and February 11 stories for the Sentinel. Shultheis said his bill was “trying to whatever degree we can to reduce the number of abortions” — the exact attitude of the anti-gun lobby toward gun ownership. Of course, Schultheis really wants to ban abortion, just as many anti-gun activists ultimately want to ban defensive gun ownership.

And Romer said of the abortion bill, “It puts a burden on certain people” — the way that the gun bill that Romer voted for puts a burden on gun owners.

These Democrats and Republicans deserve each other. But Colorado deserves better.

Linn is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son Ari edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

Freedom is Compassionate, Force is Not

The following article originally appeared in the February 4, 2008, edition of Grand Junction’s Free Press.

Freedom is compassionate, force is not

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

We’ve been writing a lot about health policy because it is an extremely important issue that has been at the center of the political table for the past couple of years. One side of the debate calls for more political control of medicine in the form of more tax spending, more mandates, and more political interference. The other side, which we join, points out that existing problems in medicine are the result of just such political force, and the solution is liberty in medicine, a free market that consistently protects individual rights to direct one’s resources and interact voluntarily.

In our January 21 column, we argued, among other things, that doctors should not be forced to provide service without compensation. This is hardly a radical claim. For instance, most people don’t expect grocery stores to offer “free” food to any comer who claims to need it. However, even though nobody forces them to do so, many grocery stores voluntarily contribute to food banks. We have heard of no proposal to force grocery stores to offer “free” food to whoever demands it, without compensation. Nor are we unique in thinking that the use of such force would result in widespread abuses. Certainly nobody seriously proposes the nationalization of grocery stores to “solve” the problem of hunger.

Yet some expect us to believe that, while we count on the free market to provide us with other necessities of life, from food to housing to clothing, in health care the proper approach is socialized medicine.

In his January 24 reply, Michael Pramenko alleges that we are heartless for endorsing a free market in medicine. He offers as examples a man suffering chest pains, an infant born prematurely, and a child with asthma. If these people cannot afford treatment, will they be tossed out in the street? Pramenko is relying upon his readers’ sympathy, and the very fact that so many people care about such patients ensures that they will find care in a free market.

A free market means one in which people are free to interact voluntarily. Thus, a free market includes all voluntary charity. For example, as a Shriner, your elder author helps to raise funds for the Shriners Hospitals, which provide care to children at no charge. In a free market, not only would many hospitals and clinics provide services to the poor at no cost or at discounted rates, but many individuals and foundations would provide funds to cover such care.

What is heartless is forcing a doctor to provide care to any person who walks in the door, regardless of the circumstances and without compensation. Such a system invites widespread abuse. Many people who can afford to pay for their care simply skip out on their bills. Some who could afford insurance choose not to buy it; after all, one is guaranteed “free” care by law, at somebody else’s expense. Others neglect their health, actively damage their health (as through alcoholism), or ignore lower-cost options because the law grants them “free” yet expensive emergency care.

If Pramenko actually believes that doctors should be forced to offer care, then why stop there? Why not also force grocery stores, clothing stores, and so on, to also provide “free” goods to anyone who claims to need them, without compensation? Why not force private individuals to help others who claim to be in need, without limit? For instance, if somebody knocks on Pramenko’s door and claims to need a place to live for a few months, shouldn’t Premenko be forced to give the person a home, without compensation, no questions asked? Anybody with any common sense can predict the resulting chaos and injustice of any such policy.

In fact, as Lin Zinser and Dr. Paul Hsieh review in an article available at TheObjectiveStandard.com, the law forcing hospitals to offer “free” care has resulted in many emergency rooms shutting down.

Just as all of us have the right to decide whom to help in our own homes and with our own charitable dollars, just as we have the right to offer our labor in return for money, so doctors have the right to decide whom to serve and on what terms, as accepted voluntarily by the patient. No one has the right to demand “free” service from a doctor, or from a grocer, or from anyone. Doctors who wish to provide care at no cost are free to do so, and doctors who wish to work only in exchange for compensation have that right.

But Pramenko is not content merely to leave in place existing unjust laws that harm our health. He wants to impose more such controls. The result will be higher taxes, more political controls placed on doctors, and more rationing for patients. Politically controlled medicine is heartless.

The alternative to Pramenko’s heartless, health-harming, politically-controlled medicine is a compassionate and just free market in medicine.

Linn is a local political activist and firearms instructor with the Grand Valley Training Club. His son Ari edits FreeColorado.com from the Denver area.

New year’s Resolutions for the Legislature

New year’s resolutions for the Legislature

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The following article was originally published by Grand Junction Free Press on January 7, 2008.

Unfortunately, if legislators articulated their New Year’s resolutions, some of them would go like this: “Pander to special-interest groups,” “Tax the disorganized masses in order to reward the politically powerful,” “Talk about freedom while increasing state power,” and “Figure out how to spin my opponent’s record so that I can win votes without having to debate the real issues.”

If most legislators were not allergic to principles of liberty, we would suggest resolutions such as the following: dramatically reduce the level of state spending so that individuals can decide how to spend the money they earn, repeal the property-rights violation known as the smoking ban, and eliminate corporate welfare.

But we know that such “radical,” “extreme” positions would never gain a hearing in the modern Capitol, where the only “principle” is that no principles are allowed. Therefore, we will offer a set of milder resolutions that even this year’s legislature might consider.

1. Help restore freedom in medicine. Even though decades of political controls have wreaked havoc with health care in America, many of today’s “reformers” call for even more political controls. Legislators should resist such demands. To address the problems in health care, legislators should not raise taxes, impose more controls on doctors or insurance companies, or force people to buy politically-approved insurance. Such measures will only make matters worse.

Instead, the legislature should do what it can to restore liberty in medicine, so that doctors, insurance companies, and patients can interact voluntarily to find solutions that work. The state imposes a variety of mandates that force up insurance costs; the legislature should repeal those. However, many of the most important reforms, such as fixing the tax distortions that drive up costs, must be made at the federal level. While the Colorado legislature cannot fix federal problems, at least it can resist “reforms” that would make those problems worse. It could also pass a resolution calling for the repeal of national controls.

To learn more about the causes of modern problems in health care, and how those problems can be solved, read “Moral Health Care vs. ‘Universal Health Care’,” by Coloradans Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh, MD, available at TheObjectiveStandard.com.

2. Fight the expansion of the Nanny State. For now, we seem to be stuck with the rights-violating smoking ban. But at least the Democrats have mostly shied away from trying to push more controls on peaceable, law-abiding gun owners. We know that some Democrats sincerely want to put the screws to honest gun owners, but they are holding back for political reasons. Whatever their reasons, we hope that the Democratic leadership continues to resist the siren song of the victim-disarmament lobby.

It looks like some Democrats might actually try to roll back the Nanny State where alcohol laws are concerned. In Colorado, we still can’t legally purchase alcoholic beverages at liquor stores on Sundays, which is ridiculous. Nor can grocery stores sell anything other than 3.2 beer. We call on the legislature to repeal those restrictions. Consumers and sellers have a right to conduct business on terms to which they agree, rather than terms forced on them by politicians.

3. Keep tax spending under control. The left is great at talking “on message,” and already we are hearing calls to “fix” the state’s Constitution. State Senator Bernie Buescher has joined this crowd, according to The Denver Post. Yet, as Douglas Bruce told the Post, “This is all a big smoke screen to go after the [Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights] amendment… The way they want to fix the TABOR amendment is the way a veterinarian would fix your pet. They want to neuter it.” This despite the fact that we’re still paying for the multi-billion dollar net tax increase of Referendum C.

The problem, says the Post, is a set of “provisions limiting taxes and mandating spending.” We’re all for repealing provisions that mandate spending, such as Amendment 23, which automatically increases the flow of tax dollars to government-run schools. The only reason that the spending limits are a problem is that politicians can’t get enough of other people’s money. The lesson that politicians constantly forget is that people are able to spend their own money wisely, thank you very much. At least for most of the state’s budget, political spending forcibly takes money from some people in order to give the money to others.

We also suggest a broader resolution: protect individual rights. We have the right to control our own bodies and property, so long as we don’t interfere with the equal rights of others. We have the right to spend our income as we see fit. The sole legitimate purpose of government is to protect individual rights. With every vote, legislators should think about whether they are about to violate or protect individual rights.

Even legislators have been known to do the right thing.

Bill of Rights Day

From the Colorado Freedom Report (originally published by Grand Junction Free Press:)

Amend your schedule to celebrate Bill of Rights Day

… Not everyone enjoys legal protections of their fundamental rights. Take, for instance, the story of Gillian Gibbons, a teacher from England who was working in Sudan. As The New York Times reported, Gibbons “was found guilty… of insulting Islam and sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation. Under Sudanese law… Gibbons could have spent six months in jail and been lashed 40 times.” …

Unfortunately, our rights of free speech are eroding even here in the United States. The left, which often pretends to champion free speech and occasionally even does so, increasingly calls for censorship when it comes to radio broadcasts and political campaigns. Incredibly, the left calls its censorship “the Fairness Doctrine.” By “fairness,” the left means that government bureaucrats will force owners of radio stations to offer “equal time” to the left — as defined by those bureaucrats — or else. With the help of President Bush, the left has also censored select political speech prior to elections.

But the right wing is no better and very often worse. Some on the right wish to censor what it deems to be obscene or pornographic. (We’re not talking about cases involving the abuse of children, which are not instances of free speech and which should be criminally prosecuted.) The problem is that when government bureaucrats and/or judges get to decide which naked pictures constitute art and which pornography, they cannot possibly issue objective rulings. Moreover, any censorship undermines the principle of free speech. If politicians and their bureaucratic thugs can forcibly stop you from looking at dirty pictures, why should they not also stop you from looking at dirty text? …

(Read the entire article.)