[Editor’s note, May 2007: The date I’ve put on this post is only a guess; for some reason the one copy of the piece that survives does not have its date of origin anywhere on it. At the time I wrote it Forbes was obviously still in the race, but equally obviously not doing very well. It could have been written as early as late January, but most certainly not after the New York primary.]
You may not recognize my name, since we were never introduced, but when you spoke at the Princess Hotel in Fairbanks, Alaska on Monday, January 15, I was the one who asked you your stand on the Second Amendment. You even thanked me for asking that question, which in retrospect I find rather odd.
I remember being unimpressed with your answer, but that may have been because I was hoping for a from-the-gut answer about the meaning and value of the right to keep and bear arms, rather than a bureaucratic essay on alternatives to gun control, which include giving police more latitude to search people for guns and run background checks on them. Your point was that if someone had a gun and was a criminal, he’d be arrested. Of course, a lot of innocent people would be searched, too, but I failed to point that out.
It seems to me that you might not have realized just how much the right to keep and bear arms is a “gut” issue for most people in most places west of the Mississippi, and Fairbanks is close to being about as far west of there as you can get without having to know the Cyrillic alphabet.
Anyway, today I learned that one of those chairing your campaign is a congressman from New Jersey who is deadset against reforming or repealing any part of the current set of patently unconstitutional gun control laws. And I do mean “unconstitutional,” Steve, that isn’t just hype. You should obtain a copy of the Tennessee Law Journal’s Spring 1995 issue,* which is a symposium on the Second Amendment. Although the legal scholars writing in that symposium did conclude that there are some limits on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, the right itself is individual in nature, not collective, and could be argued—I think quite persuasively—to protect even the ugly guns (in mediaspeak, “assault weapons”) your co-chairman detests.
I know that I should have insisted on sounding you out further to determine your philosophical position on this matter, but your assurance that federal agents who abuse authority should be prosecuted as criminals, and your admission that you would sign a gun-control repeal bill that reached your desk, led me to believe that you were not a complete failure. Now I’m not so sure.
If you do “believe in the Second Amendment” as you told me on that cold January morning in Fairbanks, I ask you to remove this advocate of federal control from his position in your campaign, and issue a statement detailing your philosophy on the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Don’t tell us how they’re doing it in New York City. Tell us how you would do it, given the presidency and an agreeable Congress. Don’t tell us about compromise and making deals—talk about your basic vision, if you have one.
If you can’t do that, it’s no wonder Pat Buchanan is kicking your ass.
*that issue, by the way, was edited by some guy named Glenn Reynolds.