Thursday, November 26, 2009

The "Cop Killer" of Ft. Hood

As I was reading Wednesday’s Cedar Rapids Gazette I came across a letter to the editor calling for more gun control in the wake of the Ft. Hood tragedy. Although I occasionally respond to official editorials or columns, I try not use this forum to criticize letters to the editor from private individuals because I think citizens on ALL sides of a debate should feel empowered and encouraged to express their views in the local paper. That is the First Amendment and America at its best.

The letter that caught my eye, however, was written by John Johnson, the former director of the defunded, debunked and now defunct group Iowans for the Prevention of Gun Violence, and was signed as such. Since he is no mere civilian who wandered onto the ideological battlefield of gun control, but a former field-grade officer in the opposing army, I’ll make an exception in Mr. Johnson’s case.

Mr. Johnson writes that the Ft. Hood shootings took place because “(e)asy access to high-capacity, semi-automatic handguns that can be concealed on the person means that any angry individual with a grudge can commit mass murder wherever people gather — even military bases.”

Really? Wherever people gather? How come I never hear of some nut attempting a mass shooting at a gun show or a shooting range or an NRA convention? The fact is that just about any shooting massacre that you can name (Ft. Hood, Columbine, Virginia Tech, etc…) took place in a so-called “gun free zone.” In a sad bit of irony, even our army posts are now mostly “gun free zones.”

The habit of gun control advocates, like Mr. Johnson, of serving up disarmed victims in designated areas actually encourages sociopaths to go on shooting sprees, knowing that they can rack up a lot of kills before armed authorities can arrive. Since Texas has many civilians who carry firearms, if Major Hassan had tried his rampage anywhere besides a “gun free zone,” an armed Texan may well have “killed him back” (to borrow Ron White’s phrase) before he could do so much damage.

Attempting to put the blame for the Ft. Hood shooting on an inanimate object, rather than the nut (or perhaps jihadist) pulling the trigger, Mr. Johnson continues: “One of the weapons used in the Fort Hood shooting was an FN Five-seveN pistol […]. This gun was originally designed for military use, but is also sold on the U.S. civilian gun market. The manufacturer says this gun fires ammunition capable of piercing body armor. Who wears body armor? Law officers. So the FN Five-seveN pistol is for killing cops.” His comments appear to be part of a larger orchestrated effort, since all the major gun control groups recently sent a letter to President Obama asking him to ban the import of the Belgium-made Five-seveN.

The “armor piercing” version of ammunition for the Five-seveN (and for all handguns, for that matter) that Mr. Johnson refers to is already banned in the United States. Your side won that battle long ago, Mr. Johnson! If the laws that the gun control advocates fight so passionately to enact are so ineffectual once implemented that they are unnoticeable and forgotten even by themselves, why do they push for more of the same?

Perhaps Mr. Johnson gets his information from Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center, one of the nation’s leading peddlers of anti-gun propaganda. In a recent Huffington Post article, Sugarmann claims that in a quick Internet search he found two vendors selling “banned” ammunition for the Five-seveN. But the SS192 hollow point ammo that the vendors were selling is listed on the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives website as “not AP.” It wasn’t really “banned” either, the manufacturer merely stopped shipping that particular type to the U.S., replacing it with the newer SS196 ammo.

Far from being the death-spewing monster that Johnson and Sugarmann depict, the Five-seveN fires a rather diminutive 5.7 mm round. Bob Owens at Pajamas Media convincingly makes the case that if Major Hasan had armed himself with a man’s weapon, rather than the media-hyped Five-seveN, the ratio of killed to wounded would have been much worse.

“[A] high-velocity bullet that only weighs 40 grains (as does the legal SS197SR bullet Hasan used) is at a distinct disadvantage when compared to other pistol cartridges,” writes Owens. “Slower, heavier bullets such as those found in the .40 S&W and .45 ACP hollow point cartridges favored by American law enforcement dump most if not all of their energy in the human body. The difference between a wound from a 5.7 bullet and a .45 ACP is not dissimilar to the difference between the wound from an ice pick and the wound from a sledgehammer. The ice pick will penetrate far deeper, but the sledgehammer will cause far more traumatic injuries.” (None of this is to imply that the Five-seveN is less-than-lethal, just that it’s not super-lethal.)

Owens also pointed out one more salient fact. The FN Herstal Five-seveN, that much-vaunted “cop killer” of Johnson and Sugarmann’s imaginations, has never actually killed a cop in the United States. “So far there is just one known shooting of a police officer with this weapon, and that occurred at Fort Hood,” states Owens. “Kim Munley, one of two officers who engaged Hasan, was shot in each leg and her wrist, but was wonderfully alive and able to appear on Oprah a week later.”

I guess gun control activists can’t let little things like facts stand in the way of their agendas.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Free Market Makes a Lot of Sense"

Here's an excerpt from my column in today's Cedar Rapids Gazette:

"President Obama’s 'manufacturing czar,' Ron Bloom, raised a few eyebrows when he stated that 'the free market is nonsense.' If the waning months of the Bush administration are any indication, the leaders of both major parties now basically share this philosophy. That’s a pity.

"Our 'nonsensical' free (though increasingly regulated) market has given the U.S. one of the highest standards of living in the world. [...]

"If we don’t have a free-market economy, then we have a command economy wherein government regulators control wages, prices and production rates. (Sure, it’s a sliding scale between the two, but an administration that views one end as 'nonsense' will obviously only let us slide one way.)

"When I was young, the Soviet Union was the ultimate embodiment of a command economy.

"I spent some time there in the summer of 1991 as a student ambassador. My three weeks there don’t make me an expert on all things Soviet, but it was eye-opening for a 16-year-old Iowa farm boy.

"I saw the blocks-long lines of people waiting for bread and other necessities. I toured the GUM department store in Moscow. We were told it was the largest department store in the world. Its shelves were bare."

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NRA Onboard for Iowa Weapons Reform Battle

Regular readers of this blog know that Iowa is one of only 13 states that doesn’t have a “shall issue” law for permits to carry weapons (or that require no permit at all). Iowa has a “may issue” law, which means that the county sheriff may issue to qualified applicants or he may not.

Some sheriffs issue permits to all who qualify, while others choose not to issue them at all. Training requirements vary widely between counties. This disparity between citizens of different counties seems to run counter to the Iowa Constitution’s directive that state laws “shall have a uniform operation” and shall apply equally to all Iowa citizens.

Since 2005, the pro-freedom group Iowa Carry (IC) has fought a lonely battle trying to bring uniformity to Iowa’s weapons laws, while America’s most powerful lobbying organization, the National Rifle Association (NRA), has focused its attention elsewhere. Now, however, it appears that the NRA may finally have its big political guns trained on Iowa and is ready to roar into action.

In a recent email update to supporters, Iowa Carry president Sean McClanahan announced a tentative agreement between IC and NRA to work together for weapons carry reform in the coming year.

Iowa Carry has identified five key principals that it believes must be part of any weapons carry reform bill in Iowa: 1) It must be “shall issue.” 2) It must standardize training statewide. 3) It must contain a reciprocity provision recognizing the carry permits of certain other states. [Many states will only recognize Iowa-issued permits if we reciprocate.] 4) It must have an appeals process for denied permits. 5) It must maintain the privacy of the confidential information of permit holders.

The bill that NRA and IC will be supporting will address all five issues. The groups are currently lining up key Iowa legislators to introduce and support the bill in 2010.

If you want to stay informed on this effort as it progresses you can join Iowa Carry’s online forum for free, as well as their Facebook group. Better yet, join Iowa Carry as a supporting member for only $25 a year so that they will have the resources necessary for the upcoming reform battle.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

10 Questions with Gubernatorial Candidate Eric Cooper

Eric Cooper of Ames and Nick Weltha of Des Moines have filed papers to seek the Iowa Libertarian Party’s 2010 nomination for Governor and Lt. Governor respectively. Cooper, 43, is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Iowa State University, and is currently the Vice Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Iowa. Professor Cooper was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Cold Hard Cashner via email.

Here they are:

1. How did you get involved in politics and the Libertarian Party?

I joined the party in high school after I read a pamphlet that was available in one of my government classes. When I read the pamphlet describing the Libertarian Party's positions, I realized that they were pretty much saying everything I already agreed with. My second year as a professor at Iowa State, I was approached by a student who wanted to start a Libertarian group on campus and wanted me to be the adviser because I was one of only two faculty members who were paid members of the party. As a result of being the adviser for the Iowa State Libertarians, I started going to Libertarian State Conventions and eventually got elected to the state party's Executive Board, and decided to start running for office.

2. What made you decide to run for governor?

I have run for the state legislature five times previously from Ames, and in 2008, I had the most successful Libertarian campaign in the state (21% of the vote). I thought, given the experience I've gained campaigning for the legislature, that I was in the best position of anyone currently involved with the state party to run for Governor.

3. It’s unlikely you’ll win. Why should people vote for you?

Third parties can get everything they want without winning any elections at all. The Populists in the 1890s and the Socialists in the 1910s won almost no elections, and yet most of the major planks of their platforms were eventually implemented. The way these parties were successful was to draw enough votes away from the major parties on a regular basis that the major parties started stealing their issues in order to get their voters. This strategy can still work today, and is most effective when the major parties are ignoring a particular constituency (which currently would be people who want to reduce the size of government). If Libertarians can get 10% of the vote on a regular basis, that is enough to decide most elections between the major party candidates and will lead the major party candidates to start stealing our issues.

The reason it is important for people to vote for me for Governor is because under Iowa law, if the top candidate on a party's ticket (which is the President during Presidential election years and the Governor in non-Presidential election years like 2010) gets 2% of the vote, that gives the party major party status in Iowa. If I get 2% of the vote, the Libertarian Party gains major party status meaning that we no longer have to petition to get our candidates on the ballot, thus making it far easier for us to run lots of candidates putting lots of pressure on the major parties to steal our issues.

4. Iowa has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Iowa is one of only 14 states that requires a special permit to acquire a handgun. It is one of only 13 states that doesn’t have “shall issue” laws requiring that weapons carry permits be issued to applicants who meet uniform standards. What changes would you like to see in Iowa’s weapons laws and what could you do as governor to facilitate them?

Laws are, of course, a matter for the legislature, however as Governor, one can certainly make suggestions to the legislature about what sorts of legislation might be a good idea. I don't think there should be restrictions on peaceful people owning any sort of gun, and I think they should be able to carry those guns concealed if they so choose.

5. Because of the Iowa high court’s recent decision, gay marriage has come to the forefront of political discussion. What is your position on gay marriage and what (if anything) would you do as governor regarding this issue?

People come to America in order to follow their own cultural traditions. Peaceful people should be able to have whatever relations with other people that they would like, and they should be able to call them whatever they like. The government goes well beyond its enumerated powers when it starts deciding what does and does not constitute marriage.

6. There is currently some discussion of allowing medical marijuana to be used with a prescription in Iowa. Do you support this effort and what other changes in this area would you like to see?

I would support the legalization of medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, ornamental marijuana, and pretty much anything else that someone would like to do with marijuana. It is absolutely contradictory to the notion of a free society that the government should be dictating to adult citizens what they may or may not place into their own bodies. The drugs that are currently illegal are far less dangerous than many activities that are permitted (driving private automobiles and alcohol use are good examples), but because drug users are in the minority, the activities that they enjoy are made illegal while more dangerous activities that the majority likes are permitted. My first act as Governor would be to pardon all non-violent drug offenders currently in Iowa prisons. If the founding fathers of the United States were to see the sort of government we have today, I don't think anything would shock them more than that we would allow the government to tell adult citizens what they are allowed to consume. One cannot honestly call oneself a free man when one has lost the right to decide what goes into one's own body

7. On your website you say that “Iowa is currently doing education in about the most inefficient way possible.” How so and how would you remedy that?

The government is a monopoly and, like all monopolies, it has very little incentive to be cost effective and very little incentive to please its customers. In education, we have a market that should be extremely competitive if its provisioning was left to the free market because it is relatively inexpensive to start a school so there would be lots of competition among schools. The more competitive a market is, the more benefits one gets by having the free market supply a good or service, so having education provided by the free market would be the number one way we could improve education in the state. Unfortunately, the state's involvement in education has made the education market a virtual monopoly which is exactly the sort of situation that produces goods and services inefficiently.

The best way to improve education in the state is to attach a certain amount of money to the child to help pay for his or her education. The child can take that money to any school: a private school, a homeschool, and can even use it at the current public schools if the child's parents wish. However, all schools will be funded on exactly the same basis: they will only receive the money attached to the children who attend them. Such a system allows the government to help pay for education while getting all the benefits of a highly competitive market.

8. Fireworks have been illegal in Iowa since the 1930’s. It’s now a time-honored tradition for Iowans of all ages to flagrantly flout that law by bringing fireworks in from neighboring states and lighting them off for Independence Day. Why would you want to hinder such a beautiful annual display of civil disobedience by legalizing fireworks?

Yes, I suppose there is a vicarious thrill in breaking unjust laws for some people. Much better not to have such laws on the books in the first place, however. Getting rid of the fireworks ban is one of the key issues in our campaign because I think it symptomatic of a larger problem that when safety and freedom conflict, the laws always come down on the side of safety even though we supposedly live in the land of the free (not the land of the safe). However, the purpose of our lives is not to be as safe as possible, but to be as happy as possible. When I was growing up in Kansas, one of my favorite activities was shooting fireworks on the 4th of July, and it is really sad that the kids of our state don't have that chance. Being safe is a part of being happy, but when you are reducing the amount of happiness in your life to make remote dangers even more remote, that is a really bad trade-off.

9. What are some of the other priorities for you and your running mate?

Our top goal is to get the 2% we need to give the Libertarian Party of Iowa major party status in Iowa. If we can do that, it will allow us to put a lot more pressure on the major parties by running more candidates which is what we have to do in order to get the major parties to start addressing our issues.

The next goal is to keep the idea of Jeffersonian Democracy alive in the United States. Libertarianism is the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the essence of the philosophy is that we have a limited government that is only permitted to perform a small set enumerated functions, and that we are a free people meaning that if you aren't hurting others or their property, you should be able to conduct your life however you want. Our government now is so different from how it was originally conceived, and currently appears to have almost no limits on what it may do nor any respect for the freedom of its citizens. I want people to understand and remember the vision the founding fathers had for America, and, even if I'm the last free man left, I'm going to stand up and protest every single encroachment on that freedom.

10. What can people do to help your campaign?

As with all campaigns, we are limited in what we can do by the amount of contributions that we are able to get, so one thing is to visit our website ( and donate.

If you can't afford a donation, we are going to start visiting cities all over Iowa beginning this summer. We need volunteers in as many cities as possible who are interested in helping us to promote our visits by posting fliers, chalking, and telling local papers and radio stations about us. Anyone interested in being our representative in their city should e-mail me at

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Fort Hood: Death by Gun Control"

Excerpts from the article by Howard Nemerov at
"Yesterday at Fort Hood, disgruntled Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan murdered 12 soldiers and wounded 31 others before being shot and captured.

"These soldiers were entrusted to carry fully automatic, military assault rifles when deployed to Afghanistan, where the shooter was about to be sent. But in America, these same soldiers are disarmed when on base. From the Associated Press: 'Soldiers at Fort Hood don't carry weapons unless they are doing training exercises.' [...]

"In his book The Bias Against Guns, John Lott examined the relationship between the presence of legally-carried firearms and multiple murders. He concluded: 'If right-to-carry laws [legal concealed carry of handguns] allow citizens to limit the amount of attacks that still take place, the number of persons harmed should fall relative to the number of shootings… And indeed, that is what we find. The average number of people dying or becoming injured per attack declines by around 50 percent.'

"Lott also found that both the total number and rate of multiple murders in right-to-carry states are one-third that of restrictive states. In an email interview, he clarified this data by stating: 'The simplest numbers showed a 67 percent drop in the number of attacks and a 79 percent decrease in the number of people killed or injured from such attacks. The number of people harmed fell by more than the number of attacks because some attacks that weren't deterred were stopped in progress by people with guns.' [...]

"[Police SWAT-expert Ron] Borsch notes that nearly all mass murders occur in places where law-abiding citizens are banned from possessing firearms, either by property owners or government regulation.

"Off-base, soldiers over age 20 are eligible under Texas law to carry a concealed handgun."

Read the entire article here.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Iowa Libertarians On The Ballot

In tomorrow's election there will be a few Libertarian Party candidates scattered around the state. Here are the ones that I've heard about:

  1. Nick Tabier, running for Cedar Falls city council (at large)- Says Tabier's website: "Cedar Falls is a great place to live, and keeping it great requires initiative, fresh thinking, and a willingness to listen to ideas from everyone. I will bring unique perspective, bountiful energy, and careful leadership to the Cedar Falls City Council."
  2. Bill Lynn, running for Davenport 5th Ward Alderman (incumbent)- Lynn is endorsed by the Quad City Times and has been serving for six years. Says The Times: "Bill Lynn has earned a fourth term. The St. Ambrose professor seems to have anchored his academic ideals to some street-level reality through his support of some smart initiatives, including the micro-loan program to foster minority business development. "
  3. Roger Fritz, running for Roland Iowa mayor- A electronic communications engineer, Fritz previously served as a Roland city councilman from 1999 to 2007.

Although it's not until next year, Eric Cooper and Nick Weltha are the Libertarian candidates for Iowa Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively. Cooper is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Iowa State University. Weltha is a System Administrator for the Iowa Judicial Branch.

If you're tired of politics as usual from the two big-box parties, please vote for and support Iowa's Libertarian candidates.

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