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What Went Wrong At Columbine


By Larry Pratt

June 17, 2003

As columnist Paul Craig Roberts has put it, "Law, once a shield of the innocent, is now a weapon in the hands of government."

Roberts is referring to a long and dangerous trend to expand the concept of crime to actions and non-actions in which no individual is harmed or threatened with harm. In our time one can be convicted of a felony and put in jail for killing a turtle, chopping down a tree, draining a swamp, polluting a body of water, and generally not doing everything that some bureaucrat says you have to do.

When we study socialist countries - be they Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union or too many others - we find a concept in the law called "crimes against the state." These are also sometimes called crimes against the people. In earlier days, they might have been called crimes against the king's peace. Biblically and constitutionally, crimes are against individuals and should result in capital punishment, restitution or acquittal. Non-criminal damages should lead to restitution. In the 17th and 18th centuries, this was how the criminal justice system operated in America.

Add to these crimes against the state that of possessing a prohibited object, specifically a firearm. Several local jurisdictions in the U.S. have banned a wide range of guns, and the federal government has banned a bunch as well. One need not commit a crime to risk being sent to jail for possessing a combination of metal, wood, and plastic parts.

What our founders required by law - carrying guns - is now illegal in many jurisdictions. And in all but Vermont and Alaska, permission is needed to exercise the "right" to bear a concealed firearm.

To the extent that the United States has imposed gun controls on a population "protected" by our Bill of Rights, we have a measure of how socialist our country has become. Our government was founded on the idea that individuals have God-given rights that need to be protected from that same government. Furthermore, government was seen as having no rights, but only a few well-defined duties. Socialism requires the reversal of our founding premises.

In Joyce Lee Malcom's study of Guns and Violence: The English Experience we find the record of how gun control came to England. It began to get very restrictive following World War II. Now that most guns have been confiscated (all legal guns were registered long ago), England is roaring into the socialist pit.

(Listen to my interview with Professor Malcolm about her book on the GOA web page. Go to and click on Previous Episodes.)

Margaret Thatcher sold off many government-owned industries when she was Prime Minister, but as we can see in the U.S., socialism through regulation can be just as stultifying as socialism in which the government owns the productive sector. Regulatory socialism was the Nazi model, proving that nominal private ownership does not prevent control from the center.

England is moving to crush other personal freedoms now that gun ownership has been virtually eliminated. Prime Minister Tony Blair has proposed restricting jury trials, eliminating the prohibition on double jeopardy and most ominously, proposing that an anonymous complaint be enough to put somebody in jail because he is deemed a danger to himself or the community.

Worse still, self-defense - even without a gun - is penalized. Everything else is monopolized in socialist England, so it is no surprise that self-defense becomes a monopoly of the state.

At the core of the Christian common law, the people are understood to be the owners of the law. Socialism considers law (and everything else) to belong to the government or to be controlled by it. The police are under the control of whoever owns the law.

Consider who are the most ardent gun control advocates in America. Senators Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton and Diane Finestein are among the most eager to ban guns, and they are among the most socialist of our national politicians.

In the House, a dedicated opponent of firearms ownership and self-defense is Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, an avowed socialist. This can be said because she is a member of the House Progressive Caucus, which is affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America, which is affiliated with Socialist International.

Socialism is based on the arrogant assumption that there are a few (elected or in power by force) who are uniquely suited to decide all issues of life. Folks who think like that are hardly likely to make an exception for their subjects to take personal responsibility for their own defense.

As a rule, the more socialist the politicians, the more they want to restrict gun ownership to those who protect politicians - whether that be law enforcement agencies or private security guards (such as the NY City armed detective who travels as an armed guard for Sen. Schumer). Law enforcement is in place largely to tell the subjects of the socialists to obey the regulations of the regime or risk being put in jail.

Socialists do not like bad attitudes among their subjects, as we saw at Ruby Ridge and Waco, or as we saw in Chicago when Secret Service officers threatened a woman who expressed her disgust with Bill Clinton.

Socialists have an "us versus them" view of society. They are angry and feel threatened when they hear criticism of their policies. Did you see Sen. Clinton screaming at the top of her lungs when some of her subjects disagreed with her position on the Iraq war? As one wag quipped, he thought she was talking to Bill when she first heard her.

In any case, a government that sports a "bad attitude" combined with the belief that one is everyone else's Big Brother will result in a socialist crusade against guns.

Fight socialism. Buy a gun.


� 2003 Larry Pratt - All Rights Reserved


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Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 27 years. GOA is a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their second amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.

GOA lobbies for the pro-gun position in Washington and is involved in firearm issues in the states. GOA's work includes providing legal assistance to those involved in lawsuits with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal firearms law enforcement agency.

Pratt has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs such as NBC's Today Show, CBS' Good Morning America, CNN's Crossfire and Larry King Live, Fox's Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC's Phil Donahue show and many others. He has debated Congressmen James Traficant, Jr. (D-OH), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Vice President Al Gore, among others. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country.

He published a book, Armed People Victorious, in 1990 and was editor of a book, Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias, 1995. His latest book, On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty was published in 2001.

Pratt has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia, serving in the House of Delegates. Pratt directs a number of other public interest organizations and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The GOA web site is: Pratt's weekly talk show Live Fire is archived there at:   E-Mail:








"What our founders required by law - carrying guns - is now illegal in many jurisdictions. And in all but Vermont and Alaska, permission is needed to exercise the "right" to bear a concealed firearm."