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The Atlanta Declaration

by L. Neil Smith

WeaponsCon I, Atlanta, Georgia, September 1987

Future of Freedom Conference, Culver City, California November, 1987

         Every man, woman, and responsible child has an unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon -- rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything -- any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission.
         Someday to demonstrate that principle -- before I'm lying on my deathbed in a hospital with green plastic tubes up my nose, before arthritis sets in and I have to do it on crutches -- I intend to walk the length of Manhattan Island with a handgun openly on my hip, unmolested by any freelance or official parasite.
         The question is, how do I get there from here?
         In the 80s we are witnessing the rise of a New Victorianism (the sort of mindset which prefers the word "limbs" to "legs") aimed not so much at human sexuality this time around (although that's happening, too) as the human capacity for violence.
         Victorian times weren't characterized by sexual abstinence. Many of today's kinkier turn-ons originated in that era of repression, hypocrisy, sublimation, and guilt. Whenever any basic human function is repressed, behavioral distortions arise.
         The claim today is that weapons are evil, that anyone dumb enough to try protecting himself will come to a bad end, that violence is always wrong, that non-violence is always and unquestionably right. Never was the persecution of a minority more persistent than that of gun owners, nor more hypocritical. Like any other law, gun control is enforced at gun point. Those preaching non-violence are lobbying to license thugs for the purpose of imposing their views on others, unleashing against innocent people the deadliest weapon ever devised: government.
         Repression never helps. Violence, like sexuality, is a morally neutral, perfectly natural capacity, linked with the survival of the species and the individual. A pseudo-morality of non-violence only serves the interests of established authority and other criminals by disarming the decent and making them helpless victims of evil. Charles Manson was a product of this pseudo-morality. So was Jim Jones. The only way to create a less violent society is to face the phenomenon honestly and openly, just as courageous thinkers like Havelock Ellis once did with sex.
         History's most revolutionary ideas seldom blow bugles announcing their arrival. The work of Gregor Mendel, the first geneticist, went unnoticed for decades. And even otherwise well-educated individuals have trouble pointing to the time, place, and party responsible for the invention of the Scientific Method.
         Likewise, another intellectual revolution has occurred in recent years that Dan Rather never told you about: the Non-Aggression Principle, a product of honest, open, courageous Libertarian thinking about ethics, states that "no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being." This is all Libertarianism consists of, no more, no less. It's the most important thought ever generated by the mind of man. Those who act consistently with it are Libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not Libertarians, regardless of what they may claim.
         Recorded human history and what we can infer from archaeology goes back some eight thousand years. In all of those eighty centuries, the one question we see being fought over most bitterly and killed over most brutally and died over most horribly has always been "who shall have the power to tell others what to do?" To me, the answer has always been self-evident. Yet for me, growing up has largely consisted of becoming convinced that this was just one more way in which I differed from the people among whom I had to do that growing up.
         From Rose Wilder Lane's The Discovery of Freedom, I first learned to confront an unplesant fact that no child of 20th century America is encouraged to find out for himself: the universe is a savage place where every natural force -- and most man-made ones -- are out to obliterate you. As Robert A. Heinlein pointed out, an unprotected human being, on the balmiest day of the kindliest season, standing unprotected in the temperate zone of the planet to which he was adapted by billions of years of evolution by natural selection, will die of sunstroke or hypothermia within hours. In addition to hailstorms, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos, meteor-strikes, poison oak, poison ivy, burning oleander leaves, the odd dire-wolf, cave bear, or saber-toothed timber rattler, Homo sapiens himself has proved capable of piling up a mountain-range of corpses to rival the Himalayas. Sixty million people died in World War II alone.
         There never was any Garden of Eden. The legend (and its persistence is revealing in and of itself) is a transparent attempt to evade a profound and inescapable truth: that in the midst of a great and terrifying darkness, any little fuzzy- edged pools of light and warmth and love and hope that happen to appear in this horror-filled universe are purely artificial, established where they are, usually at an unspeakable cost, by the minds and hands of individual human beings.
         Until you've absorbed this at the gut level, you'll never understand the rest of what I'm trying to convey, nor anything important about your own life or those of your fellow naked apes: in the midst of a great and terrifying darkness, any little fuzzy-edged pools of light and warmth and love and hope that happen to appear in this horror-filled universe are purely artificial, established where they are, usually at an unspeakable cost, by the minds and hands of individual human beings.
         Enjoying a strong, hot cup of chocolate and cream-laced coffee with an English professor friend a while back, someone who knows and understands my work, teaches my books, and has followed my career from the start, I recently discovered yet another respect in which I differ from my fellow naked apes. With the preparation of this speech in mind, I stated the above thesis, which, although soft-pedaled at the preference of my first publisher, has always constituted the foundation for my stories. My friend was shocked: this was a grim, depressing world-view he hadn't discerned before. What surprised me was that he'd attempt to evaluate it in those terms. He couldn't challenge its validity; he'd be refuted by any history book, any newspaper, any TV show about nature and survival. The truth isn't anything you're entitled to form an opinion about.
         My work and outlook are not grim and depressing at all, but optimistic. No less respected and generous a colleague than F. Paul Wilson has praised my books for their "positive sense of life", and I suspect that this is why other people read them, as well. Ayn Rand was pointing out a much-neglected but encouraging truth when she insisted that civilization isn't a natural feature of the universe, something that "just grew". In spite of the multitude of forces arrayed against them, those fuzzy-edged little pools of light and warmth and love and hope exist. They're what civilization -- and life itself -- are all about.
         Of course they come in all shapes and sizes, and they're dynamic in nature, not static. They arise, grow, diminish, and wink out of existence because -- created as they are for the most part by unsystematic primitives -- the conditions which must be satisfied to maintain them often fail to be met over a continuous range of time.
         It's pleasant in the center of the pool of light and warmth and love and hope, enjoying a strong, hot cup of chocolate and cream-laced coffee with a friend. It's easy to imagine that the center is all that exists. Americans are brought up to believe it. In their minds, the world's a giant theme park where they can pretend the edges of the pool don't exist, and they can safely ignore the dangers lurking out there. The edges, however, are the places that a rational individual watches. They're abstract in nature (a common mistake is to believe that they're geographic), but the entities slithering through the murk along the borders aren't. That's where bogey-things dwell: hail- storms, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos, meteor-strikes, poison oak, poison ivy, oleander leaves, dire-wolves, cave bears, saber-toothed rattlers, Huns, Tatars, Vikings, Communists, Nazis, Klansmen, burglars, muggers, and rapists.
         I once heard the head of the Internal Revenue Service claim that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. In fact, it's the other way around -- civilization is the price we pay, what we are required to sacrifice, in order to have taxes -- and this creature of the outer cold and darkness wouldn't know what civilization is if it walked up and told him his fly was open. Among the slimiest and most voracious of the living nightmares at the pool-edge, he nourishes himself on the light and warmth and love and hope that others have created, steadily diminishing its circumference and intensity. He's the very reason that civilizations, having risen, fall. He may not be aware of his place in the order of things, but I intend to make certain that his grandchildren are.
         Built right into that age-old question of who shall have the power to tell others what to do is the more fundamental and disturbing question of violence. Throughout history people have been offered only two alternatives. They could become pool-edge denizens themselves -- muggers and IRS agents -- or they could follow the pacifists and prophets whose advice, after their followers have run out of cheeks to turn, leaves them stripped naked, used for a humiliating purpose, and disposed of. Given the choice between becoming an animal or a victim, any rational individual will start looking for a third alternative.
         I did. I began with the Non-Aggression Principle, one of those simple, seminal concepts, like Evolution by Natural Selection or Scientific Method, which will echo down the ages. The Non-Aggression Principle holds that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another person.
         Without claiming that it proves anything, I've always thought it was a good sign that an individual can arrive at the Non-Aggression Principle from many different directions and accept it at many different levels. Some see it as a direct consequence or corollary of physical law. Others adopt it as a workable idea. Some assert it as an axiom, an arbitrary starting-point, or a metaphysical irreducible. Others carefully derive it from a variety of "first principles" ranging from Christianity to Objectivism. The encouraging thing is that, on an everyday basis, it doesn't seem to matter. Before I learned to call myself Libertarian, my orientation was scientific and science-fictional. I still sift new information through screens of evolutionary theory, physical anthropology, and the works -- always taken with a grain of salt, of course -- of thinkers like Louis Leaky, Robert Ardrey, Desmond Morris, and, yes, Elaine Morgan.
         Some of my readers, Easterners, recoil in horror whenever they discover that I'm a gory-handed murderer of gentle, limpid-eyed Bambi and Thumper. I believe they could learn important things about themselves, their species, and the nature of reality, the first time they found themselves standing over the half-dressed carcass of an animal their own size, with blood up to their armpits and the cloying scent of warm viscera in their nostrils. For me, it's crucial to recognize my natural identity as a killer-ape, not simply to accept it, but to rejoice in it. The alternatives are to spend your life trying, like the lion who choked on a head of cabbage in Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth, to deny nature or, out of a sense of cosmic embarrassment, to commit seppuku. Recognize it or not, accept it or not, rejoice in it or not, we are killer-apes.
         Given my interests in evolution, anthropology, and hunting, my first appreciation of the Non-Aggression Principle was as one way that killer-apes might be able to live together without killing each other; individuals who agreed on nothing else could exchange values to their mutual benefit and perhaps even be friends. The Non-Aggression Principle was the most powerful tool ever forged for creating more and larger pools of light and warmth and love and hope -- a discriminator not simply defining, in a categorical and succinct manner, the circumstances in which violence is wrong, but those in which it's justified.
         This was the third alternative I'd been seeking. I purposed to explore it no matter where it took me, and that's how my first novel, The Probability Broach got written.
         The examination of violence within the context of the Non-Aggression Principle has occupied most of my professional time and energy ever since, but it hasn't won me many friends. Setting aside the predictable reactions of liberals and conservatives, within the Libertarian movement itself plenty of individuals -- otherwise highly principled but with certain phobias about accepting the responsibility for their own physical safety which contradict not just their political beliefs, but reality itself, haven't much liked the results.
         But as Galileo, Darwin, or even Captain Kirk would tell you, personal integrity requires not letting others influence your search for something resembling the truth. Those years of inquiry have brought me to conclusions that I struggled against every step of the way. I was a limited statist when I began, and often wrote about the wonders of private security. However like going to the bathroom, breathing, eating, sleeping, or making love, it turns out that self-defense is a bodily function one cannot safely or effectively delegate to a second party. The more I studied the proposition, the sillier it appeared.
         Look: the police are like parents. They don't care about justice, all they want is quiet. They resent anyone disturbing what they conceive to be the peace, regardless of the reason. Anyone who reads newspapers or watches television knows that the one offense more serious than assaulting somebody is defending yourself. Numerous court cases over a period of time and a variety of jurisdictions have established that the police have no obligation to defend your life, liberty, or property. Individuals injured by criminals may not recover from the government for non-performance, whatever promises it may have made.
         Perhaps that's just as well. According to civil rights attorney Don B. Kates, writing in the Wall Street Journal of January 10, 1986, civilians are attacked three times as often as police officers. Yet civilians are twenty-two percent more likely to succeed in driving off or wounding their attackers, and only one fifth as likely to injure or kill the wrong person. Kates, a self-described liberal, validly concludes that civilians are more capable of maintaining their own well-being than the police are, and that this capability shouldn't be interfered with. But he spoils it with a contradictory non-sequitur to the effect that the capability should be regulated by government -- rather like suggesting that the American Nazi Party should regulate the Jewish Defense League.
         To me, it seems much less ridiculous to demand for the sake of public safety that a police officer at the scene of a crime be required to hand his gun over to the first civilian who happens along. The power of government agents to carry weapons at all derives from the individual right of self-defense, and is inferior to it.
         Nor should the government be allowed to possess or use any weapon it forbids to civilians.
         The police have no obligation to defend your life, liberty, or property. Aside from obvious questions raised by the government's refusal to guarantee services they collected for at gunpoint, there's more profound consideration: in New York, to name a random location, the government has no obligation to protect you and at the same time it forbids you the means to protect yourself. In short, you're legally required to allow criminals to victimize you. Which explains why Ed Koch and Robert Morganthau were determined to get Bernie Goetz at any cost.
         Many years ago, in my college psychology classes (which is no guarantee of anything, of course) I was told that police officers and career criminals display identical personality profiles. At about the same time, I heard Paul Harvey cite a study (once again, no guarantee of anything) demonstrating that Russian plumbers seem to get along better with American plumbers, despite the Cold War and the language barrier, than either do with their non-plumbing countrymen.
         This makes perfect sense to me. We do tend to identify with those who earn their living the same way we do. It would make sense even if we didn't know that whenever a member of the American productive class stumbles -- often through an innocent act of self-defense -- into a system of "justice" which is in fact a homely burrow to both parasitic classes, they wind up being treated worse than the professional criminals with whom lawyers and judges (who also live on stolen money and the misfortune of others) naturally identify and sympathize.
         Just to name a single example, the doctrine -- which is utterly without basis in physical or ethical reality -- that there are "degrees of force", is simply another trap for unwary self-defenders. Its proponents are responsible for rendering the productive class helpless against predation. Once physical force has been initiated, a qualitative barrier has been breached, and there is no going back -- except, perhaps, as an act of mercy, which, as Ayn Rand pointed out, is not the same as justice, but, in some respects, its precise opposite.
         All of this was borne out beyond the remotest shadow of a doubt when Koch began screaming for Goetz's hide. Koch, after all, "earns" his living in exactly the same way Goetz's so-called "victims" did. We thieves must stick together. How dare Goetz resist and injure the Mayor's screwdriver-wielding proteges!
         Anyone who needs more evidence regarding the intelligence of relying on government protection should refer to the November, 1986 Voluntaryist, reprinting an article about Amnesty International from the Wall Street Journal. What convinced me, as a young person, that the only limited government is an abolished government, was Operation Keelhaul at the end of World War II, when, under an agreement made at Yalta, two and a half million Russian refugees were rounded up all over Europe and sent back in boxcars to Stalin and certain death -- by the "civilized" government of the United States of America. The Voluntaryist underlines this by stating that, during the 20th century, while twenty-two people out of every ten thousand died as a result of war, three hundred forty-nine -- fifteen times as many -- died as a result of "other" government activity, meaning death camps, extermination marches, and artificial famines.
         Now, remember that war itself is a government activity, and the grand average comes to three hundred seventy-one: well over a hundred million murdered human beings. In the 60s, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement asserted that the only proper function for government is cleaning the streets. I'd add that it's a function for which the venal scum polluting our legislatures and council chambers are underqualified. Justice is a thin, spotty film floating atop a cesspool of rule-by-coercion, and government is a greater danger -- fifteen times greater -- than anything it claims (and then denies) it protects us from.
         The sad fact about private security is that it's forced to pay the very agency it competes with and (partly as a result) mostly hires minimum-wage employees. More than that, you have to understand the level of self-interest involved. Self-defense expert Jeff Cooper argues that bodyguards are subject to bribery and extortion, whereas you, presumably, are not. It was agreed by all sides of the Vietnam controversy that ten conventional soldiers must be fielded for every native guerilla. Robert Ardrey or Desmond Morris, I forget which, says that an animal defending its own territory is twice as effective as any aggressor. You're out to save your own life. Your bodyguard's out to collect a paycheck. The latter is an acceptable motivation, but it pales by comparison to the former.
         But wouldn't chaos result if everyone defended himself? Aren't spouse murders are the most frequent kind? Isn't there a ninety percent chance that a gun in the home will be used on a member of the household rather than an intruder?
         Years ago, firearms manufacturer Bill Ruger appeared on television with a pack of gun-controllers making claims like that. He challenged them to name their source again and again, but they couldn't. The show went on. Now and then, Ruger would ask whether they'd remembered where they'd acquired their "facts" and they'd shy off. Like Carl Bakal's earlier self-admitted fiction that some eight hundred thousand Americans had died by gunshot since 1900, they'd made up another lie in a cause they considered virtuous, with the idea of concluding grandly that we're all potential murderers who need constant supervision and control -- only to be caught at it by someone willing to make a scene.
         In this connection, Second Amendment activist Neal Knox reports a study on the mythical "Wild West" that bears repeating. American cities of the 19th century East and West were paired by population and demographics. The macho one-industry whaling town of New Bedford, Massachussetts, for example, was compared with the macho one-industry mining town of Leadville, Colorado, both with populations of around ten thousand people. A decade of records from the height of the cattle-drive era shows that the only difference between them (and this was true of other paired cities, as well) was that nearly everyone in Leadville kept a gun, which was not true in New Bedford, and that murder and other violent crimes in New Bedford outnumbered those in Leadville by a hundred to one!
         So much for the wild, wild west.
         As the National Rifle Association points out on its "Armed Citizen" page every month, the presence of a gun is enough to deter aggression seventy-five percent of the time.
         Very well, then. If all the facts and logic martial themselves on the side of individual self-defense, and you know who the enemy is, where do you look for friends? Forget the American Civil Liberties Union, whose historic committment to the totality of individual rights is, in the most charitable interpretation, "flexible". Founded and financed by socialists, the ACLU says that your life is the property of society, and that you have no fundamental or inalienable right to remain unmolested by gun laws or any other expression of the collective need.
         Most pro-gun, pro-self-defense groups are politically conservative and practice typical conservative self-sabotage. They build their argument on the shifting sands of the politics of the day and social utility, rather than the rock of moral philosophy. Instead of pursuing productive strategies, they've been fighting a purely defensive holding action virtually since Wyatt Earp invented gun control.
         Prolonged holding actions are doomed to failure.
         Experience teaches us that there are natural Rebels and natural Tories. The latter defend the Establishment -- whatever it happens to be -- against the interests of the individual. All other things being equal, the former make better friends and are the kind of people our times and circumstances cry out for.
         The sad fact is that gun people have never been able to distinguish very well between their friends and their enemies. They demonstrate a consistent, disheartening proclivity to fawn over the police and the military. At least half of their magazine writers are active or retired enforcers of victimless crime laws identical in structure to the very legislation that threatens them. They've forgotten that the Second Amendment was written to intimidate the government.
         They have other skeletons in their closet, as well. Teddy Kennedy, for example, is America's greatest sporting goods salesman. Every time he opens his dissolute, cretinous mouth to push another gun law, uncounted thousands of individuals go out and buy a gun for the first time, just as I did, "before it's too late". Before 1968, I doubt that there were six million handguns in the whole country. The old rifle farts who dominated the shooting fraternity in those days regarded my passion for these "inaccurate toys" as perverse. Now, that many handguns get sold every year -- thanks to Teddy. If he really wanted to reduce the number of handguns made and sold, all he'd have to do is shut up.
         He knows it.
         Both sides know it.
         Nobody ever talks about it.
         Too bad, because a fact like that might be used to silence anti-gunners forever.
         Even more embarrassing is the average gun enthusiast's ignorance of the free market system -- as manifested by a recent "patriotic" flap over the advertising of Chinese guns in the pages of certain magazines. There's also a strong inclination in the field to try to limit the market, to disadvantage competition through regulation, because -- just like automobile manufacturers who appear to believe that whining about Japan is an adequate substitute for honest goods at honest prices -- so-called "stocking firearm dealers" believe they have a right to a profit whether they earn it or not. They abominate "basement" licensees who sell guns to their friends at cost, and would like to put them out of business through increased fees. They loathe the discount houses even more -- Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart -- but haven't yet thought of a way to deal with them.
         Maybe worst of all, most firearms publications ooze editorial sanctimony over topics like weapons concealment, blathering that this holster featured in an article, or that gun, is -- of course -- suitable only for duly franchised citizen hoplites, when they know perfectly well their readers respect gun laws the same way they do speed limits. Their policies on national defense, land-use, and conservation are undiluted socialist crap. To avoid the political heat they used to talk a lot about the "legitimate sporting uses" of firearms, hunting and target-shooting, and have only recently taken a stance rooted in the individual right to self-defense. Even that remains disappointingly passive.
         Thus, from this moment onward, we must begin to measure all persons and groups who claim to support our individual, civil, Constitutional, and human rights, not in terms of how well they defend those rights, but in terms of how well they advance them. If existing organizations won't take the offensive, then like any individuals with strong opinions and stronger principles, we've no choice but to adopt the most radical personal stance possible consistent with those principles, one that will compel others to disavow our position or follow along behind us.
          At the barest acceptable minimum, principle demands unequivocal assertion of the following points:
         The individual right to self-defense is not collective in character, but an absolute inherent in the nature of each human being, indispensible to the individual right to life itself.
         The individual right to self-defense cannot be granted or denied by kings or constitutions, nor by any legislative or judicial act, neither is it subject to regulation or to the democratic process.
         The individual right to self-defense implies free access to, and uncoerced choice of, the physical means of self-defense: an unlimited right to obtain, own, and carry weapons of any kind.
         The individual right to self-defense especially includes the right of self-defense against government; power exercised by government derives from the individual right to self-defense and is inferior to it; any attempt on the part of government to deny or limit this right represents a conflict of interest.
         The individual right to self-defense demands the immediate repeal of any law which: requires the licensing or registration of weapons, manufacturers, gunsmiths, dealers, or owners; levies taxes on the ownership or transfer of weapons, parts, accessories, ammunition, or components; denies free individual choice concerning manufacture, price, acquisition, carrying, concealment or concealability, "social acceptibility", caliber, power or form of ammunition, design or configuration, "quality" or "safety", magazine capacity, or rate or mode of operation; interferes in personal, local, interstate, or international trade, transport, or transfer of any weapon or associated item; restricts the use of gas, electric, jointed, or edged weapons, impact-resistant clothing, or any other self-protective device; or permits the government or its employees to seize, retain, sell, or destroy weapons belonging to non-aggressive individuals.
         The individual right to self-defense requires that agencies responsible for the enforcement of such laws be abolished, their records destroyed, anyone ever arrested, under indictment, or convicted under such laws be granted immediate, unconditional release, with full restitution to all previous rights and property, and employees of such agencies, rather than taxpayers compelled to support their activities involuntarily, be held responsible for such restitution.
         Groups like the NRA, claiming to support the Second Amendment, who fail to endorse this minimal position should declare themselves morally bankrupt and shut up. Their approach has been a drawn-out failure because it addressed the basic concept of individual rights in the same piecemeal, contradictory, "flexible" manner as the ACLU -- often threatening the very groups (gays and recreational drug users for example) who might have been our allies. In the wake of this failure an inevitable rot has set in as corrupt leaders struggle over the power and wealth of an otherwise pointless organization. The real question is, are honest reformers -- like Neal Knox -- willing to acknowledge that failure, abandon their defensive posture, and try the Libertarian way, recognizing that the rights of others may be just as important to them as ours are to us?
         The next time you have an opportunity to discuss these issues with your conservative friends, try putting it to them this way: "How much do you want to keep your guns?
         "Would you agree to allow adults to pursue their own sexual preferences, homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual, and to buy, sell, read, write, make, listen to, or watch any films, books, magazines, records, tapes, or live performances they want, no matter how pornographic, if they agreed to let you keep your guns?
         "Would you agree to leave others alone, perhaps to ruin their lives with alcohol, nicotine, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, and other substances, if they agreed to let you keep your guns?
         "Would you agree to respect the rights of anyone, no matter what their race or national origin, and to tolerate their practice of atheism, Buddhism, Islam, Scientology, Unitarianism, even Satanism, if they agreed to let you keep your guns?
         "Would you agree to let women control their own bodies and reproductive processes -- even to have abortions at their own expense -- if they agreed to let you keep your guns?
         How much do you want to keep your guns?
         No sane being would sacrifice the rights he considers most precious, just for the sake of imposing his tastes or opinions on others. And yet it seems that each of us disapproves of, and wants to outlaw, some one little thing that somebody else wants.
         Little things add up.
         With over 240 million of us, all working for some kind of Prohibition or another, it's no wonder that government controls seem to ratchet tighter around our lives every day. Until now, it's been strictly a one-way process, with everyone winding up the loser except for politicians, bureaucrats, and lawyers.
         We can reverse the process with a committment to respect each other's rights no matter how much we personally disapprove of any particular exercise of them. The one limit is an obligation never to initiate force. Change the way we think about freedom and we can eliminate the power of politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, and Prohibitionists, to control the way we live, which means that every man, woman, and responsible child will be free to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon -- rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything -- any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission.
         I challenge everyone interested in the Second Amendment to undertake that committment. Before I'm lying in a hospital bed with green tubes up my nose, before arthritis sets in and I have to do it on crutches, I intend to walk the length of Manhattan with a handgun on my hip, unmolested by parasites.
         I will not settle for less.
         Come along with me.

L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.

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