"Talkin' to America" Show

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Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
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THE LAW
an interview with Attorney & Author Richard Stevens

Interview in MP3 format

ADDENDUM: Mr. Stevens requested we add a link to this video of firearms confiscations in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Says Mr. Stevens, "This is a perfect example of 'law enforcement' -- soldiers 'just following orders' against their fellow Americans whose only error is to not want to leave their dry homes, and who want to defend their homes against looters."

JPFO Interview Questions

INTRO: Some people say that Americans need to clean house in Congress. They say that America can return to a free, non-socialist, prosperous country if we just elect the right people to the House and Senate. Others people say that the real problem is the kinds of laws and the numbers of laws that we have.

Q: Which do you think is more dangerous to American liberty and the American way of life: the elected officials in the Legislatures … or …. the laws themselves?

A: Both are dangerous, but the laws are the more dangerous of the two.

Q: Why?

A: The laws are more dangerous for several reasons. First, in most cases once a law is enacted, it remains the law permanently. A Congressman or Senator can return to private life or pass away, but the law will remain in effect. The same is true for judges – they make rulings to exist forever, even when the judges are gone. If the law reduces liberty, if it infringes on people’s fundamental rights, if it raises taxes, if it distorts the economy, if it weakens our defense, then it will continue to do its damage forever until it is changed or repealed.

Second, the system of laws in a country operates like an educational system. Each individual statute, regulation and court ruling is part of the whole system. Although the term might be confusing at first, we call the system of laws and rules and policies by the term “the Law.” Now, the Law creates an environment and trains the people in a certain way. If the Law tends to uphold the natural rights of its citizens, then that’s one environment. If the Law tends to offer individual citizens and small groups the opportunity to get tax monies put to their pet projects, then that is another environment. The Law creates an environment for the citizens and in that way teaches the citizens what kind of society they live in.

Third, the Law becomes the working guidebook for bureaucrats, government employees, judges, and agents. Government employees will thus routinely and mechanically apply the Law that they are handed. They carry out the Law all over the nation. They come to view the Law as the power in and of itself. If you’ve ever dealt with government employees and agents who have told you, “I don’t make the rules, I just follow them,” then you have seen how the Law becomes systematized to govern the whole nation. If the Law hurts people or harms liberty, the government agents and bureaucrats will do carry out the Law nonetheless … long after the Congress members who enacted it are gone.

Q: Can you give any examples of how the Law rules us more than the legislators?

A: Sure. We have a principle in our Law that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That principle not only controls the details of criminal trials, it has become the way we as a people view all sorts of issues even in private life.

Here’s another example: in the federal tax code, the rules say that a homeowner can deduct mortgage interest from his or her gross income, and therefore pay a lower tax bill. That rule is a little technical rule, but it has enormous consequences when you consider the millions of homeowner taxpayers. Just about any educated person over age 18 knows that “mortgage interest is deductible.” That concept has become ingrained in the people as though it came from the Bible or the Constitution. Legislators decades ago enacted that provision – those legislators are long dead – but the rule continues to control us and condition our citizens to believe a certain thing and act a certain way.

Q: Are there examples from world history that you can share?

A: Absolutely. Here’s an obvious one. In America, we say a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In other countries, such as Mexico, the system does not operate that way. You might even say that a criminal suspect in Mexico is presumed guilty until proven innocent. That’s why Americans who get into trouble in Mexico end up in jail for long periods, even before trial … and why it is hard for Americans to understand what they need to do to avoid convictions there.

There are more horrific examples, of course. In America, the Law says that people may do basically whatever they would like to do, so long as they don’t harm others and don’t violate the laws. That’s the spirit of America, anyway, even though it is ebbing away now. As an American, you can usually look at the written laws and figure out what they prohibit and what the penalties will be for violating those laws.

In Nazi Germany, however, the Law was very different. Under Nazi law, the written laws just set guidelines for the society. Thus, a Nazi German judge could convict a person of violating the spirit of a law, even if the law did not specifically say the person’s actual conduct was unlawful. What’s more, the penalties written in the Nazi law were considered to be minimums, not maximums. The Nazi legal theorists boasted that Nazi law was designed to educate and condition the people to act in certain way.

Also, in America, the maximum penalty for a crime is written in the laws. Under Nazi law, the judges were encouraged to maximize every penalty, and to exceed the written penalties. That is how the Law in Nazi Germany – viewed as a system of laws and policies and ideas – went far beyond whatever the German legislators had actually enacted.


Q: What books and other resources can people use to better understand what you are saying?

A: To understand the concept of the law and how it shapes the whole fabric of society, there is no better book than the short one written by Frederic Bastiat, which is entitled, simply, The Law. It is still in print.

To understand more about how the Nazi government perverted the Law, the best book is called Nazi Justiz, by Richard Lawrence Miller. In addition, I have recently written an article that describes more about how Nazi principles were applied to “gun control” laws. That article should be available fairly soon.

Another good book that explores how the Law is applied against the people is by Paul Craig Roberts and a co-author, entitled The Tyranny of Good Intentions. To better understand the incentives that drive bureaucrats to apply the Law, there is the classic short book by Ludwig von Mises, entitled Bureaucracy.

Q: There is a vintage song that we hear on the radio occasionally that refrains: “I fought the law, and the law won.” Does that song lyric make any sense with what you are saying?

A: That refrain gives you a sense of how people come to view the Law. The song doesn’t say “I fought the Congress” or “I fought the Judge” or even “I fought the police.” People come to view the whole system of rules and enforcement as “the Law.” So, the bad guy might see himself as fighting the Law.

Q: People might think that you are against having laws and against having governments, based on what you are saying. Is that true?

A: Absolutely not true. I come from the classical liberal tradition, the tradition that led Thomas Jefferson to write in the Declaration of Independence that the people have unalienable rights and that the people create governments to protect the life and liberty and rights of the people and to create a legal environment of justice and equality before the law. Governments work for the people, not the other way around. Laws should be enacted that create an environment where the laws are minimally intrusive, where the laws do not favor one group at the expense of another. The Law should be designed to sustain a society of harmony, abundance and self-government.

Q: Let’s shift our focus a little bit – let’s move away from the Law and talk about Law Men. Do you tend to support the police or do you tend to be critical and oppose the police?

A: I believe that the proper function of the Law is primarily to keep the peace. Keeping the peace means protecting the life, liberty and property of each individual citizen. Keeping the peace means deterring aggression and imprisoning aggressors. I therefore fully support the police as Peace Officers who keep the peace. Being a Peace Officer is a very tough job, and I believe that honest and effective Peace Officers should be paid much better than they are now in most towns and cities.

Q: How about the all the various “law enforcement” agencies and their agents – how do they fit in?

A: I am very suspicious of the concept of “law enforcement.” Every American should be very concerned about “law enforcement,” and here is why. When you are keeping the peace as a Peace Officer, you are aiming to protect life, liberty and property, to promote harmony among people, and to catch and put away the people who kill, steal from, injure, damage, defraud, or harass the innocent.

When you are “enforcing the law,” however, you have a different mission. Authorities tell you what the laws are, and you go out and make sure people are obeying those laws. Do you see the difference? A law enforcement agency thus operates to make sure that people obey the laws. If the laws are bad, if the laws cause injustice, if the laws deny fundamental human rights, it doesn’t matter to the law enforcement agency. The agency’s job is to enforce the laws and make people obey.

Consider this simple but real example. Your local peace officer might find that you are shooting targets on private land one Sunday afternoon. The officer might come up to you, talk to you, discover that you truly didn’t know it was unlawful to shoot on that land, and receive your assurance that you will stop shooting now that you know. The officer might thank you and warn you that if you are caught again, there could be legal consequences. That officer is keeping the peace by making sure that you don’t violate the property rights of others, and by not creating undue problems for you.

By contrast, consider the law enforcement agent from a federal agency. That agent’s job is to enforce federal “gun laws.” That agent gets career credit for the numbers of people he arrests and gets convicted. That agent is not trying to protect life or property, he is carrying out his orders to catch people who violate the law and have those offenders prosecuted. That agent would much more likely bring charges against you for violating some law about firearms, even though you were not endangering or damaging anybody’s life or property or other rights.

Q: Let’s turn to a subject that you and I have been working on for several years: the issue of so-called gun control. In light of what you have been saying today, how should Americans view so-called gun control laws?

A: “Gun control” laws do not protect life, liberty or property. They don’t keep the peace. “Gun control” laws don’t help protect the innocent person against aggressors. “Gun control” laws are a key element of every genocide of which I am aware in the 20th Century. “Gun control” laws condition the people to consider themselves powerless subjects of powerful rulers. They are bad laws; such laws are also unconstitutional if you read the Second Amendment and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in the Bill of Rights.

Q: Are there any kinds of so-called gun control laws that you favor?

A: No. I oppose all “gun control” laws. What I do favor are laws that punish criminal violence and misconduct. I also favor laws that forbid convicted violent criminals from possessing and carrying firearms. Such laws are not “gun control” laws, they are laws that impose an additional lifelong penalty upon people who have proved that they are willing to use unjust force to harm others. I can also accept laws that set an age limit on the lawful carrying of firearms, but that law would punish parents who have allowed their children access to firearms and their children have committed an illegal violent act with those firearms. That sort of law is not a “gun control” law, it is a parental responsibility law.

Q: If Americans oppose so-called gun control laws and policies, where should they focus their energies: electing different Congressmen and Senators, getting different judges in the courts, trying to get initiatives passed by the voters in the states, lobbying Congress and state legislatures to change the laws … which avenue should Americans take?

A: All of those efforts can be useful, but I strongly believe that the American people must come to understand “gun control” laws for what they are: civilian disarmament laws. We must understand that “gun control” is an idea designed to maximize the power in the hands of governments while leaving civilians powerless and dependent. That’s why, incidentally, the Leftist philosophy favors “gun control” … the Left envisions a world run by “experts” who exercise power to compel ordinary people to live according the experts’ estimate of what is best. Without exception, that vision leads to the horrors of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

So Americans need to come to recognize “gun control” as oppression. We need to come to hate and fear “gun control” ideas the same way we should hate and fear the vicious ideas of racism and Nazism and Communism. A person who wishes to disarm you, in the face of a dangerous enemy, is a person whom you should hate the way you would hate a rapist or child murderer.

To answer your original question: the most important effort is to move the hearts and minds of the American people. When Americans understand, then it will be much easier to change laws, elect better representatives, and get just rulings from the courts.

Q: One of the projects that JPFO has undertaken is to examine the “gun control” laws of Nazi Germany. JPFO has argued that in Nazi Germany, the gun control laws were used to disarm the intended victims of genocide. First question: is that historical claim true?

A: Yes, the historical claim is true. The Nazi regime began disarming and then imprisoning its enemies in 1933. Dr. Stephen Halbrook has written a comprehensive law review article documenting this fact, and a shortened version of that article appears as a chapter in our book, Death by “Gun Control.” The JPFO book, Gun Control: Gateway to Tyranny, provides the full text of the German laws with English translations and analysis of the provisions. Both of these books are available at www.jpfo.org.

Q: To clarify – was it Hitler who imposed “gun control” laws to disarm the victims?

A: The fact is, the comprehensive “gun control” laws that aided the Nazis in disarming the citizens were enacted in 1928, before the Nazis came to power. The 1928 laws installed a system of national firearms registration and owner licensing and other controls that impaired private ownership and possession of firearms. It’s a perfect example of how the Law lives on and produces bad consequences even when the originating legislators are gone. The Nazis employed the concept of “law enforcement” to aggressively enforce the existing “gun laws on the books” against Germans, both Jews and non-Jews. Later, Nazi edicts and laws tightened the restrictions on firearms ownership, especially by Jews, while making it easier for Nazi party members and Nazi agents to have guns to carry out their work. The Gestapo’s policy was to deny Jews any licenses to own or carry firearms. In 1938 the Nazis outlawed possession of firearms by Jews, just as the national violent persecution of Jews began in earnest.

Q: People may have trouble seeing any connection between the laws of the dictatorial Third Reich and the laws enacted by representatives of the American people. Is it fair to compare Nazi German laws to American laws?

A: Look at it this way. If a law operates to disarm the innocent citizen, then it is a bad law. The Nazi regime had evil intent, so they exploited such laws to maximize the power of government agents to hurt innocent people. The same kinds of laws that disarm innocent people in America will endanger and harm the people, but if the government does not have evil intentions, then the damage may not be as great as occurred in Nazi Germany. The problem is: once bad laws get on the books, they are hard to change or repeal. The best plan is to make sure bad laws never get on the books, and then repeal those that are left.

Q: What other nations have imposed “gun control” laws that disarmed people and set them up for mass murder?

A: The Soviet Union, Cambodia, China, Uganda, Guatemala, and Rwanda. Our book, Death by “Gun Control”, and our documentary film, Innocents Betrayed, describe the genocide and mass murder conducted by governments all over the world.

Q: If there were one or two resources that you would advise listeners to do to get educated on the subject of the law and the how dangerous it can become, what would those resources be?

A: First, read the short powerful classic, The Law, by Frederic Bastiat. Next, read Death by “Gun Control” and/or see the documentary film, Innocents Betrayed. Another excellent book is the classic by Friedrich Hayek, entitled The Road to Serfdom, which is also fairly short and delivers a very clear understanding of the issues from the view of economic policy. Two other books should be high on the list: one is Lost Rights, by James Bovard. Lost Rights documents how encroaching federal laws, combined with law enforcement, are steadily degrading freedom in America. The other is by Vin Suprynowicz, and is entitled The Ballad of Carl Drega. This book is a collection of news essays that tell the actual stories of counterproductive laws and oppressive “law enforcement” in America. A person who read all six of these resources would be very well grounded to understand what the Law is and how it can be perverted to destroy rights and lives. For people who want to think about the future that such laws and policies may create for our grandchildren, the book: RebelFire: Out of the Grey Zone vividly describes a future world in a way you cannot forget. RebelFire is available at www.rebelfire.com.


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