Why I Carry

A political dilemma, No. 22, 26 August, 2001

by Paul Hager © 2001

IC Title 35, Article 47, Chapter 2. Regulation of Handguns

Article I, Section 32, Indiana Constitution

I had hoped that my carry campaign and my campaign for Secretary of State would reinforce each other. In order for this to work, I need to meet with as many pro-RKBA groups as possible and get them to spread the word that I'm the candidate they should support, particularly with their pocketbooks. So far, this isn't happening. As I make progress on the Secretary of State campaign, there is also a certain amount of pressure from some quarters to de-emphasize the carry campaign, since Secretary of State has nothing to do with Indiana gun laws. Working to build an effective, pro-self-defense political movement while running for an office that has no apparent connection to RKBA is challenging. Actually, there is a connection between the two campaigns but that will require some explanation.

Most pro-RKBA groups in the U.S. are reactive and follow the NRA model, which is to fight a skillful rearguard action but to always give ground. Other pro-RKBA groups have correctly concluded that conventional approaches won't work but haven't grasped the necessity to take the initiative with the kind of peaceful direct action I'm demonstrating. The only strategy they've come up with is to withdraw from the scene and wait for things to get worse, hoping that will galvanize gun owners to action.

The NRA remains a major impediment to building an effective pro-self-defense movement. I've discussed the institutional failings of the NRA earlier in this series so I won't repeat them here. The biggest failing is that the NRA steadfastly refuses to accept that the Libertarian Party is the only consistently pro-gun game in town. In my 2000 run for U.S. Senate, the NRA actually rated incumbent Republican Dick Lugar - the fellow who voted for the ban on so-called assault weapons and who voted to resurrect the Gun-Free School Zone law after it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Lopez case - a C, and didn't mention me at all. By their own standards, the NRA should have rated Lugar an F. When two F-rated candidates are running against an A-rated candidate - in 2000, me - the NRA should endorse the A-rated candidate, if they really are the single-issue, pro-RKBA organization they claim to be.

The Republican Party, to which the NRA has attached itself as a remora attaches itself to a shark, is at best indifferent in its defense of RKBA. The Republicans always had more than 40 Senators when Congress was voting to restrict our rights over the past 20 years. I can promise you that had 41 Senators been Libertarian, filibusters would have stopped every attempt to pass new "gun control" laws.

In fairness, the NRA is not behaving completely irrationally when it fails to support (or even mention) Libertarian candidates. If a Libertarian takes votes from a Republican who is not a complete gun grabber, which results in the election of a Democrat who is, the Libertarian is a spoiler. Therefore, it is better to support the D-rated Republican who can win than vote for the A-rated Libertarian and run the risk of electing the F-rated Democrat. For any single race, this logic is impeccable, but through successive iterations of C- and D-rated lesser evils, you eventually get the evil the F-rated Democrat would have given you in the first place.

Why does the Republican Party do such a lousy job of protecting our rights? To answer this question, let's look at the method by which the Republicans (and Democrats) nominate their candidates. Primary races often involve 3 or more candidates. Suppose that 2 candidates of fairly equal strength are A-rated, and a third is C-rated. Let us further suppose that 60% of the voters favor one or the other of the A-rated candidates. In other words, the voters want a strong pro-RKBA candidate to represent them in the general election. Unfortunately, unless the voters can have a big meeting before the primary election and agree to throw most of their support to one or the other of the A-rated candidates, they will end up splitting their votes between them. The result is that the C-rated candidate wins. If either of the A-rated candidates had gone against the C-rated candidate head-to-head, (s)he would have gotten 60% of the vote and won quite handily. So, the clear will of the majority is thwarted whenever strong candidates split the vote. Over time, as vote splitting continues to select non-representative nominees in disproportionate numbers, a political party will evolve away from its guiding principles.

Every time you go to the polls to cast a vote, and you have to choose among 3 or more candidates, you face an insoluble political dilemma. You're lucky if your only problem is deciding whether or not to compromise on principle and choose the lesser of two evils. When you are confronted with a split vote situation, there is really no hope at all.

I've known for some time the solution to the political dilemma I've described above: it is to abandon the voting system we've been using for our entire history and switch to a system called Approval Voting (AV). AV is childishly simple. Instead of only being able to vote for one candidate for a given office, you can vote for as many candidates as you like.

A simple change. A profound impact. To see this, let's return to the split vote scenario described above. With AV you can vote for both of the A-rated candidates in our hypothetical primary battle. You would end up with something like 60% for one of the A-rated candidates and maybe 55% for the other. The C-rated candidate would not improve above his minority support level of 40%, and would be defeated. Don't be confused by the fact that the numbers add up to 155%. Think of it this way: 60% of the voters approved of one of the A-rated candidates and 55% approved of the other. Only 40% approved of the C-rated candidate.

The lesser evils problem also resolves itself nicely with AV. If you really like the (always) A-rated Libertarian, then you vote for her/him. If you think the C-rated Republican might lose to the F-rated Democrat, then you can hedge by casting an additional approval vote for the Republican. For example, assume 52% of the voters in a general election are strongly pro-RKBA. Let's further assume that even though she is not that well known and doesn't have a lot of money, 20% of the voters like the Libertarian candidate. With the current system, lesser-of-two-evils and wasted vote drain away the Libertarian's support before election day rolls around. If support is reduced to the point that the Libertarian ends up with 3%, then the breakdown is 49% for the Republican and 48% for the F-rated Democrat. But if the Libertarian gets 5%, all at the expense of the Republican, she is a spoiler and elects the Democrat. With AV, the Libertarian can receive her true 20% support, the Republican gets 52% and the Democrat gets 48%. With AV, you are no longer penalized when you support your favorite candidate.

It is a mathematical certainty that AV will open up the marketplace of ideas to political entrepreneurs. Without split vote and lesser-of-two-evils forcing us into binary choices, new political organizations that are more responsive to our goals can evolve and prosper. The Libertarian Party, for example, would get a much higher vote total, and begin to attract money and support, which would allow it to become a serious contender in state, local, and national elections. Other parties might arise as well.

For example, consider a centrist political party that is equal parts New Democrat and Moderate Republican. It is, in fact, indistinguishable from the other parties except that it is totally uncompromising on 2nd Amendment rights. Let's call this mythical, staunchly pro-RKBA party the Aegis Party. With AV, the NRA and other pro-gun organizations could funnel money and support to the Aegis Party knowing that it would be an immediate contender. Polling data shows that only a relatively small percentage of Americans is anti-gun. Only the single-issue anti-gunners would vote against an Aegis Party candidate in every case, which would be more than outweighed by the pro-gun vote. On other issues it would be a wash as compared with the Republicans and Democrats.

A caveat is that a free market in ideas is just as available to our political adversaries as it is to us. However, I'm confident that in a fair fight against the anti-gunners, we will win hands down. And, frankly, if we can't win in a fair fight, maybe we don't deserve to win.

I've talked about AV in my 3 previous campaigns for federal office but, since election laws are the province of the states, I was constrained from making election law reform a platform plank. The Secretary of State, however, actually administers the state election laws. Thus, a Secretary of State campaign is the ideal vehicle for discussing election reform and AV. Furthermore, if I am elected, I would necessarily have the kind of public support that would pressure the Indiana General Assembly to adopt AV.

I trust that the connection I mentioned at the beginning of this piece is now apparent. Opening up the political system by introducing AV will benefit the pro-self-defense movement. The coalition politics that so often fails us is a product of the current system of voting. Change the system, and we have it within our power to end the slow bleeding away of our 2nd Amendment rights.

The political dilemma we will continue to face until AV is adopted is not the only one I wanted to discuss in today's journal entry. I am also confronted by my own political dilemma concerning how much effort I can put into the carry campaign as the Secretary of State race heats up. That really is going to depend upon how things go over the next few weeks and months. The more support I can get for my Secretary of State campaign from pro-RKBA groups, the more I can focus on the carry campaign from now through the end of the year.

So far, I've only had one opportunity to deliver my AV stump speech to a non-Libertarian group. That was on August 19th, when I traveled to South Bend to speak to the Michiana 2nd Amendment organization. Readers may recall that I visited the Michiana group earlier in the year. It's a good group and I only wish that there were more like it Indiana. The speech was well received, and afterwards, I mingled and answered questions about AV and my candidacy. One of the Republican candidates for Secretary of State also spoke to the group. I'll be interested to see how he fares in next year's primary.

One of the new people I met at the Michiana gathering was a woman from Goshen, who related her experience attempting to apply for a Personal Protection license through the Goshen police department. The chief of police had imposed several additional (and illegal) requirements that applicants would have to satisfy before the paperwork would be processed, including 2 character references and an explanation of why a Personal Protection license was needed. I was appalled. The woman was ultimately able to circumvent the chief's diktat by going directly to the Indiana State Police. She subsequently received assurances from the Goshen mayor's office that Indiana law governing Personal Protection licenses was explained to the chief and he would be instructed to transgress no more. For my part, I contacted Ken Falk, the litigation direction of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union (ICLU). I'm pleased to report that Ken said he would alert ICLU cooperating attorneys in Elkhart County (where Goshen is located) to monitor the situation. Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of anti-self-defense activity in Elkhart County.

Martin McCloskey is a newly elected Commissioner for Elkhart County - one of three Republican Commissioners. McCloskey is ex-military and ex-police and has had an Indiana Personal Protection license for over 20 years. He normally carries his personal defense handgun with him wherever he goes. His fellow Republican Commissioners upon learning that he carried began to pressure him not to do so. They said it was inappropriate - one said it made him uncomfortable. Things came to a head at the 30 May Commissioners' meeting when McCloskey happened to remove his coat, revealing his sidearm. This presented an opportunity for the other Commissioners, and suddenly a number of County employees were complaining that McCloskey was making them uncomfortable. In deference to those folks McCloskey quit carrying, but a couple of days later he was ambushed by the local media who informed him that a number of County employees had staged a walkout in protest over his carrying a pistol. This whole event was clearly orchestrated, and the other Commissioners immediately seized upon it as a pretext to push for an ordinance against carrying on city property.

I heard about McCloskey's problems with his fellow Republican Commissioners the following week. I called him up and discussed the situation. I then put him in contact with some of the RKBA folks in his area. With their assistance, McCloskey has been able to hold the anti-gunners at bay but the anti-gunners are unrelenting and have the resources of the local newspaper, The Elkhart Truth behind them.

More recently The Elkhart Truth somehow acquired the database containing then names and addresses of all holders of the Indiana Personal Protection license, which they posted on their website. Upon hearing of this, my comment was that the Truth had functionally made Indiana an open carry state because anyone with web access could find out who had a license to carry. License holders from all around the state phoned and emailed the Truth to protest its publication of the database. The site remained active less than a day. It's interesting to speculate whether the Truth shut down the database because of the protests or because a number of prominent state anti-gunners were revealed to hold Personal Protection licenses (one of these, so I was informed, was Lieutenant Governor Joe Kernan).

I had hoped to meet McCloskey in the flesh when I was in South Bend, but we weren't able to hook up. I wanted to tell him that I appreciate his frustration with people in his own party who are actively hostile to the right of self-defense and who continually try to undermine it. This situation is never going to improve as long as political will has to be channeled through one of the two major parties. AV is the solution to the dilemma. All I need to do is convince my fellow Hoosiers to support it.