The Atrocity Engineers

Speech by L. Neil Smith

Denver, Colorado, April 18, 1993

         Years ago, I watched a broadcast advertised as "news" in which a citizen was about to read a part of the Bill of Rights to a gaggle of Colorado politicians holding illegal hearings with the intent of further suppressing the individual right to own and carry weapons.
         The hearings were illegal, among other reasons, because the Colorado constitution warns us that the individual right to own and carry weapons is not to be called into question -- which, of course, was the publicly-expressed purpose of the hearings.
         We've learned the hard way that the media -- TV, radio, newspapers -- never cover this issue with anything resembling fairness, accuracy, or for that matter, intelligence. This particular day was no exception. Before the citizen had even begun to read what the Supreme Law of the Land has to say about the individual right to own and carry weapons, an inane commentator's feeble-minded voice-over cut him off.
         Now an educated and reflective individual, better aware of history and the world around him than the average mass media reporter, understands that the Second Amendment was drafted specifically to discourage authoritarian ambition within the government. By now, he also understands that expressions like "assault weapon" are authoritarian code for the hardware which best meets that specification.
         Thus an educated and reflective individual, better aware of history and the world around him than the average mass media reporter, refuses to surrender his "assault weapon" -- whatever laws are passed to intimidate him -- because, for instance, he never wants to see his country taken over by militaristic thugs, as happened earlier this century in Germany.
         "But that's ancient history", the mass media simper (and to them, it is), "such events have nothing to do with now." Very well then, an educated and reflective individual, better aware of history and the world around him than the average mass media reporter, refuses to surrender his "assault weapon" because he never wants to see his whole community driven from their homes and marched to death on country roads, as happened not too long ago in Cambodia.
         "But that was far away", the mass media simper, "such events have nothing to do with real civilization." Very well then, an educated and reflective individual, better aware of history and the world around him than the average mass media reporter, refuses to surrender his "assault weapon" because he never wants to see his children or his neighbors' children dragged into the street to have their arms and legs broken by uniformed goons, as has happened in Palestine under "civilized" Israeli occupation.
         "But those are unique circumstances," the mass media simper, "such events have nothing to do with America." Very well then, an educated and reflective individual, better aware of history and the world around him than the average mass media reporter, refuses to surrender his "assault weapon" because he never wants to see entire square blocks of his hometown bombed into ashes by police helicopters, as happened a while back in Philadelphia.
         Furthermore, an educated and reflective individual, better aware of history and the world around him than the average mass media reporter, refuses to surrender his "assault weapon" because he knows that politicians anywhere are capable of engineering such atrocities. For 60 bloodsoaked centuries they've demonstrated exactly what they're capable of, time and time again.
         Down the line, from power-hungry federal "czars" to publicity
         hungry county sheriffs, the Atrocity Engineers are out of control, justifying their latest crimes against the Bill of Rights with a phony "War on Drugs" which the mass media -- no more socially responsible than in the days of William Randolph Hearst -- whipped up for them in the first place. The plain, inconvenient truth is that a century ago, when today's illegal drugs were as easily and cheaply available as aspirin, there wasn't any "drug problem". Not until the atrocity engineers created one.
         Thus an educated and reflective individual, better aware of history and the world around him than the average mass media reporter, refuses to surrender his "assault weapon" because he never wants to be murdered in his own home in a hailstorm of gunfire and grenades because the vice squad got the wrong address -- or simply because he told a cop he wanted to be left alone. That's happened more than once in Colorado. As I speak, it's happening in Waco, Texas. Somewhere in America it happens every day.
         And now, with their slanted coverage of "assault weapons" and other Second Amendment issues, the mass media have handed the atrocity engineers another opportunity -- though they may not realize it yet, and by the time they do, it'll be too late. When the day comes that they're covering a story which authorities don't want covered, and a tiny, palm-sized .25 caliber "assault weapon" is conveniently "discovered" in some reporter's camera bag or glove box, I hope they remember that I warned them it could happen. I doubt they will. Neither their memory nor their attention-span seems that long.
         The maintenance of civil order and social democracy is in our hands. It has been there all along. It was never anywhere else. In a nationwide study, Don Kates at the St. Louis University School of Law found that the police succeed in wounding or driving off criminals only 81% as often as armed civilians do -- and are 15% more likely to be wounded or killed themselves. Five times as many cops shoot some innocent individual in the process as civilians do.
         The maintenance of civil order and social democracy is in our hands. It has been there all along. It was never anywhere else. "We the people" were naive and lazy to believe that anything important can safely be entrusted to "authorities" and "experts" through elections, or any other process. Self-defense against individual criminals -- or criminals sanctioned by the state -- can no more be delegated to somebody else than eating can, or sleeping, or any other bodily function. History warns us that delegated responsibility becomes power and that power is inevitably abused.
         The maintenance of civil order and social democracy is in our hands. It has been there all along. It was never anywhere else. If civil order and social democracy are to be restored to America, the emphasis must be on enforcing the Bill of Rights -- on Bill of Rights enforcement. We must take that power out of the hands that have abused it and break it down, break it down, into units so small it can no longer be called "power", but simply "responsibility" -- which, unlike power, comes not from the barrel of a gun, but from the mind and heart of the individual behind it.


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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