Former U.S. Congressman Pat Williams wrote a column about the recent Liberty Convention 2010, and the attendees' preoccupation with guns. It appears here in its entirety:
Those people who attended the Liberty Convention 2010 surely understand that Americans are wallowing in a free society. After all, their definition of freedom seems to be access to guns and we have guns galore: guns under our beds, under our pillows, on the back windows of our pickups. Guns, guns everywhere. Forty-four million Americans own 215 million guns. We have 65 million handguns, seemingly the wearing apparel of the day for more than a few who attended the Liberty Convention a week or so ago in Missoula, Mont.
Their convention fired a blank. At times it seemed there were more speakers than attendees. The convention promoters expected a crown of 5,000, but only 250 showed up in the cavernous Adams Center on the University of Montana campus. The promoter noted that the embarrassing turnout was because they only “had 98 days” to organize the convention. Ninety-eight days? Why one could randomly select a freshman student from the UM campus and that kid could get 250 people to a protest rally in 98 minutes.
The convention’s right-wing speakers likened Pres. Obama to Adolph Hitler and America to Nazi Germany, exhorted people to act like vigilantes, referred to “jerk cops,” promoted guns on college campuses and everywhere were shouts and murmurs of “socialism”—the new ammunition of choice for the far right now that communism is dead.
But the real passion of those at the Liberty Convention is guns and the right to own them, fire them, show them off. Given the easy access to guns in America one would expect that these conventioneers would be a happy lot rather than dour-face complainers.
Our nation has the most guns of any country—350 million. Of that number, 215 million are owned by individual citizens and the remainder by our military and law enforcement. We have more guns than any other country and our modest gun control laws are the least restrictive of any western democracy.
Guns are second only to cars as cause of death. During just one year not long ago 34,000 Americans were killed with a gun and that year the costs of the emergency care and overall treatment for the dying and wounded was 1.2 billion dollars.
I believe I have the credentials for this criticism. During my nine terms of service in the U.S. House of Representatives, I had a 100 percent voting record against gun control. The NRA once featured me on the cover of their national magazine. My position was occasioned by my belief in private rights and the necessity of trust—two-way trust—between people and our government. I consistently voted against gun control because it isn’t the way to stop crime. This crowd makes one wonder if I was right.
The Liberty Convention 2010 was anathema to trust. Those angry, conspiratorial people are a dangerous minority within a minority in both this state and this nation.
Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana. After his retirement, he returned to Montana and is teaching at The University of Montana.