We are used to Governor Jared Polis playing the libertarian card, even though he tends to produce it from his sleeve. I was more surprised to hear Denver mayoral candidate and sitting legislator Leslie Herod call the card during her recent conversation with lawyer and podcaster Craig Silverman. Relative to the state as a whole, Denver is far more left-wing, featuring a Democratic Socialist city councilor and a socialist-endorsed state representative. So Herod’s nod to people more friendly to free markets and more skeptical of state power is significant.
Gun laws no panacea
Complete Colorado reporter Sherrie Peif has written about the first part of Herod’s remarks. Although Herod favors waiting periods for gun purchases—even though they overwhelmingly punish the innocent on account of the few with harmful intent—she acknowledges that such laws are no panacea.
Here is what she said: “Our young people are really worried . . . and parents . . . about the proliferation of guns in our communities and gun violence, be it mass shootings . . . or, honestly, youth violence, and youth having access to guns. It’s a really tough issue, and it’s a public health issue and societal issue. We’re debating waiting periods [and other bills] at the capitol right now, and I have to tell people, honestly, I think these bills are really important to pass, but I don’t know that a waiting period is going to have changed the outcome of the young kid who went to East and just recently died, because those guns weren’t purchased legally, likely. . . . Our young people are going to school armed, and they are, unfortunately, buying their guns in fields of rec centers or in the back of their schools. And so we have a lot of work to do to change the culture around that fear and ensure that people really understand that guns are not the answer, and that their lives matter more than that.”
My argument against waiting periods is that they harm adults who urgently need a gun for self-defense while doing little to prevent misuse of guns. We should use other tools to address crime and suicide, ones that don’t violate the rights of others. If Democrats are going to force through a waiting period, they should at least provide state funding to pay for 24/7 police protection for anyone who requests it while denied their right to purchase a gun for self-defense.
Herod and I are not going to agree about the bill. But it is worth noting what we do agree on. Criminals by definition don’t follow the law, including laws about gun purchases and possession. The same criminal gangs that run illegal drugs often also run illegal guns. The idea that laws such as waiting periods will address gang-related violence or illegal transfers is fantasy. Herod’s insight that legislation does not always work as intended is profound yet often forgotten in the halls of the capitol.
Bureaucracy can stall progress
A few minutes later, Silverman asks, “What do you think government’s role really should be in people’s lives?”
“Well that’s interesting. You’re asking me if I’m a libertarian or not, and I think there’s a streak there, in that my business is mine, and your business is yours. But we should have laws that actually protect that, in my opinion, and ensure that people can live their lives as openly and as free as possible. As a queer woman, I believe that I should have the ability to love and marry whoever I want. As I think about young kids in our schools, they should be able to express themselves however they want, within the bounds of making sure that they are allowing others to also express themselves and grow.”
Herod continues: “For me, there are times when government needs to have a hand in ensuring that society allows that growth of the individual. But there are also times when the government needs to get out of its own way. I’ll tell you what that looks like. It looks like an eighteen-month permitting process right now, in the city and county of Denver, to build houses. That’s absurd. And it’s because we’ve built bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy, and we won’t get out of our own way. There are things that, sometimes—I’m a . . . good Democrat—that Democrats add too many layers, too much red tape. And it creates so much confusion that it stalls out the entire process. And having an eighteen-month permitting process is absurd when our number one issue is affordable housing. So there are definitely times when government needs to just get out of the way.”
Amen, sister! Herod’s entire discussion is interesting.
I hope that Herod’s comments encourage a rethinking of tribal politics on “both” (all) sides.
Far too often, Democrats—progressives, people on the left, whatever categories we want to invoke—see business leaders, markets, and rural conservatives as the enemy. And often they see expansive government as the main or only solution to all our problems.
Far too often, Republicans—right-wingers, religious conservatives—see LGBTQ people and cosmopolitan city dwellers as the enemy. Often, rather than embrace a “live and let live” attitude that Herod expresses, they try to use the power of the state to enforce their own ways of life.
I hope more Democrats and progressives become more willing to grant people freedom in the business office as well as in the bedroom. And I hope more Republicans and conservatives become more willing to extend a hand of friendship to LGBTQ people and to others who are different from themselves.
There are definitely times when we as players on political teams need to just get out of our own way. If Herod can reach across party and ideological lines, so can the rest of us.
Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com
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