Zuckerman’s Classic Bureaucratic Solution: Silence

in vermont •  8 months ago

The following is a recent e-mail exchange I had with David Zuckerman, Lieutenant Governor of Vermont:

AK: Mr. Zuckerman:

With respect to Phil Scott's recent veto of marijuana legalization (well, re-legalization since 1937, really), Seven Days VT quoted you thusly:

Supporters of legalization were disappointed in Scott’s veto. Lt. Gov.
David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat, called it “very short-sighted.”

“I am sad to see the governor disregard the will of most Vermonters and reduce individual liberties in our state,” he said in a statement.

While I too am an advocate of marijuana re-legalization, I am also interested in knowing how it is that you reconcile your above-avowed regard for individual liberties with your long-standing and quite outspoken animus for Vermont's current first-in-the-nation status with regard to individual firearms freedoms. Surely you must recognize that advocacy of or for any reduction in the freedom Vermonters currently enjoy with respect to owning, carrying, buying, or selling firearms is undeniably a reduction of those individual liberties, and would hence then seem to stand in flagrant conflict with your above statement.

Would you please clarify your position? I earnestly and patiently await your response.


Alex Knight

DZ: Dear Alex,

Thank you for your message and your support of marijuana legalization.

I, like the majority of Vermonters, do support universal background checks. This only "reduces firearm freedom" for those who have chosen to break the law or who have a mental or medicinal history that makes it dangerous for them to possess a weapon.

I believe both positions will result in individual and public good. By changing how we regulate cannabis usage we can reduce stress on our prisons and release approximately 100,000 Vermonters from what is now considered illegal activity.

By requiring background checks we reduce (I know we don't eliminate) the risk to society of irresponsible gun ownership.

Thanks again for writing to me.

David Zuckerman, Lt. Governor

AK: Hello again Mr. Zuckerman:

Thank you for your response. Perhaps I have been remiss in the wordage of my question to you. Perhaps, in turn, I can more succinctly encapsulate the impetus of my inquiry thusly.

From your reply, you state: "I, like the majority of Vermonters, do support universal background checks. This only 'reduces firearm freedom' for those who have chosen to break the law or who have a mental or medicinal history that makes it dangerous for them to possess a weapon."

Your prior statement in which Seven Days VT quoted you reads accordingly: “I am sad to see the governor disregard the will of most Vermonters and reduce individual liberties in our state."

While that second statement was obviously in reference to marijuana legalization and not firearms laws, it implicitly evinces a more general interest in individual liberties beyond the scope of governmental marijuana policy.

In response to my first inquiry, however, you made the aforementioned statement; one which, to wit, seems to be predicated upon your own personal opinions, rather than an objective and empirical consideration of individual liberty itself.

It goes without saying that all classes of Vermonters currently enjoy liberties which -- were universal background checks to become legal reality -- would no longer exist. Not simply for certain categories of individuals selected by State fiat, but for the entire population. Universal background checks would entail, at the very least, payment of fees in order to compensate gun dealers (and possibly government personnel) for their services, and a registry of firearms in order to insure compliance. These are requirements which obviously do not at present exist. So to impose them quite clearly institutes a reduction of individual liberties -- not an increase in them, nor even some neutral non-effect.

So aside from your personal convictions with respect to universal background checks (which I obviously disagree with, but that is of no moment with respect to my question), are you prepared to contend that the nature of your statement, as quoted by Seven Days VT, does not stand in sharp and distinct conflict with your stated position with respect to universal firearm background checks? If you would, please clarify.

I look forward to your reply. Thank you.


Alex Knight

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, I have yet to receive a response to this last. Should I ever, rest assured I’ll promptly post it below in the Comments section. Don’t hold your breath.

It seems the irritating penchant of every bureaucrat to simply sweep away their inconsistent statements, self-contradictions – and outright lies – with impenetrable silence. This is far from the first time I’ve encountered such a non-tactic. From all the extensive letters I once sent to the IRS asking them to identify the law or laws that compel me to comply with income taxation (including one that requested an expansion from then Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, when he contended that he didn’t believe the IRS had no such authority – even as he’d been provided by Yours Truly with a trove of evidence), to the Exeter, New Hampshire Police Department , to the US Census Bureau (who, to their credit, I suppose, remained silent and did nothing – including not demanding a form nor trying to impose a $100 fine).

The problem is, as the old saying goes, that no answer is often just as or even more incriminating than an answer. I suppose though, in their view, not being quotable aids the memory hole of most people – who are infinitely more concerned with sports and videogames and posting pictures of their cat of Facebook -- and collecting government handouts -- than to pay attention to pesky and alienating fringe element things like liberty and whether or not a police state has de facto arisen.

Hence, society becomes beset upon and infested by predatory and obfuscating individuals such as Zuckerman (and similar such personalities who populate other government offices and agencies such as the aforementioned), whose driving modus operandi, whether they will admit to it or not, is wielding power over other people; shaping the world according to their ideals – while using the violently controlled lives and property of others in order to do it – to the maximum extent possible.

And in order to get away with this, in order to deceive the average man or woman on the street, often all they have to do is remain silent. Then, just listen to the meaningless bleating of sheep they have spent the last few thousand years of human history capitalizing on.

It is the politician’s -- the bureaucrat’s -- “solution” that has repeated itself throughout history altogether too often.

Will people in general ever stop just accepting it?

And then, just maybe, stop the political class altogether?

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UPDATE -- July 3, 2017 (after having shared the above essay with Mr. Zuckerman's office):

Dear Alex,

Thank you for sharing this. Just so you know I have had your email with the Lt. Governor’s personal comments to type and send to you for about a week. I am sorry that I have not had time to complete this task. It is in my pile to work on Wednesday.

Lt Governor Zuckerman works to reply to every message he gets in as timely a manner as possible.

Again, I apologize for the delay, wholly my fault.


Megan Polyte
Chief of Staff for Lt. Governor Zuckerman

My reply:

Thank you. I look forward to Mr. Zuckerman's reply.

UPDATE -- July 5, 2017:

Dear Alex,

Thank you for your continued dialogue regarding individual liberties.

The statement I made to Seven Days VT was in the context of reasons for cannabis reform.

My previous reply was clarifying that individual liberties are relinquished when one breaks the law or if society deems them unfit to bear arms for safety/mental health reasons.

I do not believe a “registry of firearms in order to insure compliance” is required or part of the universal background check criteria.

Individual liberties must be weighted relative to risk, just as we must look at the cost relative to the result.

Hope this clarifies my statements.

My reply:

Hello Mr. Zuckerman:

Thank you, in turn, for your most recent response.

As to whether or not it has clarified your prior statements, I'd like to address each section individually:

1.) "The statement I made to Seven Days VT was in the context of reasons for cannabis reform."

Thus, I would take it then that your reference to "individual liberties" was highly selective and nonunilateral, in that it was only meant to be applicable to possession or use of marijuana, and not other areas of personal freedom, such as firearms ownership, or any number of other unrelated considerations?

2.) "My previous reply was clarifying that individual liberties are relinquished when one breaks the law or if society deems them unfit to bear arms for safety/mental health reasons."

This is a rather beguiling statement, in that -- aside from the fact that it would seem to posit "the law" as a universally reliable contingent on which to base whether or not someone is, in effect, eligible or noneligible to possess individual liberties -- it also ignores the fact that passage of something on the order of universal background checks affects all Vermont residents (and visitors), and not simply those who have violated any given governmental edict.

Further, this statement includes an appeal to "society" as an alleged judge, as it were, of who or whom is/are "unfit to bear arms for safety/mental health reasons."

Given that "society" is a concept and not a concrete designation of anyone in particular, to who or whom are you referring? It would seem (if I might be allowed a certain degree of presumptuousness, and please correct me if I am wrong), that you are endowing a small minority of bureaucrats within the political class with the label "society" -- as if they may reliably be counted upon to be representative of the entire populace, when in actuality, most of them were not and are not elected. And even among those who were/are, said individuals possess only the status of having been selected by a small minority of the population in all cases. Further still, this is of course to say nothing of the fact that those who did vote for said elected bureaucrats, themselves possessed no "authority" they could legitimately delegate in order to arrive at such conclusions on the behalf others without their express and explicit consent. In any case, it appears clear that "society" -- even if such a term is erroneously endowed with full personification -- categorically does not and never has actually participated in making any such decisions, nor possesses or pretends to possess such perceived "authority," but only a very small subset of such, the majority of whom were never voted for, never sought the consent of those whom they level judgment against, nor are even known personally by those over whom they arrogate such "authority."

3.) "I do not believe a 'registry of firearms in order to insure compliance' is required or part of the universal background check criteria."

While I am happy to read this, I am interested in knowing how it is you believe that universal background checks would be enforceable in any capacity, without instituting some form of firearms registration. It seems to me that otherwise, noncompliance would be extremely easy, virtually risk-free, and hence, rampant. As has already been observed with other gun-registration schemes in places such as California and Connecticut.

4.) "Individual liberties must be weighted relative to risk, just as we must look at the cost relative to the result."

This statement is again intriguing: Precisely who "must" "weight" individual liberties, and from whence do they derive such authority? Who are "we"? Who or whom is being referenced here? People who have been elected by a certain minority of other people -- none of whom (to the very best of my knowledge) can make any legitimate claim to having any more power or authority over the lives and property of others than I, or the next person -- which is to say precisely none at all. I can only say that I have zero authority to aggress against the life, liberty, or property of any other person -- and that the same is true of them with respect to myself and others in return. And since this is true, none of us really have any "authority" -- perceived or otherwise -- to "delegate" such non-existent "authority" to others by proxy. Hence, might you clarify to who or whom you are referring when you apparently assert that someone, somewhere, possesses not only such "authority," but an an apparent actual mandate to exercise same?


Alex Knight

UPDATE -- August 5, 2017:

It has been exactly one month since I sent my above reply to David Zuckerman, and there has in the interim been zero response. I would assume that he intends, at this point, to make none.

Witness that this entails not only an unwillingness, refusal, and/or inability to address the more fundamentally germane points raised, but also such relatively simplistic considerations -- such as a definitive and unambiguous stance with respect to the subject of individual liberty, and precisely how he intends to make universal background checks for firearm purchases enforceable absent a gun registration system.

As alluded to before, I won't be holding my breath. I invite one and all to evaluate this entire conversation -- such as it was -- for yourselves.


January 30, 2018


Dear Vermont Legislators:

As I am unable to attend this hearing in person today, I am submitting this written testimony in lieu, and hope that you will accord it the same weight as the spoken word. I will begin by further stating that were I physically present, I would be wearing orange and standing in solidarity with members of the Vermont Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, Inc., Gun Owners of Vermont, and the numerous other gun rights, hunting, and shooting sports organizations across Vermont – in addition to the thousands of other gun owners across the Green Mountains.

The facts are relatively simple. We have before us three bills -- they are H.422, S. 221, and S.6. One of these (S. 6) seeks to create a universal background check requirement for all firearms purchases, and the other two propose to create conditions under which someone accused (not convicted in a court of law!) of a domestic violence incident may “temporarily” have their firearms confiscated by law enforcement until proven innocent!

In fact, here is a description of these latter two especially pernicious pieces of proposed legislation, courtesy of Gun Owners of America:

“At its core, section 4054 would allow a policeman to go into a ‘secret (or ex parte) hearing’ and obtain an order to strip you of your constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Under section 4052(c), proceedings could be conducted in Montpelier, even though your residence is in Brattleboro.

“In this ‘secret hearing’ -- from which you and your side of the story are barred -- if police can prove by ‘clear and convincing evidence’ (a relatively low standard), that you are, like 257,000 veterans, an ‘immediate and significant danger’ to yourself, you will be stripped of your constitutional rights.”

I should think that my opposition is shared by many on the basis of the fact that it is a flagrantly unconstitutional seizure of lawfully-owned property without due process. After a secret hearing! And I find it unconscionable that any legislator could support this measure in the face of such facts. There is inherently nothing “safe” about an alleged “safety” precaution or supposed “preventative measure” which bases itself upon manifest violations of fundamental individual rights. Someone accused of a crime must be first proven guilty via full due process before they can be deprived of property. That is the very basis and underpinning of American jurisprudence. The equation is really that simple.

As to the issue of UBC’s, I have two primary objections: 1.) It will artificially and substantially escalate the cost of a firearm sale or transfer by as much as $50 per transaction. This, even standing alone, is unacceptable. 2.) Although Lt. Governor Zuckerman and other have denied repeatedly their desire to create a firearms registry, the naked fact remains that universal background checks are meaningless and unenforceable without one. UBC’s are quite clearly, in spite of glossy rhetoric to the contrary, a precursor to the establishment of a statewide gun registry. Such an abomination would, following the passage of universal background checks into law, remain only a short matter of time.

I will conclude with the obvious: Vermont, with its traditional absence of draconian gun laws, has been and remains consistently among the top 3 safest places in America, and most often statistically #1. This is because widespread and unimpeded ownership and carrying of firearms, counter to the cries of gun control proselytizers, discourages and deters crime. The old adage, “An armed society is a polite society,” fits Vermont quite well.

I will also add, in brief, that it is appalling to me that the advocates of these gun control measures have characterized themselves as “grassroots” Vermont residents exclusively, when it is obvious at even the most cursory glance that much of the financing and organization behind them extends from outside of Vermont – to be specific, various anti-gun rights initiatives bankrolled by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In fact, even GunSense Acting Executive Director Clai Lasher-Sommers is a resident of Chesterfield, New Hampshire – not Vermont. This is an outrage.

I repeat my adamant and unilateral opposition to H. 422, S. 6, and S. 221. None of these bills should be considered fit to become law. Rest assured that I, and thousands of other concerned Vermonters, will be watching closely the actions of each individual legislator with respect to these ill-conceived proposals this election year, and in all of those to come.

Most Sincerely,

Alex Knight