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Death Sentences

A gruesome triple murder puts a Boulder publisher and its how-to-kill book in the crosshairs.

In fact, the plaintiffs' team is expected to use some of the same arguments that helped Siegel win the Saturday-night-special case. One of those arguments, says plaintiffs' attorney John Marshall, is "that if they make a decision to publish this book, they bear the responsibility if somebody gets hurt."

Sanford says that, taken to its logical conclusion, that line of reasoning could implicate tens of thousands of journalistic and artistic works. "Any legal ruling would have a definite effect on mainstream publishers," says the attorney. "Soldiers have military manuals that contain even more explicit instructions [than does Hit Man], and those are available to the public. You can find out how to build an atom bomb on the Internet."

But plaintiffs' attorneys dismiss Sanford's argument that the Horn case could have a disastrous effect on the mainstream media. The reason, says Marshall, is that the case will hinge on intent.

"The first three sentences of the preface state pretty brazenly that it's an instruction book to teach people to murder," Marshall says. "This book lays it out plain as day that its intent is to teach murderers to do their job. That's its only intent. And that makes a huge difference. A newspaper article does not advocate setting out with the intent that anybody would get hurt."

Military manuals are written with the expectation that people will get hurt, Marshall notes, but the intent in such cases is not criminal. "Even in our society, there are times when killing is permissible or acceptable--in war or self-defense," he says. "But these [Paladin publications] are not books about self-defense or facing the enemy across a battle line. They're about setting yourself up in business to kill unknowing people, innocent people."

If disposing of the body becomes a part of your job assignmentR>, you should charge an additional hefty sum. The risks you take in carrying out the request and the extra time you spend with the corpse are certainly deserving of higher compensationEIf you have a really strong stomach, you can always cut the body into sections and pack it into an ice chest for transport and disposal around the countryside.

--Excerpt from Hit Man

Peder Lund has said on numerous occasions that he does not advocate readers using the information he purveys for illegal purposes. Many of the company's publications carry disclaimers warning that the material within is intended only for "informational purposes," "academic study" or "entertainment purposes."

But critics charge that Paladin's disclaimers are transparent shams. And the disclaimers in the catalogue at times do appear to be accompanied by a wink and a smile.

"Finally, under one cover, all the information you need to build, maintain and deploy your own heavy weapons and explosives, as well as the skills to protect them and you from nosy bureaucrats, neighbors and potential enemies," reads one entry. "For academic study only."

"By now, you know that you don't have to take the crap of the world lying down, getting frustrated as the assholes keep dumping it on," notes an ad for a book on revenge. "Make My Day! teaches you how to take their crap and send it flying back. All that's needed is your hand to turn on the fanEFor entertainment purposes only."

Hit Man carries similar disclaimers. "Neither the author nor the publisher assumes responsibility for the use or misuse of information contained in this book," reads a paragraph near the front of the book. "For informational purposes only!"

The disclaimers, says attorney Sanford, "are a reminder to people not to misuse the information in the book. It's a responsible thing to do. Some people say, 'Oh, they expect that to save them from legal responsibility,' but I don't think that's true. Even without a disclaimer, they could not be held liable."

R> Plaintiffs' lawyer Siegel agrees with Sanford that the disclaimer means nothing from a legal standpoint. "The cover [of Hit Man] is purple," he says. "If it carried a disclaimer saying the cover is green, that doesn't make the book any less purple. And what Hit Man is, is a murder manual. So [Lund] can disclaim his brains out, and it doesn't mean a thing."

Sanford says customer surveys commissioned by Paladin show that its customers are generally of two types: law enforcement agents and Walter Mitty characters who read the manuals for cathartic effect. Paladin seeks out that latter group--along with bona fide macho adventurers--by concentrating its marketing efforts at gun shows and in magazines such as Soldier of Fortune. It also runs advertisements that feed on the fears of those leery of government control.

"This book may seem controversial and dangerous," reads a Paladin blurb for the book Guerrilla's Arsenal: Advanced Techniques for Making Explosives and Time-Delay Bombs. "But such information may someday be the life-blood of freedom fighters under the oppressive thumb of a tyrannical government that has secured all means of force unto itself."

That may be one reason why (according to the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith) Paladin's Ultimate Sniper book is recommended reading by the Wyoming Militia.

Siegel says that pattern of targeting customers who have a self-professed interest in weapons and how to use them makes it difficult for Paladin to claim it has no intention of inciting violence. "Lund knows where his stuff is going and how it is being used," Siegel charges, "and he should be the last human being on the planet to be surprised that someone would use it for a criminal purpose. Paladin Press markets its products to a particular type of person, and you can't ignore that. They seek out through their advertisements misfits, failures, murderers, would-be criminals and terrorists."

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