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Let Freedom -- and Gunshots -- Ring

In the wake of last week's terrorist attack, local big-gun lovers were deadly serious about staging their Fun Shoot.

"The reason that a few hijackers armed only with knives and box cutters were able to murder tens of thousands of innocent people," it continued, "is less a problem of physically disarmed passengers, and more a problem of psychologically disarmed passengers."

Such rhetoric hardly marks a change in approach for the group. Like many Americans who are in favor of gun control, RMGO also views the National Rifle Association with suspicion -- but for completely opposite reasons. "The NRA promotes the same policies as Neville Chamberlain: appeasement," Brown says. "You know -- if we just give them Austria, they'll be happy. Unlike the NRA, we didn't take a public-opinion poll to decide what we believe." (Mary Ann Bradfield, who lobbies Colorado politicians for the NRA, declines to comment on Brown or the RMGO. "Now is not the time for that sort of thing," she says.)

Brown typically refers to the NRA's local affiliate, the Colorado State Shooting Association, as a "lapdog to Governor 'Gun Control' Bill Owens" -- a politician the RMGO holds in special disregard. The governor earned the group's enmity with his support of Amendment 22, which requires purchaser background checks at gun shows, as well as his highly visible role in Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, or SAFE Colorado, a gun-control group formed in response to the killings at Columbine High School.

Though only 35 years old, Brown has spent most of his adult life scrabbling in the trenches against the forces of gun control, wherever they may lie. "I've always been a gunny my whole life, and I got tired of seeing politicians who knew nothing about it," Brown says. A native of South Dakota, Brown moved to Colorado in 1984 to attend CSU. "When I walked into my dorm room, I had five or six rifles," he recalls. "Whenever my roommates scooted off to Cozumel, me and my buddies would go to Kiowa County and shoot like hell."

He worked early on for the college Republicans, and soon after graduation landed a job as a local staffer for U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong. Later he went to work for the state legislature, and then the Colorado State Shooting Association as a lobbyist. But in 1996, Brown quit the gun-rights group in disgust "when I refused to kiss politician ass instead of kick it."

Unlike the NRA, which in response to growing public pressure has slowly agreed to a handful of small restrictions in order to maintain its larger agenda, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners has taken the opposite strategy under Brown. It has vigorously opposed any and all measures to regulate firearms, from background checks and registration of certain weapons to efforts to mandate the safe storage of guns. "We don't think that's a solution to crime," Brown explains. "It's an attempt to appease the leftist media. So we don't do it."

The group, which claims more than 7,000 members statewide, also actively seeks out and promotes political candidates who promise not to compromise on the Second Amendment. Brown says he has already enlisted former state senator Jim Congrove to run for Jefferson County sheriff against John Stone. Brown says that Congrove, unlike Stone, will issue permits to carry concealed weapons to any applicant who wants one and is not disqualified by criminal background. ("I haven't decided anything on that yet," Congrove clarifies, although he acknowledges that he was a consistent supporter of Second Amendment rights while serving as a state representative and senator.)

Several weeks ago, RMGO filed a Freedom of Information Request with El Paso County, seeking the names of each of the 4,400-odd residents who had been issued a permit to carry a concealed handgun there. The county balked at first, but two weeks ago, at the prodding of RMGO's attorney, it relented and released the list. Brown says he meant no harm: His goal was not to publicly shame or humiliate the permit holders, but to simply add them to RMGO's mailing list.

Within the next month or so, the organization also plans to file a lawsuit in Colorado district court, Brown adds. It will claim that the Brady Bill's background checks, in which a computer takes anywhere from several minutes to a couple of hours to scan a buyer's criminal background, are unconstitutional.

"The government doesn't need to know who owns what guns," Brown says. "It doesn't need to approve who can buy a gun. We don't like lines like that. Adolf Hitler drew some clean lines: Jews couldn't carry guns and the SS and Gestapo could. I suppose there was less crime in Nazi Germany.

"We say, why shouldn't you be able to have this freedom? Why shouldn't you be allowed to own a .50-caliber or a machine gun?"


"We're gonna shoot the cannon in a minute," the range officer shouted. He paused, then added, "If anyone wants to watch." There was a general chuckle across the range: Who wouldn't want to watch the cannon?

The artillery in question was the 1937 37-millimeter Bofors owned by Lon, a resident of Green Mountain and a fixture at big-gun shoots. (Like everyone else at the Fun Shoot, Lon asked that only his first name be used.) Mounted on two wheels and so big it comes with its own seating pad, the gun uses rounds that are about a foot long and nearly two inches in diameter.

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