Mike Vanderboegh is a smuggler. With a difference.
Joe Average smuggler hopes government officials won’t notice what he’s up to. Mike, on the other hand, wants them to notice. In fact, he smuggles some of his goods right into their offices.
If you hang around the gun-rights movement, you probably know Mike, at least by reputation. He blogs at Sipsey Street Irregulars. He’s the founder and rabble-rouser-in-chief of the Three Percent movement. (“Threepers” being the small but powerful portion of the citizenry who will eventually be willing and able to shoot tyrants.) With his friend David Codrea and brave whistleblowers, he was responsible for bringing the ATF’s Fast & Furious “gunwalking” scandal to light.
Mike’s been around a long time. He’s a divisive figure. He’s been denounced by Bill Clinton, Rachel Maddow, Eric Holder, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Some pro-gunners don’t like him either, mostly because of his attitude. Many activists believe that gun-rights fighters should always be polite and work within the system. Those people aren’t Mike.
So what’s he been smuggling? Well, mostly standard-capacity magazines—the ones that have been recently decreed illegal in Colorado and several statist hellholes. A little ammo on the side, perhaps.
In April 2013, in a speech in Hartford, Connecticut, he urged gun-rights supporters to “Defy. Resist. Evade. Smuggle.” Then he announced that he had just brought six 30-round AR-15 magazines into the state in defiance of Connecticut’s post-Sandy Hook diktat forbidding them. “Catch me if you can,” he taunted. The Connecticut magazine-smuggling total eventually went over 50.
Later, with the help of contributors, he put more than 100 “illegal” magazines into the hands of formerly law-abiding Coloradoans. This is a symbolic act, of course. No doubt there are already tens of thousands of such magazines quietly tucked away in Colorado homes. But it’s the thought that counts.
Some of his smuggling efforts were curtailed by something even worse than abusive government: cancer. For the last several years, Mike has been under constant treatment for cancer, a heart condition, and a host of related health problems. He has kept going through sufferings and debility that would have sent lesser people (including, emphatically, me) into idle self-pity. Maybe he missed a few deliveries of smuggled goods. But in December he embarked on a second round. Codrea dubbed this one “Toys for Totalitarians.”
Before, the emphasis had been on putting forbidden magazines and ammo into the hands of good people. The new program instead delivered standard-cap magazines into the hands of governors who’d signed recent laws making them illegal. Hickenlooper of Colorado. O’Malley of Maryland with the nice Irish message, “Póg mo thóin” (kiss my ass). Malloy of Connecticut. Cuomo of New York.
Then, as donations of money and magazines continued to come in, Mike mailed more magazines to media figures, lesser anti-gun politicians, and hoplophobe honchos—always sending along a “nice” note explaining the purpose of the gift.
“What a waste of perfectly good magazines!” you may be saying. But not to worry. The shipments were of two types: “Freedom Fighter Grade”—fully functional mags for ordinary citizens—and “Politician Grade”—old beater mags for most of the anti-gun celebrities. The only exceptions: Hickenlooper got a shiny new Magpul magazine in “honor” of having driven that company and its jobs out of his state. Malloy got the similarly dubious honor of a magazine manufactured by Ammunition Storage Components, a company that began planning its move from Connecticut as Malloy was signing the law banning its products.
Maryland’s O’Malley was so angry at “Póg mo thóin” that he was rumored to be convening a grand jury. But the biggest reaction came from Connecticut, where a reporter got wind of the smuggling. Shortly thereafter Mike, who lives in Alabama, received a call late one night from the Connecticut State Police. When he wisely didn’t answer, he found a bemused local sheriff’s deputy at his doorstep the next day, relaying the message that a Detective Goocher from Connecticut requested a callback. Mike ignored that too.
As I write this, it’s not clear what, if any, consequences Mike will pay for such public smuggling (or for the “conspiracy” he engaged in with the people who contributed mags and money). But he’s not worried.
He figures he signed up for trouble when he created the Three Percent movement. “However these petty tyrants react,” he says, “... regardless of politics, regardless of whatever friendly judgments they get from their black-robed partners in constitutional crime—there is no unconstitutional law that they can pass and enforce that we cannot defy, resist, evade and smuggle in answer to it.” And that’s the plain truth.
Respect him or hate him, this is a guy with guts. But what moves him? Why these guerrilla tactics instead of traditional political activism?
Mike told me, “I spent many, many years trying all the usual things. Arguments of law, history, common sense. Resort to the ballot box. Heck, I still do that today. But I came to the realization, probably because I used to be a collectivist myself, that such people would not ultimately be persuaded by argument but only would be deterred by credible threats of countervailing force, and by the absolute certainty that the Three Percent represents an irreducible determined minority that cannot be intimidated, cannot be persuaded, but only killed. By our defiance, we force those who evince an appetite for our liberty, our property and our lives to consider the personal costs to themselves of those tyrannical compulsions. Believe me, it is the only language they truly understand.”
And what keeps him plugging when he’d be justified in retiring from the fray? In part, his vision of God. Mike, who uses the label “Christian libertarian” when labels are needed, says, “In the past two years, the docs have told us twice that the odds were against me pulling out of a crisis. It’s impossible for me not to conclude that God isn’t done with me yet. I wear on my wrist the gift of a friend, a rubber bracelet that says ‘Deo Vindice’ (under God, our vindicator). I believe that as well. I don’t know if it makes me bolder, but I do know that it is a relief knowing that it is all in God’s hands and that whatever happens conforms to His plan.”
He also has plenty of human helpers—the Sipsey Street Irregulars—readers of Mike’s blog, some of whom live “behind enemy lines.” Mike credits them for “carrying out smuggling operations at greater risk to themselves than I bear. They really are magnificent in their own bravery and defiance.”
So far, Toys for Totalitarians hasn’t gotten the media coverage Mike hoped for—not in the scandalized mainstream press and (surprisingly) not in the online pro-gun media. But perhaps even that hints that the message is reaching its intended targets. Those who are targeted, Mike says, may simply be hoping that “more people won’t emulate our defiance and that if they ignore us, maybe it will work out in their favor.”
But that probably won’t turn out well for the pols. “Sooner or later, I will piss these proto-tyrants off enough to make them succumb to the darker devils of their nature and do something really stupid. They’re not scared of me, per se, but they are scared of folks adopting my attitude of open defiance. They count much on their ability to cow us with just the implied threat of their power. They have the universal tyrant’s fear of Romanian Rules (the Ceaucescu solution). When the smart ones see a picture of Mussolini and his mistress hanging by their heels in that gas station, they shudder. Personally. Every time. It is our duty, and in our interest, to remind them of that every chance we get. Only if they understand that their actions have personal consequences can we avoid civil war.
“In the ‘60s, there was a famous firearm rights bumper sticker I’m sure you recall: ‘You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands.’ Of course the defiance is great, but the transaction is acceptable to collectivists. They are more than happy to pry weapons from our dead hands. What Three Percenters propose is to rewrite the sentiment in tune for a new century that seems to be filling up with more wannabe tyrants: ‘If you send armed men to take our liberty, our property, and our lives, we’ll take their guns from their cold dead hands and turn them on you. And we’ll be happy for the transaction.’”
Read Mike Vanderboegh’s blog at www.sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/.