Here is the Gun Week interview I told you about. Apart from chronically misspelling my name "Vanderbeogh" instead of Vanderboegh (I have taken the liberty of changing it in the transcript) and a couple of minor factual errors (noted below), it is remarkably even-handed and accurate reporting of what I said. I am unused to being quoted correctly and this was a delightful surprise. I have divided this into two parts, and will post Part Two tomorrow.
Gun Week, 15 February 2009, Page 9
The seeds of resistance: Activist, Blogger, Soon a Novelist, Vanderboegh talks to Gun Week
by Dave Workman, Senior Editor
He has crossed philosophical swords with second-generation activist Jeff Knox, and loudly criticized the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
His activities as a member of the Alabama Militia have been scrutinized by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A letter he sent to a Madison, WI, newspaper warned of armed resistance against increasingly restrictive gun control. His soon-to-be-released novel Absolved, about fighting gun control tyranny, has already garnered something of a cult following thanks to the preview release of several chapters on the Internet.
He has been a high-profile gun rights activist since the early days of the Clinton Administration, and he sees no good at all coming from the new Barack Obama Administration.
Some might imagine Mike Vanderboegh as a disturbed recluse who listens to voices while waiting for Armageddon or a flight of black helicopters.
In reality, 56-year-old Vanderboegh is a family man, 23 years into his second marriage, proud father of a 30-year old son from his first marriage who just returned from the Middle East with the 101st Airborne, and two teenage daughters with his current wife. One is in college and the other is still in high school.
He lives on disability and suffers from congestive heart failure, the result, he jokes, "of 30 years of dissolute living."
"I was not in the military," he says matter-of-factly. "I am a veteran of domestic wars."
Born in St. Joseph, MI, and raised in Ohio, he did not finish college, and admits he was thrown out twice, "once for bad grades and once for causing trouble." Vanderboegh was an anti-Vietnam War activist and admits he even became a communist.
Wrestling For His Soul
All of that changed in 1976 when he was working at the University Hospital in Columbus. A German surgeon who came to the hospital for consultation became fascinated with the Bicentennial, and he began talking to Vanderboegh, promising to "change your mind" about Marxism and America.
"Over the period of a week," Vanderboegh recalled, "he wrestled for my soul, and he won."
He calls it an epiphany.
Part of that battle was learning from the physician about "the incredible tragedy of millions of young men, dying in the snow, each for the devil in his own way." It was an experience that led Vanderboegh to spend almost four years reading the history of the United States.
"I was still politically inactive," he said, "although I voted in every election, until (Bill) Clinton got me off the sidelines."
Divorced in 1985, Vanderboegh worked as a warehouse manager for an aluminum compay, and that was how he met his second wife, who worked then, and still does, selling forklift equipment.
(MBV note: Actually, Workman got that a bit confused. I met Rosey selling her forklift parts over the phone from a Yale dealer I was working for in Columbus -- she was in Birmingham. I didn't start with the aluminum company until some time after I got to Birmingham.)
It was while the couple was raising their new family that Vanderboegh became outraged at the incidents at Ruby Ridge, ID and Waco, TX.
Now residing in Pinson, AL, Vanderboegh -- unable to work a regular job but plenty able to pound a keyboard and communicate fluently -- has become a lightning rod in the gun rights movement. A self-confessed "small r" republican and Christian, he is not shy about telling anyone who espouses anti-gun views that a line has been drawn, and government will cross it at its own peril.
He is the "alleged leader" of a hard core gun rights movement that calls itself the Sipsey Street Irregulars, all self-styled "three percenters." A three percenter is defined as someone who will be part of a revolution rather than sit and watch from the sidelines.
(MBV: Well, actually we call it a "restoration.")
This description alludes to the relative handful of Americans who participated in the Revolution of 1776, and "Sipsey Street Irregulars" alludes to the opening sequence of his upcoming novel, depicting a raid by federal agents on a shop owned by a character named Phil Gordon. Gordon's shop is on Sipsey street in Prichard, AL.
(MBV: Actually, it is Phil Gordon's home and I never say the town he lives in. There are a number of real Sipsey Streets in Alabama, and I dare say, a number of Phil Gordons, come to that.)
Vanderboegh epitomozes the "New Wave" of gun rights activism; American citizens who cherish the Second Amendment and are not afraid of discussing its defense against gun grabbers and laws they believe to be unconstitutional. His contemporary and friend, fellow blogger and columnist David Codrea describes Vanderboegh as someone who "makes a lot of gunowners uncomfortable because he forces us to examine the ultimate last resort purpose behind the Second Amendment."
"The kind of rhetoric Mike engages in when he prods us to prepare, intellectually, emotionally, and physically," Codrea observed, "would have been both honored by and familiar to some at the birth of the Republic. No doubt others would have denounced it with horror as radical and base treason."
"No Fort Sumters"
However, Codrea insists that Vanderboegh "is not inciting sedition and not putting up others to starting a fight."
"One of the recurring admonishments to his readers is 'No Fort Sumters,' " Codrea noted. "What he is doing is daring us to think through what we'll need to face if the means of peaceable redress are shut down and the squeezing becomes intolerable."
"I believe in the Constitution," Vanderboegh told Gun Week, "in natural law."
His letter to the Madison newspaper in July 2008 underscored this "reality check" approach, reacting to a man from Cleveland, OH, who suggested the time has come to license and register all guns.
"There are some of us 'cold dead types'," Vanderboegh wrote, "perhaps three percent of gunowners, who would kill anyone who tried to further restrict our God-given liberty. Don't extrapolate from your own cowardice and assume that just because you would do anything the government told you to do that we would."
"Are you proposing to come yourself, or do you want someone else's son or daughter in federal service to take the risk? Are you truly prepared to stack up the bodies necessary to accomplish your plan? Seems a strange way to make a 'safer society.' More to the point, are you willing to risk your sorry hide to do it? No? I thought not."
"Then quit proposing the next American civil war. We're done being pushed back from our natural rights without a fight. Be careful what you wish for."
That letter streaked across the Internet forums. If someone in the gun rights movement hadn't already heard of Vanderboegh, that letter put him on the map.
Novel Hits Nerve
His introductory chapters to Absolved cemented his spot in the movement, almost in the same way as Unintended Consequences made author John Ross a household name to gunowners in the last decade. Where Ross' book told a saga about gun control and the birth of the modern gun rights movement in epic proportions, Absolved, is, by Vanderboegh's own admission, somewhat more intense. He chuckles that he has gotten complaints from preview readers about killing off his characters too quickly. He also jokes that "the body count is higher."
His preview chapters have hit a nerve anong other "three-percenters." So have his blog messages, which can be found at sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com. However, he believes that many people "will (never) do anything more than deal with threats to our liberty by political means."
"I wrote a little fiction story," Vanderboegh said, "called 'The Window War' about how modern Sons of Liberty could make points by smashing the windows of Republicans and Democrats who signed off on more gun control."
"I want gunowners who value their liberty to understand how truly powerful we are," he added.
Yet, he says that power is not being used to prevent attacks upon gun rights.
"We are strong, but lack resolve." Vanderboegh lamented.
He said there are "a lot of three-percenters out there and they don't know they're three-percenters; they will not obey any new gun control law that infringes on their liberty."
He said the anti-gunners want to "ban every rifle above .338 caliber."
"They are fixated on .50-caliber rifles," he contended, "because they view it as a personal threat. There's never been an assassination with a .50-caliber rifle . . . They figure at some point they're going to be held accountable for what they're doing. They see it even if we don't."
Vanderboegh then mused, "Is it so radical to point out the universe as our enemies see it?"
He warned against treating gun control proponents as being simplistic.
"If you view them through this filter that says they're all alike," he cautioned, "then you're going to miss many opportunities to defeat them."