Laura Carno’s political views probably could be summed up in four words: Government ruins nearly everything. In fact, that’s the title of her book. It also says a lot about the campaigns and causes she embraces.
The El Paso County-based author, political consultant and all-around activist on the right, who was instrumental in the recall of the Colorado Senate’s Democratic president several years ago, is perhaps best known these days as the point person for FASTER. That’s the headline-making effort to train faculty and staff at Colorado’s public schools in the use of firearms to defend their campuses. The program warms hearts on the right and, to say the least, raises eyebrows on the left. But Carno — who called out anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg for his $350,000 donation opposing the 2013 recall — isn’t one to let push-back push her back. Here’s more — on that fight; on her book; on the right to arms, and on facing off with fellow Republicans — in today’s Q&A.
Colorado Politics: What first lured you into politics? Were you always right-of-center?
Laura Carno: I have always leaned libertarian — believing that people know what’s best for their life situation — certainly better than any politician or bureaucrat. I never thought that politics would be a career pursuit for me. I tripped and fell into politics in 2008, believing that a Republican President would be better for our Second Amendment freedoms than a Democrat President.
CP: What inspired the name of your firm, “I Am Created Equal”?
LC: In a nod to the Declaration of Independence, I Am Created Equal means just this: I, the citizen, am created equal to the politician. They aren’t endowed with any birthright to make decisions about how I live my life. We have gotten so far from the original meaning of that phrase, where now we see government making even small decisions for us — like what kind of light bulb I should be allowed to use in my home. And it makes big decisions for us — like what kind of tool I may or may not be allowed to choose for my own self-defense.
I find it strange that we even have such a thing today as the “political class,” as if they are different or better than the people they govern. I see my job as one of reminding people just how far we have strayed from the original idea that ordinary citizens are equal to politicians.
CP: You wear a lot of hats, including as co-founder of Coloradans for Civil Liberties, which brought the FASTER gun and medical training program to Colorado for school faculty and staff. Some say it’s a realistic response to mass school shootings; others say you’ve got to be nuts. How do you respond to pushback at the idea of weapons training for teachers?
LC: Since 2004, it has been legal in Colorado for school boards to authorize members of their staff to be armed first responders on their K-12 campus. Many dozens of school districts have done just that, knowing that the faster a shooter is stopped, the fewer people die or are injured. Even law enforcement knows that if they were in their patrol car in a school parking lot when a school shooting started, people are likely to die before they would be able to stop the shooter.
Remember that FASTER stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response. It is world-class training for school staff that volunteer for the program.
People on both sides of this issue agree that more training is better than less training. We are training a curriculum that was developed by law enforcement officers in Ohio with experience responding to mass-casualty events. Our Colorado training team is also made up of law enforcement officers with experience in mass casualty events, even one with experience in responding to a school shooting. FASTER goes way beyond firearms skills, and places significant emphasis on the medical skills necessary to treat gunshot wounds while waiting for medical professionals to be cleared to enter the building.
We continue to raise money to be able to offer this training for free for schools and districts that don’t have the budget for this sort of training.
Those few people saying I’m nuts are those who would like fewer guns in America, or no guns in America. They are attacking a policy that has been in place and has worked for 13 years with no adverse incidents. I am offering free training to these armed heroes. Sounds practical, not nuts.
CP: Advocating for the right to arms seems to be a recurring theme in the projects you’ve taken on over the years. That includes the successful recall you helped lead of Colorado Springs Democratic Senate President John Morse.
LC: The recall of Senators John Morse and Angela Giron in 2013 was an example of reminding politicians that they don’t have the right to make decisions for us about how we choose to defend ourselves. In the recall election, our campaign popularized the slogans, “Politicians are not kings,” and “Don’t you dare tell me how to defend myself.” Because my face was on local TV with those messages, I would run in to people in the grocery store who had seen the ads. A common comment was that even if they didn’t own a gun or never planned to own a gun, it wasn’t some politician’s job to make that decision for them. They got the bigger picture.
It was also during that recall election that I learned just how aggressive some of the opposition could be in trying to silence me. The number of threats I received to my personal safety (including one that ended in a criminal conviction) would make anyone think about how they should defend themselves.
CP: You take on Republicans, too. Your website touts your work advocating against tax increases — in Colorado Springs, of all places. Do you draw fire for going after members of your own party? How do you deal with it?
LC: Let’s just say there are some cocktail parties I am no longer invited to! I also think this is what makes me an effective advocate for the taxpayer. I am more loyal to principle than to a particular party, and when I see politicians stray from core principles of freedom, liberty and equal treatment under the law, then I will call them out, and let the voters decide.
Politicians aren’t endowed with a birthright to make decisions for me in my life. That includes how I spend my money. Every time they raise a tax, fee, utility rate, or keep a TABOR overage, they need to remember whose money that is. Every dollar they spend is a dollar you and I earned — it’s not from some magical government money tree. If a politician from any party is asking for more money, without demonstrating that they have been good stewards of the money they already have, taxpayers should be asking tough questions.
I am a registered Republican, and some Republicans think that means I should support all other Republicans no matter what. I am for good government, and I say that if a Republican politician votes to make government larger and less transparent, while making the citizen weaker and having less in control of their own life, I will not support that Republican. I will speak out against them. More Republican voters should speak out on these issues, even when it makes Republican politicians uncomfortable.
CP: Most political consultants have a website; you actually wrote a book, “Government Ruins Nearly Everything.” A key theme is that we rely on government to our own peril — to resolve issues or take on tasks that we could more effectively handle on our own if only we would give it a try. What are some examples? And what is it about human nature that tempts us to rely on government so much? Are we all inherently lazy?
LC: We aren’t inherently lazy, but some people are brought up to believe that government can magically solve all of our problems. The government can’t make you happy, more skilled, more productive or joyful. These are things we have to do for ourselves.
In the book I talk about four social issues, how government involvement makes them worse, and how ordinary Americans make them better. I went straight for the controversial issues: marriage, abortion, guns, and schools.
In each of the four areas, I present people and organizations outside of government that actually make problems better. Look no further than the difference between what the federal Department of Education has done with over three decades and a trillion dollars, versus what Bob Schaffer and the founding board of Liberty Common High School have done to create one of the best performing schools in the country.
Think about the cycle of how government “fixes” a problem. First, government identifies a problem, spends our money to fix the problem, the problem gets worse, then the solution is to spend more money. The goal of my book is to provide readers with the language to give their politicians permission to stop “fixing” things! There is a positive role for government, most importantly protecting our individual rights and ensuring equal treatment under the law, but not every problem in society can be fixed with a government solution. Local problems are often best addressed by local people taking action in their own communities. They have a better handle on the situation than a politician sitting in Washington, D.C.
CP: Would you ever run for political office yourself?
LC: I don’t see myself running for political office, but I also couldn’t have predicted anything I’m doing today. As someone outside of the process, I have the flexibility to keep politicians in check, and for now, that’s a good place for me to be.