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WHEN AN ARSONIST lights
a match that burns a building, is the match at fault? Are match
manufacturers responsible for the fire? Should laws be passed
prohibiting you from having and using matches, or restricting which
types you can have, and in what quantities?
The obvious answer to these questions is no. The same match that is
misused by the arsonist lights the fireplace that warms us, and the
stove that feeds us. The match has no mind of its own. It is not an evil
invention. Its purpose is to ignite, nothing more. If it is misused, the
solution is to punish the individual wrongdoer. Everyone else should be
The same is true of firearms.
Firearms are employed every day by police, military, and law-abiding
private citizens to deter crime, participate in competitions, hunt, and
in the gravest extreme, to save the life of a victim of murder, rape, or
serious assault. Most often, the mere presence of a firearm is enough to
stop criminal activity in its tracks.
To the woman whose clothes are about to be torn from her body by a
knife-wielding rapist in a deserted parking lot, a handgun in the purse
is a lifeline. It is a genuine equalizer that may mean the difference
between her life and her death. It gives her a chance when she otherwise
would have none.
Every police officer who has made an arrest or stopped a crime
understands this principle. Every soldier who has known battle
understands this as well. And every private citizen who has ever faced a
violent criminal alone, and knows the feeling of an impending, untimely
death at the hands of a merciless savage, understands the importance of
being able to own and carry a firearm, whether or not he or she ever has
to fire it.
Guns Stop Crime
Criminologists of all political persuasions, in over a dozen studies,
estimate that firearms are used for protection against criminals several
hundred thousand to 2.5 million times per year, often without a shot
fired. This is a staggering statistic, but it's not one you are likely
to hear on the evening news. Why is it that you don't hear about the
homeowner who defended his family before the police could arrive; or the
shopkeeper who saved his own life and the lives of his customers; or the
woman who stopped her own rape and murder; or the teacher who stopped
the school shooting?
Yet when a single criminal goes on a tragic rampage, that's ALL you hear
about, over and over and over again, along with angry cries to ban
A recent study by the media watchdog Media Research Center (Alexandria,
Virginia) concluded that media coverage of firearms is overwhelmingly
biased to the negative, noting that between 1995 and 1999, television
networks collectively aired 514 anti-gun stories, to a mere 46 that were
pro-firearm, a ratio of more than 11-to-1 against firearms.
Unfortunately, we are only being told one side of the story. When we
hear only one side, we assume that what we are told is all there is to
know, and we do not inquire further. Biased media coverage controls
public opinion by controlling public perception.
We have been conditioned to associate gun ownership with criminal
activity, when in fact the opposite is true. There are nearly 80 million
law-abiding gun owners in America, whose use of firearms is entirely for
sport and self-defense. For these millions of people, firearms represent
safety, security, and recreation. Shooting is even an Olympic sport, and
the first medal of the 2000 Summer Olympics was gold, and was won by an
American woman in a shooting event.
When a lone criminal misuses a firearm, does that negate the hundreds of
thousands of times each year that firearms are used by citizens to
prevent crime? Should the misdeed of a single wrongdoer be seized upon
as an opportunity to recast all firearms and their law-abiding owners
into evil entities to be ostracized, regulated and banished from
society? Should you be compelled to turn in your matches because of the
acts of an arsonist; or to turn in your steak knife because of the acts
of a slasher; or to turn in your car because of the acts of a drunk
driver? Of course not.
Not Gun Control
The public outcry for justice after a tragedy is both understandable and
correct. But rather than calling for specific justice -- the
apprehension and punishment of the particular wrongdoer so severely that
future criminals will be effectively deterred -- we have been
conditioned to emit an emotional response decrying guns and gun owners,
and calling for urgent new regulation in the name of public safety.
This ignores the fact that there are already more than 20,000 gun laws
in the United States, and every act perpetrated by the criminal was
already in violation of existing law. What makes us think that new laws
will have any more influence over the criminal mind than the existing
New laws may make us feel good for the moment, satisfying the emotional
need for a sense of justice after a tragedy, but all they really
accomplish is to further restrict the rights of those who already follow
Like the arsonist and his match, it is the wrongdoer who must be
punished, not the law-abiding owner or manufacturer. Arson was already
illegal when the fire was started. What will a new law accomplish,
except making it more difficult -- perhaps impossible -- for you to
light your fireplace when you need its warmth to stay alive?
Regulating and banning guns has the effect of disempowering the
law-abiding while supplying advantage to the criminal. Try arguing this
point with Texas State Representative Dr. Suzanna Gratia Hupp. In 1991,
after leaving a legally owned firearm in her car in compliance with a
local “safety” law restricting its carry in certain public places,
Suzanna watched helplessly as her parents, along with 21 others, were
murdered in a mass shooting at a local restaurant. Suzanna followed the
law; the criminal didn't. How might the outcome have been different if
the law had not restricted Suzanna’s right to have her firearm with
One might ask the same question about every mass shooting or terrorist
attack that has occurred in recent memory: how might the outcome have
been different if one of the victims had been lawfully armed?
The inescapable answer to this question is that lives would have been
saved. This has been demonstrated in many documented incidents, but the
mainstream media refuses to report that lawfully armed citizens have
stopped killings before police could arrive.
For example, in 1997 in Pearl, Mississippi, a 16-year-old satanist
murdered his ex-girlfriend and wounded seven other students at a high
school. As he was leaving to kill more children at a nearby junior high
school, the assistant principal retrieved a lawfully owned handgun from
his car and held the youth for five minutes until police arrived. Not
long after, in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, a school rampage ended abruptly
when a local merchant lawfully armed with a shotgun convinced the
teenage killer to surrender before police could arrive. How many more
children would have died if “safety” laws had prevented the
assistant principal and the merchant from owning and accessing their
And how many lives would have been saved on 9/11 had a pilot, an air
marshall, or a qualified passenger been lawfully armed?
Reduces Crime Rates
The surprising truth is that there is a direct connection between lawful
ownership and possession of firearms and the reduction of violent crime
rates. In his book More Guns, Less Crime, Professor John R. Lott, Jr.
(University of Chicago Press) provides the most comprehensive and
statistically reliable study of firearms and crime ever conducted,
analyzing the relationship between gun ownership and FBI crime
statistics for each of the 3,045 counties in America over an 18 year
The study’s irrefutable conclusion: crime rates for murder, rape and
robbery drop six to ten percent, and are sustained at reduced rates,
when and where law-abiding adult citizens are permitted to carry
concealed firearms. The reason for this is obvious: some criminals are
deterred when they think that their intended victims may be armed.
This principle is not novel. For several years, the town of Kennesaw,
Georgia had an ordinance requiring every resident to keep at least one
firearm in the home. As a result, the home burglary rate in Kennesaw
fell by over 80%. A similar regulation was recently passed in the town
of Virgin, Utah.
Before you conclude that Georgia and Utah are populated by the
misguided, consider the nation Switzerland, which actually issues
military firearms and ammunition to be kept in the home. Possession of
pistols and semi-automatic firearms by civilians is only modestly
regulated. The resulting crime rate is surprisingly low – lower, in
fact, than the crime rate in Great Britain, where gun control laws are
the most restrictive in the western world.
Movements to ban and overregulate firearms and demonize their owners are
based on fear and misunderstanding of the role that firearms play in a
free society. Private firearms ownership insures personal safety when
police are delayed or unavailable, and collective firearms ownership by
a population is an insurance policy against government oppression and
extreme abuses of power. This is what the men and women who founded
America had in mind when they acknowledged the people's right to keep
and bear arms in the Bill of Rights, next to the First Amendment.
If you don't think that governments oppress and commit atrocities
against their own people, think again. During the 20th century, while
Americans were building cars, factories, and shopping malls, at least
seven major genocides occurred throughout the world, in which more than
50 million people were exterminated by their own governments (Germany,
USSR, Communist China, Cambodia, Uganda, Guatemala, and the Ottoman
Empire). Each of these state-run atrocities was preceded by "common
sense" gun control, registration, and eventual confiscation by the
government, all under the pretext of advancing public safety.
The most well-known example is Nazi Germany. Prior to the murder of 13
million people throughout Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe, a gradual
and systematic program of gun control and registration was implemented.
Public safety was the stated justification. Once gun owners had been
identified through registration, an aggressive gun confiscation program
to disarm the population (and in particular, Jewish people) was
implemented. As a result, the population was rendered defenseless
against the slaughter that followed. Said Hitler in his Edict of March
18, 1938: "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be
to allow the subjected people to carry arms; history shows that all
conquerors who have allowed their subjected people to carry arms have
prepared their own fall."
How might the outcome of the Holocaust and other government-organized
genocides have been different if the victims had not first been disarmed
under the pretext of public safety?
Even the great pacifist leader Mahatma Ghandi comprehended the
significance of a population's right to be armed. Said Ghandi in an
autobiography: "Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in
India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms
as the blackest."
Guns Save Lives
The bottom line is that firearms stop crimes, prevent oppression, and
save lives. Like any tool or instrument, they can also be misused. The
solution is not to restrict or eliminate the tool in general, but rather
to punish and banish the specific misuser. Restriction or elimination of
the tool creates the mere illusion of justice while depriving everyone
else of its
—Scott L. Bach