I will address this as I did above instead of to one of many individuals out there using the recent Newtown murders as a personal jumping-off point for an attack on our second amendment. It would be easy for me to attack the flavor of the month. But six months from now it will be someone else and the message will be the same.
We, the responsible gun owners of America, have spent the last 25 years undoing nearly a century of reactionary gun laws that have followed in the wake of violent spasms in our history. We have fought hundreds of legal skirmishes in countless courts and legislatures across the country trying to put the “bear” back in the right to keep and bear arms. In every engagement, we have been told that we were creating an army of vigilante killers. These people would take the law into their own hands, shooting first and asking questions later. In every instance our opponents worst fears never materialized. Our homicide rate has steadily dropped while the number of concealed carry permit holders has risen exponentially.
One difference between the Newtown murders and the Bath School bombing in 1927 is that in 1927 people didn’t get a push notification on their iPhones about it an hour after it happened. People took the time to rationally assess the cause of the bombing and took it for what it was: the act of a deranged and desperate man. We don’t do that any more. Within 24 hours of an event like Newtown, we want a government committee formed with solutions following quickly after.
This is not the way responsible people act.
So far, what recommendations have leaked out of our Vice-President’s committee? Bans on rifles, bans on magazines, firearms registration, checks to buy ammunition. Oh and maybe we’ll do something about mental health issues and security in our schools. But that is at the bottom of the list.
Let’s dissect a few of these ideas:
Bans on AR-style rifles. In 2011, homicides involving long guns of any type totaled 323 out of over 8,500 total. A drop in the bucket. It is is admirable that they want to prevent a portion of those 323 deaths per year. They usually ask, “Why does anyone need to own an AR-15?” Because Americans have been purchasing surplus military weapons for as long as we’ve been around. They are relatively cheap, reliable, plentiful, and the ammunition for them is usually inexpensive compared to other cartridges. We also buy surplus military weapons from other countries by the crate-full. To be a responsible firearms owner you must practice with your firearm regularly. This can be very expensive. The majority of the ammunition manufactured in the U.S. is for the military so it stands to reason that the most popular civilian cartridges are also military cartridges.
Banning high-capacity magazines. I’m going to take a wild guess and say there are probably at minimum 10 million 30-round AR magazines in the U.S. right now. One popular manufacturer currently has a million on backorder. If you wanted to ban magazines larger than that I believe there is room to negotiate. But it appears you are not willing to give me anything in return like, for instance, concealed carry reciprocity? Didn’t think so. Probably a non-starter.
Registration and more background checks. No and no. We already have them and they work. Despite what you hear in the media, firearms are not easy to buy. God forbid you live in an urban area. A blizzard of bureaucrats and red tape stand between you and the second amendment already. Just read Emily Miller’s series on purchasing a gun in the District of Columbia. It was a nightmare. And as for registration, we would all be one FOIA request away from having our names and addresses splashed all over a newspaper’s Google map. Just ask the people in New York who’s privacy was invaded just this month.
Mental health screening. I’m not a mental health expert. But I know that many of the recent mass shootings were carried out by people who were giving off a lot of warning signs. My guess is that people did not speak up for fear that they would be sued or harassed. We need to fix this. Reasonable people who notice signs of violent mental illness must have a way to get help without retribution. Smarter people than me need to figure this out.
School security. Please explain something to me. Do we perform rigorous background checks on nearly everyone who works in our schools already? Are any of these people capable of handling a firearm? If they have already checked out, why not let them? Provide them the training for free. Don’t suggest to me that our school teachers only care about their kids up to a point. I mean, after the guns come out it’s every man for himself right? Baloney. Teachers in Newtown were throwing themselves in front of bullets for their children. If only one of them could have fought back. I love the idea of hiring armed security. But that just isn’t financially feasible in some school districts.
This brings us back to armed civilians.
Civilians are held to a much higher standard when it comes to using a firearm in public than the police. There is an extremely fine line between “justifiable homicide” and “vigilante killer”. Every bullet that exits the barrel of a civilian firearm must be accounted for. If it does anything but stop a life-threatening attack, the shooter is likely to be ruined in every possible way. Not so for police.
Case in point, an August 2012 shootout outside the Empire State Building. Nine bystanders were injured by bullets and bullet fragments. Some of those were NYPD bullets. The officers fired a total of 16 rounds at a single suspect. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that those officers have not been fired, have not been sued personally in civil or criminal court, and probably have not even had their names released to the public. George Zimmerman will never get that treatment. If he’s lucky enough to stay out of jail, he’ll face a wrongful death suit soon after. If he isn’t financially ruined by then, he’ll have to change his name and move to another state.
So why do law-abiding people line up by the hundreds of thousands to apply for concealed carry weapons permits? I believe there are two primary reasons. First, they just want to protect their loved ones and are willing to accept any hardship that may come as a result of doing so. Second, I believe they want to provide a collective deterrence to criminals who may think twice about preying on their community. The State of Florida recently released a report that they are about to exceed one million active concealed carry permits. That means that potentially one in every nineteen Floridians you encounter may be carrying a firearm. That’s an effective deterrent. Bad guys watch the news, too, you know.
Back to the media. Our current lightning rod would have you believe that this is an all-or-nothing argument. Either we ban guns or we have shopping malls full of armed civilians and schools full of armed teachers. There is no in-between. But NATO never put nuclear missiles in every western european city during the cold war.
We had enough to provide an adequate deterrent to Soviet aggression. What is adequate? I don’t know. But apparently what we did worked because we won and we never had to use our missiles. Distill the idea of deterrence down to the local shopping mall. Do I need to have every single shopper and clerk armed to provide an adequate deterrent to crime?
Heavens no. But what if you put a sign on the door that says “This mall welcomes concealed carry permit holders.” That’s like a “go away” sign to bad guys. The same goes for schools. Just a small number of armed school officials would send a message to the next would-be school shooter that he may eat a bullet immediately upon brandishing his weapon.
Our lightning rods in the media live mostly in western european cities that have no functional second amendment. No, I’m not talking about London or Paris. I’m talking about New York and Chicago, among others. Our big cities have attempted to insulate themselves from actually recognizing the second amendment for what it is by erecting a bureaucratic gauntlet that citizens must assail just to do the “keep” part of “keep and bear”. Our big cities thumb their noses at the states in which they reside. They have their own private armies. They have a mostly disarmed citizenry. And these are the most violent places in our country.
Recently, the Police Superintendent of Chicago, when asked about a recent court order that his state enact a concealed carry law said, “just because it’s 49 states to one doesn’t mean the state of Illinois is wrong on that one.” What hubris! Yours was the only state in the nation with no concealed carry provision and you guys were the smart ones.
You are the police superintendent of Murderville U.S.A.!!
It took the 7th circuit court to correct you. This is not finding common ground. It is arrogance and it is why the public does not trust big-city political kingdoms.
The media and the anti-gun lobby has brought this fight to us. We will gear up and do battle in the arena of ideas. Much energy will be expended. Hopefully some good will come from it.
But in the end, we the gun-owning, second amendment-loving public will go back to doing the things we’ve been doing for the last 25 years to make our country safer, because it works.