This is the World Wide Web edition of J. Neil Schulman's book Self Control Not Gun Control. It's posted for informational and entertainment purposes only and may not be crossposted to any other datafile base, conference, news group, email list, or website without written permission of the author. If you wish to purchase the hardcover edition, it's available for sale at this website, or at fine booksellers everywhere.
Copyright © 1995 by J. Neil Schulman. Rights to make copies and print-outs from these files are limited by the license agreement. All other rights reserved.
The Politics of Gun Control
Scorched Earth Policy
It was an ad in the real-estate section.
For sale by owner.
Five bedroom, three bathroom house.
Family and dining rooms, all new appliances.
Three-car garage and large back yard.
Owners motivated to sell.
Fifty thousand pints of blood or best offer.
Well, why not?
Isn't that how we do it?
Dracula must cry
at all the blood ruined by dirt
and because of it.
I can see that some places
might be worth fighting over.
Niagara falls might be worth a few thousand pints.
I might donate a couple of pints myself
for the Grand Canyon.
But why is it
that some deserts
are worth baptizing?
I've seen sand.
When you've seen one dune
you've seen them all.
Cactus isn't that pretty a plant
and I wouldn't take a bus for a camel.
And why is it
that the real-estate they fight over
has the charm of the Bronx?
I've seen pictures.
What's left to fight over
isn't worth fighting over.
There is something insane about
variable interest rates
figured in hemoglobin.
So let's play Klaatu.
I'll be Gort.
Solomon would like this, too.
It's a rule from now on.
If you can't play with your toys nicely
You just can't have them.
You fight over land
You spill blood there
You say it's so holy you'll kill for it.
You have a week.
Get the family pictures
Fill up the pick-up.
Don't forget the dog.
Cause it won't be there after Sunday.
You fight over it,
we'll make it glow in the dark.
You'd better have snapshots
Cause it won't be there Monday.
These things are so simple
if we're serious about ending it.
But if it doesn't happen
It isn't about land
But about what we do
February 6, 1995
Presented to the 1995 Virtual Gun Rights Conference as a white paper.
Okay, Let's License Guns Just Like Cars
How many times have you heard gun-control advocates argue that it's ridiculous just anyone can buy a gun without a license in most states, considering you need to register your car and get a driver's license?
Further, the argument goes, guns should be registered and licensed the way cars are because while it's true that cars are involved in about 50,000 accidental deaths a year in the United States and firearms in only around 1,500 accidental deaths, guns are used in around 15,000 homicides a year and another 15,000 or so suicides.
Of course this comparison leaves out how many automobile fatalities are actually suicides. Police accident reports have no good way of knowing how many single-driver or opposing-traffic crash fatalities are suicides. An autopsy showing blood alcohol or drugs won't necessarily tell you it was an accident because wouldn't you get stoned if you planned to kill yourself in a car crash?
But the final argument to register guns and license gun owners is always the same. Unlike cars, we are repeatedly told, guns have only one purpose--to kill.
Forget for a moment that the best criminology shows guns being used two-to-three times more often in defense against a crime than guns being used to commit a crime; and forget that the overwhelming number of these gun defenses occur without the trigger ever having to be pulled. Let's also forget that 99.6% of the guns in this country will never shoot anyone.
For the moment, let's just pretend that there is some reason behind the argument that guns should be licensed and registered like cars.
If we're going to take that argument seriously, then let's enact the same standards for owning and operating a firearm in the United States as are actually in use for owning and operating a motor vehicle.
Comparing Manufacture, Ownership Registration, and Enforcement
To begin with, anyone in the United States may own a motor vehicle without a license. You can be living on death row in your state's maximum-security prison and still hold title to a motor vehicle.
But under federal law, no convicted felon, or dishonorably discharged veteran, or a person addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance, may own a firearm; and there are additional restrictions on possession of firearms by persons under a court restraining order.
If we're going to treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we're going to have to repeal these firearms laws.
There are no restrictions whatsoever on what sort of motor vehicle anyone may own. Anyone of any age may buy or own an automobile, or an eighteen-wheeler, or a motorcycle, without restriction. You can own a car that looks like a hot dog, if you feel like it.
But there are both federal and state restrictions on the ownership of various types of firearms, or even parts for them. Restrictions include operational capacities, accessories, or mere appearance. Laws restrict the sale or ownership of fully-automatic firearms; similar restrictions affect some magazine-loading but non-automatic firearms. Other laws restrict rifles with pistol grips or bayonet mounts or flash suppressers. Federal restrictions forbid the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than ten rounds. There are laws against rifles or shotguns with too short a barrel, and restrictions on owning firearms which are made to look like anything else, such as a wallet.
If we treated ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we'd have to repeal these sorts of laws.
One need not register any motor vehicle unless one operates it on public roads. In some states, the registration of a motor vehicle need not be in the actual name of an owner but may be registered under a fictitious or business name. One may own and possess an automobile even if one lives in public housing. There are no laws requiring that automobiles be kept in locked garages or specifically penalizing parents if their children gain access to an unlocked garage and operate the vehicle, causing harm. There is no restriction on the ownership or possession of motor vehicles in Washington D.C., Chicago, Detroit, New York, or other major cities; nor any requirement that motor vehicles be kept disassembled and locked up or unfueled, unavailable for immediate use.
In cities such as Washington D.C. and New York, numerous prohibitions, restrictions, and requirements are made in the possession of firearms. In Washington D.C. and elsewhere, if you're allowed to own a firearm at all, you must keep it locked up, unloaded, and disassembled, even in your own house. In some public housing projects where the police are rare, poverty-stricken residents must surrender all rights to possess firearms for self-protection. In California and elsewhere, a parent who keeps a loaded or unlocked firearm for protection, even if well-hidden, risks special penalties if a child finds it and causes harm with it.
If we treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we must repeal these firearms laws.
There is no waiting period or background check necessary for the purchase of any motor vehicle. There is no restriction on the size, power, or seating capacity of the motor vehicles one may legally purchase. No one passed laws making it illegal to lower the noise-making capacity of a motor vehicle; to the contrary, laws require that motor vehicles not violate noise-pollution statutes. There are few or no restrictions forbidding automobile ownership by ex-cons, or convicts on probation, or parolees, or individuals under court restraining orders, or even registered sex offenders--not to mention so-called deadbeat dads. Even persons convicted of vehicular homicide may usually still legally hold title to an automobile.
But there is a waiting period to purchase a firearm in many states, ranging from the five days mandated by the federal Brady Law, to some states or cities where the background check can take many months to process. Background checks often block the purchase of a firearm by someone whose only crime is that she has an unpaid traffic ticket or that he's behind on his child support, or someone is subject to a restraining order obtained as a legal maneuver in a divorce. Often the license allows just one firearm of a type selected by a police official, and also restricts the times, places, and purposes for which one may possess that single firearm. There are laws forbidding the installation of silencers on firearms which would allow them to be fired quietly during target practice, with the result that damage to hearing--even with ear protectors--is common.
If we treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we must repeal these restrictive firearms laws.
There is no federal license needed to manufacture a motor vehicle; nor is the possession of parts with which one can manufacture a motor vehicle subject to federal, state, or local laws. The federal government does not raid the homes of its citizens looking for parts that could be used in the unlicensed manufacture of motor vehicles. Kids can make or modify motor vehicles in their back yards, driveways, or in school auto shops with help from their teachers.
In contrast, manufacture of any firearm requires a federal license requiring fingerprints, an FBI background check, oaths and warrants, and significant license fees. Both federal and state authorities have harassed both licensed dealers and noncommercial sellers suspected of paperwork or technical violations; and sting operations have entrapped individuals. Authorities induced backwoodsman Randy Weaver into sawing a shotgun barrel shorter than the legal limit, and attempted to make him miss a court appearance for this violation by changing his court date without notice; his failure to appear resulted in a violent confrontation between this previously law-abiding man and federal authorities. The confrontation resulted in the death of a federal officer and of Weaver's wife Vicki, who was shot--standing unarmed while holding an infant--by an FBI Hostage Rescue Team sharpshooter only 200 yards away.
At Waco, Texas, an armed assault by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms on the Christian Branch Davidians resulted in a firefight which led to the immediate deaths of seven civilians and four federal agents, and the later deaths of over 80 previously law-abiding men, women, and children; the warrant which authorized this raid was that the Davidians were suspected of possessing parts which would have enabled the conversion of a magazine-fed but non-automatic rifle into a full-auto rifle that--if the federal tax had been paid--would have been legal to own in the state of Texas, anyway.
In numerous cases, acting on nothing more than anonymous tips, federal officers have staged raids on gun-owners' homes, destroying their property, terrorizing their families, confiscating valuable gun collections later determined to be perfectly legal, and even killing their pets. No compensation has ever been made to victims of these gestapo-like raids.
If we treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we must repeal these confusing laws and disband federal police agencies involved in these sorts of operations.
There is no requirement that a motor vehicle be purchased from a licensed dealership. There is no federal licensing of motor vehicle dealers, and no federal bureau with police powers allowing regular inspection of dealer's sales records without a warrant.
In some states, including California, all purchases of firearms must be made from federally-licensed dealers. All federally licensed firearms dealers must allow the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms a yearly inspection of their dealer-record-of-sales forms. ATF agents have been known to use these occasions for general searches or even theft of any other paperwork they find interesting, without obtaining a search warrant meeting constitutional requirements. The Bill of Rights forbids general searches and requires officers, if they wish a search warrant, to make sworn affidavits stating with specificity what they are looking for and what crime it is evidence of.
If we treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we must repeal these firearms laws, and forbid such unconstitutional searches.
Anyone can purchase a motor vehicle by mail, or across state lines. There is no restriction onthe number of motor vehicles one may own, or any restrictions on the number of motor vehicles one may buy in a month.
It is illegal to purchase a firearm by mail or from a seller in another state unless one holds a federal dealer's license or such purchase meets legal purchase requirements in both states. Some states, such as Virginia, forbid the purchase of more than one firearm per month.
If we treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we must repeal these laws.
One does not need any license to be in possession of any motor vehicle anywhere in the United States of America. There are no requirements that a motor vehicle be kept locked up and in non-operational condition as a requirement of legally transporting one. There are no laws requiring cars to be stored in locked garages, or otherwise made inaccessible to their owners. Students who drive may drive their cars to school and park them on school property if such parking is available.
In many cities and states, it is illegal for a private individual--and often even a sworn police officer who is off-duty--to be in personal possession of a firearm in operational condition--that is, loaded and without a trigger guard--or in possession of even an unloaded firearm if it is concealed or not deliberately rendered inaccessible to its owner; or to keep even an unloaded firearm in the trunk of one's car or concealed on one's person.
If we treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we must repeal these firearms laws.
There are no restrictions on the operation of motor vehicles on private property, with the owner's permission, anywhere in the United States. A child may legally operate a motor vehicle on private property with no license required. The only licensing requirements in any state are in the event that one is going to operate that motor vehicle on public streets or highways, in which case one must qualify for and carry an operator's license.
In many states or cities it is impossible for a private individual to legally possess a firearm on public streets at all; and the use of a firearm, even in cases of legal self-defense or protection of the lives of others, often results in prosecution on firearms charges. Bernhard Goetz, acquitted by a jury for shooting young punks on a subway whom he had good reason to believe were attempting to mug him, was convicted and served jail time for possessing the firearm he used to defend himself. There are additional restrictions on the possession of firearms by minors, even with their parents' permission, under conditions where such possession would be for a legally-permissible purpose. In addition to other criminal penalties, students possessing a firearm, or a toy gun, or even empty ammunition casings on school property are suspended or expelled.
If we treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we must repeal these firearms laws against possession and legitimate use of firearms.
Training for operating a motor vehicle is part of the curriculum at public high schools. There are also private operator's schools in every neighborhood, without zoning restrictions. In many states one may get a learner's permit to operate a motor vehicle on public roads as young as age 14, and an operator's license as young as 16. At 18 one can get an unrestricted operator's license. Additional tests allow one to operate 2-wheeled vehicles and 18-wheel vehicles. The test for an operator's license measures one's knowledge and proficiency in the safe operation of a motor vehicle. You do not have to convince anyone that you have a need for the license. Once you've demonstrated competency at a level that almost anyone can satisfy, the state has no discretion in refusing you an operator's license. Except for convicted violators allowed restricted driving privileges, any state's license for operating a motor vehicle is good in all places throughout the state, at all times, and every state's license is recognized by every other state. The license is good for operating all motor vehicles of that class, not just motor vehicles which one owns.
In those states where it is possible to obtain a license to carry a gun at all, such licenses are often at police discretion, and handed out as payoffs to political cronies. The licensing procedure is often burdensome, invasive of privacy, time-consuming, and expensive. In some states the possession of a carry license is a matter of public record which can be reported in the news. Often licensing is blatantly discriminatory against women and minorities. Often the license has severe restrictions as to time and place that one may carry the firearm, and limits the carrying to only specified firearms. Usually the license is not recognized by other states and a person carrying a firearm under another state's license is prosecuted as if they were not licensed at all. In Los Angeles, actor Wesley Snipes was arrested for carrying a gun; Snipes was licensed to carry in Florida but was charged anyway. Even in states, such as Florida, which make issuance of licenses mandatory to qualified applicants, there are numerous restrictions on the places into which one is permitted to carry the firearm, resulting in accidental violations of law and suspensions of licenses. One must be twenty-one to obtain a license to carry a firearm in most states; and federal law severely restricts possession of firearms by individuals under eighteen, even with their parent's consent. Firearms training in schools is a rarity, with the result that those minors in possession of firearms--even if they have legitimate fear for their lives--are both penalized for carrying them and often left unqualified, by lack of available training, to possess or operate them in a safe or disciplined manner.
If we treat ownership of firearms the way we treat ownership of motor vehicles, we must rewrite these carry laws to remove these burdens and restrictions, and make training more available.
You may, with your motor vehicle operator's license, rent a motor vehicle when your motor vehicle is unavailable--such as upon arrival at an airport in a city one is visiting.
There is certainly no Hertz Rent-a-Gun at every airport.
Now, shall we place exactly the same restrictions on the manufacture, vending, purchase, ownership, and operation of firearms that we currently place on automobiles?
The laws regarding motor vehicles in our society, while not perfect, at least recognize these common devices as serving the legitimate purposes of large numbers of the population. Lawmakers have at least tried to see that the laws governing automobile ownership and operation do little more than serve basic public requirements, such as revenue and encouraging proper training and safety awareness. Ordinary motorists, while perhaps overburdened themselves, at least aren't penalized for thinking they have a need to keep a working car with them. Punishments in our society are reserved for those who misuse motor vehicles, not those who use them as they were intended.
Contrariwise, the laws regarding firearms in our society always seem to place the burden of proof on any private person to demonstrate to some public servant a need to own or possess a firearm. Restrictions disarm the public in places where there is increased danger of violence-precisely where one might need to defend oneself.
It is true that, for most of us, guns aren't as useful on a daily basis as cars. Looked at with a micro perspective, you could carry a gun for years before finding it needful; a gun kept for protective purposes is more like a fire extinguisher than a car. You might never need it; but when you do, having it can prevent tragedy.
Looked at with a macro view, existing research shows that one of your neighbors uses a firearm every thirteen seconds or so preventing just that sort of tragedy, and that using a gun for defense against an assault or robbery attempt is twice as likely to keep you unharmed than either not resisting at all or attempting any other form of resistance.
Yet, for a person not either engaged in a life of crime or professionally confronting criminals, it is the very unlikeliness of needing the gun that fosters our problems with them. If more ordinary people carried guns more regularly, more of us would be familiar with them, education in them would be as common as for cars, and we'd see more stories on the news about how one of our fellow citizens was Joanie-on-the-spot with her gun when some psychopath decided to turn her lunch break into a murder spree.
The protection of your life, property, family, and community hunting game shooting sports and training of the young in arms these are all well-established in our nation's customs, the Declaration of Independence, our Bill of Rights, federal legislation, and various state constitutions and laws. Unlike laws treating motor vehicles, our firearms laws are a patchwork quilt of taxes, burdens, regulations, conditions, invasions of privacy, and outright prohibitions, all expressing the mentality that only persons of political privilege may possess means to use deadly force if the need arises. Gun control advocates demand a "national gun policy," but their demands are only for increases in gun restrictions in places that don't currently have them; they are unwilling to unify laws in such a way that local violations of firearms rights are preempted by federal laws.
So, by all means, let's start immediately rewriting the laws in this country so that the ownership, possession, and use of guns are as fair and even-handed as laws governing cars. Maybe more people will then keep guns with them when they're needed, and criminals with guns will no longer operate with the guarantee of a disarmed public to prey upon.
Honest gun-control advocates should be delighted at this prospect. They just might get precisely what they've asked for.
Go to Next Chapter.
Return to Table of Contents.
Why Do People Fear Guns?
I've come to a conclusion recently. People who think guns should be banned or restricted have an excellent reason for believing that.
Follow my reasoning for a moment.
How do we know what we know? We either have direct experience, or have to rely on what other people tell us or, in the age of recorded information, what we read and what we see on TV and film.
The people who own and carry guns, with some exceptions, are overwhelmingly in favor of them. This is true whether that person is a criminal or a good guy. Criminals like guns because they give them power, which they can use to overcome their targets. Good guys like guns because it gives them the power to deter, frighten away, or combat the criminals who are made more powerful by guns.
On the other hand, those with no direct experience of guns have to rely on secondary sources. For intellectuals, those secondary sources are reports on guns being used--either in print or in broadcasts for the most part--or even more abstract interpretations of those reports, such as statistical compilations.
And, where do those reports come from? They come from police who are called to the scene when a gun has been used. Or, they come from reporters who find out about an incident, usually from the police, and report on it.
The problem is, defensive incidents aren't reported for the most part. If someone frightens away a burglar or a mugger merely by showing that she has a gun, it isn't news. It often isn't even reported to the police, particularly in areas where carrying or owning guns is illegal--and those are the cities with the highest crime rates: New York, Washington D.C., Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Thus, the secondary sources portray a world in which guns are predominantly tools of criminality, rather than of defense against criminality.
People whose only opinions about guns are based on the opinions of others who have as little direct experience as they do should practice a little humility, and at least consider that gun owners may know more about the gun issue than they do.
Go to Next Chapter.
Return to Table of Contents.
In Defense of the NRA
Most of what you hear about guns on TV and radio, and most of what you read about guns in prominent magazines and newspapers, is distorted to the point of lying, by writers who have a prejudice against private ownership of guns by the American public.
Most journalists today write as if the NRA--usually lumped in with the Tobacco Institute--represents only the commercial interests of "merchants of death" who don't care how many lives are lost--particularly the lives of our young people--just so long as they get to keep selling their product.
So let's get that myth out of the way right now.
The National Rifle Association of America is a 124-year-old organization almost entirely financed by the dues and small contributions of its 3.2 million members, not by money from the gun manufacturers. In addition to the NRA's other programs, the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action lobbies for the right to keep and bear arms not only of 70 million current American gun owners, but of anyone who might want to exercise that right in the future.
This media hostility to the NRA permeates the entire debate about guns and violence in this country, and allows lie to be piled upon lie. When NRA held a news conference to tell the media that a new Luntz-Weber poll showed that most Americans don't think gun control will reduce crime or violence, the room was empty. When Handgun Control, Inc., called a news conference around the same time to discuss the results of a Louis Harris poll, the room was jammed with reporters and TV cameras, and the media reported Handgun Control's interpretation of the poll results as if it were a papal encyclical.
At some point, you just have to ask yourself the following question: who knows more about guns--the millions of NRA members who own them, handle them on a regular basis, and have taken NRA's safety courses or journalists who talk and write about guns for television networks and national magazines, but are often afraid even to be in the same room with one?
As a comparison, would you believe a writer who spent his life railing about how dangerous automobiles were, but who had never sat behind the steering wheel of a car? Why on earth would you believe a critic who spent his life telling you how to improve automotive safety but who had never bothered to get an engineering degree--and who dismissed the opinions of real automotive experts who pointed out the critic's incompetence and bias, sneering that the experts were "just mouthpieces for the automobile manufacturers' lobby"?
The press accuses the NRA of being the most powerful lobby in America. God only knows that with our rights to maintain the means to defend ourselves hanging by a thread, I pray this remains true.
Part of the reason for the media's hostility to civilian firearms may be ideological disagreement with our philosophical premises. But part of it is without doubt the realities of how news collection and reporting works day-to-day.
The problem is what sociologists call "dark side phenomena": events that happen in a way that they can't be easily seen or calculated.
It's the classic problem of how you would go about proving that an extraterrestrial with an invisibility cloak is hiding behind a door. When the door is closed, you can't detect him because the door is in the way. As soon as the door starts to open, he turns on his invisibility cloak, so you still can't see him. It's logically impossible to prove that the extraterrestrial isn't there, so the burden of proof falls on those who assert that he is. But without either the extraterrestrial's active co-operation, or an indirect means of confirming its presence despite its proven ability to remain hidden, this is darned difficult to do.
That's why it's taken so long for criminologists to prove that there are two to three times as many incidents every year where a firearm is used in defense against a criminal than there are incidents where a firearm is involved in harming an innocent person.
Gary Kleck, Ph.D., professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University, is considered the dean of criminologists on firearms issues by his colleagues in the American Society of Criminology, who in 1993 awarded Kleck its coveted Hindelang Award for his book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (Aldine de Gruyter, 1991). Kleck's unimpeachable liberal credentials--he's a registered Democrat and a member of Common Cause and Amnesty International, for example--precludes any possibility of pro-conservative or pro-NRA bias. He takes no funding from any partisan in the gun-control debate.
In Point Blank, Kleck had already analyzed a dozen studies conducted by other researchers, and had concluded that American gun owners used their firearms at least one million times each year in defense against criminals. But Kleck wasn't satisfied with the research methods used in some of these studies, so in Spring, 1993 he and his colleague Marc Gertz, Ph.D., conducted a National Self-Defense Survey of 4,978 households.
I interviewed Kleck about the not-yet-published results of this survey for the September 19, 1993 Orange County Register; it's also included in Stopping Power.
What Kleck's National Self-Defense Survey discovered is that even excluding all uses of firearms by police, military, or security personnel, American gun owners use privately owned firearms 2.45 million times each year in actual defenses against criminals. About 1.9 million of these defenses use handguns, the rest some other firearm--a shotgun or a rifle.
In Stopping Power, I boil down the results of my interview with Kleck as follows:
Every 13 seconds, American gun owners use their firearm in defense against criminals. If you're only counting handguns, it's every 16 seconds. Compare this to the "once every two minutes" that the much-ballyhood Death Clock in New York City's Times Square clicked off an incident of "gun violence."
Women use handguns 416 times each day in defense against rapists, which is a dozen times more often than rapists use a gun in the course of a rape. Handguns are used 1145 times a day against robbers. Handguns are used 1510 times a day in defense against criminal assaults.
A gun kept in the home for protection is 216 times as likely to be used in a defense against a criminal than it is to cause the death of an innocent victim in that household--the well-publicized Seattle study's 43-1 ratio of dead householders to dead burglars notwithstanding.
It's this lack of dead bodies for the police to find which is the main reason that for every time you see on TV or read in a newspaper about a gun being used to defend someone, you are seeing hundreds of cases where a firearm is used in an incident of wrongful violence.
Kleck's data shows that in only 14% of the gun defenses reported in the National Self-Defense Survey was the gun in question even fired. In only 8% of gun defenses did the survey respondent believe that he or she had even wounded a criminal, much less killed one--and this might be a vastly high estimate of criminals shot by their potential victims, given the relatively small number of actual justifiable or excusable homicides recorded each year--between 1500 and 2800, according to Kleck.
The question remains: why aren't crime victims reporting their gun defenses to the police, so that these incidents can find their way onto the evening news?
The answer is the prejudice in our society against gun ownership itself. Most of the crime in this country takes place in large cities, and for most of this century, city-dwellers have been either socially discouraged or legally prohibited from carrying a firearm for protection.
The New York City case of Bernhard Goetz in the mid-1980's was a perfect example.
After one grand jury failed to indict Goetz, a white, middle-class victim of a previous armed robbery, for shooting and critically wounding several African-American teenagers whom Goetz said had threatened him with a sharpened screwdriver on a subway car, the New York prosecutor submitted the case to a second grand jury, which did indict Goetz. Goetz was acquitted of all charges except illegally carrying the handgun he had used to defend himself, and served jail time on those gun charges. Additionally, even though Roy Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality--now an NRA director--sided with Goetz, Goetz's action was portrayed in the media as racially motivated.
After seeing what happened to Bernie Goetz for carrying the means to defend himself, is there any wonder why most people decide not to tell the police that they had to use a gun to save their lives?
Every month, news clippings about gun defenses are sent in by readers of the NRA's magazines, The American Rifleman and The American Hunter, and many are published in "The Armed Citizen" column in these magazines. Many of these news clippings are from smaller newspapers, or from newspapers in rural regions where gun ownership is more accepted. Major newspapers in Democratic-party-controlled cities hardly ever report on incidents where the use of a gun has a beneficial result, even when the incident deserves a front-page headline.
Two months after the much-reported October 16, 1991 incident where a madman randomly murdered 23 lunchers, and wounded another 19 at a restaurant in Killeen, Texas, postal clerk Thomas Glenn Terry, who had a license to carry his concealed .45 semi-auto pistol, saved 20 hostages in an Anniston, Alabama restaurant from takeover robbers--one of whom had murdered a motel clerk just a few days earlier. No TV network news program mentioned it. A madman with a gun is news. A hero with one isn't.
The same thing happened again on September 18, 1992, when ex-prizefighter Randy Shields, a part-time bodyguard with a rare license to carry a concealed .380 semi-auto pistol, saved a 4 n 20 Pie Shop in Studio City, California from a gang of takeover robbers who had already started shooting wildly at customers and employees. The story wasn't reported outside Southern California--and the anti-gun Los Angeles Times buried the story in its sports section.
This distortion of how firearms are actually used in our country is only the beginning of the myths the anti-gun media creates: cop-killer bullets that were sold as police rounds and never killed a cop; "Rhino" hollowpoint bullets which, defying all laws of wound ballistics, are reported as being able to penetrate police body armor; deadly "assault weapons" which hardly ever end up in police evidence lockers; "invisible plastic guns" which contain over a pound of metal and X-ray identically to all other handguns--this list is almost endless.
The media gleefully report every case where a waiting-period law supposedly kept a gun out of the hands of a criminal--but they never bother checking to find out how many of these criminals who were denied a gun purchase were later arrested in possession of a gun they'd stolen or bought on the black-market anyway.
They edit TV footage to misrepresent the accuracy and firepower of "assault weapons"--to make them look more deadly than they actually are.
The news reporters terrorize you with daily shooting reports to make you afraid of guns, then the editorialists and columnists call you paranoid for thinking the danger is great enough that you should consider keeping a gun to defend yourself from all these armed criminals.
As I said, it depends on whom you're going to trust: the people at the NRA who have 124 years of institutional experience dealing with firearms, or a bunch of ignorant, politically biased pundits who believe the lies they tell each other.
Isn't it your right to demand that the people who report the news make the effort to get the real facts about guns and gun control, so you can make a rational decision for yourself?
Or are you willing to have the American media continue to manipulate and lie to you?
In the months following the November 8, 1994 elections--which even President Clinton recognized as a defeat of anti-gun Democrats because of NRA's opposition--the attacks on the NRA by the Clinton administration and its media choirboys have been relentless. They've even sunk so low as to try to blame the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal Building on the "extremism" of NRA's opposition to their gun-control schemes.
But there are many up-sides to this sort of political attack. The first is simply that the more the Democrats attack the NRA, the more they are showing that the NRA is a potent force reshaping the American political landscape.
The second is that it's making the gun issue a litmus test for both parties. The more pro-gun Democrats are being pressured to ignore their pro-NRA constituents and follow the Democrats' anti-NRA leadership, the more Democrats are looking to get out of their party and look for a more congenial political home. And the more anti-gun Republicans like Rudolph Giuliani and John Warner endorse Democrats--and the more liberal Republicans like George Bush and Pete Wilson jump on the anti-NRA bandwagon--the more apparent it will become to the Republican leadership that anti-NRA Republicans can't be trusted to support Republican candidates and when Republicans support gun rights, the NRA can.
It's your right to keep and bear arms that the NRA is defending. It's possibly your life--or that of a loved one or neighbor--that's hanging in the balance.
While not even the Tobacco lobby would dare to claim that their product saves lives, the NRA--through both its firearms safety programs and its support for gun-owners rights--does.
And in my view, that makes the NRA one of the best things America has going for it.
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NRA and the Libertarian Party
Some Libertarian Party critics of the NRA have been putting forward a strategy of pursuing liberty by advocating only undiluted liberty and accepting nothing less. I have no quarrel with that. I have stated myself that our ultimate goals must be stated loudly and clearly, even as we work for tactical victories or minor strategic improvements.
But some of these critics have been engaging in typical self-destructive radical tactics of denouncing anyone who doesn't make kamikaze runs at the target as a sell-out.
This flawed tactic was first made evident to me in the November 8, 1994 elections. Some libertarians were perfectly prepared to campaign for Libertarian Party candidates who couldn't win even if doing so would cause the defeat of Republican seatholders--which would have kept the Democratic Party in power. It didn't matter to them that by punishing Republican candidates who voted for the anti-gun crime bill it would result in anti-gun Democrats maintaining their abilities to ram additional gun-control down our throats, and keep our allies in the Republican Party powerless to fight for us.
Strategy was subservient to revenge.
This is irrational, counterproductive thinking. "Strategy" like this is one of the reasons the Libertarian Party has been a small benign tumor on the American body politic since its formation in 1971. It's also one of the main reasons that I think the NRA-ILA has been proved correct, against my advice, in its decision to pretend that Libertarian Party candidates don't exist, even when they're the only candidates on the ballot advocating the right to keep and bear arms. If you're serious about politics, you don't support losers, whiners, loose cannons, and people who will stab you in the back the first time you have to close a deal that doesn't bring about the millennium in the first round.
The Libertarian Party critics' attack on the NRA is, as far as I'm concerned, based on ignorance regarding the character and motives of the people currently running NRA-ILA. It fails to see that the Neal Knox slate of candidates is transforming the NRA from a sportsmen's club to a potent, emerging force for political liberty. I think it also displays a faulty analysis of what lobbying is capable of doing and what it is not.
Here's our situation. The Republican Party is home to many advocates of the Right To Keep and Bear Arms (RTKBA), but it is also home to many people who are in their heart statist pigs. The 1994 elections changed the mixture in the direction of the RTKBA advocates, but it is still an open question whether there are enough to repeal anti-gun laws over the agenda of the Republican leadership, which is not where the strongest support for RTKBA lies.
The alternative in USA realpolitik is the Democratic Party, which is dominated by statist pigs who want to fry RTKBA forever.
The Libertarian Party has had a quarter of a century to try to convince the American people that it reflects the values of the Founding Fathers. While it has crafted party platforms that express views that I believe are logical extrapolations of 18th century republicanism, it has never found candidates who are both people of depth and charismatic spokesmen for its viewpoint. A party which should have as its supporters George Lucas, Bill Gates, Clint Eastwood, and Tom Clancy instead gives us the likes of Howard Stern--as a bad joke.
The Libertarian Party has never elected a single Representative to the Congress of the United States, nor a United States Senator, nor a governor of any of the 50 states, nor--for that matter--a mayor of an American city of the first order. In its campaigns for the presidency it has never achieved anything other than a fractional vote total.
Perhaps it is impossible to build a major third party in America, but Ross Perot--using nothing but charisma, some folksy sound bites, and cash--managed to do in six months what the Libertarian Party couldn't do in two-and-a-half decades. So if any cynicism is due from any quarter, I'd say the Libertarian Party has certainly earned it.
Which leaves us with the Libertarian Party critics' attacks both on the NRA and the Republican Party.
The Republican Party finds itself with more power than its leadership expected to have, due largely to a disenchantment with the politics of statism--and the power-grab of gun-controllers in particular. It is our job to make sure that the Republican leadership pays its debt to us. This will not be accomplished if we prove to them that we will shoot ourselves in the foot by putting the Democrats back into power if the Republicans screw us. It is accomplished by reminding the Republicans that we are capable of going into the Republican primaries with the vigor we went into the 1994 general elections, and playing Big Time Payback if they don't pay us. We can, effectively, veto any Republican candidacy for the presidency if we feel like it. We could go into Newt Gingrich's own Congressional District and defeat him, if he doesn't pay us off. This could end Newt's career while leaving the Republican Party in power--not a bad outcome, if he doesn't keep his word to us.
Libertarian Party critics don't realize that the NRA is our best shot at playing this sort of hardball--and they also don't realize that Tanya Metaksa is an ideologically hard-core pit bull who isn't about to let the Republican Leadership scam us.
Repealing the gun prohibitions enacted in the Crime Bill doesn't have to happen in the first 100 days. It just has to happen soon enough that we can manipulate the Republican primaries to our ends, if they fail us. If this means that the Republicans attach a repeal as a rider to some unrelated legislation that Clinton can't afford to veto, fine. I don't believe in telling professionals how to do their job. You just tell them what results you expect and how fast you'll fire their butts if they fail to achieve them.
I support the Libertarian Party critics' uncompromising defense of the right to keep and bear arms. But I also realize that if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. If the American public were all self-aware libertarians, we would have already won. But we are contending with a society in which the educational and media establishments have been lying to people for most of this century, and we have been fighting a holding action. Right at the point when things are just beginning to swing back in our favor is not the time to get involved in dividing our own forces. It's the time to get the enemy to divide their forces.
If it's time for a third party in America right now, I want it to be some sort of leftist-fringe party which will suck off ultraliberal votes and keep the Democratic Party out of power. This would allow the Republican Party to keep seats without either moving to the center-left (the Rockefeller Republicans) or having to appeal to its repressive right (the nativist protectionists, the America-is-a-Christian-Country fundamentalists). There is a home in the Republican Party for libertarian ideology--the ideology of smaller government, decentralism, bringing the troops home, privatization, RTKBA, and mind-your-own-business social policy--if Republicans realize that libertarians have been the intellectual leaders of the American right for most of the last two decades. Perhaps the Libertarian Party has played some significant role in this--but it is hard to get people to take your ideas seriously when you are ranting about what sons of bitches they are.
It's time to stop this infighting. It's time for libertarians to realize that we are essentially teachers rather than politicians, and let those in politics who can be reached by our ideas take them, regardless of their party affiliation.
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The following article appeared in Out of Step Vol. 3, No. 11 November 25, 1994.
Can You Handle Victory?
November 9, 1994
We won the elections.
You. Me. The NRA. Gun Owners of America. The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.
According to Connie Chung on CBS News tonight, about one-third of registered voters went to the ballot box yesterday, and 25% of them were gun owners, and about four out of five of them voted for the more conservative candidate or ballot issue.
You know the results. An avalanche which swept the Democratic Party out of power in both houses of Congress for the first time in forty years--and control of a majority of governor's mansions.
Today's Los Angeles Times reports that out of 24 races which the NRA targeted, they won 19: a batting average of .791.
Sell-outs on the assault-weapons ban gone: Tom Foley, Jack Brooks.
Enemies gone: Governor Ann Richards of Texas, whose threatened veto killed CCW reform there; Governor Mario Cuomo of New York; Howard Metzenbaum's hand-picked successor; Dan Rostenkowski.
Enemies humbled: Daniel Patrick Moynihan (who won't get much of a chance to talk about 10,000% ammunition taxes anymore); Charles Schumer (who lost chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime); Ted Kennedy; and Rudy Giuliani, who endorsed both greater gun control and the losing Cuomo.
Friends now in power: Orrin Hatch, who'll take over the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and numerous pro-gun Republicans who will now control House and Senate rules and the committees.
Distinct possibilities if we press for it: real investigations of Waco (because Republicans control the judiciary committees of both Houses and the governor's mansion in Texas now); as well as investigations of the ATF and FBI misconduct in the Randy Weaver case; and Whitewater, including the numerous mysterious Arkansas-related deaths.
What we have, my friends, is a real possibility of pressing our agenda, if we can avoid fighting each other for a little while and close ranks.
We must, first and foremost, press home to the Republicans who was responsible for putting them in office: we did it.
We must let elected officials know that running against gun owners is political suicide. The final returns on the Feinstein-Huffington race are not in yet, but even if Huffington loses, an analysis of the vote will show it was lack of gun-owner enthusiasm that cost him his victory--in spite of $28 million dollars he spent buying TV time.
Our overall agenda: we must use this breathing space to educate the public on three points: (1) private guns in this country save lives; (2) when 5% to 10% of the public carries guns in public, random street crime in this country will be reduced by 90%; and (3) gun control tends to increase violent crime by shifting the balance of power to the well-armed criminal.
Our immediate political agenda: (1) reduce the impact of the Brady Law by speeding up implementation of instant background checks and depriving states which still cause gun owners delays of federal criminal justice funding; (2) eliminate restrictions on the manufacture and importation of firearms and magazines banned by the 1994 Crime Bill and redirect the restrictions only to convicted violent felons; (3) passage of a federal law recognizing the Second Amendment as an individual right and implementing a national standard restricting ownership or carrying of arms only to persons prohibited by reason of criminal convictions, criminal insanity, or provable criminal intent; (4) repeal of the 1934 Firearms Act and the 1968 Gun Control Act, and the abolition of the ATF, a federal agency which uses as its symbol a handgun with a circled slash through it.
Longer term: we must make the Second Amendment a litmus test for the appointment of all federal judges, particularly the next appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And we must ram home to the Republican Party that Republicans such as Riordan and Giuliani and Warner who attack gun-owners can be counted on to stab the Republican Party in the back by supporting Democratic candidates.
A few weeks ago I was convinced the United States, as a federal constitutional republic, was finished, and was busy distributing copies of a ballot initiative to break up the United States, hoping some of the states could regain their liberty.
Now the American people have crushed my cynicism and convinced me that this is still America.
We have a chance for victory, folks.
Let's pat each other on the back, then get back to work.
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The following article appeared in Out of Step Vol. 3, No. 11 November 25, 1994.
Putting Republican Feet to the Fire
Maybe you have noticed that the Second Amendment is not mentioned in the Republican Contract With America.
Maybe you have noticed that Republican spokespeople have not been mentioning gun owners as having played a significant part in turning the Congress of the United States over to a Republican majority in both houses for the first time in four decades.
Maybe you have noticed that Republicans seem to be treating gun owners like an embarrassing rich cousin at a wedding feast. The gifts were too extravagant not to invite the cousin--but the cousin is seated as far away from the bride and groom as possible.
My fellow gun owners, I am not happy about this--and I darn well don't trust politicians to do the right thing unless they are given no wiggle room whatsoever.
I propose the following:
First, if you are not a registered Republican, switch your registration to Republican. Next, Republican gun owners must send letters to the Republican leadership--Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole, in particular--explaining that we are neither trustful nor patient when it comes to our Second Amendment rights. Tell them why you voted on November 8th--whether it was primarily your concerns about prayers in schools or your concerns about the right to keep and bear arms that brought you out to the polls in an off-year election.
Third, we need to raise a national political war chest for the 1996 elections. We need to raise a large amount of money soon enough to explain to the Republican leadership that if they pass laws restoring our Second Amendment rights, this money will be spent on Republican candidates in the 1996 general elections; but if the Republicans fail to restore our Second Amendment rights by this time in 1995, the money will be spent in Republican primaries to defeat the Republican leaders who failed to deliver for us--and to make especially sure that no Republican candidate who isn't 100% dedicated to protecting our Second Amendment rights will get anywhere near the Republican nomination for president in 1996.
You may not have realized the political clout we just demonstrated on November 8th. We had better let the Republican leadership know that we aren't wallflowers at this wedding celebration and if they don't ask us onto the dance floor fast, they just aren't going to enjoy the honeymoon.
And as I look at the Republican leadership's performance six months later, it's a mixed bag. Newt Gingrich has included a chapter on the importance of the Second Amendment in his book; Bob Dole committed himself to repeal of the anti-firearms provisions of the 1994 Crime Law yet in the wake of the Oklahoma bombing, the Republican leadership can't hold together the votes to repeal the "assault weapons" and magazine bans...and a Republican-chaired House subcommittee--with time-limits and softball questions--failed to bring out the truth about who were the real criminals at Waco.
This may be outdated information by the time this book sees print. Books have a long lead time between writing and printing. But if the Republicans don't get their act together, grass-roots politicking by gun owners is going to give them a kick in the butt they won't like. --JNS
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The following article appeared in Out of Step Vol. 4, No. 6, June 23, 1995.
I was in Phoenix at the NRA's 1995 annual meeting when I first learned that Wayne LaPierre had issued an apology for the NRA fund-raising letter which used the phrase "jack-booted thugs" in reference to federal law-enforcement agents at Waco, Ruby Ridge, and elsewhere.
My first reaction was the same as most libertarians: what on Earth does Wayne think he's doing? You don't apologize when you're right. You don't apologize when doing so will reveal your underbelly to your enemies.
So, I introduced a resolution during the annual meeting on May 19th. It was one of my shorter works. The resolution was, "No more apologies!"
I thought it would be quite clear to the NRA membership what this meant, in the context of recent events.
NRA President Tom Washington read the resolution to the assembled members. There was applause. He called for a second and heard one.
I didn't bother speaking for the resolution; I thought everyone understood it.
The first person to come to one of the eight microphones offered an amendment, asking that all such resolutions, when passed, be published in the American Rifleman and American Hunter magazines. I accepted this as a friendly amendment with regard to this particular resolution.
The second person to come to a microphone to speak regarding the resolution was perhaps the most respected man in the room: firearms philosopher and trainer, Jeff Cooper. He opposed it. Cooper said it was impossible to tie the hands of an organization's leadership so that they couldn't apologize when they made a mistake.
The third person to speak on my resolution was Wayne LaPierre. He reiterated what he had said in an earlier address to the members, that his apology was to federal law-enforcement officers who might have thought that he was calling them all jack-booted thugs, not just the few who committed wrong-doings at Waco, Ruby Ridge, and so forth.
By this point, there were about half a dozen people lined up at the against microphones to oppose the resolution, and no one at a for microphone to support it.
If I had been more adept at parliamentary tactics, I might have asked to amend my resolution to something like, "There was nothing to apologize for!" But, I felt disheartened that so obvious a point had been missed by the thousand or so NRA members sitting in the hall--or that they simply disagreed with my attempt to stiffen the NRA's spine.
Fellow activists came up to me and asked me to withdraw my resolution so as not to give the media more fodder for claiming the NRA was divided and in disarray.
I took their advice. Approaching a microphone and getting recognized by President Washington on a point of personal privilege, I said that having gotten a sense of the meeting, and because of Mr. LaPierre's eloquent words, I was withdrawing my resolution.
My withdrawal received far louder applause than the resolution's introduction.
Now, what are we to make of all this?
The first thing that strikes me is that the NRA leadership has an excellent sense of what will play with the NRA membership and what won't play--a far better grasp than I had.
The leaders of a democratic organization have to speak for the organization. They can't be either more radical or less radical than the membership wants them to be--or they will be out of a job.
And, if I did nothing else, I demonstrated that Wayne LaPierre is almost precisely where the NRA membership wants him to be.
The membership, as expressed in their treatment of various resolutions from the floor, want the NRA leadership to be politically activist in opposing infringements on the Second Amendment, but they want the organization to steer clear of privately organized militias, steer well clear of any sort of armed resistance to government authority, and they want the NRA to be perceived as generally supporting law enforcement.
Wayne LaPierre's apology to federal law-enforcement, while refusing to back down on specific cases of abuse of power under color of authority by federal law-enforcement officers, appears to be exactly the balance that the NRA membership wants their leaders to take on their behalf.
It's no secret that I'm a revolutionary, albeit one who believes revolution can be accomplished in the voting booth, who wants government power reduced and dispersed, and private rights and powers maximized. I'm a Liberal Republican: a 19th century liberal and an 18th century republican.
But any revolutionary has to be aware that revolution is a political effort, which requires winning the support of the people. A revolution without popular support is almost a contradiction in terms: it wouldn't be a revolution but a mere coup d'état, a changing of tyrants.
If, as it seems, the NRA is currently the largest organization in the United States--about 3.4 million members--that defends the entire Bill of Rights, that would explain why the NRA was successful in overturning four decades of Democratic Party rule of Congress because of the 103rd Congress passing a gun ban why the Republican Party leadership fears the NRA and supports their political agenda why the keynote speaker at the NRA annual meeting was Republican Presidential hopeful Phil Gramm why Wayne LaPierre and Tanya Metaksa had as many TV cameras, microphones, and notepads around them at the meeting as Johnnie Cochran does when he leaves Judge Ito's courtroom and why every newspaper I saw--every TV news program--featured the NRA convention as one of the lead stories of the weekend.
It also means that the NRA goes about as far, in opposing the actions and policies of the federal government, as the American people are willing to go at this time.
In politics, it does not pay to get too far away from the feelings of the people, no matter what your agenda. If you think that Wayne LaPierre and the NRA looked bad at the end of this brawl, look at the bruises on the other guy.
Personally, I'm not particularly worried about the NRA apology. That will be forgotten by next week. What won't be forgotten is that the NRA was willing to call jack-booted thugs jack-booted thugs and the next time jack-booted thugs do their thing, everybody will start asking under their breath, "Hey, wasn't it the NRA who warned us?"
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Gun Club to Gun Rights Author:
No Guns Allowed!
August 5, 1994
Well, here's one for the books.
A few weeks ago I was invited to be a luncheon speaker for a gun club on the subject of concealed-carry weapons licenses. The club is drawn from employees of a huge conglomerate which, among other things, supplies credit information to banks and supplies various and sundry widgets to the Department of Defense.
One of the reasons I was asked to be a speaker on the subject of CCW licenses is that I have one. Here in Southern California they are notoriously hard to get, and I was one of the people who instigated, and acted as an advisor to, a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for failing to comply with California state law regarding its responsibility to issue CCW licenses to persons "of good moral character" who can "show good cause."
I believe in practicing what I preach. I suggest in my new book, Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns, that one of the reasons we in this country suffer from the crime that we do is that there are way too few honest people carrying guns. I give several examples in the book where ordinary individuals carrying guns saved groups of people--as many as 20 at a time--from armed criminals. I also give examples such as the Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, the law office in San Francisco, and the Long Island Railroad, where massacres of large groups of unarmed people could have been stopped if any of the victims had carried a gun for self-defense.
As a consequence of my study of these issues, I "don't leave home without it"--and I'm not talking about a credit card. I leave home armed, and the only time I have left my gun in my car is when I had to go into a courtroom to fight a parking ticket.
I pointedly chose not to go into the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance several months ago--a museum attached to the Simon Wiesenthal Center devoted to the Holocaust--when they wouldn't let me keep my gun with me, even after I showed museum officials my CCW license. I'm a Jew who believes that if the Jews of Europe had been well-armed, there couldn't have been any Holocaust in the first place. I also believe American Jews who support gun prohibition are setting their children up to be victims of the next Hitler to come to power. I gave their librarian a copy of Stopping Power to educate the Museum of Tolerance's gun-intolerant director, and left.
The gun club was inviting me to speak during lunch yesterday in a conference room on the company premises. As soon as I was told where I would be speaking, I notified the club's officers to give advance warning to company security that I was a CCW license holder, so there wouldn't be any surprises.
As a defense contractor, the company has decided that armed citizens on its premises are a threat to national security, and has a no-gun policy for employees or visitors. The club members I spoke to informed me several times that if I didn't bring up the subject myself that I was carrying a gun with me, there wouldn't be any problem. I assumed that some club member had discussed this with company security as I was told a policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" had been arrived at. I found out only yesterday that no one from the gun club had bothered to talk to company security, and club members had spent two weeks advertising my appearance at the meeting on the assumption that I would, at the last moment, decide to leave my gun in the car rather than disappoint the club.
The people who invited me, however, started worrying that my even trying to walk into the company premises with my gun might get club members in trouble with their bosses. So they phoned me the day before my appearance, asking me not to bring my gun in with me. My response was simple: "Where my gun isn't welcome, I'm not welcome."
I've passed an FBI background check and California POST certification for reserve police officers. Anyone who wants me to disarm is telling me that they consider my gun a threat rather than an additional protection.
I find that insulting. I also find a request to disarm to be pusillanimous and un-American.
I told them, "If your company considers that my gun is unwelcome, then I'll be happy to speak anytime to the gun club at another location where it is welcome."
They didn't seem to have considered moving the meeting when I told them that or, for that matter, any time during those two weeks.
I was told by one of the club members that I was being "unreasonable." Thank you. I was being unreasonable. It's Americans being "reasonable" about taking off their guns for the last century or so that's got us into this mess where armed criminals have a field day with legally disarmed victims, and people can be convinced by professional liars that their neighbors' guns are a danger to them.
There used to be laws requiring men to wear their guns to church. Now there are laws declaring "places of worship" defiled if members of the congregation go in to worship while armed.
Kids used to park their .22 rifles near the coat racks when they went to school. Now 11-year-old girls are suspended for carrying water pistols to school, and Patrick Purdy was free to massacre school kids with an AK-47 lookalike because even the school teachers are disarmed and helpless to defend the innocent children placed in their charge.
You tell me what's unreasonable when workers allow their bosses to disarm them like slaves. When local Los Angeles TV news is running special features about how the most common cause of death at work is murder, you tell me a "no guns" policy is to be tolerated. If ever there was an issue for a union to have called a strike over, this is it.
I would very much like to have spoken to the gun club about the value of carrying guns.
But when the club members got to the meeting room and found out that their scheduled speaker, the author of a new book on the gun issue, wasn't coming because he wouldn't take off his gun, perhaps they learned more than I could ever had said to them on the subject anyway.
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Q&A On Civilian Gun Carrying
The following are replies I made to a challenge I received in a November, 1994 gun-control discussion on GEnie where I posted as a message "Can You Handle Victory?" In it I'd said, "when 5% to 10% of the public carries guns in public, random street crime in this country will be reduced by 90%."
The questions are in italics.
Could you please offer your references for this claim. You didn't just make this up did you?
My analysis that 5% to 10% of a population carrying guns will reduce street crime by 90% is based on several different things.
The first is observation of several incidents in Israel, where you do have around 10% of the civilian population carrying guns regularly. In these incidents, terrorists with fully automatic assault weapons opened fired on civilian crowds, only to receive immediate return fire from Israeli civilians, who captured or killed them. One took place in Jerusalem in April, 1984; another in Ashod in February of this year. The results are in marked contrast from massacres by armed assailants of unarmed civilians in this country such as the Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, and the Long Island Railroad.
In the Israeli cases, civilian fatalities were a fraction of those in the American cases. I am contrasting these cases because they involve assailants whose main object was the deaths of innocent victims rather than some other crime such as robbery or rape.
In the American examples cited, anti-gun-carrying laws eliminated the likelihood that a civilian would be carrying a gun and therefore could resist with one.
The second is my analysis of the National Self Defense Survey conducted by professors Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz in Spring, 1993 at Florida State University, and information (quoted in Kleck's book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America) drawn from a 1975-1980 National Crime Survey compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. The Kleck interview is in Stopping Power. Since that interview, Kleck has written his own monograph on his survey's results which confirm and expand upon what he told me in the interview.
The National Self Defense Survey shows that about 1.3% of the population uses a firearm each year in defense against a criminal. That comes to around 2.45 million defenses per year, or a defense on average every 13 seconds. About a third of these defenses take place in the home and another third take place in areas immediately surrounding the home. The remaining third take place away from home. There is also quantitative data on what crimes were being attempted. According to Kleck, "About 8 percent of the defensive uses involved a sexual crime such as an attempted sexual assault. About 29 percent involved some sort of assault other than sexual assault. Thirty-three percent involved a burglary or some other theft at home. Twenty-two percent involved robbery."
The National Crime Survey data analyzed by Kleck breaks down crime encounters by whether and how offenders are armed compared with how potential victims are armed, in robberies and assaults--the crimes that people are most subject to away from home. It finds that those potential crime victims who resist with a firearm are far less likely to suffer harm than those who resist with a lesser weapon, no weapon, or do not resist at all. To quote criminologist Don Kates's summary of this data in his foreword to Stopping Power: "Though the submissive are only half as likely to be injured by criminals as are victims who resist without a gun, criminological data show victims who submit are still twice as likely to be injured by criminals as are victims who resist with a gun--not to mention that the submissive are much more likely to be raped or robbed."
Gun carrying is observably most effective, then, in precisely those cases where a civilian would want to carry away from home: common robberies and assaults, and the much-less-common but more devastating civilian massacres. And the 5% to 10% figure is based on two elements: it's the point at which it is more likely than not that an assailant intent on massacre of a crowd of civilians will encounter at least one armed civilian who could provide effective resistance; and it is the point at which a criminal who engages in a regular pattern of robberies or assaults will likely encounter an armed civilian within the first few attempts, and either be scared into a less violent lifestyle or die attempting to continue it.
The claim of a 90% reduction of street crime is based both on the likely elimination of that 3% of frequent criminals who are responsible for 90% of robberies and assaults; and an historical analysis of current crime rates with that of American cities of the 19th century where the custom of civilians carrying guns relegated crime to gunfights between usually drunk young men, but where rape, assault of random strangers, and muggings were virtually unknown.
Currently, even in the one-third of American states which make it easy for civilians to carry guns, only between 1% to 4% of the population are known to carry guns (because they are known to have a license to carry); but data suggests that even those with licenses to carry do not necessarily carry regularly.
It is my object, therefore, not only to make the carrying of guns by civilians legal, but to establish the custom of widespread carrying of guns by responsible, trained adults as an immediately achievable method of reducing street violence in our society. In my view this will produce both more dramatic and earlier crime reductions than those methods ranging from longer prison sentences to drug education to midnight basketball being offered in the agendas of the two main political parties right now.
A claim of reducing street crime by 90% sounds grossly inflated. You make it sound as if all street crime involves a one-on-one confrontation with a weapon.
By street crime I include muggings, assault, sexual assaults by strangers, wildings, takeover robberies in places of business, carjackings, and revenge shootings.
I don't think American and Israeli social, economic and political conditions are similar enough to make any clear comparisons.
I think a comparison of the ethnic warfare in Israel and the gang warfare in American inner cities would provide lots of parallels. But that's beside the point. The question isn't what causes people to want to murder crowds of random strangers. What I was addressing was the survival rates between crowds of armed strangers (Israel) and unarmed strangers (U.S.).
Have you taken into consideration that once it becomes difficult to legally obtain a weapon that it also becomes difficult for criminals to obtain such weapons? Have you considered with no one legally carrying weapons around that there is less incentive for criminals to carry?
There is little evidence that gun control denies guns to highly motivated criminals. It may deny guns to less motivated criminals--but I'm obviously less concerned about them. And there is no evidence that American criminals feel less need to be armed themselves when attacking a likely unarmed population. Quite the opposite is demonstrated: where the public is the most disarmed, criminals seek the advantages of guns to make their crimes easier.
You would have us believe that everyone is some sort of Rambo or super crime fighter like you see in the movies.
Nope. Guns make ordinary people more powerful. That's why criminals seeking an advantage want them and ordinary people seeking not to be disadvantaged do also.
I cannot believe that in the course of a robbery, no resistance will increase the likelihood of being harmed. Don't the police encourage people to cooperate with robbers, because they will less likely be harmed?
This data is from the federal government. Police who tell people not to resist believe the unsupported statements of anti-gun propagandists at Handgun Control, Inc., rather than scientific evidence. Their bad advice undoubtedly costs lives.
Nonresistance is safer than ineffective resistance; the more effective your weapon, the safer you are if you choose to resist. Guns are effective enough to double your chances of not being injured as compared to non-resisters.
The case where the robber and the victim are both facing off with guns doesn't seem as safe as the cooperation option either.
According to the National Self Defense Survey, a potential victim resisting with a gun will be facing a lesser-armed attacker in five out of six cases. In the sixth case, you're in a fight for your life and the readier you are for combat, the better the outcome will be for you and the worse for the person attacking you.
As for assault, the intent is to bring harm to the victim. Because the crime is assault (not murder) the perpetrator does not intend to kill the victim. I would have to agree that carrying a gun would deter most assaults, but this is because you have outgunned your attacker. Something to consider is when you add a gun into the equation of assault, the crime may become upgraded to murder. And our victim becomes dead instead of assaulted.
You have unsupported assumptions about the intent of a person committing an assault. The survival of the person being assaulted may be of little or no consequence to a criminal attacker. That's why anyone threatening grave bodily harm, mayhem, or death are equally subject to lawful use of defensive lethal force. As a moral equation, someone committing an attack using lethal force has no further right to life until he is no longer a threat.
What about a third scenario for a criminal--that he will become good at what he does! That he will become a good marksman, stick to safe situations, maybe he will decide to kill his victims first before they realize they are being robbed. Maybe this will be the end result of your "solution."
If it's a criminal's intent to kill you before you know you're being robbed, then the advice not to resist at all would be terrible advice, no?
While it is theoretically possible for a criminal to "be good at what he does," the fact is that they usually aren't. Criminal behavior is statistically linked to undisciplined people with no ability to plan ahead; cops like to state it that criminals are just stupid.
That's why the guys who go off the deep end and start killing crowds of strangers are so deadly: they sometimes aren't habitual criminals. Patrick Purdy was a habitual criminal; but George Hennard (the Luby's massacre), Colin Ferguson (Long Island Railroad), John Hinckley (assassination attempt on Reagan), Dr. Gang Lu (physics graduate at University of Iowa), and others had no previous criminal record.
Arming the victims of crime is not going to lessen the need of the criminals to commit crimes. Deterrence measures will never reduce crime by 90%. Only by changing the lifestyles of the criminals will we really have a "dramatic" solution to crime.
Changing the lifestyle of a criminal to six-feet-under will reduce the first wave. The smarter criminals will find another less-stressful line of work. The stupid ones will be killed in an earlier encounter, all to the good of public safety and, in my view, no loss whatsoever to the human race.
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Letter to President Reagan on Gun Amnesty
This is the earliest writing of mine on guns which I've found in my files. I'd only shot handguns once before, about seven years earlier, and I didn't own a gun of my own until four years after I wrote this.
Worse, I was living in New Jersey at the time.
But in reading it now, I am surprised that aside from my overdramatic and pessimistic view of the survival of the Second Amendment at the end of my plea to President Reagan, I got the basics right. --JNS
17 June 1987
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20050
Dear Mr. President:
By profession I am a writer: a published novelist, free-lance journalist, and a screenwriter who has had his work produced on network television. I am also a libertarian who is far from impressed by the historical track record of all branches of government in protecting individual rights.
I write you the day after a jury in New York City has acquitted Bernhard Goetz of all charges related to his using a gun to defend himself against four criminals on the New York City subway, but nonetheless convicted him for the illegal possession of that gun, a felony carrying a jail term up to seven years.
Mr. President, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly states that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," but the United States court system has failed to protect this right, narrowly interpreting this Constitutional provision to mean that this right applies only to "a well-regulated militia": military personnel such as the National Guards.
This is an absurd judicial interpretation--no military unit ever needed a "right" to bear arms--and an interpretation designed only to maximize government power at the expense of the People. We, the People--not the National Guards--are the "militia" the Founding Fathers meant. The drafters of the Bill of Rights were well aware that an armed populace is the best defense against tyranny and criminality, whether it is by a government, domestic officials, or thugs on a New York subway car.
Bernhard Goetz is only the latest victim of repressive legislation that deny his Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. If it were not for the firearm he carried, he might very well have been mugged once again, as he had been on previous occasions.
No person should be forced to choose between obeying the law and therefore possibly losing his life, or defending his life and being jailed for possessing the means of defending it.
I do not own a firearm for self-protection, because current legislation and court interpretations would treat me as a criminal if I carried it. Further, it is impossible for police to protect the public: they can't be everywhere at all times, and criminals make a point of attacking when the police aren't around. Consequently, I am a potential victim of any armed criminal or gang of armed criminals.
My right to keep and bear arms for the protection of my life and family is being infringed, and I turn to you in a petition for a redress of this grievance.
Mr. President, it is high time that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution be protected and defended. The President is sworn to protect and defend all of the Constitution; but no President to date has defended the Second Amendment. I therefore call upon you to do two things:
(I) to issue an Unconditional Presidential Amnesty to all persons charged with, or previously convicted for, illegally possessing arms carried for purely defensive purposes;
(II) to introduce into Congress enacting legislation for the Second Amendment, declaring that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be limited by legislation or court interpretation to any governmental or quasi-governmental entity."
Because the most frequent victims of violent crime are minorities, the elderly, and women, I suggest you invite representative leaders from civil rights groups when you announce this Presidential action.
Mr. President, this is a chance for you to prove that you are not a lame duck. If you do not act now, then surely the right of the people to keep and bear arms is a dead duck.