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Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns


Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns.

Copyright © 1994 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner except in the case of quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Originally published in trade hardcover by Synapse-Centurion, Santa Monica, California, June, 1994.

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The rights to all previously published materials by J. Neil Schulman are owned by the author, and are claimed both under existing copyright laws and natural logorights. All other materials taken from published sources are either in the public domain or are quoted and/or excerpted under the Fair Use Doctrine. The usage rights granted to readers of this paperless booktm are limited by the License Agreement.

To L. Neil Smith

Who Made Me Ashamed to Be Unarmed

Author's Acknowledgements

Authors get all the credit, but they usually have help. Considering the many hours in which I have been educated on the subjects of history, liberty, morality and ethics, justice, criminal justice and law enforcement, firearms, and criminology, I would be remiss if I did not pay acknowledgements to the personal instruction I received from the following individuals: Sean Barrett, Alan Brennert, Steve Clar, Culver City Police Chief Ted Cooke, Charles Curley, Robert Durio, Art Eisenson, Harlan Ellison, Dan Feely,Elizabeth and Justin Feffer, Manuel Fernandez, John Ferrero, DennisFoley, David Friedman, James Gatlin, Alan Gottlieb, Helen Grieco, Stephen Halbrook, Sylvia Hauser, Robert and Virginia Heinlein, Steve Helsley, Randall Herrst, Karl Hess, Ray Hickman, John Hosford, Phill Jackson, Dan Gifford, Sal Grammatico, T.J. Johnston, Don B. Kates, Jr., Keith Kato, Bill Keys, Gary Kleck, Peter Lake, Wayne LaPierre, Robert LeFevre, Rick Lowe, Elodie McKee, Michael McNulty, John Milius, Armando Miranda, Andrew Molchan, Jerry Pournelle, Dennis Prager, Leroy Pyle, Pat O'Malley, Paxton Quigley, Ayn Rand, Robert Ray, Michael D. Robbins, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Fred Romero, Murray Rothbard, Jim Saharek, Randy Shields, Jay Simkin, Culver City Police Lt. Owen Smet, Thomas Glenn Terry, Lance Thomas, Linda Thompson, Cathy Tolley, Luis Tolley, Kent Turnipseed, Jim Waldorf, Aaron Zelman, and, of course, my parents and family.

Additionally, for their direct guidance and help on this book, I'd like to thank Léon Bing, John Douglas, Larry Freundlich, Kent Hastings, Dafydd ab Hugh, Keith Kirts, Neal Knox, Victor Koman, Samuel Edward Konkin III, Richard Kyle, Jared Lobdell, Tanya Metaksa, Kate O'Neal, Ave Pildas and the students of the Otis Design Group at Otis College of Art and Design, Dori Smith, and Albert Yokum.

And, finally, a very special thank you to Brad Linaweaver and Randy Herrst for assistance at the penultimate hour.

I know that some of the people I'm thanking disagree with my views as expressed in this book. Tough. They have my gratitude anyway. -JNS

Table of Contents

(From HTML edition;
Does Not Include All Materials
in Trade Paperback and Adobe PDF editions)

Foreword by Don B. Kates, Jr.


Introduction: as American as Guns

Sorties into Enemy Territory: the LA Times Op-Eds

A Massacre We Didn't Hear About

Joining Forces Against a Common Foe

Gun Fight at the 4 'n 20 Pie Shop

If Gun Laws Work, Why Are We Afraid?

Some Practical Arguments for an Armed Civilian Population

A Time to Kill

140,000 LA Gun Owners Have Used Firearms Defensively

Do Guns Do More Harm or More Good?

Q & A on Gun Defenses

How Does Japan Get That Low Crime Rate, Anyway?

An Overview of the Statistical Case

It's Time to Take A Second Look at Murder

The War to Bear Arms in the City of the Angels

Remarks to the LA Board of Police Commissioners, 7/16/91

The Case for a Concealed Weapon's License in Los Angeles

Remarks to the LA Board of Police Commissioners, 11/3/92

Guns Are Still "Equalizers"

Los Angeles Revises Concealed-Weapons Policy

How I (and 4 Million Friends) Successfully Fought City Hall

The Thrill of My Life

The Second Amendment and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Reply to the Executives of the ACLU of Southern California on the Meaning of the Second Amendment

English Usage Expert Interprets Second Amendment

The Unabridged Second Amendment

Some Notes and Discussion on the Second Amendment

Reserve Militia Training and Regulation Act: A Proposal

With Liberty And Justice For All"

Open Messages to Judge Glen Ashman

A Rather One-Sided Debate on Gun Rights

Was Waco Warranted?

Does Hugging on TV Cause Real Violence?

Old Enough To Die, Old Enough To Live?

Instead of Crime and Punishment

If Execution Is Just, What Is Justice?

A Note To Freedom Activists

Ripostes And Counters

KNX Editorial Replies

Excerpts from a letter to Nadine Strossen, President, ACLU

Letter to Scientific American

A Reply to Joyce Brothers

Can You Trust Handgun Control, Inc.?

The Mark of Kane is on Firearms Reporting

Excerpts from a letter to the CEO of WAL*MART

When Doctors Call for Gun Seizures, It's Grand Malpractice

What It Takes to Get Me to Put on a Yarmulke

Talk At Temple Beth Shir Shalom

Sources and Recommended Further Reading

Pro-Firearms-Rights Organizations

Firearms Instruction

Firearms-Related Computer Bulletin Board Listing

About J. Neil Schulman

Begin Reading Foreword.

Return to Top of Table of Contents.


"Buy a gun. Learn to use it safely and appropriately. Carry it with you at all times. Be prepared to defend yourself, your loved ones, and your neighborhoods,"

-J. Neil Schulman on ABC TV World News Tonight, May 2, 1992, during the Los Angeles Riots

Yes, I admit it: the title of this book is a bad pun.

Technically speaking, "stopping power" is a measurement of the ability of a firearm or a round used by a firearm to incapacitate an attacker.

But I also mean it as the ability of an armed citizenry to stop tyrannical power.

This book contains my writings on firearms-related topics, although it expands out from there into issues of criminology, political history, and theories of justice.

I'm not what you'd call a gun nut. When I started writing in defense of firearms, I didn't even own a gun.

I shot my father's .22 rifle in the back yard of our house in Natick, Massachusetts once or twice, got an NRA marksmanship certificate with an air rifle when I was 12 or so, and didn't shoot again for another two decades.

I only bought my first firearm, a .380 Colt Government Model semi-automatic pistol, in late summer, 1991. Since that time I've bought two more semi-auto pistols, have taken California police reserve training, and have received a license to carry a concealed firearm in California and Massachusetts. I've also become a pretty decent marksman, though not up to competition standards.

The reason I started writing about guns is that I'm interested in justice - not to mention life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - and I don't believe any of these things are possible if the government and criminals are well-armed and the people aren't.

In this book I'm going to try to explain two things. I hope I'm explaining them to people who have never owned, or even considered owning, a firearm.

The first thing I'm going to try to explain is why 70 million Americans - about half the adults in the United States of America - already own at least one firearm, and many Americans own a veritable arsenal of them.

The second thing I'm going to try to explain is why - despite a barrage of anti-gun propaganda by virtually the entire institutional establishment in this country - these 70 million American gun owners are morally, historically, legally, and politically justified in their choice to be armed.

That is about as far as the National Rifle Association would take you. I'm going to go farther. I'm going to give reasons why the other half of the adult population in the United States - the half who aren't armed - are the reason this country suffers from the epidemic of violent crime that it does.

This is not a textbook. I'm not a professional historian, nor am I a constitutional lawyer or a criminologist. I'm a novelist, screenwriter, and journalist. In other words, I'm a self-appointed pundit.

That should make me at least as qualified to write about guns as other self-appointed pundits such as Sarah Brady of Handgun Control, Inc. Aside from ideology, the emotional difference between Sarah Brady's and my view of guns is that Sarah Brady's husband was badly hurt by a gun in an assassination attempt on President Reagan, and my father, a concert violinist, saved his life from muggers several times because he was carrying a gun.

I'm not going to present you with a systematic defense of gun ownership. I'm going to give you a bunch of things I wrote over the last few years. Some were published as newspaper opinion pieces and magazine articles, and others presented as editorial replies, letters, computer bulletin-board arguments, broadsides, speeches, polemics, and proposals. Everything you're going to read in this book was written in the heat of battle, as I responded to wave after wave of anti-gun hysteria on television and radio, and in prestigious newspapers and journals that should know better.

If you don't have any interest in what a self-appointed pundit has to say on this subject, and you're looking for more systematic or academic presentations on the issues I cover in these articles, I include a recommended list for further reading in the back of the book. I'll forgive you for flipping to the back of the book, writing down some of those other titles, and putting this book back on the shelf. Just don't let the bookstore clerk catch you.

We live in an age of soundbytes. Maybe you're not in the mood to read a whole book on this subject. Okay, the next time you get into an argument about guns, here's all you need to know:

o Every 13 seconds an American gun owner uses her or his firearm in defense against a criminal. If you're only counting handguns, it's every 16 seconds.

o 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.

o 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.

o The U.S. cities with the strictest gun-control laws also have higher homicide rates than U.S. cities with less gun control. Switzerland and Israel both have highly armed civilian populations, and have extremely low rates of gun-related homicides.

o Gandhi once said, "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."

o Hitler once said, "The most foolish mistake we could make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms." (I like quoting this to people who've just seen Schindler's List.)

And no list of soundbytes would be complete without a bumper sticker: "When guns are outlawed, only liberals won't have guns."

This, then, is the case for the civilian population to be better armed than the government. - JNS

Return to Table of Contents.

As American as Guns

"You know why there's a second amendment? In case the government doesn't obey the first one."
- Rush Limbaugh, August 17, 1993

Advocates of the right to keep and bear arms in the United States usually base their arguments on the Second Amendment: "A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

But what if the Second Amendment were repealed? Would the people's right to keep and bear arms still exist?

If we do not have a basic understanding of the nature and source of rights in general, as did the Framers of the Constitution, then it is near-impossible to discuss whether the people's right to keep and bear arms exists only as a collective right, or as an individual right; and whether it would disappear if the "well-regulated militia" mentioned in that amendment is ruled to be under state jurisdiction rather than the adult civilian population at large, as it was thought to be at the time of the amendment's passage.

The answers to both questions must rest on prior examination of what constitutes rights and individual liberty to begin with.

In its most fundamental aspect, the concept of liberty is that of a society organized on the basis of universal individual rights - rights which are equally held by every individual in that society.

What do we mean by a "right"? Here's a working definition: a right is the moral authority to do something without needing prior permission from another to do it.

In Biblical times, it was assumed that only God has rights, and that He grants them only to a specific chosen few. He liberated the nation of Israel from bondage to the Egyptians by a series of plagues imposed upon the Egyptians. Was God violating the Egyptians' rights? Not according to the Biblical writers, who viewed the Egyptians as merely God's property, to do with as He will.

Later, God ordered the Israelites, under the command of Joshua, to evict everyone from Canaan, killing every man, woman, and child among them and take the land for themselves, as His exclusively authorized tenants.

The Biblical writers assumed that God had the rights of a landlord to do so, and the Canaanites had no rights to live there: only the nation of Israel, to whom God granted an exclusive, long-term lease.

Still later in Biblical accounts, the nation of Israel petitioned God to have a king, so they could be like other nations. Reluctantly, God agreed, and thus was born the concept of the divine right of kings. The king appointed by God had an exclusive moral authority to take actions in that society, answerable only to God Himself. Everyone else was under the King's authority and had no rights of their own - no rights to their own lives, property, or freedom of action. All these were owned by the king, who dispensed them to his favored few.

There were historical variations, of course. Often kings found that they needed to share power with military men in order to keep their turf - thus the birth of aristocracy. The ancient Greeks vested much authority in military leaders, and experimented with popular government without much success. Ancient Rome experimented with a republican form of government, in which certain classes of people had greater rights than others, ranging from the patricians, to the plebeians, to slaves - even women had certain rights. Later, when Rome became an empire, we find one of the oddest reversals of rights being that of the Roman Emperor's right not only to rule on earth with absolute authority over all that he conquered, but to create new gods as well.

In any event, as history progresses, there is a tendency to disperse rights among larger and larger groups of people. There were a number of forces at work to produce this. One of them was the Reformation's transfer of biblical interpretation from the Church to the individual. Another was the greater importance of trade making even kings and emperors dependent on private merchants to one extent or another. Still another was the necessity of kings requiring wide dispersal of arms to as many of their subjects as could handle them, to discourage other kings from invading.

Ideas began percolating in the English Leveller's movement in the 1640's which by the 18th century, largely due to John Locke's 1690 "Two Treatises on Government," started gaining popularity among many Englishmen, particularly those living in America: that rights are not invested by God in a single King, but exist in every single individual.

In Europe, however, the theory of rights took a different road - based on extreme egalitarianism - particularly in the French revolution. Instead of rights being seized from the king and given to the individual, it was given to new collectives of revolutionaries. Thus the idea of revolutionary communism and revolutionary socialism was born. The moral authority to act without permission was shifted from the king to the governing council or party. Because this idea granted the people a moral sense that it was proper to kill the old kings and aristocracies and grab their lands and property, it became popular - popular until it became evident to everyone that all that had happened was the transfer of power from an old aristocracy to a new one called by a different name. The new aristocracy was just as hard to overthrow as the old ones, and it is only well into the 20th century that there has been any success at it.

This history lesson has a point. No matter what the institutions are of a given society, or what names they are called, the fundamental question is whether rights in that society are universally held by all the people, or whether they are reserved to those with the political power to get their own way.

"Getting your own way" can take a number of forms.

One of them is institutional politics. This can take the form of a political party, or a political lobby, or a class of people who are well-organized enough to require those in power to take their desires into account. It can be the ability to convince politicians to grant favors - sometimes by cash payoffs, sometimes merely by a promise that you will support their next campaign for office. Sometimes it can be something as silly as being a popular actor or TV personality whom people are willing to pay attention to.

But underneath all this civilized horse-trading is the question of, when push comes to shove, who has the raw force to win the day?

Historically, the king's rights meant nothing if his soldiers wouldn't act on his orders, or if others could overthrow him by force of arms.

What is true for the rights of kings is just as true for the rights of the people. Rights are only as secure as the ability to wield sufficient force to defend them.

In a free society which recognizes the moral authority of individuals to act for their own good - to make decisions about their lives, lifestyles, and property without prior permission from a king, political party, or even their neighbors - individuals are the sovereign, the kings. Whatever compacts such sovereigns make with one another to keep from violating each other's boundaries only have the moral authority which is first held by the individuals themselves.

America is a culture historically different from any other in the history of the human race, and still largely different from any other elsewhere on this world. What has distinguished American civilization from all others is the doctrine of universal individual sovereign rights. This unique difference made the American civilization superior to any previous or foreign civilization in the known universe.

I carefully said "made" in the previous sentence rather than "makes." Reactionary forces for the last century have been working hard at eliminating those qualities that made the American civilization unique, and America is a long way on the road back into the quicksand of European and Asian barbarism from which it once freed itself.

In every previous civilization, the individual was finally the servant of the polity, whether that polity was the tribe, the religious order, or embodied in the person of a king or emperor. Even in such decentralized polities as existed in ancient Ireland or Iceland, an individual pledged fealty to a king above himself, regardless of his ability to change his mind and switch kings.

The American civilization, which was born on July 4th, 1776, utterly rejected this doctrine for the first time in human history, in its founding document, the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

In an historical instant, all previous conception of the relationship between the individual and the polity was reversed. From then on, each individual held sovereignty as a birthright: not a king's claim to rule others and sit in judgment on them, but a free man's sovereignty to determine his own destiny, rule his own life, and dispose of his own property as he saw fit. For the first time in human history, a polity declared itself a nation - a single people - by an act of will rather than by an accident of geography or history or religion or language.

It is true that the structural implementation of this doctrine of universal individual sovereignty was decidedly flawed. At the outset, the implementation excluded women, Africans, and native tribes, and favored landed property owners. In practice, rights were held only by white Protestant male property owners. These were hangovers from the Old World way of doing things. But the rhetoric was universalist. The power of this rhetoric of universal rights acted as a moral goad, in the United States, first to rebellion against the King, then later to wider and wider dispersal of rights, until chattel slavery of Africans was abolished and full legal rights accorded to them; property qualifications for franchise were eliminated; and full citizenship rights were granted to women as well.

While the principles propelled the culture to progress toward closer and closer approximations of extending universal rights, reactionary forces were working to destroy the concept of sovereign rights entirely. In the twentieth century we have seen the doctrine of universalism triumph while the doctrine of individual powers is nearly extinguished.

The Constitution of the United States in 1787 was the first attempt in human history to forge a government of individual sovereigns, in which the exercise of individual powers was considered an essential check on governmental power. The Articles of Confederation before it was not: it was merely a confederation of states with varying degrees of individual versus state sovereignty. From the perspective allowed by 207 years of observation, it is clearly an imperfect attempt in that it provided no reliable institutional mechanism, short of revolution, to enforce punishment upon magistrates, legislators, and executives who usurped the people's rights and powers.

But it did preserve the option of revolution as a final means of enforcement of the people's rights and powers, and it did that in the Second Amendment to the Constitution's Bill of Rights, the Preamble of which declared the Bill of Rights' purpose: "The conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added ..."

The "militia" referred to in the Second Amendment - supported by debates at the time and enabling legislation - was the people as a whole. It was the expectation of the Constitution's Framers that the people would train to arms and be available both for defense against foreign enemies and as a posse comitatus (Latin for "power of the county") against domestic enemies. The constitutional debates now known as the Federalist Papers, largely written by Madison and Hamilton, clearly distinguished the militia from both a standing army and "select" militias. The revolutionaries had had experience with both, courtesy of the British, and wanted the people armed and ready as a protection against them.

Today, 203 years after the Second Amendment was made part of the Constitution, the right of the people to keep and bear arms is under attack as the final barrier to the triumph of statism's conquest of America, but two centuries of that right's existence has left us a living legacy from its authors. In spite of an extreme hostility toward civilian arms from every powerful organized institution in this country, half the homes in this country still maintain a private arsenal, and two-thirds of Americans have said to Louis Harris pollsters that they have no intent of surrendering their arms, even if they are both bribed and threatened by the law.

Gun control, so-called, is a fraud perpetrated by those who are fundamentally opposed to the doctrine of universal individual sovereignty: individual liberty. Its proponents are either philosophical pacifists or statists, or both. Its stated purpose of reducing crime and violence has never succeeded in doing either, no matter how thoroughly it has been tried; as good a case can be made that it disarms only the innocent and increases violent crime overall. While the purposes for which it is proposed are dubious, its function is clearly to deinstitutionalize, once and for all, the doctrine of universal individual sovereignty in this country by depriving the people of their final means of resisting incursions upon their lives, property, and liberty: armed force.

Arms are the power of the sovereign, whether that sovereign is one man or a billion.

If the doctrine of universal individual rights is to triumph on this planet, "the last, best hope of earth" - the United States of America - must preserve the power of its people to defend the rights of its people.

Return to Table of Contents.

The following article appeared in the January 1, 1992 Los Angeles Times.

A Massacre We Didn't Hear About

This is the story you saw on the evening news:

At lunch hour on Wednesday, Oct. 16, George Jo Hennard of Belton, Tex. smashed his Ford pickup through the plate glass doors of Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, injuring some patrons immediately. While other patrons rushed toward the truck believing the driver was a heart-attack victim, Hennard calmly climbed out of his pickup, took out two 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistols, and started shooting people in the cafeteria's serving line.

Hennard continued shooting for 10 minutes, reloading five times. One of his pistols jammed repeatedly, causing him to discard it. There would have been plenty of opportunity for any of the cafeteria's customers or employees to return fire. None did because none of them were armed. Texas law forbids private citizens from carrying firearms out of their home or business. Luby's employee's manual forbids employees from carrying firearms.

Police officers were inside Luby's within minutes. But before they were able to corner Hennard in the cafeteria's restroom, where he turned his gun fatally on himself, Hennard had killed 15 women and 8 men, wounded 19 and caused at least five more to be injured attempting to flee.

The Killeen massacre was ready-made excitement for the media: a madman with a gun, lots of gruesome pictures. CBS News devoted an entire "48 Hours" Dan Rather report to it. Sarah Brady of Handgun Control Inc. capitalized on it in a nationally published column to call Congress cowardly for voting down more stringent gun laws the next day.

Now here's a story you probably didn't see:

Late at night on Tuesday, December 17, two men armed with recently-stolen pistols herded 20 customers and employees of a Shoney's restaurant in Anniston, Ala., into the walk-in refrigerator, and locked it. Continuing to hold the manager at gunpoint, the men began robbing the restaurant.

Then one of the robbers found a customer who had hidden under a table and pulled a gun on him. The customer, Thomas Glenn Terry, legally armed with a .45 semi-automatic pistol, fired five shots into that robber's chest and abdomen, killing him instantly.

The other robber, who was holding the manager at gunpoint, opened fire on Terry and grazed him. Terry returned fire, hitting the second robber several times and wounding him critically.

The robbery attempt was over. The Shoney's customers and employees were freed. No one else was hurt.

Because Terry was armed, and used his gun to stop two armed robbers who had taken a restaurant full of people hostage, there was no drawn-out crisis, no massacre, no victims' families for Dan Rather to interview. Consequently, the story hasn't received much coverage.

Among those who rely on national news media for their view of the country, the bloody image of Luby's Cafeteria is available to lend the unchallenged impression that guns in private hands serve only to kill innocent people. The picture of 20 hostages walking out of Shoney's refrigerator unharmed, because a private citizen was armed that night, is not.

As we celebrate the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, it's worth noting that the Framers wrote the Second Amendment so the people's defense would be in our own hands, and we wouldn't have to rely on a "standing army" or "select militia" for our security. Though no police departments existed in America then, there's no historical doubt that the Framers had considered centralized public defense, and considered it not merely ineffective, but itself dangerous to public safety. Recent vigilante-type police attacks, such as the beating of Rodney King, lend credence.

Yet, it's fashionable to relegate constitutional protections to the dustbin of history. Judges sworn to defend the Constitution ignore its clear provisions, as do legislators. Virtually every major organ of society - both political parties, the media, the American Bar Assn., the ACLU - urges them to do so.

Today's "consensus reality" asserts that private firearms play no effective role in the civic defense, and that firearms must be restricted to reduce crime. The media repeat these assertions as a catechism, and treat those who challenge them as heretics.

Yet, we have before us an experiment showing us alternative outcomes. In one case, we have a restaurant full of unarmed people who rely on the police to save them. The result is 23 innocent lives lost, and an equivalent number wounded. In the second case, we have one armed citizen on the scene and not one innocent life lost.

How can the choice our society needs to make be any clearer?

It's time to rid ourselves of the misbegotten idea that public safety can be achieved by unilateral disarmament of the honest citizen, and realize that the price of public safety is, like liberty, eternal vigilance. We can tire ourselves in futile debates on how to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Or we can decide that innocent lives deserve better than to be cut short, if only we, as a society, will take upon ourselves the civic responsibility of defending our fellow citizens, as Thomas Glenn Terry did in Alabama.

My account of Thomas Glenn Terry's actions in this article was based on an Alabama newspaper account. I later interviewed Terry for a weekly radio program I was hosting and discovered that the account was mistaken on several points.

Postal clerk Terry was finishing a late-night dinner with his wife when the robbers came in and took over the restaurant. Terry hid his .45 Colt Government Model under his sweater, not seeing any immediate opportunity to use it. Terry's wife was captured with the other customers and herded off to the cooler, where one of the robbers proceeded to collect wallets and jewelry.

Terry did not hide under a table; he had separated himself from the other customers and managed to get to a back door in the Shoney's to see if it was open so he could escape and call the police. The door was chained shut. At that point one of the robbers discovered him and when the robber drew on him, Terry pulled his own handgun from under his sweater and returned fire, incapacitating this robber, who ultimately survived. The second robber heard the exchange of gunfire and also drew on Terry; it was the gun fight between Terry and this second robber which resulted in the robber running out to the parking lot, where he died from his wounds. It was at this point that Terry told the store manager to phone the police, informing them that an armed customer was present; Terry then proceeded to the cooler and released his wife and the other customers.

Both robbers whom Terry shot had previous armed robberies on their record, and one had murdered a motel clerk just a few days earlier. A third robber escaped as soon as Terry exchanged gunfire with the first robber.

The only national media outlet to cover this incident as news, just two months after the Killeen restaurant massacre, was the Christian Science Monitor. -JNS

Return to Table of Contents.

The following article appeared in the Orange County Register on Sunday, September 19, 1993, and was reprinted in the October 1, 1993 Gun Week.

Q & A on Gun Defenses

Gary Kleck, Ph.D. is a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University in Tallahassee and author of Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (Aldine de Gruyter, 1991), a book widely cited in the national gun-control debate. In an exclusive interview, Dr. Kleck revealed some preliminary results of the National Self-Defense Survey which he and his colleague Dr. Marc Gertz conducted in Spring, 1993. Though he stresses that the results of the survey are preliminary and subject to future revision, Kleck is satisfied that the survey's results confirm his analysis of previous surveys which show that American civilians commonly use their privately-owned firearms to defend themselves against criminal attacks, and that such defensive uses significantly outnumber the criminal uses of firearms in America.

The new survey, conducted by random telephone sampling of 4,978 households in all the states except Alaska and Hawaii, yield results indicating that American civilians use their firearms as often as 2.5 million times every year defending against a confrontation with a criminal, and that handguns alone account for up to 1.9 million defenses per year. Previous surveys, in Kleck's analysis, had underrepresented the extent of private firearms defenses because the questions asked failed to account for the possibility that a particular respondent might have had to use his or her firearm more than once.

Dr. Kleck will first present his survey results at an upcoming meeting of the American Society of Criminology, but he agreed to discuss his preliminary analysis, even though it is uncustomary to do so in advance of complete peer review, because of the great extent which his earlier work is being quoted in public debates.

[Note For This Edition: The results of the National Self Defense Survey were published as "Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalance and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun," by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, in The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, Northwestern University School of Law, Volume 86, Number 1, Fall, 1995. Marvin Wolfgang, Director of the Sellin Center for Studies in Criminology and Criminal Law at the University of Pennsylvania, considered by many to be the foremost criminologist in the country, wrote in that same issue, "I am as strong a gun-control advocate as can be found among the criminologists in this country. If I were Mustapha Mond of Brave New World, I would eliminate all guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police ... What troubles me is the article by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. The reason I am troubled is that they have provided an almost clearcut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator. ...I have to admit my admiration for the care and caution expressed in this article and this research. Can it be true that about two million instances occur each year in which a gun was used as a defensive measure against crime? It is hard to believe. Yet, it is hard to challenge the data collected. We do not have contrary evidence. The National Crime Victim Survey does not directly contravene this latest survey, nor do the Mauser and Hart Studies. ... the methodological soundness of the current Kleck and Gertz study is clear. I cannot further debate it. ... The Kleck and Gertz study impresses me for the caution the authors exercise and the elaborate nuances they examine methodologically. I do not like their conclusions that having a gun can be useful, but I cannot fault their methodology. They have tried earnestly to meet all objections in advance and have done exceedingly well."

So the interview you are about to read presents results which are no longer "preliminary"; they have now been peer-reviewed by the top criminologist in this country, one who was prejudiced in advance against its results, and even he found the scientific evidence overwhelmingly convincing. - JNS, 1996]

The interview was conducted September 14-17, 1993.

Readers may be interested to know that Kleck is a member of the ACLU, Amnesty International USA, and Common Cause, among other politically liberal organizations. He is also a lifelong registered Democrat. He is not and has never been a member of or contributor to the NRA, Handgun Control Inc., or any other advocacy gMotorroup on either side of the gun-control issue, nor has he received funding for research from any such organization.

Schulman: Dr. Kleck, can you tell me generally what was discovered in your recent survey that wasn't previously known?

Kleck: Well, the survey mostly generated results pretty consistent with those of a dozen previous surveys which generallyindicates that defensive use of guns is pretty common and probably more common than criminal uses of guns. This survey went beyond previous ones in that it provided detail about how often people who had used a gun had done so. We asked people was the gun used defensively in the past five years and if so how many times did that happen and we asked details about what exactly happened. We nailed down that each use being reported was a bona fide defensive use against a human being in connection with a crime where there was an actual confrontation between victim and offender. Previous surveys were a little hazy on the details of exactly what was being reported as a defensive gun use. It wasn't, for example, clear that the respondents weren't reporting investigating a suspicious noise in their back yard with a gun where there was, in fact, nobody there. Our results ended up indicating, depending on which figures you prefer to use, anywhere from 800,000 on up to 2.4, 2.5 million defensive uses of guns against human beings - not against animals - by civilians each year.

Schulman: Okay. Let's see if we can pin down some of these figures. I understand you asked questions having to do with just the previous one year. Is that correct?

Kleck: That's correct. We asked both for recollections about the preceding five years and for just what happened in the previous one year, the idea being that people would be able to remember more completely what had happened just in the past year.

Schulman: And your figures reflect this?

Kleck: Yes. The estimates are considerably higher if they're based on people's presumably more-complete recollection of just what happened in the previous year.

Schulman: Okay. So you've given us the definition of what a "defense" is. It has to be an actual confrontation against a human being attempting a crime? Is that correct?

Kleck: Correct.

Schulman: And it excludes all police, security guards, and military personnel?

Kleck: That's correct.

Schulman: Okay. Let's ask the "one year" question since you say that's based on better recollections. In the last year how many people who responded to the questionnaire said that they had used a firearm to defend themselves against an actual confrontation from a human being attempting a crime?

Kleck:Well, as a percentage it's 1.33 percent of the respondents. When you extrapolate that to the general population, it works out to be 2.4 million defensive uses of guns of some kind - not just handguns but any kind of a gun - within that previous year, which would have been roughly from Spring of 1992 through Spring of 1993.

Schulman: And if you focus solely on handguns?

Kleck: It's about 1.9 million, based on personal, individual recollections.

Schulman: And what percentage of the respondents is that? Just handguns?

Kleck: That would be 1.03 percent.

Schulman: How many respondents did you have total?

Kleck: We had a total of 4,978 completed interviews, that is, where we had a response on the key question of whether or not there had been a defensive gun use.

Schulman: So roughly 50 people out of 5000 responded that in the last year they had had to use their firearms in an actual confrontation against a human being attempting a crime?

Kleck: Handguns, yes.

Schulman: Had used a handgun. And slightly more than that had used any gun.

Kleck: Right.

Schulman: So that would be maybe 55, 56 people?

Kleck: Something like that, yeah.

Schulman: Okay. I can just hear critics saying that 50 or 55 people responding that they used their gun and you're projecting it out to figures of around 2 million, 2-1/2 million gun defenses. Why is that statistically valid?

Kleck: Well, that's one reason why we also had a five-year recollection period. We get a much larger raw number of people saying, "Yes, I had a defensive use." It doesn't work out to be as many per year because people are presumably not remembering as completely, but the raw numbers of people who remember some kind of defensive use over the previous five years, that worked out to be on the order of 200 sample cases. So it's really a small raw number only if you limit your attention to those who are reporting an incident just in the previous year. Statistically, it's strictly the raw numbers that are relevant to the issue.

Schulman: So if between 1 percent to 1-1/3 percent of your respondents are saying that they defended themselves with a gun, how does this compare, for example, to the number of people who would respond that they had suffered from a crime during that period?

Kleck: I really couldn't say. We didn't ask that and I don't think there are really any comparable figures. You could look at the National Crime Surveys for relatively recentyears and I guess you could take the share of the population that had been the victims of some kind of violent crime because most of these apparently are responses to violent crimes. Ummm, let's see. The latest year for which I have any data, 1991, would be about 9 percent of the population had suffered a personal crime - that's a crime with personal contact. And so, to say that 1 percent of the population had defended themselves with a handgun is obviously still well within what you would expect based on the share of the population that had suffered a personal crime of some kind. Plus a number of these defensive uses were against burglars, which isn't considered a personal crime according to the National Crime Survey. But you can add in maybe another 5 percent who'd been a victim of a household burglary.

Schulman: Let's break down some of these gun defenses if we can. How many are against armed robbers? How many are against burglars? How many are against people committing a rape or an assault?

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. Sixteen percent involved trespassing. Note that some incidents could involve more than one crime.

Schulman: Do you have a breakdown of how many occurred on somebody's property and how many occurred, let's say, off somebody's property where somebody would have had to have been carrying a gun with them on their person or in their car?

Kleck: Yes. We asked where the incident took place. Seventy-two percent took place in or near the home, where the gun wouldn't have to be "carried" in a legal sense. And then some of the remainder, maybe another 4 percent, occurred in a friend's home where that might not necessarily involve carrying. Also, some of these incidents may have occurred in a vehicle in a parking lot and that's another 4 percent or so. So some of those incidents may have involved a less-regulated kind of carrying. In many states, for example, it doesn't require a license to carry a gun in your vehicle so I'd say that the share that involved carrying in a legal sense is probably less than a quarter of the incidents. I won't commit myself to anything more than that because we don't have the specifics of whether or not some of these away-from-home incidents occurred while a person was in a car.

Schulman: All right. Well, does that mean that approximately a half million times a year somebody carrying a gun away from home uses it to defend himself or herself?

Kleck: That's what it would imply, yes.

Schulman: All right. As many as one-half million times every year somebody carrying a gun away from home defends himself or herself.

Kleck: Yes, about that. It could be as high as that. I have many different estimates and some of the estimates are deliberately more conservative in that they exclude from our sample any cases where it was not absolutely clear that there was a genuine defensive gun use being reported.

Schulman: Were any of these gun uses done by anyone under the age of 21 or under the age of 18?

Kleck: Well we don't have any coverage of persons under the age of 18. Like most national surveys we cover only adults age 18 and up.

Schulman: Did you have any between the ages of 18 and 21?

Kleck: I haven't analyzed the cross tabulation of age with defensive gun use so I couldn't say at this point.

Schulman: Okay. Was this survey representative just of Florida or is it representative of the entire United States?

Kleck: It's representative of the lower 48 states.

Schulman: And that means that there was calling throughout all the different states?

Kleck: Yes, except Alaska and Hawaii, and that's also standard practice for national surveys; because of the expense they usually aren't contacted.

Schulman: How do these surveys make their choices, for example, between high-crime urban areas and less-crime rural areas?

Kleck: Well, there isn't a choice made in that sense. It's a telephone survey and the telephone numbers are randomly chosen by computer so that it works out that every residential telephone number in the lower 48 states had an equal chance of being picked, except that we deliberately oversampled from the South and the West and then adjusted after the fact for that overrepresentation. It results in no biasing. The results are representative of the entire United States, but it yields a larger number of samplecases of defensive gun uses. They are, however, weighted back down so that they properly represent the correct percent of the population that's had a defensive gun use.

Schulman: Why is it that the results of your survey are so counter-intuitive compared to police experience?

Kleck: For starters, there are substantial reasons for people not to report defensive gun uses to the police or, for that matter, even to interviewers working for researchers like me - the reason simply being that a lot of the times people either don't know whether their defensive act was legal or even if they think that was legal, they're not sure that possessing a gun at that particular place and time was legal. They may have a gun that's supposed to be registered and it's not or maybe it's totally legally owned but they're not supposed to be walking around on the streets with it.

Schulman: Did your survey ask the question of whether people carrying guns had licenses to do so?

Kleck:: No, we did not. We thought that would be way too sensitive a question to ask people.

Schulman: Okay. Let's talk about how the guns were actually used in order to accomplish the defense. How many people, for example, had to merely show the gun, as opposed to how many had to fire a warning shot, as to how many actually had to attempt to shoot or shoot their attacker?

Kleck: We got all of the details about everything that people could have done with a gun from as mild an action as merely verbally referring to the gun on up to actually shooting somebody.

Schulman: Could you give me the percentages?

Kleck: Yes. You have to keep in mind that it's quite possible for people to have done more than one of these things since they could obviously both verbally refer to the gun and point it at somebody or even shoot it.

Schulman: Okay.

Kleck: Fifty-four percent of the defensive gun uses involved somebody verbally referring to the gun. Forty-seven percent involved the gun being pointed at the criminal. Twenty-two percent involved the gun being fired. Fourteen percent involved the gun being fired at somebody, meaning it wasn't just a warning shot; the defender was trying to shoot the criminal. Whether they succeeded or not is another matter but they were trying to shoot a criminal. And then in 8 percent they actually did wound or kill the offender.

Schulman: In 8 percent, wounded or killed. You don't have it broken down beyond that?

Kleck: Wound versus kill? No. Again that was thought to be too sensitive a question. Although we did have, I think, two people who freely offered the information that they had, indeed, killed someone. Keep in mind that the 8 percent figure is based on so few cases that you have to interpret it with great caution.

Schulman: Did anybody respond to a question asking whether they had used the gun and it was found afterward to be unjustified?

Kleck: We did not ask them that question although we did ask them what crime they thought was being committed. So in each case the only incidents we were accepting as bona fide defensive gun uses were ones where the defender believed that, indeed, a crime had been committed against them.

Schulman: Did you ask any follow-up questions about how many people had been arrested or captured as a result of their actions?

Kleck: No.

Schulman: Did you ask any questions about aid in law enforcement, such as somebody helps a police officer who's not themselves an officer?

Kleck: No. I imagine that would be far too rare an incident to get any meaningful information out of it. Highly unlikely that any significant share of these involved assisting law enforcement.

Schulman: The question which this all comes down to is that we already have some idea, for example from surveys on CCW license holders, how rare it is for a CCW holder to misuse their gun in a way to injure somebody improperly. But does this give us any idea of what the percentages are of people who carry a gun having to use it in order to defend himself or herself? In other words, comparing the percentage of defending yourself to the percentage of being attacked, does this tell us anything?

Kleck: We asked them whether they carried guns at any time but we didn't directly ask them if they were carrying guns, in the legal sense, at the time they had used their gun defensively. So we can probably say what fraction of gun carriers in our sample had used a gun defensively but we can't say whether they did it while carrying. They may, for example, have been people who at least occasionally carried a gun for protection but they used a gun defensively in their own home.

Schulman: So what percentage of gun carriers used it defensively?

Kleck: I haven't calculated it yet so I couldn't say.

Schulman: So if we assume, let's say, that every year approximately 9 percent of people are going to be attacked, and approximately every year that 1 percent of respondents used their guns to defend against an attack, is it fair to say that around one out of nine people attacked used their guns to defend themselves?

Kleck: That "risk of being attacked" shouldn't be phrased that way. It's the risk of being the victim of a personal crime. In other words, it involved interpersonal contact. That could be something like a nonviolent crime like purse snatching or pickpocketing as well. The fact that personal contact is involved means there's an opportunity to defend against it using a gun; it doesn't necessarily mean there was an attack on the victim.

Schulman: Did you get any data on how the attackers were armed during these incidents?

Kleck: Yes. We also asked whether the offender was armed. The offender was armed in 47.2 percent of the cases and they had a handgun in about 13.6 percent of all the cases and some other kind of gun in 4.5 percent of all the cases.

Schulman: So in other words, in about a sixth of the cases, the person attacking was armed with a firearm.

Kleck: That's correct.

Schulman: Okay. And the remainder?

Kleck: Armed with a knife: 18.1 percent, 2 percent with some other sharp object, 10.1 percent with a blunt object, and 6 percent with some other weapon. Keep in mind when adding this up that offenders could have had more than one weapon.

Schulman: So in approximately five sixths of the cases somebody carrying a gun for defensive reasons would find themselves defending themselves either against an unarmed attacker or an attacker with a lesser weapon?

Kleck: Right. About five-sixths of the time.

Schulman: And about one-sixth of the time they would find themselves up against somebody who's armed with a firearm.

Kleck: Well, certainly in this sample of incidents that was the case.

Schulman: Which you believe is representative.

Kleck: It's representative of what's happened in the last five years. Whether or not it would be true in the future we couldn't say for sure.

Schulman: Are there any other results coming out of this which are surprising to you?

Kleck: About the only thing which was surprising is how often people had actually wounded someone in the incident. Previous surveys didn't have very many sample cases so you couldn't get into the details much but some evidence had suggested that a relatively small share of incidents involved the gun inflicting wounds so it was surprising to me that quite so many defenders had used a gun that way.

Schulman: Dr. Kleck, is there anything else you'd like to say at this time about the results of your survey and your continuing analysis of them?

Kleck: Nope.

Schulman:Then thank you very much.

Kleck: You're welcome.

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The following is reprinted from the September 13, 1991 issue of Gun Week, and also appears under the title "The Text of The Second Amendment" in The Journal on Firearms and Public Policy, Summer 1992, Volume 4, Number 1.

The Unabridged Second Amendment

If you wanted to know all about the Big Bang, you'd ring up Carl Sagan, right? And if you wanted to know about desert warfare, the man to call would be Norman Schwarzkopf, no question about it. But who would you call if you wanted the top expert on American usage, to tell you the meaning of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution?

That was the question I asked A.C. Brocki, Editorial Coordinator of the Los Angeles Unified School District and formerly senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Publishers - who himself had been recommended to me as the foremost expert on English usage in the Los Angeles school system. Mr. Brocki told me to get in touch with Roy Copperud, a retired professor of journalism at the University of Southern California and the author of American Usage and Style: The Consensus.

A little research lent support to Brocki's opinion of Professor Copperud's expertise.

Roy Copperud was a newspaper writer on major dailies for over three decades before embarking on a distinguished seventeen-year career teaching journalism at USC. Since 1952, Copperud has been writing a column dealing with the professional aspects of journalism for Editor and Publisher, a weekly magazine focusing on the journalism field.

He's on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and Merriam Webster's Usage Dictionary frequently cites him as an expert. Copperud's fifth book on usage, American Usage and Style: The Consensus, has been in continuous print from Van Nostrand Reinhold since 1981, and is the winner of the Association of American Publishers' Humanities Award.

That sounds like an expert to me.

After a brief telephone call to Professor Copperud in which I introduced myself but did not give him any indication of why I was interested, I sent the following letter on July 26, 1991:

I am writing you to ask you for your professional opinion as an expert in English usage, to analyze the text of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and extract the intent from the text.

The text of the Second Amendment is, "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

The debate over this amendment has been whether the first part of the sentence, "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," is a restrictive clause or a subordinate clause, with respect to the independent clause containing the subject of the sentence, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I would request that your analysis of this sentence not take into consideration issues of political impact or public policy, but be restricted entirely to a linguistic analysis of its meaning and intent. Further, since your professional analysis will likely become part of litigation regarding the consequences of the Second Amendment, I ask that whatever analysis you make be a professional opinion that you would be willing to stand behind with your reputation, and even be willing to testify under oath to support, if necessary.

My letter framed several questions about the text of the Second Amendment, then concluded:

I realize that I am asking you to take on a major responsibility and task with this letter. I am doing so because, as a citizen, I believe it is vitally important to extract the actual meaning of the Second Amendment. While I ask that your analysis not be affected by the political importance of its results, I ask that you do this because of that importance.

After several more letters and phone calls, in which we discussed terms for his doing such an analysis, but in which we never discussed either of our opinions regarding the Second Amendment, gun control, or any other political subject, Professor Copperud sent me the following analysis (into which I've inserted my questions for the sake of clarity):

[Copperud:] The words "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state," contrary to the interpretation cited in your letter of July 26, 1991, constitute a present participle, rather than a clause. It is used as an adjective, modifying "militia," which is followed by the main clause of the sentence (subject "the right," verb "shall"). The right to keep and bear arms is asserted as essential for maintaining a militia.

In reply to your numbered questions:

[Schulman: (1) Can the sentence be interpreted to grant the right to keep and bear arms solely to "a well-regulated militia"?;]

[Copperud:] (1) The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to a right of the people.

[Schulman: (2) Is "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" granted by the words of the Second Amendment, or does the Second Amendment assume a preexisting right of the people to keep and bear arms, and merely state that such right "shall not be infringed"?;]

[Copperud:] (2) The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed. The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia.

[Schulman: (3) Is the right of the people to keep and bear arms conditioned upon whether or not a well-regulated militia is, in fact, necessary to the security of a free State, and if that condition is not existing, is the statement "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" null and void?;]

[Copperud:] (3) No such condition is expressed or implied. The right to keep and bear arms is not said by the amendment to depend on the existence of a militia. No condition is stated or implied as to the relation of the right to keep and bear arms and to the necessity of a well-regulated militia as requisite to the security of a free state. The right to keep and bear arms is deemed unconditional by the entire sentence.

[Schulman: (4) Does the clause "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," grant a right to the government to place conditions on the "right of the people to keep and bear arms," or is such right deemed unconditional by the meaning of the entire sentence?;]

[Copperud:] (4) The right is assumed to exist and to be unconditional, as previously stated. It is invoked here specifically for the sake of the militia.

[Schulman: (5) Which of the following does the phrase "well-regulated militia" mean: "well-equipped," "well-organized," "well-drilled," "well-educated," or "subject to regulations of a superior authority"?]

[Copperud:] (5) The phrase means "subject to regulations of a superior authority"; this accords with the desire of the writers for civilian control over the military.

[Schulman: If at all possible, I would ask you to take into account the changed meanings of words, or usage, since that sentence was written two-hundred years ago, but not to take into account historical interpretations of the intents of the authors, unless those issues can be clearly separated.]

[Copperud:] To the best of my knowledge, there has been no change in the meaning of words or in usage that would affect the meaning of the amendment. If it were written today, it might be put: "Since a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged."

[Schulman:] As a "scientific control" on this analysis, I would also appreciate it if you could compare your analysis of the text of the Second Amendment to the following sentence,

"A well-schooled electorate, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed."

My questions for the usage analysis of this sentence would be,

(1) Is the grammatical structure and usage of this sentence, and the way the words modify each other, identical to the Second Amendment's sentence?; and

(2) Could this sentence be interpreted to restrict "the right of the people to keep and read Books" only to "a well-educated electorate" - for example, registered voters with a high-school diploma?]

[Copperud:] (1) Your "scientific control" sentence precisely parallels the amendment in grammatical structure.

(2) There is nothing in your sentence that either indicates or implies the possibility of a restricted interpretation.

Professor Copperud had only one additional comment, which he placed in his cover letter: "With well-known human curiosity, I made some speculative efforts to decide how the material might be used, but was unable to reach any conclusion."

So now we have been told by one of the top experts on American usage what many knew all along: the Constitution of the United States unconditionally protects the people's right to keep and bear arms, forbidding all government formed under the Constitution from abridging that right.

As I write this, the attempted coup against constitutional government in the Soviet Union has failed, apparently because the will of the people in that part of the world to be free from capricious tyranny is stronger than the old guard's desire to maintain a monopoly on dictatorial power.

And here in the United States, elected lawmakers, judges, and appointed officials who are pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States ignore, marginalize, or prevaricate about the Second Amendment routinely. American citizens are put in American prisons for carrying arms, owning arms of forbidden sorts, or failing to satisfy bureaucratic requirements regarding the owning and carrying of firearms - all of which is an abridgement of the unconditional right of the people to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Constitution.

And even the ACLU, staunch defender of the rest of the Bill of Rights, stands by and does nothing.

It seems it is up to those who believe in the right to keep and bear arms to preserve that right. No one else will. No one else can. Will we beg our elected representatives not to take away our rights, and continue regarding them as representing us if they do? Will we continue obeying judges who decide that the Second Amendment doesn't mean what it says but means whatever they say it means in their Orwellian doublespeak?

Or will we simply keep and bear the arms of our choice, as the Constitution of the United States promises us we can, and pledge that we will defend that promise with our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor?

I was looking at the "View" section of the LA Times from December 18, 1991 - an article on James Michener which my ex-wife Kate had saved for me to read - when the beginning of Jack Smith's column caught my eye: "Roy Copperud had no sooner died the other day than I had occasion to consult his excellent book, 'American Usage and Style: The Consensus.'"

Thus I learned of the death of Roy Copperud, the retired USC professor whom I had commissioned to do a grammatical analysis of the Second Amendment. It seems to have been one of the last projects he worked on. It is certainly one of the most important.

Roy Copperud told me afterwards that he, personally, favored gun control, but his analysis of the Second Amendment made clear that its protections of the right of the people to keep and bear arms were unaffected by its reference to militia. This sort of intellectual and professional honesty is sorely lacking in public discourse today.

In my several letters and phone conversations with Professor Copperud, I found him to be a gentleman of the old school.

The planet is a little poorer without him. -JNS

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