Thursday, April 07, 2005

More Guns, or More Deterrence

I see from Alphecca that Josh Horwitz is at it again. Last week, I discussed a press release written by Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). In his release, Horwitz said that we gun nuts are "running amok." Well, he's back with this editorial in the Union Leader of Manchester, New Hampshire. Now he says the NRA and other elements of a "fringe culture" want to solve gun problems by adding more guns to the mix. As Alphecca very ably says, there are millions of us who are on the "fringe."

Horwitz 's editorial is a "guest commentary" in answer to an earlier commentary by Dave Workman. Both authors start with a litany of recent gun violence incidents. But, Horwitz draws very different lessons than Workman. The latter, a senior editor of Gun Week magazine, believes armed citizens could stop violence, which so often occurs in gun-free zones.

Horwitz concentrates on the specter of more guns. He lists people and organizations that have argued for more guns as a means to prevent gun violence: Gun Owners of America, Vin Suprynowicz, and "purportedly mainstream gun rights organizations like the NRA." He states,
With somewhere around 200 million guns in private hands in the United States, our society hardly suffers from a shortage of firearms, and it is not clear why adding millions more would make us safer.
He is being disingenuous, but I'm not sure where he got his quotes. Instead of arguing quotes, let me rephrase the issue. We gunnies don't necessarily want to add more guns; we want to remove legal impediments to bearing and using guns in our own defense.

For three decades, Americans have taken an approach of banning guns from our schools, churches, and offices. By doing so, we have created gun-free areas which become an attractive killing ground to someone who wants to make a name for himself or who has a specific murder in mind.

Let's think about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who wanted infamy. They wanted to kill as many people as they could, but didn't really care who they killed. On the other hand, workplace shooters often go into a place seeking to kill a boss, or someone else, but will kill anyone who gets in their way.

These are two very different motives, but each can be prevented by the sure and certain belief that they will not succeed. Rampage shooters like Harris and Klebold can't make a name for themselves if a school teacher kills or wounds them as they draw their weapons or before they can set off their bombs (like they had at Columbine). A workplace shooter wants to kill a specific person, but if he's certain he wouldn't survive long enough to get that person, he probably wouldn't try a rampage-style attack. He might plan a more prosaic murder, though.

There's two ways of preventing such rampages: making sure no one has weapons or making sure everyone who wants one can have them and knows how to use them. Ironically, Horwitz points to Somalia or Russia with their razor wire and bodyguards and doesn't want an America like that.

I agree with him. I don't want to see an America with these conditions, but it's what we are doing right now. We are armoring every school and workplace with armed guards, razor wire, metal detectors, and anti-weapon policies.

Armoring everything hasn't worked well, since it can't. There are too many people to screen, there are too few screeners, and Americans don't want to be patted down to go to work. A person who plans to kill and then die like a terrorist or a mass shooter isn't deterred by anti-weapon policies and can pick their time and place. So, to truly deter a mass shooter we will create Horwitz's nightmarish vision of razor wire and bodyguards.

That leaves us with another alternative: Let Americans provide their own "bubble" of security by being armed. It has worked in our history. People in America before the 1960s carried guns in their cars, homes and on their persons.

My grandfather, a farmer, always carried a gun including a vest pocket gun when he went to church. Bill's mother tells a story of her father who carried a gun when traveling. During a 1950s family vacation, they had stopped at a rest area when a group of youths made comments about the picnic food, the car, the girls, and they appeared to be getting more rambunctious with each comment. Her father pulled his revolver out of his pocket and placed it on the picnic table with his hand on it. The youths became very polite.

Before the 1960s, America made mistakes about carrying weapons. Given the blatant racism of the times, black people were disarmed by those laws that are being used against gunnies today. Lynchings were a shameful result. Today, we would do better. We would recognize that all people have the right to keep and bear arms. And, civilians who decide to carry a gun should have training and range facilities to help them understand when to draw, when to shoot, and when to stand back and be a good witness.

We gunnies don't want police and armed bodyguards everywhere. We gunnies want to live freely and without violence, but to have the ability to stop violence if it comes to us. Instead, Horwitz seems to think we want to mete out justice as we see fit.

We don't want to be vigilantes. We want to deter those who feel they need to attack defenseless people. We can either continue to nonsensically fortify our schools, buildings, and churches or we can return to what has worked before. That is, allow us to provide for our common defense.

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