This article was written as an op-ed by guest columnist Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, headquartered at Missoula, Montana. Please enjoy reading this article at the original site, and check out the comments thread.
December 26, 2012 * by Gary Marbut
As with many others, I’ve been recovering from the shock of the school shooting in Connecticut. While doing so, I’ve been watching some national themes emerge. They seem to be these:
- Nobody can understand why a human being would commit such an atrocity. There may be no prohibition more pervasive and staunch among all cultures and societies than that against killing children. Some can see how such an event could happen, but nobody understands why.
- Hypothetical “gun free zones” turn out to have been a horrible public policy failure. All such mass murders have happened in pretended gun free zones that in fact obviously weren’t. The people who would never commit a crime are the ones who follow the rules, creating a killing field of defenseless victims to magnetically attract those predators and crazies for whom the rules mean nothing at all, but who appreciate a free fire zone where nobody can fight back.
- Some perspective may be helpful. There is much talk about banning “assault rifles.” The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report states that 323 people were killed in the U.S. in 2011 by rifles of all types. In the same period, the CDC reports that 400 people died from falling out of bed. Motor vehicles and water are orders of magnitude more dangerous to children than school shootings.
- n Guns save lives – lots of lives. Florida State University Professor Gary Kleck estimates that Americans use firearms lawfully about 2.5 million times each year to make predators go away. Shots are only fired in about 8 percent of those cases. An American is about 6,000 times more likely to use a firearm legally to protect herself than to be injured with a firearm.
- People who advocate firearm restrictions say we need to have a national debate about guns. Well, we’ve been having that debate for about three decades. What the gun control advocates really mean is that they’d like to win this debate, for once. In the past three decades, about 35 states have enacted mandatory issue concealed weapon permit laws. Opponents in every state predicted such laws would result in shootouts on every street corner, with rivers of blood running in the streets. Of course, that prophesy never came true. What did happen was that national crime statistics and victimization have trended steadily downward over that same period, notwithstanding record firearm sales in the U.S.
- The last theme I’ve seen emerging is one to allow willing and responsible teachers and school staff to be armed. More than one parent has said that if a teacher is not responsible enough to safely possess and use a firearm, that teacher is not responsible enough to be in loco parentis, responsible for the parent’s child. The ugly truth is that sometimes people just snap and do horrific things. When that happens and the assailant has a gun, intended victims will call and pray for somebody else with a gun to come save them. No matter how much they wish, police can seldom get there quickly enough to save the victims. Only the people present can do that, and only someone with training and a gun is likely to be able to stop a madman with a gun. How many of the teachers killed at Sandy Hook spent their last moments, after watching the babies murdered, thinking “Thank God I don’t have a gun … someone could get hurt”?
Finally, I’m sure millions of law-abiding gun owners join me in wishing we could have been magically transported to Sandy Hook Elementary School on that fateful day, with our guns, so we could have stopped the killer and saved those children. We’d gladly have taken the personal risk, the moral load of killing the assailant, and our legal licks for violating the dangerous no-guns policy, to be able to save those precious kids.
Sadly, such magic doesn’t happen. In lieu of magic and simple emoting, we can rationally examine how these incidents happen, and how they can be interdicted, even if we are still at a loss to understand why any person would do such a terrible thing as was done at Sandy Hook.
Gary Marbut is accepted in state and federal courts as an expert in self-defense and the use of force and firearm safety; is a veteran firearms and self-defense instructor; and is president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association. He lives in Missoula.
End note: Gary Marbut and his MSSA wrote the Montana Firearms Freedom Act of 2009, which was passed and signed into law that year, and which is now working its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is one of the most powerful State challenges to the Federal government’s interpretation of the “Commerce Clause”, possible the first law (challenging Federal interpretation of Commerce Clause) to reach the top of the Judicial system.
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