Somebody Else's Guns

by David B. Kopel

The Blue Press, May 1994. More by Kopel on gun prohibition.

One of the great mistakes made by gunowners, in the United States and other countries, is the assumption that the gun control movement only wants somebody else's guns.

"Go ahead and ban machine guns," says the man who shoots DCM matches with a Colt Sporter.

"I don't care if they outlaw all those ugly black semiautomatics," sneers the woman with a .357 in her glove compartment.

"What's it to me if they make it a felony to carry a gun?" asks the IPSC shooter.

Well folks, in case you haven't heard, the antigun lobby and their media don't want to outlaw somebody else's guns. They want yours. In particular, they want to outlaw all forms of gun ownership for self defense.

In Canada until the late 1970s, firearms were subjected only to a moderate degree of regulation. But the Canadian gun control movement had other ideas. Wrote Professor M.L. Friedland of the University of Toronto, father of Canada's modern gun legislation: "A person who wishes to possess a handgun should have to give a legitimate reason.... To protect life or property ...should not be a valid reason.... Citizens should rely on the police, security guards, and alarm systems for protection."

It took about 15 years for all of Professor Friedland's ideas to be put into law, but gun ownership for protection is now essentially illegal in Canada. Handgun ownership is allowed only with a special police permit. Although self-defense is one valid reason for owning a gun under the Canadian law as written, the Canadian police in practice will almost never give someone a permit to own (let alone carry) a gun for protection.

Long guns and handguns must always be locked up when not in use, thus making them impossible to use in an emergency. If a gun owner does use a firearm for protection, he will be severely prosecuted even if – as recently occurred – the gun owner simply scares a violent attacker away from his home by brandishing an unloaded, inoperable, lawfully owned, black powder antique.

And for good measure, ownership of other self-defense devices, such as pepper sprays, is completely illegal.

The situation is the same in Australia. Thanks to the lobbying effort of Gun Control Australia (an ally of America's Handgun Control, Inc.) the government in New South Wales (Australia's most populous state) has ordered anyone possessing a firearm for self-defense to surrender the gun immediately, or face severe penalties.

Australia and Canada are, of course, frequently cited by the American gun control lobbies for having laws far superior to America's. And what kind of gun control do we need here?

As Mrs. Brady told the New York Times, her ultimate goal is a "needs-based licensing" system. Under her plan, all guns, and all gun transfers would be registered. And possession of any gun would require the gun owner to satisfy the local police chief that he has a "need" for the gun. (Erik Eckhom, "A Little Gun Control, a Lot of Guns," New York Times, Aug. 15, 1993, p.B1).

What about people who need a gun for protection? "To me, the only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes," says Mrs. Brady. (Tom Jackson, "Keeping the Battle Alive," Tampa Tribune, Oct. 21, 1993.)

Mrs. Brady is hardly alone in her disdain for ownership of handguns, rifles, or shotguns for protection. Washington, D.C.'s leading gun control advocate is City Councilperson David Clarke. When gun control opponents objected that Clarke's ideas (including handgun prohibition) would leave innocent victims defenseless at their moment of greatest peril, Clarke shot back: "I don't intend to run the government around the moment of survival."

Simply put, many advocates of gun control are not especially concerned with whether it saves lives. Survey data consistently show that about half of all gun control supporters do not believe that the stricter laws they favor will have an impact on crime or violence. (See Gary Kleck, Point Blank, chapter 9).

In some cases, gun control may be favored even if the price is more death. Consider for example, Professor Laurence Ross's review of Gary Kleck's book Point Blank in the American Journal of Sociology. Kleck's book was awarded the Hindelang Prize, as the most significant contribution to criminology in the last three years; Ross praises Kleck's meticulous research and analysis, and Kleck's debunking of many of the myths surrounding the gun issue. And Ross does not deny Kleck's conclusion that, because handguns are frequently used by law-abiding citizens for lawful defensive purposes, handguns result in a large net saving of innocent lives every year, even after accounting for the large number of handgun murders. Saving lives, however, is not the most important goal:

Not only is Ross willing to sacrifice the protection of innocent life so that "civilized" persons will no longer need to feel "disgusted" at crime victims using force for protection, Ross actually looks forward to more criminal gun violence. After noting the "fate of James Brady" (confined to a wheelchair after being struck by a bullet intended for President Reagan), Ross notes approvingly that Brady's tragedy provided an "impetus for attempts at broader control." Ross looks forward to "more incidents, more heinous ones with more tragic or important victims," so that society will develop "the necessary determination" to progress beyond "narrow controls."

Now it is an odd version of "civilization" that prefers more people being killed by criminals to more innocent victims being able to save their lives by using firearms. But while the efforts of authoritarian pacifists to force their "better dead than armed" morality on everyone else may strike you as ludicrous, the gun prohibitionists take, including the proposed Feinstein ban on 184 semiautomatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols, puts the prohibitionists that much closer to their ultimate objective.

Your choices are simple: One choice is to remain politically passive. If you do so, make sure to write a note to all the criminals in your area; ask them to indicate if they have any plans to attack you, and if they do, to please attack within the next couple of years, while you still have governmental permission to own a gun for protection.

Your other choice is stand and defend your rights. Join the NRA, send NRA's Institute for Legislative Action an extra donation, write to your elected officials, vote, encourage your friends to vote, and take as many steps as you can to defend your rights, and the rights of your children. Because if you don't, the gun prohibition lobby will ensure that when you, or your spouse, or your children or your grandchildren are confronted by a rapist, a robber, a burglar or a murderer, the victims will be unarmed.

Someone Else's Guns, by David B. Kopel, the Blue Press, published monthly by Dillon Precision Products, Inc., 7442 E. Butherus Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 852602415, May 1994 issue.

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