A Fighting Chance

By Richard Griffiths

April 21, 1999. More from the Independence Institute on the carrying of handguns for lawful protection.

An eerie pall of horror has settled around Yosemite National Park since the gruesome discovery of the bodies of Carole Sund (age 42), her daughter Julie Sund (15), and a family friend from Argentina Silvana Pelosso (16). Two of their bodies were found burned beyond recognition in the trunk of their rented car in a pine grove near Long Barn California. A third body, now believed to be that of Julie Sund, was found on a grassy hill near New Don Pedro Reservoir. Although Yosemite is a long way from Michigan, the tragic fate of these women highlights the importance of proposals in Michigan to allow licensed, trained adults to carry firearms for protection.

According to the FBI, the Yosemite victims were last seen alive the evening of February 15 in the lobby of their motel, Cedar Lodge, on the border of the park. Who killed them and why remains a mystery. The FBI profilers believe it could be the work of a pair of serial killers. If that is true they will be difficult to stop before they kill again. One thing is certain these women are not alone. Despite falling crime rates, thousands of women are still raped, beaten, and murdered every year.

Our response to these murders can only be described as pathetic. The more sensitive among us do feel the pain. We wring our hands and cry out for their loved ones and their loss. Most of us, however, are disturbed for a few moments and then we flip the TV channel, and go on with our lives believing it will never happen to us or someone we love. Even worse we tell ourselves that there is nothing we can do to help prevent such crimes. And when it does happen to us we are usually totally helpless.

The good news is that we can learn to defend ourselves and turn the tables on those who would harm our families. Consider some recent examples: Barbara Thompson of Hoffman North Carolina was at home on a Friday night last December when she heard her back door being bashed in. A few seconds later her bedroom door was ripped off its hinges, and a raging ex-boyfriend stepped in firing a shotgun. Barbara retrieved a .38 caliber pistol and returned fire stopping this killer dead in his tracks.

In North Carolina, a violent serial rapist who had been assaulting women near the University of North Carolina was finally stopped not by the police but by an armed woman. The 26-year-old rapist Adrian Cathey entered an apartment early one morning armed with a knife. The intended victim, however, fought back by shooting the rapist with her gun. Cathey fled the scene and was later found dead in a parking lot.

And in New Orleans a Good Samaritan with a licensed pistol intervened to save the life of Michelle Sheppard. Sheppard, after emerging from an office building, was viciously stabbed in the forehead, back, neck and side by her estranged husband. To escape she ran into the parking lot where a patron in a nearby business saw her plight, courageously pulled his pistol and intervened stopping her attacker until the police arrived.

Recent research by the top criminologists in the gun control field (see Dr. John Lott's work "More Guns Less Crime") now confirm what these and hundreds of thousands of other Americans know from experience: In a confrontation with a criminal if the potential victim is armed with a gun the criminal most often either flees or ends up captured, wounded or dead. So potent is the presence of armed citizens that crime rates typically decline six to ten percent when laws are passed allowing citizens the right to carry and use guns to defend themselves against criminals.

Why then are so many Americans still helpless? In part it is due to a relentless and emotional media campaign waged against the concept of self-defense with guns by Handgun Control Inc. This lobby, with powerful friends in the media, deliberately scares many citizens, especially women, from owning and using guns. Their message to citizens is that guns are far too dangerous for non-law enforcement people to use effectively for self-defense.

Tragically Handgun Control, Inc., and its supporters are not content with just spreading their propaganda. From Colorado to Michigan, Handgun Control Inc. works to block reasonable laws that would allow women and other citizens the right to carry guns for self-defense even after they have passed a strict background check and a safety training class.

I am not sure if Carole Sund had been armed with a gun, that she , her daughter Julie, and their friend Silvana would be alive today. I do know that in those first few moments when she was attacked she would have had a fighting chance to stop her killers if she had been armed. That is something no one has the right to deny any American.

Across the country women are now waking up and beginning to recognize the danger they are in, and ask for what should have been theirs all along, their right to have a fighting chance.

Richard Griffiths lives in Michigan and is a doctoral student in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. He wrote this article for the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Colorado.

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