L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 93, October 9, 2000
Shouldn't We Repeal the Gun Laws...If It'll Save a Single Child?
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
Jessica Lynne Carpenter is 14 years old. She knows how to shoot; her father taught her. And there were adequate firearms to deal with the crisis that arose in the Carpenter home in Merced, Calif. -- a San Joaquin Valley farming community 130 miles southeast of San Francisco -- when 27-year-old Jonathon David Bruce came calling on Wednesday morning, Aug. 23.
There was just one problem. Under the new "safe storage" laws being enacted in California and elsewhere, parents can be held criminally liable unless they lock up their guns when their children are home alone ... so that's just what law-abiding parents John and Tephanie Carpenter had done.
Some of Jessica's siblings -- Anna, 13; Vanessa, 11; Ashley, 9; and John William, 7 -- were still in their bedrooms when Bruce broke into the farmhouse shortly after 9 a.m.
Bruce, who was armed with a pitchfork -- but to whom police remain unable to attribute any motive -- had apparently cut the phone lines. So when he forced his way into the house and began stabbing the younger children in their beds, Jessica's attempts to dial 9-1-1 didn't do much good. Next, the sensible girl ran for where the family guns were stored. But they were locked up tight.
"When the 14-year-old girl ran to a nearby house to escape the pitchfork-wielding man attacking her siblings," writes Kimi Yoshino of the Fresno Bee, "she didn't ask her neighbor to call 9-1-1. She begged him to grab his rifle and 'take care of this guy.' "
He didn't. Jessica ended up on the phone.
By the time Merced County sheriff's deputies arrived at the home, 7-year-old John William and 9-year-old Ashley Danielle were dead. Ashley had apparently hung onto her assailant's leg long enough for her older sisters to escape. Thirteen-year-old Anna was wounded but survived.
Once the deputies arrived, Bruce rushed them with his bloody pitchfork. So they shot him dead. They shot him more than a dozen times. With their guns.
The following Friday, the children's great-uncle, the Rev. John Hilton, told reporters: "If only (Jessica) had a gun available to her, she could have stopped the whole thing. If she had been properly armed, she could have stopped him in his tracks." Maybe John William and Ashley would still be alive, Jessica's uncle said.
"Unfortunately, 17 states now have these so-called safe storage laws," replies Yale Law School Senior Research Scholar Dr. John Lott -- author of the book "More Guns, Less Crime." "The problem is, you see no decrease in either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides when such laws are enacted, but you do see an increase in crime rates."
Such laws are based on the notion that young children often "find daddy's gun" and accidentally shoot each other. But in fact only five American children under the age of 10 died of accidents involving handguns in 1997, Lott reports. "People get the impression that kids under 10 are killing each other. In fact this is very rare: three to four per year."
The typical shooter in an accidental child gun death is a male in his late teens or 20s, who, statistically, is probably a drug addict or an alcoholic and has already been charged with multiple crimes, Lott reports. "These are the data that correlate. Are these the kind of people who are going to obey one more law?"
So why doesn't the national press report what happens when a victim disarmament ("gun control") law costs the lives of innocent children in a place like Merced?
"In the school shooting in Pearl, Miss.," Dr. Lott replies, "the assistant principal had formerly carried a gun to school. When the 1995 ("Gun-Free School Zones") law passed, he took to locking his gun in his car and parking it at least a quarter-mile away from the school, in order to obey the law. When that shooting incident started he ran to his car, unlocked it, got his gun, ran back, disarmed the shooter and held him on the ground for five minutes until the police arrived.
"There were more than 700 newspaper stories catalogued on that incident. Only 19 mentioned the assistant principal in any way, and only nine mentioned that he had a gun."
The press covers only the bad side of gun use, and only the potential benefits of victim disarmament laws -- never their costs. "Basically all the current federal proposals fall into this category -- trigger locks, waiting periods," Lott said. "There's not one academic study that shows any reduction in crime from measures like these. But there are good studies that show the opposite. Even with short waiting periods, crime goes up. You have women being stalked, and they can't go quickly and get a gun due to the waiting periods, so they get assaulted or they get killed."
The United States has among the world's lowest "hot" burglary rates -- burglaries committed while people are in the building -- at 13 percent, compared to "gun-free" Britain's rate, which is now up to 59 percent, Lott reports. "If you survey burglars, American burglars spend at least twice as long casing a joint before they break in. ... The number one reason they give for taking so much time is: They're afraid of getting shot."
The way Jonathon David Bruce, of Merced, Calif., might once have been afraid of getting shot ... before 17 states enacted laws requiring American parents to leave their kids disarmed while they're away from home.