L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 288, September 12, 2004
"We don't trust our own government"
The Gun Control Conundrum
Exclusive to TLE
I. Needless Deaths of Children Caused by Gun Control
On January 19, 2000 a 16-year-old high school student in Florida was accidentally and fatally shot by his best friend. Five minutes of instruction five minutes would have saved both of them, one from death and the other from a jail term and lifetime of guilt for "manslaughter by culpable negligence."
Steve Moschella was in the back seat of his his friend Teddy Niziol's car, a Toyota 4-Runner SUV. Niziol was in the driver's seat. For him, it was a very unlucky day. Why? Because he had a small caliber automatic pistol, a .22 magnum that he'd stolen during a burglary in nearby St. Petersburg Beach. His buddy Steve wanted to handle it. So Teddy handed it back over the seat to his friend.
Mistake number one: Teddy didn't warn Steve whether the gun was loaded or not, much less whether there was a round "in the tube"...meaning the gun might go off if the trigger was pulled. It's not even clear if Teddy knew how the gun worked, how to safely "clear" it, or how to tell if it was loaded or not.
Teddy's friend Steve Moschella was also 16, and like most teenage boys he was fascinated by guns. That's why he wanted to play with the one Steve Niziol had stolen. He wanted to hold it and handle it. Having no idea how to safely handle a firearm, Moschella did what any kid might do with a gun he didn't know how to handle: He pointed it at Niziol's sister, Nicolette, who was in the back seat with him, to scare her. It worked.
That was mistake number two: Moschella didn't know the single most fundamental rule of handling a firearm: you never point a gun at anyone you don't intend to shoot.
When Nicolette screamed at Moschella not to point the gun at her, he next did what any inquisitive kid would do: He examined the gun, he put his finger on the trigger, and he pulled it, no doubt to see how it felt.
The gun happened to be loaded and cocked. It happened also to have a round in the chamber. And it happened to be pointing at the back of the seat where Moschella's best friend Teddy Niziol was sitting.
The boys' luck ran out at that point. Mistake number three was final, and fatal. The bullet slammed through the seatback of the Toyota SUV, entered Teddy Niziol's back, ripped through his right lung, punched a hole in his heart, and lodged behind his breastbone. The driver's door of the car opened and the dying teenager fell out. According to a newspaper report, Niziol's sister and friends "noticed that there was blood on the back of his seat and on the back of his T-shirt."
Niziol died there on the ground of the parking lot at Ridgewood High School.
The reactions to the tragedy from newspapers and those concerned with "gun control" were predictable. Ban handguns, register firearms, outlaw pistols, make everyone get a license to own one, reduce the number of guns on the street, ban guns from school, etc.
None of which would have protected Teddy Niziol from dying needlessly that day. None of the anti-gun pablum listed above would have saved him. Only knowledge could have spared his life; knowledge gained as a result of instruction given to both him and his friend Steve Moschella. Five minutes worth of information on how to safely handle firearms probably would have saved Teddy's Niziol's life. A few hours certainly would have. But few children today are fortunate enough to get that kind of instruction, and then usually only through the luck of one or both of their parents being shooters or hunters.
The question is, if we want to save the lives of the Teddy Niziol's of America, how can we ensure that necessary information and training is given them? So that when they inevitably do come in contact with a firearm, they'll know enough to forgo accidentally shooting someone.
Right now there doesn't seem to be an answer to that. Unfortunately, those who appear to be most concerned with the problem concentrate all their time and energy on having guns banned, or at least registered. But neither solution if they can be called that would have saved Teddy Niziol. The current gun control debate doesn't offer any hope for young people endangered by simple lack of knowledge that allows gun accidents to occur.
And so children will continue to die needlessly. Sometimes they may be in their schools' parking lot. Sometimes they'll be out for a night on the town. Sometimes they might be at home or in a friend's car. But without the training of how to safely handle a gun, they will continue to die.
For those who harbor an unreasoning fear of firearmsand the demagogic politicians who exploit that fear the answer is to ban firearms, or at least to drastically restrict and register them. Thus the "gun control" movement. However, that non-solution ignores the fact that millions of guns exist in private hands in America, and millions of people own them. There is also the inconvenience of the Second Amendment, which has been recognized as a guaranty of an individual right to keep and bear firearms, both in federal court and by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Bush Administration in 2002.
What then can prevent the needless deaths of children from gun accidents? In a word, "knowledge." And currently only the National Rifle Association and other private Second Amendment organizations offer solutions with their training and safety programs. But that's not enough. Such programs depend upon the affirmative knowledge and activity of involved parents, who may themselves have no knowledge of the safety training available, or no interest, or other fears or objections.
So kids will still continue to die needlessly. Unless a solution can be found. Can it? I believe the answer is yes, and have a proposal to that end.
But first, let us leave the issue of needless deaths of young people from gun accidents, and examine another facet of the gun control conundrum.
II. Needless Deaths of Crime Victims Caused by Gun Control
On January 26, 2001 Diane Whipple, 33, was mauled to death in her San Francisco apartment hallway by two attack dogs"torn to pieces" in the words of one newspaper report. If she, the owners of the dogs, or any neighbor present had had a firearm, she might well have survived; she certainly would at least have had a chance at survival. But this was San Francisco, and California, and no one had a gun. So Diane Whipple died at the jaws of two large, vicious animals that had been trained to attack, rend, tear, and kill.
Five months later, on June 17, 2002, Dave Newman, 51, was mowing his lawn at his rural home in central Florida when three men with guns assaulted him. One shot him in the leg. They tied him to the lawn mower and moved to enter his house where his wife was alone. He managed to release himself. But so what? The criminals were armed, and he was not.
He ran bleeding into his nearby barn, called 911, and called his son-in-law who lived less than a mile away. One of the criminals saw him escape to the barn, and followed with a gun. Newman probably would have been murdered then and there, except for one thing: He had a loaded rifle in the barn, and used it to shoot his would-be murderer in the face with a rat-shot load from his .22 rifle.
Seconds later Newsman's son-in-law, Martin Harm, arrived. But what could he do? The criminals had guns. Plenty, as it turned out.
Harm was also armed. He crouched behind his truck and commenced a shootout with the criminals who had come back out of the house with a stolen money box. He emptied two large-capacity magazines from his Glock 9 mm pistol at the robbers, who dropped the box and at least one gun, and ran. Police arrested two of them a few hours later. That was in rural Florida. If not for the guns owned by Dave Newman and Martin Harm along with the knowledge of how to use themMr. And Mrs. Newman would have been robbed, and quite possibly murdered.
On May 16, 1997 Deborah Iverson was kidnapped as she walked out of her psychiatrist's office near Detroit, Michigan by McConnell Adams and Anitra Coomer, both age 21. After the two robbed her of $1,300 but before they murdered her, Deborah Iverson talked to them about her young sons, aged 2 and 4. She was strangled by Adams as she held pictures of her two children. If she had had a gun, in her purse, in her car, or in her hand, Deborah Iverson would have had a fighting chance. Instead, she died.
Not long before the murder of Deborah Iverson, a violent criminal cut the phone line at 4:00 a.m. to the home of 85-year-old Alberta Nicles in Muskegon, Michigan and broke in. The criminal ransacked the house looking for money and valuables, dragging Mrs. Nicles with him and ending up back in her bedroom. At that point the 32-year-old criminal stripped off Mrs. Nicles' pajama bottoms.
But the elderly lady remembered something: Her late husband had always kept a handgun in the house. It was still there, on a shelf in the closet under some blankets. Mrs. Nicles said she had money in the closet, and went to get it. She grabbed the gun, spun around, shoved the gun into Moore's stomach, and started firing.
"I shot him and he lying on the floor dead in the closet right next to my bedroom," said Mrs. Nicles when she called the police from a neighbor's house next door. "I shot him all over." If not for that nearly forgotten gun, hidden beneath the blankets, loaded and ready to use, Mrs. Nicles would have been raped and murdered.
What is the lesson of those who are fortunate enough to own and know how to use guns to defend themselves? What is the meaning of firearms in a society that Constitutionally recognizes that people have a right to keep and bear arms "in defense of self and society"? After all, the debate over whether the presence of firearms "causes crime" is over: Researchers and scholars have arrived at uniform conclusions: More guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens means less crime. That was the conclusion reached by Yale law professor John Lott in 1996 who later published his findings in the widely-read book titled "More Guns, Less Crime." Similar findings were arrived at by Dr. Gary Kleck, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University, and Don Kates, a criminologist with the Pacific Research Institute in California. David Kopel, a lawyer, researcher, and former prosecutor in New York city, came to the same conclusion, writing "Trust the People: The Case Against Gun Control."
In fact, in a working paper published by John Lott and William Landes at the University of Chicago in 1999, the data showed that states which adopted laws requiring mandatory issuance of "concealed-carry permits" experienced "sharp drop[s] in multiple murders and injuries per 100,000 persons....Murders fell by 89 percent and injuries by 82 percent."
National polls have shown that guns are used defensively in America by potential crime victims somewhere about two million times every year. Yet to a large percentage of the American population apparently driven in part by gun control propaganda and compliant media biasit would be preferable for Diane Whipple, Dave Newman and his wife, Martin Harm, Deborah Iverson, and Alberta Nicles to die, than for them to own guns and have the means to use them (not to mention the Teddy Niziol's of the future who will continue to die from unnecessary accidents borne of ignorance).
For this reason, many on the Second Amendment side of the debate refer to anti-gun forces as the "Victim Disarmament Movement," which they point out operates to empower rapists, robbers, murderers and other criminals.
Surely, given the findings of the studies regarding the defensive use of guns in America, the gun control movement should embrace the safety programs espoused by the gun-rights organizations, as well as the right of potential victims to carry weapons which allow them to even the odds against criminal predators. But no such rapprochement has occurred, nor does it appear that any is likely to. The gun control movement continues as strong as ever, as if the multiple studies and statistical analyses supporting the right to keep and bear arms had never been done. In fact, the researchers were subjected to vitriolic attacks by anti-gun groups and the media when they published their scientific findings. Thus it is difficult to arrive at any conclusion other than this: The civil disarmament movement is driven by an irrational urge founded upon mindless fear rather than any calm appraisal of the facts.
Some method must be found to defeat the ignorance and fear that motivates the gun control movement. And for that I have a proposal. But first let's examine one more facet of the gun control conundrum, that which deals with terrorism and the new state of affairs after the 9-11 attacks on America.
III. Needless Deaths of Terrorism Victims Caused by Gun Control
The attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, as well as the counterattack by the heroic passengers on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania, opened the book on a new world for America, one that must be faced realistically and squarely.
Long spared the kind of terrorism and terroristic attacks that other countries have been subject to for years, our luck ran out on that fall day. The forces of terrorism out to destroy not only America, but western civilization itself if possible served notice on the U.S. that we are no longer exempt. Two months later President Bush made explicit the fact that America was in a state of war when he declared in a nationwide speech:
Our nation faces a threat to our freedoms, and the stakes could not be higher. We are the target of enemies who boast they want to killkill all Americans, kill all Jews, and kill all Christians. We've seen that type of hate beforeand the only possible response is to confront it, and to defeat it.
Thus was born a new reality. We have been repeatedly warned that there is no question but that new terrorist attacks will be made on America: The only question is when.
What effect, then, does this new reality have on the anti-gun conundrum? One observation should suffice: If there had been even a single passenger with a gun on each of the four airliners that were used as human-guided suicide bombs ... not one of the highjackings and subsequent mass murders could have occurred. Just one passenger with one gun on each plane would have prevented each atrocity.
Where will the next atrocity on American soil occur? The Islamo-Fascists served notice on the world in September 2004 that no one is exempt from terror, torture, and murder, as they took over a school in southern Russia and murdered hundreds of women and schoolchildren. When will they move to seize an American school filled with children? And what will unarmed teachers and administrators do but die with their students? Or will it be a crowded shopping mall? Or a theater such as that taken over by terrorists and wired with explosives in Moscow in 2002 where over 100 died?
All of the above is an ugly reality that must be faced by Americans capable to facing reality. Wishful thinking will not suffice. Paralyzing, irrational fear will not work. Only steadfast, real-world planning, education, and resolve will. The American military is well able to protect our country, our culture, and our people our civilization itself from any mass threat and any hostile regime anywhere in the world. But the new World War declared by Islamo-Fascism has made it abundantly clear that primitive, savage forces will be brought to bear on civilians men, women, and children wherever they can be targeted and massacred.
IV. The Second Amendment Solution
All that has gone before in this article is the reality that must be faced by all of us in the 21st century. It is a dangerous world, and that reality will not go away with wishful thinking, oxymoronic calls for "U.N. action," or immobilizing fear. It is time to reverse our slide toward passive victimhood as a society.
All Americans, from an early age, must be urged and given the opportunity to become fully familiar with and trained in the use of firearms. There was a time, not long distant in our history, when that was the case. Most fathers and mothers knew how to handle guns, and took the time to teach each ensuing generation, at an early age, the safe and respectful handling of firearms. With the advent of increased urbanization, suburbanization, and exurbanization not to mention the end of the military draft the civic virtues of learning and teaching the use of firearms has faded. Nor have the demographic shifts benefitted the ability of younger generations to learn shooting skills. Firing ranges are fewer and farther between, and it has become ever harder to find suitable sites for them.
In the meantime, some state and local governments New Jersey is notable in this respect have taken it upon themselves to harass and destroy lawful gun clubs and firing ranges, thus hastening the onset of ignorance and civil disarmament. Some towns, in the thrall of activist liberals, attempt to pass local anti-gun statutes. Other victim disarmament organizations utilize the judicial system in attempts to financially destroy arms manufacturers and dealers by filing "nuisance lawsuits" designed to bleed businesses financially, but with no chance of actually winning.
All of this must stop. Some in America are willing to give up life, liberty, and civilization itself, just as many Europeans in the mid-20th Century acted like sheep in the face of the Nazi and Fascist wolves. But the majority in the United States still seem able to think clearly, and apprehend reality with an unblinking understanding.
Every American state must pass laws that mandate the teaching of safe handling of firearms in the public schools; the ages of eight or nine are not too early, as an examination of American history testifies. In addition, marksmanship programs and rifle teams should be mandated offerings for boys and girls as they grow older, by perhaps 10 or 11 years old. In this way the needless firearms deaths through ignorance and unfamiliarity can be ended. Knowledge of safe and respectful gun-handling is the birthright of every American, and it is needed now more than ever.
In addition, every county in America should have at least one public shooting range and preferably several for the use of gun clubs and rifle and marksmanship teams, both school-affiliated and private. The trend toward dangerous ignorance regarding the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution must be reversed, and citizens must be encouraged and empowered to learn and practice the crucial skills of firearms handling and marksmanship, all of which is also the birthright of every American.
The United States of America is the hope and light of the entire world. Those who claim to the contrary including anti-gun liberals and anti-American intellectuals are wrong. And they are dangerously wrong. America is the bulwark not just of Western Civilization, but of all civilization. Our burden is also our privilege, as free men and women, to carry, own, and use firearms "in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state," as the third paragraph of the New Hampshire state constitution proclaims. Those who choose to remain blind to the risks of ignorance may shirk their responsibility. But it must be made clear that they must stand aside as responsible citizens shoulder the responsibility of eternal vigilance urged upon us by the Founding Fathers.
Let it begin, then. Let the state laws be changed to require public schools to teach 2nd Amendment skills, including the responsible and respectful care, handling, and use of firearms by all, starting at a young age. And let every county and town in America begin the process of creating shooting ranges for the use of the schools as well as the general public.
Starting right now.
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