Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 415, April 29, 2007

"How come our country is such a paradox?"


by Chris Claypoole

Credit The Libertarian Enterprise

I read an opinion piece in the Washington Post of Sunday, April 22, 2007 by an author named Jonathan Safran Foer, titled "Some People Love Guns. Why Should the Rest of Us Be Targets?" As you can imagine, this set me off a bit, so I wrote the following. I did not send this to the Post, as they demand exclusivity in order to be considered for publication.

The Outlook piece by Jonathan Safran Foer (April 22, 2007) is a compilation of half-truths and ignorance about guns and history. When I discovered that he is a Washington native, some of his confusion is explained, but he seems to be quite a knee-jerk anti-gun advocate. The principal defense of guns is not constitutional, as he avers, but is rooted in the right to self-defense. Every person has the right to defend their lives, and the lives of their family. The most effective way to do this is with a firearm. The use of a firearm can allow an 82-year-old former Miss America to stop a man from robbing her farm, even though she uses a walker to get around.

He also misunderstands the history of the constitution and Bill of Rights. The constitution was written to list the actions that the federal government would be allowed to take: those and no more, as clarified in Amendments IX and X. Those amendments read: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparate other retained by the people." (IX); and "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." (X)

The Bill of Rights was ratified to allay the fears of many that the Constitution would not prevent the federal government from overstepping its authority (as it has). The writings of those most responsible for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as can be read in the Federalist Papers and other contemporary sources, show that they were recognizing a fundamental human right with the Second Amendment. That is, the right of people to defend their lives and freedom. Mr. Foer seems to have no concept of this right, nor that the Founders wished to preserve it.

He also seems to have forgotten, or is ignorant of the fact that the term "militia" in eighteenth century American usage, refers to the mass of able-bodied free men, who can be called up to defend the town, state, or country. I do agree with him that it would be "refreshing to have a politician try to defend guns without any reference to the Second Amendment," while noting that my opinion of nearly all politicians isn't high enough to merit contempt.

Mr. Foer then brings up the long-discredited Kellerman study's figure of a household gun being "43 times more likely to kill a family member . . . than an intruder."

This erroneous assertion is what Dr. Edgar Suter, chairman of Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research (DIPR), has accurately termed Kellermann's "43 times fallacy" for gun ownership.[ Edgar Suter, "Guns in the Medical Literature-A Failure of Peer Review," Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia 83(3) 1994, pp. 136-37.]

In a critical and now classic review published in the March 1994 Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia (JMAG), Suter not only found evidence of "methodologic and conceptual errors," such as prejudicially truncated data and non-sequitur logic, but also "overt mendacity," including the listing of "the correct methodology which was described but never used by the authors."

The use of the statistic that there are 50 handgun murders for every justifiable handgun homicide is another statistical lie. From the same article above, "Since only 0.1 percent-0.2 percent of defensive uses of guns involve the death of the criminal, any study, such as this, that counts criminal deaths as the only measure of the protective benefits of guns will expectedly underestimate the benefits of firearms by a factor of 500 to 1,000."[Suter, JAMA]

Mr. Foer's question, "So what right is being protected if it is not the right to be safe? The right to feel safe, at the expense of actual safety?" could more appropriately be asked of those who declare "gun-free zones" and expect criminals and evil, insane people to respect such laws. If passing such laws had a positive effect, then why not pass a law against murder, too. Oops, we've already tried that, and it has not rid us of murders.

I won't bother to discuss hunting, as I consider it peripheral, at best, to this topic. I don't hunt, but I have nothing against hunting or hunters, as Mr. Foer seems to. "Hunters love death" Mr. Foer asserts. Then so do butchers, chicken processors, and others in the meat industry.

Mr. Foer then quotes the Children's Defense Fund. Yes, it is a shame that so many preschoolers have died from handguns, just as much a shame that law enforcement officers or any other human has to die in such a way. But many more children die from automobile accidents, drowning and the like than from handguns; and many of those counted as "children" killed by handguns are teenagers involved in the illegal drug trade, not preschoolers or random kids struck down like those at Virginia Tech.

Jonathan Safran Foer does not like guns. I have no problem with his preferences. But he seems to want to take away my means of self-defense in order to make himself feel safer, even though that is a pernicious illusion. He seems to be a shining example of those who favor what they call "gun control," but which I and many others understand is actually victim disarmament.


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