Erich Pratt says ‘armed citizens pose a huge deterrent to criminals

Erich Pratt says ‘armed citizens pose a huge deterrent to criminals’

ONLY ON THE BLOG: Answering today’s six OFF-SET questions Erich Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America.

From CNN in the ARENA Blog

Gun Owners of America (GOA) is a non-profit lobbying organization formed in 1975 to preserve and defend the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. GOA sees firearms ownership as a freedom issue. Over the last 30 years, GOA has built a nationwide network of attorneys to help fight court battles in almost every state in the nation to protect gun owner rights.

We’ve turned to Pratt because on Friday, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, recovering from a devastating bullet wound suffered nearly four months ago, will witness her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, command the space shuttle Endeavour on its last launch. Doctors cleared Giffords, who was shot in the brain at a  January 8 event in Tucson, to attend the scheduled launch in Florida.

On that January day near Tucson, a young man arrested at the Giffords meeting with her constituents allegedly shot nineteen people, killing six of them. Rep. Giffords was shot in the head at point-blank range. Is it the GOA position that the incident might have turned out differently if more people were carrying guns at the event?

There are far more examples every day of guns being used to save life than to take life.  Obviously, one can never predict the outcome of any particular incident.  But as a general rule, the potential victims are always the “first responders” who can deal with the perpetrator much more quickly than the police can.

Consider that in 2007, a gunman entered the New Life Church in Colorado Springs intending to perpetrate one of the greatest massacres in U.S. history.  He was armed with a thousand rounds of ammunition.

Unfortunately for him, he was only able to kill two people.  The reason?  He was met by a woman with a gun.  Jeanne Assam is a concealed carry permit holder, and she used her firearm to fatally wound the gunman, thus saving hundreds of lives at this church.

Has the Gun Owners of America released any statement concerning the shooting?

Yes, (please CLICK HERE to read the entire statement.)

It is unfortunate that the shooting was almost immediately used as a platform to attack the First and Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans…

We know from sad experience that people with criminal intent will continue to plan and carry out violent acts. We also know that as quick and brave as police officers are, they cannot be everywhere all the time.

Perhaps one lesson average Americans will take from this unfortunate violent act is that we must take greater responsibility for our own personal protection and be prepared to help thwart attacks — or at least to prevent attacks like this from escalating.

In an editorial essay in USA Today (4-25-11) you write that Stand Your Ground laws now being passed in several states make it easier for people to defend themselves. What do these laws say gun owners can do?

The Stand Your Ground laws remove the duty to retreat that exists in many states.   Roberta Shaffer could have used such a law when she was convicted of killing her fiancé in the basement of her home.  Never mind the fact that her tormentor had just yelled, “If you don’t come up these stairs, I’ll come down and kill you and the kids.”

Roberta, who at this point was shielding the children, shot the fiancé after he charged down the stairs.  The Massachusetts court convicted her of manslaughter, ruling that she should have retreated from her home.

In the essay, you say that nearly 7,000 Americans a day use firearms in self-defense to deter criminals. How was that number determined? Are there any figures on how many guns are fired during those self-defense incidents?

According to Dr. Gary Kleck, who began his research as a supporter of gun control, law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year – or about 6,850 times a day.  While the Clinton Justice Department showed lower figures in 1997 – 1.5 million yearly examples of self-defense – its findings were still very significant.

Of the yearly self-defense cases, the overwhelming majority merely brandish their guns or fire warning shots to scare off their attackers.  Kleck’s research found that citizens kill or wound their attackers less than 8% of the time.

These self-defense totals indicate firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.  (The total number of gun deaths account for less than 30,000 deaths per year, according to the National Safety Council.)

You also write that anti-gun opponents—actually, you say “extremists” – always claim that allowing citizens to carry guns will result in random shootings. In your view, why is that claim false?

This claim has been shown to be false time and time again.  Thankfully, there are some honest gun control supporters who have admitted so.  Prior to the passage of Florida’s concealed carry law in 1987, opponents claimed there would be shootouts in the streets and in bars if the law were to pass – and that the Sunshine State would become the Gunshine State.  It was a cute jingle, but it never materialized.

Rep. Ron Silver (D), an early opponent of the law, graciously admitted that he had been wrong and that he was “happy” to see the projected horror stories never materialized.

The same Chicken Little claims were launched in Texas before the passage of its carry law in 1995.  Senior Cpl. Glenn White, who was president of the Dallas Police Association, lobbied against the law because he thought it would lead to wholesale armed conflict.  But his mind was changed.  “All the horror stories I thought would come to pass didn’t happen,” he says. “I’m a convert.”

Again, we saw the hyped predictions of doom and gloom after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the draconian gun bans inWashington,DC(2008) and Chicago (2010).  But in each case, rather than seeing a rise in the murder rate, both cities have seen their murder rates drop to 40 year lows.  So, we see that more (legal) guns mean less crime.

Do you think America would be safer if more people carried guns?

Obviously, everyone must make an individual choice as to whether they are going to carry firearms.  But the facts are clear:  armed citizens pose a huge deterrent to criminals.

As stated in my USA Today column, El Paso is situated in the very pro-gun state of Texas, where people can easily carry concealed firearms.  Not surprisingly,El Paso was ranked by CQ Press as America’s safest big city in 2010.  Residents there live quite peacefully, despite being located across from Juarez City, Mexico – a town with very stringent gun control laws and one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Juarez City faces the same dilemma that Washington, DC and Chicago had for years while their gun bans were in effect.  When city leaders keep good people from owning guns, they declare the entire city “fair game” for the criminal element.