The Failure of Gun Control Exposed
-- Two dozen laws can't prevent Colorado tragedy
|GOA's Larry Pratt faces off with virulently anti-gun Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (R-NY) on a New York PBS station|
The nation grieved this past April over the horrible tragedy that occurred in Littleton, Colorado.
Thirteen innocent lives were extinguished as two young thugs methodically paced through Columbine High School, shooting innocent students and teachers, and setting off bombs.
But as soon as the smoke cleared, another tragedy started playing itself out on the TV screens across the nation.
The clear message put forth by the political pundits was . . . America needs more gun control.
"It was shameful," said GOA's John Velleco, director of media relations. "The Sarah Bradys and Bill Clintons of the world have shamelessly climbed over the bodies of the victims to further their gun control agenda."
Never mind that these shootings occurred at a time when this country has more gun control than ever before.
In fact, the two killers in Littleton broke more than two dozen federal and state laws in completing their atrocities.
Gun control laws don't work
Gun laws that were violated in Littleton, Colorado included:
* The unlawful possession of a firearm on school property;
* The unlawful manufacture of a "sawed-off" rifle or shotgun;
* The unlawful possession of a "sawed-off" shotgun or rifle;
* The unlawful possession of a handgun or handgun ammunition by a person under age 18;
* The use of a firearm to commit murder;
* The use of a firearm in attempted murder; and many more.
One wonders how adding any more laws could make a difference.
Even anti-gun Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said, "I'm not sure that [more] gun legislation is what we need."
Looking at gun control laws across the nation, one must wonder: Where has gun control worked? Washington, D.C.? Chicago? In the public schools of this country?
Congress has enacted a nation-wide gun ban in every school and yet the young thugs in Colorado still violated that ban.
Gun Control punishes law-abiding victims
Rather than make schools a safe haven for the law-abiding, gun control has actually given criminals a safer working environment by disarming their potential victims.
Moreover, decent teachers and school principals are forced to break the law if they want to possess a firearm to defend their students.
One adult did just that in Pearl, Mississippi in 1997. Assistant Principal Joel Myrick saved the lives of countless students when he used his own firearm to subdue the gunman that had already killed two students.
Who knows how many lives were saved by Myrick's courageous act? And likewise, who knows how many lives could have been saved in Colorado if just one teacher had a gun? If teachers had a choice other than just hiding under their desks?
Guns save lives-- even in schools.
Just look at the nation of Israel. Shortly after the Littleton shooting, editorialist Vin Suprynowicz of the Las Vegas Review Journal reported that,
In Israel, teachers and parents who serve as school aides go armed at all times on school grounds, with semi-automatic weapons. Since this policy was put into effect, terrorist attacks in Israeli schools have dropped to zero.
The only recent exception was the tragic case of a group of school-children who were murdered by an Arab gunman as they visited the "Zone of Peace" on the Jordanian border. The Jordanians specifically requested that the Israeli teachers and chaperones leave their weapons behind ... which they did. American schools are, on the other hand, "gun free zones."
In this country as well, the facts show that guns save lives. Dr. John Lott of the University of Chicago Law School has just completed a new study showing that concealed firearms prevent mass shootings.
(Visit http://www.gunowners.org/sourcetb.htm to link to the Lott study.)
The facts are clear. From a Shoney's Restaurant in Anniston, Alabama in 1991; to a state insurance agency in Nevada in 1993; to a 1998 school dance in Edinboro, Pennsylvania; guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans have stopped attempted massacres.
"Easy access to guns" is not responsible for the Colorado tragedy.
Of course, anti-gun pundits argue that "access to guns" is the reason for shootings such as the one that occurred at the Columbine High School in Littleton.
But this view turns a blind eye to even our recent history.
In the 1950s, there was almost no gun control on the books. Kids had greater access to firearms-- legally speaking-- and yet they were not stealing or buying guns to shoot up their schools.
What prevented children from taking their parents' guns and going on violent rampages?
At a time when there was almost no gun control on the books, this country had fewer shootings. One strains to even recall one school shooting before the 1980s.
So what has changed?
More gun control + greater immorality = more violence
Why is it that prior to the "Cultural Revolution" of the 1960s, crime and violence were not considered a serious problem in this country? Indeed, among the top problems in school in the 1950s were chewing gum, talking in class or running in the halls.
But today, it is not uncommon to see rape, assault and even murder at school. Violence on school campuses has actually become a problem while the number of gun control laws has increased.
To be sure, guns-- and the "gun culture"-- have always existed in America. It's the other aspects of our culture that have changed over the last 40 years.
GOA's Velleco emphasized this point in an online interview with The Washington Post (4/22/99):
The high court in this land has told us that we can't display the Ten Commandments on the walls of our schools because some children might actually follow them. Parents are told they shouldn't spank their children, or they might be taken away from them.
Children are not taught the difference between right and wrong, and when children do wrong, very often there are no consequences that rise to the level of the wrong they commit. . . . In a few years, the two boys in the Jonesboro, Ark., shooting are going to be out. What kind of message does this send to the young people in this country?
The message it sends is that if you commit the crime, you don't necessarily do the time.
Police are not duty bound to protect citizens
Finally, one last lesson learned from Littleton, Colorado is quite obvious: the police are usually not there to stop a crime from occurring.
After the tragic killings, columnist James Bovard wrote that, "The more successful gun control is in disarming citizens, the more dependent people become on government officials for protection-protection that is often slow and unreliable."
Littleton is certainly a case study for Bovard's point-- a point which has even been articulated in the federal courts. Bovard continues:
A federal appeals court declared in 1982, "There is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen." Citizens have no effective, enforceable right to police protection-- and both police and criminals know this.
The common question that the media posed in the days following the tragedy in Colorado was: What do we learn from the Littleton shooting?
Hopefully, Americans will learn that gun control laws only contribute to tragedies like those in Colorado.
GOA Defends Gun Owners in the Court of Public Opinion
As the media spin following the Littleton shooting became more and more rabidly anti-gun, spokesmen from Gun Owners of America were called upon to defend the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
GOA representatives took to the air defending the Second Amendment . . . defending millions of gun owners who will never use any kind of weapon in a crime, but who were unfairly being smeared in campaign of hate and fearmongering.
From Fox Cable News to CNN News, and on countless radio shows around the clock, GOA staff debated with Handgun Control, Inc. and others who would try to take away the guns of law-abiding citizens.
GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt appeared on dozens of interviews and talk shows, as well as authoring a national editorial in USA Today (see below).
In late April, The New York Times ran a feature story on Pratt noting that he is one of the "most unyielding proponents of the right to bear arms"-- especially in the aftermath of the Colorado tragedy.
Moving south to New Jersey, Pratt briefly debated Vice-President Al Gore during MSNBC's national town-meeting in April. Gore rejected the notion that citizens should carry concealed firearms, and advocated more gun control instead.
Pratt referenced the John Lott studies showing that concealed carry laws reduce crime rates, and even used the Clinton Justice Department's own figures to show that as many as 1.5 million people use a gun in self-defense every year.
(Readers can visit the GOA website at http://www.gunowners.org/sourcetb.htm to link to these studies.)
Pratt also pointed out that decent citizens-- like Assistant Principal Joel Myrick of Pearl, Mississippi in 1997-- have used guns to halt mass shootings in schools.
In other nationwide appearances, Pratt went on the NBC Today Show and CBS' This Morning; and later debated anti-gun zealot, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), on CNN's Crossfire.
In May, Pratt took on one of the "Queens of Gun Control" in a PBS debate with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy.
Other GOA spokesmen took to the air, as well, appearing on shows ranging from NBC's Nightly News with Tom Brokaw to shows airing on three other continents.
Pratt 1, Gore 0
"When Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, suggested that having more armed adults in schools-- say, assistant principals trained with guns-- could stop student assaults, [Vice president Al] Gore dismissed the idea as 'highly irresponsible.'
"Really? Pratt didn't suggest that students tote weapons to school to protect themselves, but pointed out that other school rampages have been stopped by armed officials."
Larry Pratt (pictured to the left of Tom Brokaw who is standing) debated Al Gore at a nationally-televised town meeting that was held in New Jersey. Pratt argued that concealed handguns in the hands of honest Americans can help avert mass shootings. Gore is pictured on the TV screen on the left.
Media Bias Evident in Reporting Tragedies
A man who told police he wanted to "execute" innocent children rushed through a California day care center playground in May, killing two toddlers and injuring five people.
"I was going to execute these children because they were innocent," Steven Abrams, 39, told detectives.
Surprised that people heard hardly a peep in local news sources?
Perhaps the reason is that the killer used a Cadillac instead of a gun.
When the big Cadillac finally came to a stop, pinning several children underneath, Abrams calmly sat behind the wheel until police arrested him.
Of course, there was a huge difference in the media's treatment of this tragedy with the treatment given to the Littleton, Colorado shooting which occurred just days earlier.
One might argue that the death toll in Colorado was much greater, and thus, the shooting was more of a newsworthy event.
But a search through the archives shows this to be a weak argument.
When Luke Woodham went on a shooting spree in Pearl, Mississippi in 1997, he only killed two schoolmates with his gun. And yet, that media story-- with the resulting drum beat for more gun control-- played out several days on national television.
So comparing "apples with apples," we see that:
* Two teenagers killed with a gun in Mississippi resulted in massive media coverage for several days; but
* Two toddlers killed with a car in Costa Mesa, California, led to hardly a mention the following day.
If the media did cover the events equally, one wonders if there would be a public outcry to ban cars within 1,000 feet of a school?
Governor Bush of Texas Calls for More Gun Control
Most Americans know gun control dogma is preached by advocates like Bill Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Janet Reno and Sarah Brady herself.
Now, while families are still grieving in Colorado, these advocates are rushing to pass anti-gun bills -- and hoping weak-willed politicians will have a knee-jerk reaction to Colorado's tragedy.
Republican leaders seem to fit the bill. In the new age of "co-operation" many Republican leaders in Congress and the states are conceding defeat to Clinton's new gun control proposals instead of doing the hard work of freedom -- fighting to protect 2nd Amendment freedoms.
Leading the pack is Republican presidential front-runner Governor George W. Bush -- son of former President Bush.
Leading the Republican Sell Out is Texas Governor George W. Bush.
In the closing days of the Texas legislative session, Governor George W. Bush was asked if he supported expanding Brady Registration and so-called "instant check" to include private gun show sales. Governor Bush's response was reported on page one of the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday, April 27:
"Gov. George W. Bush, in the wake of the Colorado school shooting last week, endorsed a controversial gun control proposal that had been killed hours earlier by a Texas House Committee. . . . 'What do you think about instant background checks at gun shows?' one reporter asked Bush in a follow-up question. 'I support that,' he replied."
That "controversial gun control proposal" was HB 1199, a bill to require instant registration and background check on private sales at gun shows.
That week thousands of Gun Owners of America members and supporters heard about Governor Bush's comments via Gun Owners of America's nationwide E-Mail Alert and swung into action -- asking Governor Bush to renounce his anti-gun position.
Governor Bush Tries to Hide Support for Gun Control.
Confronted with nationwide outrage, the spin-doctors for Gov. Bush denied he had ever supported HB 1199.
But even as his spin-doctors were saying HB 1199 was dead, efforts were underway in the Texas House to attach the anti-gun language to another legislative vehicle. Fortunately, due to massive opposition from Gun Owners of America activists, the anti-gun bill never made it to the floor of the Texas House of Representatives.
Bottom line: Governor Bush is a Repeat Gun Control Offender.
Apparently, not all of Bush's people got the word to go stealthy on Governor Bush's support for gun control. Just three days after Governor Bush's first anti-gun statement, the respected Associated Press quoted Karen Hughes, an aide to Bush, as saying that the Governor has "consistently supported since 1994 the idea of instant background checks at gun shows."
Bush's aide also noted that "Bush previously signed legislation prohibiting anyone from carrying a weapon within 300 yards of a school, and holding adults criminally liable if they allow a juvenile access to a loaded gun."
Gun Owners of America members know these anti-gun measures by their proper titles: No Safety Zones and Lock Up Your Safety measures -- both dangerous new forms of gun control pushed by the Clinton Administration.
In a Dallas Morning News article on April 28, 1999 Bush stated,
"I think the federal government needs to expand its background checks [to include more private sales of guns] so that [the Brady Registration and Background Checks] become effective."
"Doing Something About Guns" = Gun Control Trap.
Legislative insiders concede that Governor Bush's actions have contributed to the already dangerous shift in how Republicans view the 2nd Amendment.
"It's not a good trend," noted Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt. "Clearly something is wrong when Bill Clinton, Sarah Brady and National Republican Leaders such as Governor Bush announce they plan to do something about guns in America by passing more gun control."
After Governor Bush of Texas made his statement the Republican Governor in Colorado said he is seriously considering calling a special session to pass gun control. In Pennsylvania-- a state ruled by Republicans-- local observers say that "doing something about guns" is the buzz at the state capitol. Efforts are being made there to push gun control and selling their proposed gun control as not being as bad as it could be.
Republicans seem to foolishly hope that if they give in to the anti-gunners that they will be "off the hook" because they will have "done something."
Mr. Pratt summed up the reports by saying, "What Governor George W. Bush of Texas has done is to seriously hurt Texans and other Americans. Governor Bush of Texas would like all Americans to believe what we need is more gun control, as if guns are the problem. The 2nd Amendment is clearly not the problem."
Clinton Unveils Draconian Gun Control
During a mid-Spring White House ceremony, President Clinton unveiled his latest gun control wish list.
Standing amidst 40 anti-gun members of Congress and dozens of gun control supporters, Clinton called his package "the most comprehensive gun crime legislation any administration has put forward in a generation."
Alternately brandishing his left fist and his right forefinger, Clinton stated that, "It's the culture of hunting and sport shooting that has to stop financing efforts to frighten their members ... into believing that every time we try to save a kid's life it's a camel's nose in the [gun control] tent."
Then missing the obvious irony is his statement, the White House then proceeded to describe the camel's nose and hump in detail. Listed below is the gun control "camel" that was paraded for the public to see:
* Background "registration" checks on gun buyers who purchase from private individuals (non FFLs) at all gun-shows.
* Punishing young adults for the mere possession of a handgun.1
* Punishing young adults for the mere possession of certain semiautomatic rifles.
* Mandatory prison sentences of three to 10 years and $10,000 fines for adults, including parents, who under a wide variety of circumstances, allow children access to guns.
* Mandatory "lock-up your safety" devices on all guns sold.
* Making explosives subject to the same Brady law background checks as gun purchasers.2
* Halting imports of ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds.
* Rationing individual handgun purchases to one per month.
* A lifetime gun ban for youthful indiscretions.
* A three-day waiting period for all handgun purchases, with an additional two days if law officers need them to complete their investigation.
[Readers can go to http://www.gunowners.org/atalk.htm on the GOA Web site to read a more in depth analysis of each of these proposals.]
As The Gun Owners was going to press, the Senate had begun taking up some of the above proposals.
Gun Owners of America will publish how Senators voted in upcoming issues of this newsletter.
2 This is one of the more comical of the President's proposals. Is he going to require people to go through background checks to buy gasoline for cars, propane tanks for barbecues, nails for building projects and fertilizer for yards-all common items which can be used to make bombs?
Smith Introduces Gun Lawsuit Prevention Act
(Washington) Protection for the firearms industry against frivolous lawsuits received a tremendous boost on Capitol Hill recently from one of the staunchest gun rights supporters in the U. S. Senate.
In May, New Hampshire Republican Bob Smith introduced S. 954, the 'Second Amendment Preservation Act of 1999.'
Sen. Smith's bill would limit fees awarded to plaintiffs' attorneys, require the plaintiffs to pay "reasonable" attorney's fees upon a ruling that the gun industry is not primarily liable for the damages sought, and would allow any ruling that goes against the firearms industry to go directly to the Supreme Court on appeal.
On the House side, Rep. Bob Barr has introduced H.R. 1032, a bill that would also curtail the onslaught of litigation being thrown at the firearms industry.
Gun Industry in the Crosshairs
First publicized by Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell in the Spring of 1998 (though that city as yet has not filed suit), the lawsuits are aimed at holding legitimate firearms manufacturers, dealers, importers, and trade associations culpable for the illegal and tortious misuse of firearms.
Such lawsuits, even if ultimately unsuccessful, could easily bankrupt the firearms industry. Law Professor Lester Brickman, an expert on tort law at the Benjamin Cardozo Law School, told The New York Times that twenty simultaneous lawsuits could cost as much as "$1 million a day" for the gun industry.
The New Orleans Suit
Mayor Marc Morial of New Orleans brought suit in October of 1998, being the first of many cities to do so. The New Orleans suit alleges that manufacturers of firearms do not provide adequate safety features.
The Mayor is seeking monetary damages to cover police, healthcare, and other costs related to criminal violence committed with firearms.
No mention is made in the New Orleans suit (or any of the subsequent suits filed) of the societal benefits of firearms. Researchers have shown that firearms are used anywhere from one to three million times per year successfully in self-defense, leading analysts to estimate that gun owners actually save society nearly $40 billion annually, mostly by thwarting crimes before they escalate.
The Chicago Suit
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley filed suit two weeks after New Orleans, alleging that the gun industry oversupplied the city's surrounding suburbs with firearms. According to this novel legal theory, these suburban guns illegally make their way into the city, in violation of Chicago's handgun ban, and are thus responsible for Chicago's gun related crime.
This suit does not attempt to explain why-- if firearms are so prevalent in outlying suburbs, and, as the suit alleges, the simple availability of firearms leads to more crimes-- the surrounding suburbs do not have an even greater increase in gun-related crime than the city.
Nevertheless, in February of this year, attorneys for Chicago were encouraged by a verdict against the gun industry by a jury in Brooklyn, New York.
Anti-gun win in New York
Like Chicago, the New York case also focused on firearms being oversupplied outside the city. One difference, however, was that given the strict gun control laws of the northeast, the New York suit could not focus merely on outlying suburbs.
Instead, the suit was regional in scope, alleging that gun makers oversupplied a region in the south with firearms, and manufacturers should have known that these guns would eventually make their way into New York City.
In spite of the tenuous relationship between firearms sold in the south and crimes committed in the northeast, the Brooklyn jury returned a (mixed) verdict holding some of the defendants liable for some of the damages alleged.
In short, the verdict was a compromise among jurors, who saw themselves in the role of legislators more than jurors. One of the plaintiffs commented following the verdict, which awarded only a fraction of damages sought, that, "It was never about money." However, tort actions are primarily intended to award monetary compensation for injured parties.
The New York City verdict has shown that it is possible for a state court to reach clear across the country to hold liable a company that has no legal interests in the state in which the court has jurisdiction.
The ability to take money from out-of-state defendants and redistribute it to in-state plaintiffs has proven to be a political temptation too great to resist. Nearly ten cities have already filed suit, with many more contemplating such action.
"These cases are dragging businesses from one state into the courts of another state. This is why congressional action is appropriate in this case," said GOA Executive Director Larry Pratt.
Industry Leaders May Cut Deal
Since the Brooklyn verdict, and with so many other cities jumping on the lawsuit bandwagon, some industry leaders seem ready to cut a deal with the cities, similar to the deals struck by the tobacco industry.
If the industry does accept regulations in exchange for less litigation, the costs and impact of the regulations will likely be passed on to the individual gun owner.
These regulations could range from imposing mandatory trigger locks to restricting the sales of legal firearms.
"It's the gun owner who will be forced to pay for a mandatory trigger lock, which, more importantly, will also lock up that gun owner's safety. It's the gun owners who will be affected by laws restricting the sale of legal firearms," said Larry Pratt.
"The Smith and Barr bills are vital protection not only for the firearms industry but for all lawful gun owners."
Gun Control In Kosovo
"Think about NATO's big three, Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK and Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of Germany. All are socialists... [and] rabid gun control advocates. So why are they bombing the hell out of Yugoslavia? If the Kosovar Albanians had their own guns, would we be in this mess now? Isn't the mass exodus of the Kosovar Albanians exactly what happens when you take guns out of the hands of civilians and leave them in the hands of the government? Isn't Kosovo the best argument for expanding gun ownership?"
Concealed Guns Save Lives
USA TODAY Editorials-- Opposing View-- April 26, 1999
Studies show crime rates fall after states pass laws.
by Larry Pratt
While Americans are still grieving over the horrendous slayings in Colorado, we ' should not forget the lessons learned from a "massive slaying" that was prevented in 1997.
Assistant Principal Joel Myrick saved the lives of countless students at the Pearl, Miss., high school when he used his own firearm to subdue a gunman who had already killed two students. Myrick surprised his assailant, who no doubt expected everyone to be unarmed.
Some have said that that Myrick should not have had a gun at that school, but there are children alive today who are glad he did.
In contrast, in a cafeteria in 1991, the parents of Dr. Suzanna Hupp were mercilessly gunned down. Hupp was powerless to help them because in obeying state law, she was unarmed; her gun was in her car.
She vowed to do something about it. She ran for office, got elected and introduced legislation in Texas easing restrictions on the right of decent citizens to carry firearms for their protection. Hupp believes citizens can use firearms to protect themselves, and the evidence is clearly on her side.
- A 1996 study out of the University of Chicago Law School analyzed crime data from every U.S. county over 15 years and found that violent crime fell after states made it legal to carry concealed weapons. States passing concealed-carry laws have reduced their murder rates by 8.5%, rapes by 5%, aggravated assaults by 7% and robberies by 3%.
- A 1997 Justice Department study found that as many as 1.5 million people use a gun in self-defense every year. Other studies have found as many as 2.5 million self-defense uses, with savings to society of up to $38.9 billion annually.
Easing restrictions on concealed carry will save lives. Of course, the fearmongers of society always predict such laws will send the crime rates skyrocketing. The facts show otherwise.
Larry Pratt is executive director of Gun Owners of America
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