Part 3 VPC: Clueless In DC

Violence Policy Center: Clueless In DC
Larry Pratt

Another motley crew of gun-grabbers with the blood of innocent victims on their hands is the Violence Policy Center (VPC) which explicitly advocates a ban on handguns. In his book, asininely titled Every Handgun Is Aimed At You: The Case For Banning Handguns (New Press, 2001), Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the VPC, says (page 85): “We know in the District of Columbia — where we’ve banned handguns — that if you minimize the number of handguns you are going to have less shootings, a pretty simple, s traightforward concept.”

But, of course, we know this is not true.

To be more precise, we know that in the District of Columbia there have not been “less shootings” because private citizens are prohibited from keeping and bearing arms. We know that in the District of Columbia the only number of handguns that have been “minimized” are those that might have been in the hands of private citizens to defend themselves. But, this is illegal. So, only the criminals have the guns.

The result of the VPC’s unconstitutional views being enacted into law in Washington DC has been what Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King calls “terror” experienced by residents of our Nation’s capitol. In a recent column (3/01/03), King says, about crime in the District of Columbia: “Homicides are up again this year. Broad-daylight and nighttime horrors — callous shootings, murderers are running free….”

OK. Clearly, Sugarmann and his fellow gun-grabbers at the VPC have been wrong — and with deadly results for many innocent, disarmed citizens of Washington DC. But, we all make mistakes. So, maybe they’re having second thoughts about banning handguns, right? Certainly you jest.

In an interview, Matthew Nosanchuk, the VPC’s Litigation Director, was told about the plight of Shelly Parker, one of seven plaintiffs who have gone to court in Washington DC to challenge the city’s gun ban. He was told how Parker wants a handgun in her home for self-defense because she lives in a high-crime area and has had her life threatened by a drug dealer.

    Q: So, what do you say to Shelly Parker?

    A: Well, I mean, what I’d say to her is that, you know — it’s our position that a gun in the home is not going to make her any safer. It’s actually been shown to increase the danger…. The risks of gun possession in the home are substantial.

Well, yes. The “risks” of private citizens being allowed to keep and bear arms has been “substantial” — to persons threatening armed citizens that is! Some surveys have shown as many as 2.5 million private American citizens use guns every year in self-defense.

    Q: But, shouldn’t Shelly Parker be the one to decide if she wants to take the risk of having a handgun in her home? Shouldn’t she be the one to decide if her risk of being armed in her home is less that not being armed when she is being threatened with murder by a drug dealer?

Nosanchuk’s answer is, basically, no. He says the “gun problem” in our country “is predominantly one of handguns.” So, many communities have decided “that the risks of widespread handgun possession and ownership far outweigh the benefits.”

    Q: But, no study shows that everybody who has a handgun in the home for self-defense accidentally shoots a family member or commits suicide. So, for all you know, Shelly Parker might be one of those who saves her life with her handgun. You don’t know! So, why shouldn’t she be the one to decide if there will be a handgun in her home for self-defense?

    A: But, she doesn’t live on an island. Well, you know, in our view a gun, you know — the idea that somebody, you know, should just go out and arm themselves, you know —

    Q: But, even if Shelly Parker qualified after a background check, and was found to be a law-abiding citizen, you’re still against her having a handgun in her home for self-defense, right?

    A: Well, our position is that a gun in the home for protection is not something that has been demonstrated to be effective.

    Q: Millions of Americans use guns every year in self-defense!

To which Nosanchuk replies: “Who’s that based on?”

    Q: But, I’m asking you about real live, flesh-and-blood people. What do you say to Shelly Parker and others in the District of Columbia who fear for their lives and want handguns for self-defense? This is a fair question, isn’t it?

    A: Yes.

    Q: So, what’s your plan to help these people?

Silence. Nosanchuk says he’ll call back with an answer. He calls back later but still has no effective answer.

When he calls back, Nosanchuk says “U.S. Government statistics show far more lives are ended with handguns than can be shown to be used in self-defense.” He adds: “Government gun violence statistics of gun injury and death — the number of instances of gun violence far outweigh any acts of self-defense.”

    Q: But, all “gun violence” isn’t bad. And when you speak of “deaths,” what, exactly, does this mean? Killing someone in self-defense isn’t the same as murdering someone though both are “deaths.”

Obviously oblivious and bored with such crucial distinctions, Nosanchuk says: “Our position is that when you look at the number of gun deaths [in Washington DC], and the data show, that it far outweighs the number of cases of self-defense.”

This statement, however, is simply incoherent. Of course there are more deaths by guns in the District of Columbia than there are acts of self-defense by private citizens with guns because it is illegal for private citizens in Washington DC to keep and bear arms!

When Nosanchuk is asked what data he is referring to specifically, he says, because he is in an office in New York City and not his VPC office in Washington DC: “I don’t have it here in front of me.” He says he’ll call back later and cite the study. He does not call back.

The views of James Foreman contrast sharply with those of the Violence Policy Center. He is the head of the Metro Orange Coalition, a group of Washington DC citizens who since 1988 have fought crime and drug dealers by, among other things, wearing orange hats and jackets and using camcorders to tape criminals.

When asked if DC citizens should be allowed to have handguns for self-defense, Foreman says: “I think so. The Constitution states that folks can do it. And I think people in the District should be allowed to do it.” He adds, regarding DC’s gun ban law: “I never have agreed with that law. No way. I think responsible adults should do pretty much what they want to do [as far as keeping and bearing arms is concerned].”

Forman says: “People in the street are really afraid today…. Most people feel if the police are called it would be 10 hours before they get there.”