8/95 Armed Citizens Can Cut Crime

Stephanie Kuhen’s Murder Could Have Been Prevented
Larry Pratt
Executive Director
Gun Owners of America

Three-year old Stephanie Kuhen came to a violent end when the car in which she was riding inadvertently turned into a dead end in a Los Angeles ghetto this September. Seconds later, the gangs who rule that neighborhood riddled the car with bullets, killing Stephanie and wounding her brother and the driver.

The tragedy goes well beyond the senseless murder of Stephanie Kuhen. The street was unofficially know as the Street of Killers. Neighbors for a long time have lived barricaded in their homes, trying to escape the terror of the gangs.

The police do not have the manpower to protect the residents of the Street of Killers, nor to make many other similar areas safe. Is the solution to get more police on duty? Not with the budget constraints most localities are looking at. Usually the localities that have the most violent conditions have a declining tax base that makes increased police manpower highly unlikely.

There is a way out, although it will not be willingly chosen by most of the rulers in America’s cities where they have worked to disarm the civilian population. There has been one one notable exception, however, Maurice Turner. When he was Chief of Police in Washington, D.C., he decided that the people could not continue to be a spectator in the battle to make the city safe.

Chief Turner decided to reach out to the decent people of the “Streets of Killers” in Washington, D.C. He put a number of men through the police academy, giving them the very same instruction that a sworn officer would have — including firearms training. His intention was to provide an armed, volunteer police auxiliary to work along side of the paid officers. The volunteers would be the eyes and ears for the regular force, making it much more likely that the good guys could be sorted out from the bad guys.

Without the means to protect themselves, few have been willing to work with the police in Washington, D.C. After all, who will protect the citizens after the squad cars leave the neighborhoods and the regular officers return to their own homes?

When the D.C. City Council heard that Chief Turner was going to graduate his first class, they held an emergency session and passed an emergency ordinance prohibiting the auxiliaries from having firearms. Naturally, the program fell flat and the D.C. crime rate continued climbing to new heights.

In the mid-eighties I had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala and the Philippines. In both countries I had a chance to see the success of programs rather similar to what Chief Turner had hoped to implement in our nation’s capital.

Both Guatemala and the Philippines had nearly succumbed to guerrilla insurgencies. The guerrillas were seemingly able to win over the hearts of the people with acts of social service. But soon, the guerrillas were collecting taxes from the people, and the trap was sprung. With their tentacles surrounding every aspect of the people’s lives — and with a monopoly of guns — the guerrillas gained control. The military governments got the impression that the people supported the guerrillas, not realizing that an unarmed and unorganized people had no choice.As a result the government response was terrible, and in Guatemala it amounted to genocide.

But in 1982, General Rios Montt emerged as the head of a military junta ruling the country. He opted for a radical policy — treat the Indian populations of the country’s interior as people. He armed and organized them. All of a sudden the identity between the guerrillas and the people was broken. Within six months, the guerrilla threat was reduced to a problem of occasional banditry.

A similar result followed the downfall of the corrupt Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. The government could not protect the people from the guerrilla scourge, so they armed themselves through the underground gun market in the country and formed their own militias. Happily, the military leaders quickly saw the benefit of working with the people, rather than trying to disarm them.

In both countries, the people were emboldened to cooperate with the establishment once they were able to protect themselves from retribution of the guerrillas. Maurice Turner had the same hope for Washington, D.C., but the politicians were inflexibly wedded to the idea that disarmament brings peace.

America needs to learn the lesson that Guatemala and the Philippines learned — that only with an armed people is there victory over the criminal element.

A full account of Armed People Victorious is in Pratt’s book by that title, available for $7.95 plus shipping through the Gun Owners Foundation at 8001 Forbes Place in Springfield, Va 22151. Credit card orders can be placed by phoning 800-417-1486.