3/97 Larry Pratt’s Response To Mike Beard

Response to Mike Beard
Larry Pratt
Executive Director
Gun Owners of America
(during the AOL debate, Mar. 1997)

Mike Beard hides behind the courts the way slave owners hid behind the Supreme Court after the Dred Scott decision. A court saying something does not make it right. I stand by the arguments I outlined in my initial piece, “Gun Control: Unconstitutional and Harmful.”

By the way, courts have overturned gun control laws on Second Amendment grounds. Two such cases are Nunn v. State and in re Brickley.

It is the Constitution, as amended, which was written by the founders that office holders swear to uphold. Mike’s call for regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, not to mention his calls for banning guns, simply ignores the clear meaning of the Constitution.

Blaming suicides on guns is a rather poor argument. For example, the Japanese suicide rate is twice our murder rate — and the Japanese hardly ever use a gun. Taking away guns in the U.S. would only mean that people intent on committing suicide will find some other way — as have the Japanese and many other citizens of other countries as well.

And Mike, please, “fifteen kids die from firearms daily?” Only if you include “kids” up to age 19 (and perhaps beyond) can you stretch to such a number. The National Safety Council reports that all kids up to and including 14 years of age suffered 957 deaths from firearms from all causes in 1993 — about three per day, not 15. Just accidents alone with automobiles kill over 3,000 kids in the same age group, and accidental drownings alone kill as many kids as do firearms. The same goes for fires. If the aim were truly to save lives, we should hear calls for restricting cars to the police and military, not leaving that “solution” just for firearms.

As I pointed out in my initial article, restricting firearms to government personnel (police and military) assumes that government officials will always act like angels. But history tells us that most of the murders of our time — by far — have been committed by governments against disarmed citizens. Why take a chance? It is comparable to homeowners’ insurance. One has to buy it before a fire, not during or after. When should the Jews have had their guns in Germany? It was too late once they were trapped inside the Warsaw Ghetto, and even more so inside the box cars on the way to the death camps.

The anti-self defense camp has routinely tried to convince us, as Mike does here, that it is dangerous for us to have a gun for self defense. Mike cites Dr. Kellerman as his source for saying that we are three times more likely to be killed with our gun than to use it in a justifiable homicide. Dr. Kellerman’s work is quite discredited by his peers (Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research, for example) and should not be used. Kellerman would have us think that the only way a gun can be used in self defense is to kill the attacker. While that certainly reduces the recidivism rate, effective self defense with a gun primarily consists of warning that one has a gun or brandishing the gun at the attacker. Sometimes a warning shot is needed, and almost never is the attacker wounded or killed.

By the way, the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics reflect the underreporting that comes from the police departments upon whom the FBI is totally dependent. Dr. Gary Kleck has done research to show why this is so. Kleck found that the reports to the FBI are right off the police blotter and do not reflect the perfection of the case, namely, that the charge may have been dropped or the person acquitted. When that is taken into account, Kleck found that citizens justifiably kill attackers as many as 3,000 times each year.

Kleck has been honored by his fellow criminologists for this research. Perhaps Kleck’s greatest honor was paid to him by Dr. Marvin E. Wolfgang, a longtime anti-gun scholar. Wolfgang said that he has opposed the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator for years. “Can it be true that about two million instances occur each year in which a gun was used as a defensive measure against crime? It is hard to believe. Yet it is hard to challenge the data collected. We do not have contrary evidence.” (The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology at 188)

How can guns have made the nation’s schools less safe? There was actually greater access to guns by youngsters in the 1950’s and 1960’s than today. Gun Owners of America has members who went to school with rifles — sometimes not even cased. This was true even in New York City where they took the subway with their guns. Too bad they weren’t able to do that when Collin Ferguson was the only guy with a gun on the Long Island commuter train when he killed several people.

The New York Empire State building shooting was not a product of gun availability. It was the result of a disarmed citizenry. Interesting that the murderer bought his gun in Florida but decided not to try anything there. Florida’s murder rate has plummeted since they have made it easier for people to carry concealed firearms. Perhaps the murderer wanted to find a scene for his crime where he had more of a chance of being the only one around with a gun.

Consider that similar scenarios in Israel have dramatically different outcomes. In Israel, many people are carrying firearms — even fully automatic Uzis. In Jerusalem in 1984, three Palestinian terrorists opened fire in a crowded cafe. Israelis at the scene whipped out guns and shot back, killing one terrorist and leading to the capture of another. He complained to the media that “we didn’t expect to find armed civilians.” Nine years later, another Palestinian opened fire with a submachine gun at a bus stop in Ashod, killing one Israeli and wounding four before being shot to death by armed bystanders. How many more might have died in those episodes had Mike Beard’s preference for civilian disarmament been imposed on Israelis?