Alexander's Column

Are gun-free nations or "zones" safer?

By Mark Alexander · Apr. 20, 2007

“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic…” –Justice Joseph Story

Gun-free nations are safer – at least for folks like Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Castro, Pol Pot and Saddam, all of whom disarmed their detractors before slaughtering them by the tens of millions.

History records the consequences of disarming people, both in terms of protection, in their person and property, from tyrannical governments and from criminals. Regarding the latter, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

Thomas Jefferson understood that maxim. In his Commonplace Book, Jefferson quotes Cesare Beccaria from his seminal work, On Crimes and Punishment: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. … Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

The same can be said of so-called “gun-free zones” in America, as on the campus of Virginia Tech.

“Virginia Tech has a very sound policy”

In 2002, at the Appalachian School of Law just up the road from Virginia Tech, a Nigerian student, who had flunked out, returned to campus, murdered three people and wounded three others. Fortunately, his killing spree was interrupted by two students who had retrieved handguns from their vehicles and held the murderer at gunpoint until police arrived.

This intervention was not unprecedented.

In 1997, an assistant principal in Pearl, Mississippi, retrieved a handgun from his car and apprehended a murderer. A few days later, a copycat assault in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, ended after a nearby merchant wielding a shotgun forced the attacker to surrender. Off campus, it is estimated conservatively that gun owners use their weapons defensively more than 1.3 million times each year.

With that as a backdrop, last spring Virginia Tech admonished a student for having a handgun on campus – never mind that the student had a state-issued concealed-carry permit.

That admonishment was a motivating factor behind a proposed bill before the Virginia legislature to prevent academic institutions from enacting “rules or regulations limiting or abridging the ability of a student who possesses a valid concealed-handgun permit … from lawfully carrying a concealed handgun.”

The legislation died in committee, prompting Tech's associate vice president, Larry Hincker, to praise the General Assembly in a Roanoke (Virginia) Times op-ed: “I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus. We believe guns don't belong in the classroom. In an academic environment, we believe you should be free from fear.”

A month later, there was a murder near Tech's campus, prompting a lockdown.

In response, Tech grad student Bradford Wiles penned an op-ed in the campus paper calling on the school to allow those with concealed-carry permits to carry guns on campus should they choose.

Larry Hincker emerged again, protesting, “[I]t is absolutely mind-boggling to see the opinions of Bradford Wiles. Surely, [the editors] scratched their heads saying, 'I can't believe he really wants to say that.' Guns don't belong in classrooms. They never will. Virginia Tech has a very sound policy preventing same.”

Congratulations Mr. Hinkler. Your “sound policy” created a “safe campus” for only one student – Cho Seung-Hui – who was able to slaughter 32 people without interruption.

A theatrical performance

Unlike most psychopathic killers, Korean native Cho Seung-Hui produced the equivalent of theatrical trailers and stills advertising his murderous intentions and motives and sent them to NBC on the day of his rampage. The video outlined his intense hatred for his fellow students, and the still photos looked like promotional shots from almost any violent video game, rap CD or Hollywood release.

The violent images were consistent with a report filed by one of Cho's teachers, Lucinda Roy, who noted violent themes in Cho's writing projects. Unfortunately, she was told there were too many legal hurdles to open an investigation. Another professor, Nikki Giovanni, had him removed from her class because his behavior was so threatening.

In 2005, Cho was temporarily detained for a psychiatric assessment ordered by a County District Court Judge, who certified in the order that Cho presented “an imminent danger to self or others” and ordered him to receive outpatient treatment. The psychologist who evaluated Cho reported that “his affect is flat and mood is depressed,” but “his insight and judgment are normal.” Apparently not.

In an act of stupefyingly poor judgment, NBC chose to release Cho's murderous manifesto, raising immediate and serious questions about copycat killers. “Showing the video is a social catastrophe,” protests forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner. “I promise you the disaffected will watch him the way they watched 'Natural Born Killers.' I know. I examine these people. I've examined mass shooters who have told me they've watched it 20 times. You cannot saturate the American public with this kind of message.”

The prospect of getting through the end of this school year without a copycat incident is diminishing.

“Gun Violence”?

In the words of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, circa 45 AD, “Quemadmoeum gladuis neminem occidit, occidentis telum est.” (A sword is never a killer, it is a tool in the killer's hands.)

Suggesting that mass murder is a “gun problem” ignores the real problem – murderous pathology and the culture which nurtures it. (See the Congressional Testimony of Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, one of the children murdered at Columbine High School.)

If guns cause homicides, then one may, by logical extension, draw the following conclusions about causal factors for the top U.S. mortality groups: golden arches cause heart disease, cigarette lighters cause cancer, sex causes abortions, steering wheels cause car accidents, toxic-warning labels cause poisonings, ladders cause falls and bottles cause deaths associated with alcohol abuse.

Of course, by way of this liberal blameshifting logic, one may also conclude that commercial jets and truck bombs cause buildings to collapse, 90210 causes 9/11 conspiracy theories, freedom causes tyranny, beards cause terrorism, SUVs cause global warming, White House interns cause infidelity, saying “no” causes rape, chains cause slavery, matches cause arson, cameras cause pornography, sporks cause obesity, bathing suits cause drowning, marriage causes divorce, crowbars cause burglary, credit cards cause bankruptcy, elections cause corruption, 24-hour news-cycle talkingheads cause ignorance, ad nauseam

Murder statistics in perspective

According to the most recent annual statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, there were 11,500 homicides committed by perpetrators using guns. There were 18,000 deaths committed by perpetrators using vehicles after consuming alcohol. Your chances of being killed by a drunk driver are 56 percent higher than being killed by a perp with a gun.

In the last decade, there were almost 180,000 (that's 180 thousand) people killed in car wrecks where alcohol abuse was a key factor. In the same ten-year period, there were 110 students (including those at VA Tech) murdered on campus by psychopaths.

Perhaps the Brady Campaign and Democrats in Congress should set their sights on federal legislation mandating a five-day waiting period before purchasing alcohol. After all, many of the perpetrators who used guns instead of cars to commit homicide were also abusing alcohol.

Fact is, if we exclude gang-bangers and crack heads, the probability of being murdered in the U.S. is more in line with the oft-cited lower murder rates in Western Europe – but let's not separate the wheat from the chaff.

The solution to the “gun problem” is “gun control”

In the wake of any mass homicide by a psychopathic killer, Second Amendment opponents are the first responders, and predictably, endeavor to convert the blood of innocents into political capital for gun confiscation.

Typical of the confiscators' rhetoric was this comment from Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke: “It is well known how easy it is for an individual to get powerful weapons in our country. [After many school] killings, we've done nothing as a country to end gun violence in our schools and communities. If anything, we've made it easier to access powerful weapons.”

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy carried the Democrats' banner: “The unfortunate situation in Virginia could have been avoided if congressional leaders [had] stood up to the gun lobby.”

Of course, the media set the tone. The New York Times issued numerous “gun problem” headlines like “Gun Rampage is Nation's Worst” and “Epidemic of Gun Violence.” The editors insisted, “What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons….”

Despite the Leftmedia's trumpeting of the Virginia Tech massacre as the “bloodiest student attack in history,” the most lethal attack on a school occurred on 18 May 1927, when Andrew Kehoe, a Bath, Michigan, school-board member, murdered 45 people, including 38 elementary students – with a bomb.

Of note, The Times also endeavored to capitalize on the carnage – paying for positions with search engines to make sure its stories were high on the results list for info on the Virginia Tech “gun violence.”

Conversely, Cato Institute Senior Fellow Robert Levy recently noted: “Many politicians have exploited a few recent tragedies to promote their anti-gun agenda. But gun controls haven't worked and more controls won't help. In fact, many of the recommended regulations will make matters worse by stripping law-abiding citizens of their most effective means of self-defense. Violence in America is due not to the availability of guns but to social pathologies – illegitimacy, dysfunctional schools and drug and alcohol abuse. Historically, more gun laws have gone hand in hand with an explosion of violent crime.”

Forty states now issue carry permits to law-abiding citizens – but the liberal press is unrelenting in its effort to undermine such policy.

It was just last month, in fact, that I chastised the Roanoke Times for publishing a database of concealed-carry permit holders in Virginia, in effect creating a “Do Not Call List” for criminals.

Bottom line: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes.”

Quote of the week

“You won't get gun control by disarming law-abiding citizens. There's only one way to get real gun control: Disarm the thugs and the criminals, lock them up and if you don't actually throw away the key, at least lose it for a long time… It's a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun controllers. I happen to know this from personal experience.” –[Ronald Reagan |http://Reagan2020.US/] in 1983, after surviving the 1981 assassination attempt of the deranged John Hinckley.