The Price of Infringement
On December 14, 2012, 20 year old Adam Lanza murdered 28 people – his mother at home, 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and finally himself – using two handguns and a semi-automatic rifle stolen from his mother. To date, there is no known motive for the killings. Lanza had a history of mental illness, a common denominator in such shootings. What we know with reasonable certainty is why he picked a school and why the casualties were so high – it was a gun free zone with plenty of easy, defenseless targets.
Connecticut law makes it “unlawful to possess a firearm on public or private elementary or secondary school property” and certain other places such as churches and court houses. Lanza was able to easily penetrate the school's security system after which there was nothing to stop him from killing his victims. He shot himself when he heard police coming.
Although the school had recently updated its security system, it lacked one essential element – armed and trained teachers and administrators. That lack proved fatal, as it often does.
Criminals, terrorists, and deranged people are not stupid. They pick easy, undefended targets, the easier the better. Their intent is to inflict the greatest amount of damage in the shortest amount of time. Gun free zones provide the perfect opportunity. Had the teachers, administrators, and custodians been armed and trained in defiance of Connecticut law, more of the deceased would have survived. Yet, if discovered beforehand, these prudent people would have been removed from their positions and prosecuted as criminals, a risk apparently none were willing to take, a decision which cost some of them their lives. No one should be placed in the position of having to choose between a jury of 12 and six pallbearers.
Israel learned this lesson decades ago. In 1974, 34 Israeli students were gunned down in a bus on a school trip. Israel's government decided that, since the criminals and terrorists don't obey gun control laws, it made sense to arm the adults charged with caring for the children. Israel has not had a repeat of the tragedy. As Police Inspector-General Shlomo Aharonisky stated, “There is no question that weapons in the hands of the public have prevented acts of terror or stopped them while they were in progress.” Former Police Inspector-General Assaf Hefetz added, “A gun owner who can get within effective range of the terrorist while keeping under cover can prevent many casualties.”
The same lesson should have been learned after the December 9, 2007 incident at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where 7,000 parishioners came under attack by Matthew Murray, a 24 year old armed with a semi-automatic rifle, two pistols, and hundreds of cartridges. He fatally shot two church goers and wounded three others before Jeanne Assam, a church member who carried a concealed firearm, drew her pistol and shot him until he fell incapacitated. Murray then took his own life.
More recently, when a gunman opened fire with a stolen rifle in the Clackamas Town Center mall in Portland, Oregon, on December 11, 2012 killing two people and wounding another, it was the appearance of a shopper with a concealed handgun which ended the violence. Twenty-two year old Nick Meli pulled out his pistol, and as he was about to shoot, the gunman spotted him and shot himself fatally. Twenty-two minutes after the first 911 call, police found the dead shooter. Thank God Meli was there with his gun, or there would have been more dead and wounded.
Despite this and countless other examples of ordinary citizens defending themselves and others with firearms – up to 2.4 million each year according to researchers – gun control advocates continue to call for more gun control laws. There are approximately 20,000 federal, state, and local gun control laws throughout the country, none of which prevented the recent episodes in Newtown and Portland, the one last summer at the Aurora theater in Colorado, the massacre at Columbine high school in 1999, and similar incidents. Why? Because bad guys don't obey gun control laws, only law-abiding people do.
Isn't it interesting that when shootings occur, whom do we call to end the violence? Armed men and women in the form of police, who usually arrive too late to prevent massive casualties. If armed people not at the scene are expected to end the violence, why not armed people at the scene?
Last July, mathematics enthusiast Davi Barker published an analysis of 93 mass shootings, and found that the average number of people killed in such shootings when stopped by police is 14.3. The average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by a civilian is 2.3. (See Barker's findings and methodology here.)
Instead of advocating more gun control laws, which give people a false sense of security and result in massive deaths whenever deranged individuals, terrorists, or criminal decide to go on a rampage, we should be repealing laws which prevent people from defending themselves and those in their charge. After all, the purpose of the Second Amendment is to insure that Americans have the means with which to defend themselves. “Shall not be infringed” means that our public servants may not even trespass on the fringes or edges of that right. Yet, they trample upon it with impunity, and we suffer the predictable consequences.
We don't blame cars, their manufacturers, or auto dealers for the injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers. It makes no sense to blame another tool – firearms – for the destruction caused by those who abuse them. All gun control does is make effective resistance unlikely. No sane person should want that.
There will always be deranged people. There will always be irresponsible people. There will always be criminals. We rarely know who they are, or when they will strike. All the well-meaning, civil disarmament laws that politicians pass will not protect us. They don't affect the bad guys. They only make us defenseless and vulnerable. Our best protection is to be armed, trained, and aware of our surroundings, for as Vietnam veteran and police firearms instructor Clint Smith observed, “An armed man will kill an unarmed man with monotonous regularity.”
Benedict D. LaRosa is a historian and author with undergraduate and graduate degrees in history.