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March 16, 2007

Right to carry v. right to know: This month’s Non-Compos Mentis Award winner

“Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.” –Thomas Jefferson

In a St. Louis suburb this week, Riccardo Crossland was charged with robbery and assault after he and another thug held a 23-year-old Florida man at gunpoint, demanding his money. After obtaining his wallet and watch, Crossland turned and took a few steps away from the robbery victim, then turned back and raised his weapon.

Unfortunately for Crossland, the man he was robbing was legally permitted to carry a concealed handgun – and was carrying one at the time. (Florida permits are honored by Missouri. In fact, most Southeastern states – where constitutional rule of law still prevails – have reciprocity agreements for concealed carry permits.)

As Crossland brandished his weapon, the “victim” drew his weapon and opened fire, wounding Crossland. Police arrived soon thereafter, transported Crossland to the hospital, and congratulated his intended victim. Bridgeton Police Major Don Steinman told reporters, “Here was a robbery where we have a good ending.”

In a footnote to this crime, it turns out that Crossland was carrying a pellet gun modeled after a .45 caliber automatic. A shoe-in for the Non Compos Mentis Award, you say? Granted, Crossland was ignorant of the fact that his intended victim could defend himself, but I relate his story only as a segue to introduce the real winner.

That would be one Christian Trejbal, a writer with the Roanoke Times in Virginia.

Trejbal describes himself in his bio as “a philosopher and historian who discovered editorial writing.” He queries, “Who needs to finish a Ph.D.?” Apparently not Trejbal, who is already “piling it higher and deeper” as an editorialist.

Trejbal is the Don Quixote de la Roanoke, who jousts with government-database windmills using the Freedom of Information Act lance. In an editorial last Sunday celebrating “Sunshine Week, the annual week in which we reflect on the importance of open government and public records,” Trejbal boldly went where no man had before. “To mark the occasion,” he wrote, “I want to take you on an excursion into freedom of information land.”

And that he did.

In the interest of public safety, Trejbal and the Roanoke Times would have done a fine public service by launching, say, an Internet database listing paroled violent felons, stalkers and murderers. Instead, however, he went after what he apparently considers an equally dangerous lot.

Trejbal wrote, “A state that puts sex offender data online complete with an interactive map could easily do the same with gun permits, but it does not. … There are plenty of reasons to question the wisdom of widespread gun ownership, too.”

That’s right. After obtaining a list of all 135,789 Virginians who are permitted to carry a concealed weapon, Trejbal and his employer posted them in a searchable online database.

According to Trejbal, “People might like to know if their neighbors carry. Parents might like to know if a member of the car pool has a pistol in the glove box. Employees might like to know if employers are bringing weapons to the office.”

One would hope that someone in the Roanoke Times editorial room would have weighed the risk that stalkers, rapists and murderers might also like to know whether a potential victim had a carry permit. Trejbal unintentionally created a “do not mess with” list of Virginians, but what about all the folks who are not on that list?

The paper’s publisher, Debbie Meade, says that she, Editorial Page Editor Dan Radmacher, and Trejbal discussed the pros and cons before posting the database. “I think Dan would say that we probably underestimated the kind of response that this would prompt,” Meade said. “I think we could have asked for a broader and deeper discussion.”

“Underestimated” does not quite capture the tone of the thousands of objections, legal, moral and ethical, the paper received.

As it turns out, the database was only up for about 24 hours before Meade had it removed, “out of a sense of caution and concern for the public.” Perhaps Meade removed the database not “out of a sense of caution” but “out of common sense.” After all, wasn’t the paper’s “concern for the public” the reason it posted the names in the first place? Perhaps it hit too close to home when Meade realized that neither she, nor Radmacher and Trejbal, are listed as permit holders.

Trejbal feigns concern that “so many people have missed the point about the column. It was not fundamentally about guns. It was fundamentally about open government.”

No, it was fundamentally a hit piece against not only those who have concealed carry permits, but any gun owner. As noted above, Trejbal’s original essay justified posting the database because, “There are plenty of reasons to question the wisdom of widespread gun ownership.”

Trejbal is one of those nescient libs who think that crime is a “gun problem”. Using his logic, one may conclude that black leather gloves cause stabbings, matches cause arson, vehicles cause wrecks, cameras cause pornography, swimsuits cause drowning, cigarette lighters cause cancer, wine glasses cause alcoholism, spoons cause obesity, credit cards cause bankruptcy, elections cause corruption, ad nauseum

Had “philosopher and historian” Trejbal pursued his Ph.D., he might have come across these words from 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.)

I contacted Trejbal and asked him to outline his views on Second Amendment rights, but received no answer. I suspect he doesn’t know that by conservative estimates, handguns are used more than 1.3 million times each year in self-defense. He must not know that convicted violent felons tell researchers that they choose victims they believe are least able to defend themselves, avoiding those likely to have a gun.

Trejbal may not realize that his chances of becoming a victim are significantly reduced by the fact that violent offenders do not know who is likely to be carrying a weapon – well, before Trejbal identified who, in Virginia, is not permitted to carry a concealed weapon.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the criminal use of firearms declined as the number of states issuing concealed-carry permits increased. Yale researcher John Lott addressed the relationship between gun possession and crime, and summed up his research with the title of his book, More Guns, Less Crime.

The relationship between victimization and the ability to defend oneself is timeless. In Commonplace Book, Thomas 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.”

Despite last week’s legal victory for gun-owning residents in Washington, DC, Democrat majorities in the House and Senate, with help from Leftmedia trucklings like Trejbal, are now trying to reincarnate the Feinstein-Schumer gun ban, which expired 13 September 2004.

In the words of Patrick Henry, “Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.”

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