Guns Save Lives

How many public shootings will it take before we understand that murderers are undeterred by "gun free" zones? The best deterrent is always a would-be victim who is trained in self-defense — with a gun.

It’s all too predictable. A day after a gunman killed six people and wounded 18 others at Northern Illinois University, The New York Times criticized the U.S. Interior Department for preparing to rethink its ban on guns in national parks.

The editorial board wants “the 51 senators who like the thought of guns in the parks — and everywhere else, it seems — to realize that the innocence of Americans is better protected by carefully controlling guns than it is by arming everyone to the teeth.”

As usual, the Times editors seem unaware of how silly their argument is. To them, the choice is between “carefully controlling guns” and “arming everyone to the teeth.” But no one favors “arming everyone to the teeth” (whatever that means).

Instead, gun advocates favor freedom, choice, and self-responsibility. If someone wishes to be prepared to defend himself, he should be free to do so. No one has the right to deprive others of the means of effective self-defense, like a handgun.

As for the first option, “carefully controlling guns,” how many shootings at schools or malls will it take before we understand that people who intend to kill are not deterred by gun laws? Last I checked, murder is against the law everywhere.

No one intent on murder will be stopped by the prospect of committing a lesser crime like illegal possession of a firearm. The intellectuals and politicians who make pious declarations about controlling guns should explain how their gunless utopia is to be realized.

While they search for — excuse me — their magic bullet, innocent people are dying defenseless.

That’s because laws that make it difficult or impossible to carry a concealed handgun do deter one group of people: law-abiding citizens who might have used a gun to stop crime. Gun laws are laws against self-defense.

Criminals have the initiative. They choose the time, place and manner of their crimes, and they tend to make choices that maximize their own, not their victims’, success.

So criminals don’t attack people they know are armed, and anyone thinking of committing mass murder is likely to be attracted to a gun-free zone, such as schools and malls.

Government may promise to protect us from criminals, but it cannot deliver on that promise. This was neatly summed up in book title a few years ago: “Dial 911 and Die.” If you are the target of a crime, only one other person besides the criminal is sure to be on the scene: you. There is no good substitute for self-responsibility.

How, then, does it make sense to create mandatory gun-free zones, which in reality are free-crime zones?

The usual suspects keep calling for more gun control laws. But this idea that gun control is crime control is just a myth.

The National Academy of Sciences reviewed dozens of studies and could not find a single gun regulation that clearly led to reduced violent crime or murder. When Washington, D.C., passed its tough handgun ban years ago, gun violence rose.

The press ignores the fact that often guns save lives.

It’s what happened in 2002 at the Appalachian School of Law. Hearing shots, two students went to their cars, got their guns and restrained the shooter until police arrested him.

Likewise, law professor Glen Reynolds writes, “Pearl, Miss., school shooter Luke Woodham was stopped when the school’s vice principal took a .45 from his truck and ran to the scene. In (last) February’s Utah mall shooting, it was an off-duty police officer who happened to be on the scene and carrying a gun.”

Tom Palmer
of The Cato Institute
It’s impossible to know exactly how often guns stop criminals. Would-be victims don’t usually report crimes that don’t happen. But people use guns in self-defense every day. The Cato Institute’s Tom Palmer says just showing his gun to muggers once saved his life.

It equalizes unequals,” Palmer told “20/20.”

“If someone gets into your house, which would you rather have, a handgun or a telephone?

“You can call the police if you want, and they’ll get there, and they’ll take a picture of your dead body. But they can’t get there in time to save your life.

“The first line of defense is you.”

John Stossel is co-anchor of ABC News’ “20/20” and the author of Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media (January 2005) as well as Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel — Why Everything You Know Is Wrong (May 2007), which is now available in paperback.

10 comments from readers  

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Well said. Of course, the Founders would never have questioned the right of a free people to defend themselves against transgressions by criminals who are either in or out of government.
At this critical time in the debates that are shaping this fall's elections, THIS is a message that needs to be heard. It's a pity that most of the people who hear it already accept it, and the people who might be willing to think about the issue most likely won't.
It really is simple. If you outlaw the guns, its only the law abiding people that don't have them. The ani-gun crowd must be putting their heads in the sand of their own mislead theories in order to ignore the facts that point to the wrongness of said theories.
Common sense is so rare, but Mr. Stossel has it in spades, along with solid information, and makes a convincing, rational case. Yet, the gun control advocates are not driven by sense. They are driven by fear, mistrust, and ignorance. It is, I believe, possible to change children driven by such forces, but immature adults structure their lives around their illusions, and cannot and will not ever admit their failings in values except by a life-altering crisis, for example, by the discovery first-hand of what it is like to be without a weapon to defend oneself in the face of an attack. Failing that, (and I do not wish such things to happen to anyone), virtually all of their chosen relationships are with people of like mind. To sway from the given "truths" in their circle of acquaintances and friends, to change their political position or their stand on gun control would see themselves ostracized. Such individuals are not willing to risk isolation. Their positions are held firmly, in part, to protect their approval rating among peers.

Part of the problem must be a lack of courage to stand independent in thought and action. These are people with no firm sense of self except as viewed through the eyes of others. I am sure there is much more to this problem than I can postulate here. Just to touch on a few more of the related issues: the curious passivity among gun control advocates, along with a deference to authority exemplified by their position of "wait for the authorities to handle it" in a crisis where every second counts, and innocent lives are at stake. The "fear" aspect looms large as well, as if they fear that an armed public would result in casual shootings over the neighbor's dog barking, guns blazing over arguments about improper change given out in stores, or shootouts over fender-benders.

It seems to me that only those who are undecided, who have not given much thought to such matters as gun control, and who are fundamentally rational can be swayed by rational arguments such as Mr. Stossel presents. To win intellectual battles such as this, at a national level, it seems to me that it is absolutely essential to understand the psychology of the irrational opposition, and what fundamental element in their thinking has gone haywire. I remain puzzled, and a little frightened myself as to why so many people have lost, or perhaps never had, the ability to think things through.
Freedom to bear arms is nothing but one more freedom that people are ready to give up for the sake of some would-be safety. I absolutely agree with John Stossel that if a criminal even suspects that you might be armed he is much less likely to choose you as a victim. "Gun-free" zones never stop people with guns but are more likely to attract them. If the solution of a problem was as simple as banning something, then we would never again have any drug problems, robberies, murders, etc.

Unfortunately the government, especially as corrupt as the modern US government, will keep trying to suppress US citizens' freedom to bear arms. Today we are blissfully sure that the government wants to protect us from criminals in such a dubious way; tomorrow, when the government becomes the criminal and wants to take away our last remaining freedoms, we won't be able to defend ourselves anymore. Bit by bit the American government has been depriving its citizens of their rights under a benevolent disguise of protecting our lives and freedoms.

Unfortunately this problem is much deeper than just banning guns; the problem is in the new mentality of Americans. This new mentality is different from that of the Americans of the Founding Fathers' times. It's only natural for a government of a country to degrade which is the case with the USA as well as with almost any other country. However it's up to us to stop it from happening, it's up to us to shake up the corrupt people in power and remind them that they are supposed to serve the interests of their people, not their own. One of the culprits is public education, in my opinion. The first indoctrination of the innocent children on the matter of banning guns, increasing taxes on the "vile" rich, sacrificing one's virtues for the sake of somebody else's vices, happens in our public schools and later in colleges.

After what I said above I expect to hear indignant cries that everybody deserves equal opportunities, every child needs to receive education and other nonsense like "no child left behind". However the most independent, talented and freedom-loving people in America that I am aware of were all self-educated. Unfortunately most of them are extinct now like dinosaurs, but so are the values and freedoms of the Founding Fathers that we keep bragging about.
You are right of course, in 1935 Hitler proudly announced that Germany was free of privately owned guns, and the world would emulate him. Governments cannot ban weapons while they continue to have the right to bear arms. That clearly leaves the citizen helpless. That is why Hitler did it.

In a western there is usually a showdown on the town's main street. What is it? It is the bad guy against the good guy. They both have guns and know how to use them. If the sheriff wins, justice. If the crook wins, murder, and the law will come into play, and take care of him. If they kill each other? An act of murder and an act of self-defense has occurred.

In most schools where massacres occur, there were no weapons available with which to confront the killer or would be killer. It may be time to arm all schools in America. Gun free zones are killing grounds.
How many suicidal mass killers try to make a 'grand exit' at a target shooting range - where almost every person has a gun and ammunition? How many suicidal mass killers try to make a 'grand exit' at a firearms store - where the salesclerks typically are armed and skilled? Were any to try, success in being suicidal is probable, but success in being a mass killer is highly unlikely.

If 'gun free zones' promoted low crime rates then we should expect 'gun prevalent zones' to promote high crime rates. What is the rate of violent crime at shooting ranges and firearms stores? It is very low.
I used to live in a town where it was the law to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. Not just pedestrians IN the crosswalk but also for pedestrians ABOUT TO CROSS. It was a perfectly reasonable law. However the problem that I noticed was that very often people would just step out into the street WITHOUT LOOKING. It seems that they felt that all they needed was a law and their life was protected. You can't just blindly go through life thinking that laws will universally save you. Sometimes you have to stop and look at what is actually going on.
I don't know how this message could be made more clear, yet many don't hear it. Wishing guns away won't disarm criminals. Nor will making them illegal for ordinary individuals to "keep and bear."
The media circus that follows events like the Virginia Tech shootings tends to obscure the fact that incidents like this are atypical. Gun-control and pro-gun advocates meet a lot less resistance when these events are fresh in our memory. Both sides are disingenuous and lack rational arguments. Gun control will not stop random crimes by psychotics. And arming more people will not stop random gun crimes. You can pull out a million anecdotes that support either side of the issue but the only thing that would make a difference is completely disarming everyone. Hunters, psychos, vigilantes...everyone. Impossible? Probably so. But it's the only idea that has any provable chain of logic behind it. I might not be offering a solution but I know better than to accept arguments about anything that are built entirely on false premises.
To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.