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Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns
A Book by J. Neil Schulman

Some Practical Arguments for an Armed Civilian Population

Most of the time you hear gun owners defending their guns, they’re talking about “the right to keep and bear arms.” That is, of course, an important argument to make, but it’s not the one that will appeal to those among us who are swayed only by arguments regarding social utility.

I’ve never believed there is any great divide between good theoretical arguments and good practical ones. If something is correct in theory, it should necessitate practical consequences. If something works in practice, it should be generalizable into a theory. How can something be moral if it isn’t practical? How can it be practical if it produces destruction?

I’ll focus more on political theory later in this book. But for now, here are some empirical arguments in favor of keeping and bearing arms. — JNS

A Time to Kill

Maybe you haven’t noticed it, but the Star-Spangled Banner has been replaced by the dove of peace. Attorney General Janet Reno and Senator Paul Simon condemn the portrayal of violence on television. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders wants to ban toy guns. The Los Angeles Times wants to ban real guns. The latest Clint Eastwood movie, A Perfect World, is not Dirty Harry ending the career of some maniac, but a buddy movie about a fatherless boy and the sympathetic psychopath who takes him under his wing. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, backed by the American Medical Association, has declared violence to be a national health crisis.

There is without doubt a national crisis when automatic-teller-machine hold-ups, carjackings, and serial rapes are commonplace; when our celebrities are a woman who cuts off her husband’s penis and the husband who sells T-shirts commemorating it; when youth gangs don’t even have the courage to rumble — they just do drive-by shootings.

But it’s not a national health crisis. It’s a national moral crisis.

The King James Bible tells us that the Sixth Commandment is, “Thou shalt not kill.” Any biblical scholar will tell you that’s a mistranslation from the original Hebrew. It should instead read, “Thou shalt not murder.”

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, Verse 3, the Bible also tells us that there is a time to kill.

We have lost our ability to distinguish between justified and unjustified violence. We no longer feel certain about the difference between good guys and bad guys. We no longer know when it’s time to kill, or whom.

A time to kill would have been when Patrick Purdy walked into a schoolyard in Stockton, California and started shooting at children. But we place our children in the care of defenseless teachers, so there was no one able to kill Patrick Purdy in time.

A time to kill would have been when George Hennard walked into a Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas and began shooting diners. But Texans may no longer legally carry six-shooters on their hips, so there was no one able to kill Hennard in time.

A time to kill would have been when Gian Luigi Ferri walked into a San Francisco law office and began shooting at attorneys, secretaries, and clients. But not one lawyer kept a Smith & Wesson in her desk, so there was no one able to kill Ferri in time.

A time to kill would have been when Colin A. Ferguson began shooting passengers on the Long Island Railroad. There were men on the train with the courage to tackle and capture Ferguson even though they were unarmed — but not before Ferguson had shot dozens of people. If only one person had been armed, innocent people might be alive and Ferguson dead.

A recent article in The Public Interest by Jeffrey Snyder — lauded by George Will in Newsweek — suggests that we have become “a nation of cowards” in our willingness to submit peaceably to crime and rely on police to protect us. But is it courage that we lack, or moral certainty?

We have become a nation of deer facing oncoming headlights, paralyzed with moral ambiguity. Like Clint Eastwood’s stymied Texas Ranger in A Perfect World, we declare, “I don’t know a damn thing anymore.”

The currently fashionable condemnation of violence is based on morally untenable premises, either pacifistic or statist. We civilians are told to be peaceable either because violence does not solve problems, or because only people in uniforms are entitled to use violence.

Certainly violence does not solve all problems. But there is one sort of problem that violence is indispensable to solve: stopping violent evildoers.

Certainly we don’t want to live in a nation of lynch mobs. There is a clear distinction between self-defense and proactive law enforcement. But with the examples of the ATF siege in Waco, the unindicted murder of Randy Weaver’s wife and son by federal agents, and the looming threat of well-armed police enforcing civilian gun bans, isn’t Janet Reno’s condemnation of violence more than a little hypocritical?

Violence is not of itself always wrong. Sometimes committing an act of violence is a right and a moral necessity. When violence is righteous, it is glorious. If we do not understand this and ready ourselves with arms and training for the rightful violence that is necessary to defend the innocent, then the random violence eating away at our nation’s substance is just what we have coming to us.


Next in Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is 140,000 LA County Gun Owners Have Used Firearms Defensively

Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is
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