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Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Joining Forces against a Common Foe

The following article appeared in the June 8, 1992 Los Angeles Times.

There are about 200 million guns in America in the hands of about 60 million Americans. The sale of guns nationwide following the Los Angeles riots has reached record levels, many of them to first-time buyers. Firearms training classes are filled to capacity. The National Rifle Association currently has 2.8 million members – ten times the membership of the American Civil Liberties Union – and expects to exceed 3 million by the end of 1992.

Both advocates of gun control and advocates of gun rights agree that there is an epidemic problem with the criminal use of guns in America. But every time a gun-control advocate points to the latest atrocity committed with a firearm, the gun-rights advocate will surely ask: why was there no armed citizen who could have tried to stop the criminal?

The difference between the advocate of gun control and the advocate of gun rights lies in a perception of the cause of the criminal use of a gun. Those who advocate gun control think the cause is wide and easy availability of guns. The advocates of gun rights think the cause is a legal system which leaves criminals free to prey on a public which is socially discouraged, and often legally forbidden, from using guns for personal defense.

The war over gun control is fought with news reports. Advocates of gun control have no shortage of reports that prove guns in the hands of criminals are a plague on our society. Advocates of gun rights find, however, that the use of firearms to prevent or stop a crime is often left unreported by media which are worried that reporting gun defenses will encourage irresponsible vigilantism.

The war over gun control is fought with statistics. The number of gun attacks in the United States is easy to compile: just count up the thousands of bodies in the morgues, and the hundreds of thousands of gunshot victims treated in hospitals. The number of times a gun is used for defense, however, has a built-in problem: the use of a firearm to deter, prevent, or stop an attack is unrecorded, overwhelmingly because the defense was accomplished without pulling the trigger, and less often, because the person using the gun for self-defense was legally forbidden to be in possession of it at that time or place, and thus did not report it.

The war over gun control is fought with historical debates about the intent of the Second Amendment. Those who advocate gun control say the Second Amendment has no Supreme Court ruling which defines the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right of the citizenry to keep and bear arms for personal defense. Those who advocate gun rights say that the intent of the authors of the Second Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment which would apply it to the states, is indisputable, and it is a politicized Supreme Court which does not have the courage to enforce it.

It’s likely that the only other issue with such polarized and deeply felt world views is abortion. Oddly, those who advocate the right of choice on abortion are often the same people advocating eliminating the right to choose firearms as a defensive option.

It’s also likely that a final Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment would fail to end the issue. A ruling in favor of an individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment would probably coalesce gun-control advocates into a movement to repeal the amendment. A ruling against an individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment would alienate and radicalize the millions of Americans who believe in that right as firmly as the advocates of abortion rights believe in theirs.

As long as the advocates of gun control write laws and court rulings that abridge the right of private citizens to buy, own, and carry the firearms they feel are theirs by right to have for defensive and sporting use, gun owners will continue to be alienated and radicalized, and become more and more willing to engage in civil disobedience against such abridgements.

Advocates of gun control need to realize that passing laws that honest gun owners will not obey is a self-defeating strategy. Gun owners are not about to surrender their rights or their guns, and only the most foolish of politicians would risk the stability of the government by trying to use the force of the State to disarm the people.

If gun-control advocates do not acknowledge the right of the people to keep and bear arms for individual and civic defense before they attempt to remove guns from the hands of those who abuse them, then sensible gun laws will be out of reach, and the criminal plague of gun victimizing will continue.

Can’t advocates of gun control see the advantage of recruiting gun-rights advocates to a joint cause of eliminating gun tragedies? We can all agree that guns need to be kept out of the hands of the violent criminal and the lunatic. We can agree that the solution to gun accidents is safety training. We can agree that those who own and carry firearms for protection must take responsibility for knowing how to use them safely and appropriately.

Surely, instead of fighting one another, we can join forces to fight our common enemy: the armed criminal?


Next in Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is Gun Fight at the 4 ‘n 20 Pie Shop

Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is
Copyright © 1994, 1999 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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