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Guest Column: Guns are not the problem

December 19, 2012

By Tom Gentry

Every rational human being wants to put a stop to acts like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary, but as a nation, it’s not enough to simply make changes — we must move in the right direction.

There is a time for emotion, and a time for clear thinking and logic. Some are quick to point fingers and blame “easy access” to guns or so-called “assault weapons.” While guns are an emotional issue for some, there are some very important facts that must not be ignored.

Guns are regulated more now than ever before, yet this mass shooting phenomena is relatively new. There was no federal waiting period or mandatory background check when buying a gun until the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Prior to the Gun Control Act of 1968, low-cost guns, from military surplus to “Saturday night specials,” were widely available, even through mail-order outlets. Until the National Firearms Act of 1934, anyone with the money could buy a machine gun. In spite of far easier access to arms in our recent past, school shootings simply didn’t happen.

Firearms are inanimate objects made of steel, plastic and wood. They have no will of their own, and can be used for good or evil depending on the person wielding them, just like so many other tools. Firearms can, and are, used every day to save innocent lives and stop violence, many times without firing a shot. And just like everything from hammers, knives and baseball bats to fertilizer and gasoline, they can be used for evil purposes when in the hands of someone with evil intent.

Mass shootings occur in areas where guns are prohibited. They happen in schools, theaters, colleges, churches and malls. All written into law or optionally posted by their owners as “gun-free” zones. Now consider where deranged gunmen do not go on shooting sprees: firing ranges, police stations, gun shows and gun shops. If guns themselves were the problem, logic would lead one to expect just the opposite. It doesn’t take much imagination to realize that these monsters are cowards, looking for a guarantee of little or no resistance from their victims.

Intercession by legally armed citizens can stop shooting sprees long before police arrive. At the Appalachian School of Law, Grundy, Va., in 2002, Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross ran to their cars, where they had stored personal firearms. They stopped the gunman, and held him for police without firing a shot. In the 2007 shooting at the Youth With A Mission Center in Colorado Springs, Jeanne Assam engaged the attacker with her own gun, stopping his attack. Just this April in Aurora, Colo., a recently-released felon attacked the New Destiny Center congregation in the parking lot, and was stopped almost immediately by an armed citizen.

During the recent shooting in Newtown, Conn., Dawn Hochsprung, Mary Sherlach and others gave their lives attempting to protect their students. Imagine how different the outcome may have been had these heroes been armed. Would such a monstrous act even have even been attempted if an immediate armed response was likely?

Piers Morgan has been using his TV show to showcase his hatred of guns. He likes to point to his country’s gun ban as the gold standard of safety. What he doesn’t tell his audience is that a study done by Cambridge University found that, since the United Kingdom’s gun ban, you are statistically more likely to be mugged in the U.K. than in the United States. Nor does he want to talk about the rising rates of home invasion, burglary, assault and rape since the 1997 gun ban.

Canada, perhaps our closest neighbor both geographically and sociologically, enacted strict gun bans in 1991 and 1995, and has seen their crime rates climb even as crime rates in the U.S. have dropped. Clearly, criminals are emboldened when they know with reasonable certainty that their victims lack the means to defend themselves.

Guns are the means by which septuagenarians and the physically handicapped can defend themselves against young and strong thugs. Bob Costas famously stated that had Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher not had a gun, two lives would not have been lost. However, given the size and strength disparity, it’s obvious Belcher would have had no problem killing Kasandra Perkins with any weapon, including his bare hands. Quite contrary to Mr. Costas’ assertion, if Ms. Perkins had a gun, she might be alive today. A gun is the only thing that could have equalized her size and strength disadvantage, and given her a chance to defend herself.

Without armed citizens, we are simply setting the stage for the strong to prey on the weak. While it’s true that firearms are sometimes used for suicide, just as with homicide, those bent on doing it will find a way. Japan has a much higher suicide rate than the United States, yet they seldom use guns for that purpose.

Many, including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), would like an “assault weapons ban.” This is disingenuous, at best, since true assault weapons are already banned by the 1934 and 1968 laws. According to FBI statistics, the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which lasted for a decade, had no positive effect on crime. The media bombard us with rants about military weapons not belonging in the civilian population, while they ignore the case of United States v. Miller, where the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects the ownership of military-type weapons, exactly the type that some wish to ban.

The true purpose of the Second Amendment is to protect us from our own government; it has nothing to do with hunting or other sports.

Twenty-five years ago, we learned to shoot bows in the back yard of Rockford East High School as part of physical education class. As JROTC students, we learned to shoot rifles in the basement of the school. Occasionally, we carried fully functional M-14s, much more powerful than today’s M-16s and AK-47s, through the halls and grounds of the school, and at least once even in CherryVale Mall. Yet, there were no shooting rampages associated with these acts.

There is no denying our society has problems that did not exist just a few years ago. We need to get the proper help for the mentally ill. We need a media that don’t sensationalize events and report on the ranking of body counts. We need families and communities joining together to help raise our children to know right from wrong and to feel empathy. We need a system of law, order and punishment that is both just and feared. Maybe we even need to take a long, hard look at the forms of entertainment we let our children use. But clearly, when you look at the facts, the simple machines we call guns are not the problem.

Tom Gentry is a lifelong Rockford resident.

From the Dec. 19-25, 2012, issue

5 Comments

  1. John

    December 19, 2012 at 10:37 am

    If we ban anything, we should ban idiots. The more I learn of the depth of Adam Lanza’s mental illness, the more I question his mothers intelligence.

    How could she introduce firearms around a kid like that? How could she then apparently leave them laying around? From the information released thusfar, Adam Lanza’s problems were getting worse. His mother was trying to committ him, which may have triggered his rampage.

    Yet she still thought it was a goood idea to have firearms laying around????

    Namcy Lanza was murdered in her bed, still in her pajamas. We can assume that her guns and ammunition were not locked up…the kid got to both and murdered her.

    I am all for a persons right to protect themselves, with a firearm if they deem it necessary. But come on! Common sense should have told her that unsecured guns around her mentally-ill son was NOT a good idea.

    It is too bad she didn’t survive. If for no other reason, I would be fascinated to hear her explanation or reasons for introducing guns at this critical juncture.

  2. ilbob

    December 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Given she is now dead, it is unlikely we will ever know why she did not have her firearms secured, or how her son got access to them.

    Very little about this case is clear right now, and a lot of it may never be known with any certainty. No doubt there will be a lot of uninformed speculation.

  3. John M Stassi

    December 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    You are right about one thing, Mr. Gentry:

    The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary was not about whether or not guns are easily available.

    It was about whether or not child murder is ever morally justifiable.

    Here is a view of that tragic event and its aftermath from that perspective:

    During his speech
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/12/16/remarks-president-sandy-hook-interfaith-prayer-vigil
    at a memorial service held on Monday evening, December 16, for the Newtown CT children and adults who were senselessly massacred by Adam Lanza, a mentally ill young man, President Obama consoled the victims’ families and friends with these words:

    I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief

    and these:

    Newtown, you are not alone.

    Obama knows whereof he speaks. Newtown is truly not the only town grieving for its heinously murdered children. It is joined in its grief by dozens of towns and villages in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia (and who knows where else) where Obama’s drones and warriors have senselessly murdered hundreds of equally beautiful and innocent children.

    Whereas Adam Lanza’s deadly assault began and ended on December 14, 2012, Obama’s drone assaults began on 23 January 2009, just days after his inauguration, with two assaults that killed 4 children
    http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/08/10/obama-2009-strikes/
    and have continued since then with no end in sight.

    With over 400 drone strikes ordered since he took office, Obama has murdered at least 200 children
    http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drone-data/

    Of these, 176 were killed in various poverty-stricken villages in Pakistan alone:

    Child Casualties As a Result of U.S. Drone Strikes
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf8bnYF-WxE&feature=youtu.be

    On October 23, 2012, Joe Klein, a stalwart Obama supporter, admitted that Obama’s drones were killing children and justified it by saying this:

    “If it is misused, and there is a really major possibility of abuse if you have the wrong people running the government. But: the bottom line in the end is – whose 4-year-old gets killed? What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/23/klein-drones-morning-joe

    The President has never bothered to comment upon Joe Klein’s cynical calculus of child murder, perhaps because the press has never bothered to demand that he do so. Not once during the recent presidential campaign were the candidates forced to confront this carnage and either justify or denounce it.

    In our national silence about the crimes committed by Obama’s drone attacks, aren’t we all really complicit with them? Don’t we all share the guilt? Aren’t we all really Adam Lanza by proxy?

    Lanza was severely mentally ill. What excuse can we offer to explain our silent complicity with child murder?

    —- John M. Stassi, 17 December 2012 —

    SEE ALSO:

    In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bug splats

    Barack Obama’s tears for the children of Newtown are in stark contrast to his silence over the children murdered by his drones

    by George Monbiot, The Guardian, Monday 17 December 2012 15.30 EST

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/17/us-killings-tragedies-pakistan-bug-splats

  4. Jason

    December 22, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Tina – Every state but IL has carry laws of one sort or another. There have NEVER been a problem caused by it.

    People who legally carry are responsible gun owners. It’s the illegals you need to worry about. We all need to worry about them.

    Unless / until we start some kind of insane security measures like metal detectors or body scanners at every school and mall and any other place you want to may want to go there is no way to know who may be next to you with a gun.

    If you truly hate guns that much and never want to be near them… well, all I can say is good luck.

  5. John M. Stassi

    December 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”

    ― Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

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