The doomsday provision
By John Stossel
Oct 19, 2005
Guns are dangerous. But myths are dangerous, too. Myths about guns
are very dangerous, because they lead to bad laws. And bad laws kill
"Don't tell me this bill will not make a difference," said President
Clinton, who signed the Brady Bill into law.
Sorry. Even the federal government can't say it has made a
difference. The Centers for Disease Control did an extensive review
of various types of gun control: waiting periods, registration and
licensing, and bans on certain firearms. It found that the idea that
gun control laws have reduced violent crime is simply a myth.
I wanted to know why the laws weren't working, so I asked the
experts. "I'm not going in the store to buy no gun," said one
maximum-security inmate in New Jersey. "So, I could care less if they
had a background check or not."
"There's guns everywhere," said another inmate. "If you got money,
you can get a gun."
Talking to prisoners about guns emphasizes a few key lessons. First,
criminals don't obey the law. (That's why we call them "criminals.")
Second, no law can repeal the law of supply and demand. If there's
money to be made selling something, someone will sell it.
A study funded by the Department of Justice confirmed what the
prisoners said. Criminals buy their guns illegally and easily. The
study found that what felons fear most is not the police or the
prison system, but their fellow citizens, who might be armed. One
inmate told me, "When you gonna rob somebody you don't know, it makes
it harder because you don't know what to expect out of them."
What if it were legal in America for adults to carry concealed
weapons? I put that question to gun-control advocate Rev. Al
Sharpton. His eyes opened wide, and he said, "We'd be living in a
state of terror!"
In fact, it was a trick question. Most states now have "right to
carry" laws. And their people are not living in a state of terror.
Not one of those states reported an upsurge in crime.
Why? Because guns are used more than twice as often defensively as
criminally. When armed men broke into Susan Gonzalez' house and shot
her, she grabbed her husband's gun and started firing. "I figured if
I could shoot one of them, even if we both died, someone would know
who had been in my home." She killed one of the intruders. She lived.
Studies on defensive use of guns find this kind of thing happens at
least 700,000 times a year.
And there's another myth, with a special risk of its own. The myth
has it that the Supreme Court, in a case called United States v.
Miller, interpreted the Second Amendment -- "A well regulated
Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right
of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" -- as
conferring a special privilege on the National Guard, and not as
affirming an individual right. In fact, what the court held is only
that the right to bear arms doesn't mean Congress can't prohibit
certain kinds of guns that aren't necessary for the common defense.
Interestingly, federal law still says every able-bodied American man
from 17 to 44 is a member of the United States militia.
What's the special risk? As Alex Kozinski, a federal appeals judge
and an immigrant from Eastern Europe, warned in 2003, "the simple
truth -- born of experience -- is that tyranny thrives best where
government need not fear the wrath of an armed people."
"The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid
stories of gun crime routinely do," Judge Kozinski noted. "But few
saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second
Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those
exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed
-- where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences
those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or
can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these
contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a
free people get to make only once."
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