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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Wishful Thinking of the Anti-Gun Crowd

“No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms within his own lands.” — Thomas Jefferson, Draft Constitution for the State of Virginia — 1776

Most people not raised in the presence of firearms demonstrate possess a fear of guns and are uncomfortable in their presence. In all my years of discussing the ownership of firearms with people (mostly liberals) I have found this to be the case.

As a teenager I owned my first gun, a .22 caliber bolt action Remington rifle. I used the rifle for target and varmint shooting. I was pretty good with targets, but did not have that much luck with the varmints. I soon graduated to a 12 gauge shotgun for hunting and was instructed in its use by neighbor, a WWII navy veteran. Eventually I was trained in the use of .306 caliber repeating rifle, revolvers, and semi-automatic hand guns. I learned the power of the gun and the responsibility gun ownership placed on the owner. I was never afraid to handle a firearm.

On the other hand I know and have known numerous people who do not own a firearm of any class and have never handled one. They have an unnatural fear of firearms as my father did of driving an automobile until he moved to California and had no choice but to learn to drive and purchased his first vehicle. Their first argument against the ownership of a firearm is; “why do we need a gun for home protection, that’s what the police are for.” Most of these folks believe guns should be limited to the military and law enforcement.

In a conversation with a deputy sheriff of the county I live in a few years ago at a neighborhood watch meeting about the ownership of a firearm for personal defense here is what he had to say; “the police will rarely, if not never, be able to get to your home in time to prevent a crime. I cannot tell you to go out and buy a gun to protect your home and family, but I have several personal defense guns in my house.” This law enforcement officer was right on target. By the time the police arrive the damage is already done and they become investigators not crime stoppers.

I have two German shepherds at home and a sign on the gate to my side yard stating “Beware of Dog” with a picture of a mean German shepherd. Sometimes I wonder it a sign in front lawn had a picture of a gun with the words “This is a gun zone.” While the dogs a very good and give ample and loud warnings of people at the door I don’t know if they could handle an intruder with malevolent intent.

To the anti-gun crowd, including educators, guns are evil most of them seem to feel. The guns of the police they'd summon to their aid are bad too. The make believe guns boys play cowboy with are bad too, even the gun a second grader might pencil in when drawing a picture of an "army man" is evil. It's a key tenet of their wishful thinking.

And a very strange brand of wishful thinking it is. Instead of hoping for something to come their way, they're wishing for nothing to happen. Its symbol might be a monkey with it hands over its eyes because it's principal doctrine is that if you can't see any evil, refuse to see any evil, then it doesn't exist. Of course it's only a variation of the old notion that if you don't look a lion in the eye he won't charge. But it's what these people believe. Which is why schools run by similar believers once prohibited any discussion of 9/11, any videotapes, photographs or indeed any reference to it at all. Again if you don't see evil or don't learn about it, talk it out, try to learn the lessons it teaches you, then it doesn't exist, and won't have any power over you.

Without any evidence at all that they're right, indeed in the face of any number of horrible examples proving them wrong, they cling to this belief. Because on some level they believe they want to convince themselves that they're "better than that", better than Virginia Tech, better than Columbine, better than those awful images of people jumping from the twin towers. That they're different somehow — they’re special.

But educators should know something about history. This is an old story and has its roots in a tragedy every bit as compelling as Sandy Hook School. It is the story of Lindisfarne.

An island connected to northern England's coast by a tidal causeway. A holy place, in fact its name today is Holy Island and 1219 years ago (793) it was Christendom's most prominent experiment with what we today would call a Gun Free School Zone. But what happened there should have proved for all time that covering one's eyes, pretending that demons don't exist, that you're somehow "better than that", is worse than futile. Criminally worse.

Lindisfarne was a monastery, renowned for its non-violence, dedicated to800px-LindisfarneCastleHolyIsland learning, to the idea that in the tumult of the early Middle Ages, man could, should be, was "better than that." Gloriously "better than that." And for a while people believed along with them in this "right message" and endowed Lindisfarne with riches, sang its praises in ten thousand churches.

Its ruins today are still a beacon atop a spire of high rock, surmounted by sheer stone walls, far above the everyday concerns of this world.

But they are ruins because one dark in the eighth century Lindisfarne's rock and walls were scaled by Vikings holding their swords in their mouths. Demons out of the northern seas who chased the unarmed monks from room to room in the monastery, butchering them for sport, sacking their golden altar and trampling their precious books underfoot. An event which shook Christendom to its core.

Why did it happen? Quite simply because the killers were drawn by the defenselessness of the place, by Lindisfarne's "right message", by the fact that Lindisfarne abjured violence and trusted as school administrators trust today, in never looking the lion in the eye. Above all by the fact that Lindisfarne would not suffer the presence of armed men who might defend it.

Today most of us don't even remember that there once was such a place. Even though we keep repeating the same mistake it made. We don't remember what we should have learned then; that weakness will, sooner or later, summon horror as Adam Lanza was summoned to Sandy Hook School.

Killers always look for targets of easy access and no apparent means of defense. This tactic goes back hundreds of years. Adam Lanza chose the one target where he had the best chance of not encountering armed citizens, a gun-free school zone. Just as the Vikings didn't choose to assault one of the many fortified castles with armed men elsewhere on the coast but instead chose Lindisfarne. Just as Eric Harris and Dyland Klebold didn't choose a gun show to assault, a rodeo, a police station but instead chose Columbine.

I'm not certain what the solution is. No one wants schools to become armed camps with sandbagged revetments, passwords and barbed wire. Besides the evil one is a liar painted with many tongues and so the monsters who wish to kill children often adopt other techniques. Walter Seifert in Cologne Germany constructed a flame thrower he put to use through an elementary school's windows burning to death eight students, two teachers and horribly maiming many others. You have the three men who buried an entire school bus load of children in California. You have poisoners, knife wielding maniacs, stranglers, bombers, kidnappers and pedophile killers. And Timothy McVeigh used a rented Ryder truck and fertilizer to take 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6, and injured more than 680 people at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Should we ban Ryder trucks and fertilizer?

Instead it strikes me that any solution has to be rooted in natural affinity. The relationship of parent to child, neighbor to neighbor, grandparent to grandchild. Not in the fatuous belief that stone hearted killers will obey the resolutions of school boards, the acts of Congress or indeed do anything but laugh at any amount of wishful thinking.

Considering this point one might recall that at Columbine there were no such bonds which could gather and stop Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Nor was one considered necessary. Instead there were only rules grounded in a lot of wishful thinking — rules which Eric Harris and Dyland Klebold ignored. So despite a surplus of bravery among individual teachers and students and the presence of an armed sheriff's deputy on duty, who heard the first shots and didn't run towards them as he would have if they were his children, 13 people died.

And there was the school principal clueless about the murderers, who couldn't recall Eric Harris and Dyland Klebold student walking the halls in black trench coats in the days prior to the killings and threatening other students. We can believe his testimony or not but one thing we know for sure is that he wasn't looking for any lions to stare down. Finally there were the despicable parents of Eric Harris and Dyland Klebold who ignored or were oblivious to the collection of weapons and their bizarre behavior. Mothers and fathers in authority over their children who simply wished nothing bad would happen.

And so the concept of a gun free school zone established by authority turned out to be as much of a joke at Columbine as it was the other day in Newtown, Connecticut or at the Century 16 Multiplex movie theater in Aurora, Colorado where 12 were killed and 58 injured — the only theater of 7 in the area that was a gun free zone. This is the same idea that was shown to be a farce at Lindisfarne 1219 years ago.

Now I understand that public education today is a determinedly feminine institution. But they have tremendous leeway under the law and so one thing school administrators and teachers might consider doing is admit the fact that they have no more idea on how to physically defend children than they do about how to build a space shuttle with their second grade paper doll scissors. But among the parents of their pupils are many men who do have that experience and training. There are former or current police officers, soldiers and Marines. There are people who've been shot at and who've shot. People who have had to winkle armed men out of a closed room and take them down — men who will deter evil by their presence.

So for once why can't some hapless school administrator call them in? Ask them what they would do to keep these children safe and then heed what they say. Perhaps take note of what the Harrold Independent School District, in Texas does. It encourages teachers to concealed bring guns to work after they are trained and certified in their use.

In the City of Man people want there to be a reason for everything. People should have a logical reason for any significant thing they do. Life should make sense. Humans so strongly feel the desire for ratiocination to triumph over chaos and that Charles Williams once remarked that “Hell is (the) indefinite.” No matter how bad a tragedy occurs, we try to find a reason or a purpose behind it.

People reach for the easy explanation first. If Lanza didn’t have a gun then he never could have killed innocent children. Let’s immediately ban the guns. We could do a better job of securing the grounds of our schools. Let’s make every place that has children a gun-free zone. The world would be a better place if something that simplistic could succeed.

Yet making murder weapons illegal does very little to deter murderers. Some argue that it makes them even bolder and more sadistic. Adam Lanza, Brenda Spencer, Seung-Hui Cho and the Columbine High School shooters all had the added advantage of no armed resistance as they went on their insane rampages. Cho succeeded in buying handguns despite his diagnosed mental health problems because he simply lied on the background check.

We can’t stop people from getting anything they strongly or desperately want. These things could be guns, drugs, or even the coerced services of child prostitutes. Criminals will always find a way to provide it for a price. We can’t prevent Adam Lanza from getting a weapon even if Dick’s Sporting Goods follows Federal law to the letter and turns down Mr. Lanza’s legal tender 72 hours before he commits his atrocities using another set of guns. We are not going to end child pornography or sexual exploitation, win the War on Drugs or prevent the next mass shooting by focusing on any of these things.

We are going to have to realize that society rife with single-parent families, a tendency to completely desensitize people to violence and understate the sacred value of life, and where people think “I don’t like Mondays” is actually a funny piece of social commentary. It is not a safe place to raise our children.

The anti-gun crowds of educators, intellectuals, and politicians all have agenda-driven arguments for their distain of firearms. Because they do not recognize the existence of evil, due to their secular philosophies, they believe guns are the root cause of the violence in our society. In fact it has been proven that as gun ownership increases crimes against law abiding citizens decreases. (See John Lott’s 2010 book More Guns, Less Crime.) In fact 1927, according to the FBI, had the largest number of mass shootings in the history of the nation.

Economists John Lott and William Landes conducted a groundbreaking study in 1999, and found that a common theme of mass shootings is that they occur in places where guns are banned and killers know everyone will be unarmed, such as shopping malls and schools.

I heard a radio interview with Mr. Lott after the Newtown shooting, and he confirmed that nothing has changed to alter his findings. He noted that the Aurora shooter, who killed twelve people earlier this year, had a choice of seven movie theaters that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. All were within a 20-minute drive of his home. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals. All of the other theaters allowed the approximately 4 percent of Colorado adults who have a concealed-handgun permit to enter with their weapons.

“Disarming law-abiding citizens leaves them as sitting ducks,” Lott said. “A couple hundred people were in the Cinemark Theater when the killer arrived. There is an extremely high probability that one or more of them would have had a legal concealed handgun with him if they had not been banned.”

Lott offers a final damning statistic: “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

There is no evidence that private holders of concealed-carry permits (which are either easy to obtain or not even required in more than 40 states) are any more irresponsible with firearms than the police. According to a 2005 to 2007 study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and Bowling Green State University, police nationwide were convicted of firearms violations at least at a 0.002 percent annual rate. That’s about the same rate as holders of carry permits in the states with “shall issue” laws.

Despite all of this evidence, the magical thinking behind gun-free zones is unlikely to be questioned in the wake of the Newtown killings. Having such zones gives people a false sense of security, and woe to the politician or business owner who now suggests that a “gun-free zone” revert back to what critics would characterize as “a wild, wild West” status. Indeed, shortly after the Cinemark attack in Colorado, the manager of the nearby Northfield Theaters changed its policy and began banning concealed handguns.

In all of the fevered commentary over the Newtown killings, you will hear little discussion of the fact that we may be making our families and neighbors less safe by expanding the places where guns aren’t allowed. But that is precisely what we may be doing. Both criminals and the criminally insane have shown time and time again that those laws are the least of the problems they face as they carry out their evil deeds

We live in an age of moral relativism that, having no foundation on which to stand, is rapidly descending into nihilism — the absence of morality or any justification for it. I'm going to leave the shooter's intentions alone for the time, as I'm sure those will be discussed at length for weeks.

I'm talking about nihilism not just in the shooter, but in the broader culture that attempts to understand these horrific events without a moral reference point. In the aftermath, we attempt to get more and more legalistic, bureaucratic, and technocratic to solve problems that can't be legislated away.

These events are products of sick, evil people in an increasingly sick culture that has no stomach for "outdated" concepts like absolute right and wrong. We believe if we could just pass enough well-worded laws, we could eliminate this behavior from society. We treat these tragedies as outputs, thinking that we can just tinker with the inputs enough to get our desired results. This is the basic believe of the progressive masterminds.

For God's sake, the bodies were still warm and we were already talking about piles upon piles of statistics, as if the problem of violent gun crime could be solved mathematically with some study or Congressional inquiry. I'm afraid that, absent the presence of morality in our discussions of these murders, we have no tools to solve the underlying problems except legalism and policy making by the intellectual masterminds. People will keep fixating on the problems with guns because we've become woefully inadequate at talking about problems inherent in humanity.

It always amuses me in a pitying way when I hear people retreat even further into nihilism after an event like this by making that old appeal to the "Argument of Evil" which asks, "If there truly is a good god, why does he allow such evil deeds?" As if the very presence of evil invalidates the possibility or under-pinning for good!

Forgive my frustration, but what right do we have to even speak about evil in our society? We are so immersed in violence, greed, sex, instant gratification, and materialism that we've lost all sense of what evil even looks like. To know evil, you must first know good. And while we work ourselves into a righteous huff over "evil" for 2% of the year when these disgusting acts occur, for the other 98% we desperately try to rebel against all forms of conventional morality - that cramps our style, doesn't it?

A child one minute before passing through the birth canal can have a pair of surgical scissors put through his or her brain without society batting an eye. A fully formed, breathing, crying, desperate, helpless baby who is the result of a botched abortion has no entitlement to life in parts of this "enlightened" Western world. And we talk about "evil"?

Government officials pass guns to cartels to slaughter civilians, and we get to talk about "evil"?

It is all so sad. But the bullet ridden bodies of those little angels and angelic teachers in Newtown should show us that wishful thinking won't work, has never worked and will never work. If it did, we'd only have to wish those children back.

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