The History and Effects of Gun Control

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The History and Effects of Gun Control

by Sheriff Bill Masters, San Miguel County
April 28, 1999

I can understand the call for gun control after the atrocity at Columbine High School. However, careful analysis of the problem and history of gun control, violent crime, and the recent shooting is required to make proper decisions to help prevent such criminal acts in the future.

Firearm ownership is a guaranteed right under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and is assured to a higher degree in Section 13 of the Colorado Constitution where it states that no person's right to keep and bear arms to defend his "home, person and property" will be even "called into question".

Ignoring the Second Amendment almost immediately after it was adopted, gun control laws were passed forbidding the sale of firearms to Native Americans. These laws were often passed when the government reacted to a hysterical public demanding action after reading gruesome newspaper accounts of atrocities allegedly committed by rogue bands of Indians.

Native tribes were forced to trade with smugglers and criminals who demanded outrageous prices for old and barely functioning firearms. Tribe members took to raiding white settlements in efforts to obtain firearms to protect themselves from a government and a white citizenry bent on genocide.

With Native Americans unarmed and defenseless, the U.S. government felt little threat in ignoring treaties with tribes when the white public demanded more land. Eventually an entire race of people was largely wiped out. Try and wrestle a rifle out of a Navajo's hands today and he will propably shove the stock down your throat and then give you a bag to carry your teeth around in.

After the Civil War the white people in the South (and in many cases the North) passed several different gun control laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of the recently freed African Americans. Klan-type raids on African American communities were frequent and the "brave" white knights of the order just could not tolerate (stomach) the thought of anyone resisting a lynching. Today African Americans can call the police, like the NYPD, for help when threatened.

Germany was a civilized, developed country 60 years ago. Art, culture, and the rule of law were important to the German people. In a peaceful, civilized country, why would any citizen need a firearm? Only the police needed handguns and, except for a few hunting rifles locked up in sporting clubs (Gentiles only please), no one was armed. No one needs a firearm, the friendly guy in the brown shirt said. We are just trying to protect you.

Then six million defenseless children, women and men were marched to their deaths. Couldn't happen here. Not in a civilized country like ours. But I know more than one Jewish guy that says "Never Again" more like a battle cry than a remembrance of the departed.

Generally, government laws and programs seldom work the way we want them to. One only has to look at the 30 billion dollar a year war on drugs to determine how effective a war on firearms will be. The drug war has brought us arrests on the order of a million people a year, gang-related mass killings, and drugs that are available in every town, city, and school. The drug war makes standing in line at the post office look like the model of government efficiency. I don't think this country could stand another prohibition program.

Government polices at times work against the reasonable efforts to control firearms. In the mid-1970s, the Federal government was trying to implement different gun control measures as a result of a series of mass murders by lone gunmen. Charles Whitmen had killed 18, chiefly using a hunting rifle, and wounded 30 in Austin, Texas. Jimmy Essex killed 10 and wounded 17 in New Orleans. At the same time, a man named Carlos Garcia received a loan from the Federal government's Small Business Administration to start a retail firearm business. Garcia quickly expanded into manufacturing the TEC-9 pistol, widely regarded as a poor quality gun, which is the precurser of a gun used in the Columbine shooting. TEC-9s are also on the top 10 list of the AFTs (Federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms department) most often investigated firearm.

England has had the strongest gun control laws in the West for years, yet the firearm-related atrocities there have been horrific. On March 13th , 1996, Thomas Hamilton walked into his local school in the village of Dunblane, Scotland. Surprisingly, given Great Britain's gun control laws, he had four handguns on him. Hamilton walked down the hallways until he found the smallest children, 5 and 6 year olds, playing nursery games in the gym. He then shot and killed 16 of the children and their teacher, before killing himself. This was the worst shooting in Great Britain since 1987, when a 27 year old man shot and killed 16 people and himself in Hungerford, England.

News reports lead us to believe that the current string of murders is a modern phenomena. Few records exist, but these include some reports of historical mass murders. Heldne Jegardo in Brittany, France poisoned 23 people in the early part of the 1800s. Van der Linden in Holland poisoned over 50 people in 1852. In 1862 Martin du Mollard of Paris stabbed 10 people to death. On September 6th 1949, Howard Unruh in New Jersey shot and killed 13 people with a 9mm handgun, and in 1958 Charles Storkweather killed 11 people with a pistol in two days.

Of course large numbers of people can be murdered by using some other means than firearms. The Oklahoma City bombers used common fertilizer to build the bomb that killed 168. Prior to that terrible day, the largest mass murder in U.S. history was carried out in New York by Juilo Gonzalez who, using less than a dollar's worth of gasoline, set fire to the Happy Land Social Club in 1992, killing 87 people.

What all this leads me to believe is that tyrannical governments want an unarmed population, that gun control doesn't work, that many government programs work against one another, and that mass murderers are at least clever enough to use poison, make explosives from common materials, set fires or use whatever other means are available to commit their evil deeds.

Politicians, responding to the public's frustrated cry, will want to institute government programs that, cruelly, will only give us a false sense of security. New feel-good laws will be passed that will further restrict people's rights, cost more taxpayer money, and expand the role of government. None of the proposed regulations would have prevented the Littleton disaster, and none of them will have any real effect on the prevention of future atrocities.

As an option, we in the law enforcement community can rationally, through the study of the criminology and victimology of these incidents, determine what if anything can be done to minimize the risk to the children and then of course release that information to the public so they can make informed decisons about the safety of their children.

Being the father and step-father to four great kids, as well as being a Libertarian and the elected Sheriff of San Miguel county, I can tell you that this event affected me deeply. I want the world to be safer for the kids and therefore I want our society to address the root causes of crime. I don't want empty promises or politically self-serving speeches from the President about "Why don't (children) use words instead of weapons" while our bombs are falling on villages in a faraway land. I don't want more laws added to the 33,000 robotics-type laws that currently vainly attempt to control human conduct in Colorado.

I do want the ability to choose where my children are going to be, and which school they should attend. I want parents to have the time to be responsible for their kids rather than having to work five months a year just to pay taxes.

I want a society that doesn't let kids grow up in the hopelessness and despair of a welfare state and then enter an economy where the government has crushed opportunity. I want every person to be held accountable for their actions and to proudly accept personal responsibility for the well-being of themselves and their families. Until we address some of these root causes of crime, our society will continue to breed criminals and no permanent solution to crime will be found.

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