Anti-Gun Hysteria Greets New Laws
by Ari Armstrong, May 29, 2003
"I see free people!" Hysterical anti-gun activists are in a tizzy now that the Colorado legislature has passed two bills that give citizens slightly more freedom to exercise their fundamental human right of self-defense. Bring out the paper bags. It's hard to believe that only a hundred years ago people survived without a single federal firearms law. What would happen to today's nanny statists if they suddenly found themselves living in a truly free society, in which citizens didn't need a (stinkin') permit from the (damn) government in order to carry a concealed handgun?
I'll review only a few of the humorous and ridiculous comments to grace the pages of Denver's mainstream newspapers, starting with those of Jim Spencer of the Post (who, incidentally, sometimes writes very good columns).
Spencer writes, "Fear drives most people to purchase and carry handguns. The idea that anyone can be secure without a firearm is anathema to the gun lobby... Trouble is... [that Republicans] can impose their will on localities that never shared their paranoia."
And how does Spencer "know" what "drives most people to purchase and carry handguns?" Did he analyze sociological studies that support his claim? Did he talk to a bunch of gun owners and ask them what their motivation is? Or is he simply expressing his own prejudice and paranoia about gun owners?
The NRA training class in which I'm occasionally involved in fact teaches people how to be more secure without a firearm. But owning a firearm does make you more secure against violent criminal attack, and this is especially true for people being stalked or otherwise harassed. What Spencer calls the "gun lobby" -- which is really just a group of concerned citizens that takes on the "anti-gun lobby" -- doesn't want to force people to own guns if they don't want to, only allow people to own guns if they do want to.
Obviously concern about violent crime motivates people to buy guns for defensive use. But is concern about violent crime "paranoia?" No more so than when concern about premature death prompts people to buy life insurance. Again, Spencer is the one fomenting "paranoia." Indeed, Spencer slanders some of the most civic-minded people in his community. Carrying a concealed handgun necessarily creates external benefits because the practice deters crime generally. Thus, a few people with the moral courage and personal responsibility to practice self-defense are keeping the community as a whole safer from violent crime.
If people have a fundamental human right of self-defense, then localities cannot justly deny that right. Thus, the issue is not whether the legislature has imposed its will on local governments, but whether local politicians have wrongly imposed their will on peaceable citizens.
Spencer also doesn't like the provision that allows an emergency concealed carry permit to be issued to adults ages 18-20. "You wonder who's going to protect the rest of us from a terrified, hormone-roiled adolescent," he writes. But why does he assume an adult who seeks out permission from the sheriff's office to carry a concealed handgun will be a "terrified, hormone-roiled adolescent?" Might the person instead be a sensible, young, single mother who is being stalked by a violent ex-boyfriend? But treating gun owners as real people rather than as crazed monsters is, apparently, too much to ask of some "professional" journalists.
A May 18 story in the Denver Post by Karen Rouse begins, "Math professor Kent Goodrich said he used to think of the University of Colorado campus as a 'safe zone' because its no-guns policy was so strictly enforced." Goodrich is exactly right: tax-funded campuses that deny adults their right of self-defense are "safe zones" for violent criminals. Of course, private campuses are free to set whatever firearms policy they like: if they want to disarm their students and render them more vulnerable to criminal attack, they are free to do so.
A May 17 story in the Rocky Mountain News by John Sanko and Sarah Huntley reports one person "was worried because many of his co-workers had said they were planning to apply for permits." Yet the only rational basis for worry is if the person intends to commit murder in his or her office, and thus wants to eliminate any possibility of armed resistance. Colorado is the 35th state to allow concealed carry, and time has shown lawful carriers are among the most responsible and safe people in the world.
Sanko and Huntley comment, "[P]redictions made on either side of the bill -- the horror stories from opponents and claims of a major help to law enforcement -- have not come true." But the prediction is not that concealed carry will result in citizens helping the police to stop violent criminals, though that's certainly a possibility. Instead, the prediction -- the one that has "come true" -- is that citizens will be able to deter and defend against violent attackers.
Cynthia Stone, "a spokesperson for the anti-gun coalition, Colorado Ceasefire" and formerly a leader of Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, the name of which likens gun ownership to a disease, doesn't like the law that repeals Denver's "ban on assault weapons and Denver's safe storage law." The absurdity of the "assault weapons" distinction has been covered elsewhere in detail. In The Bias Against guns, John Lott finds storage laws don't impact rates of unintentional death or suicide, but they do dramatically increase violent crime by rendering guns useless for self-defense.
But to some, promoting feel-good, nanny-state, counterproductive laws seems to take a higher priority than actually keeping people safe.