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Serious self-defense? There's no substitute for a handgun

By Charley Reese
Columnist, Orlando Sentinel

If the homicide rate is falling, if the fatalities from firearms accidents are the lowest they've been since 1902, why do you suppose some people are so fiendishly insistent on more gun control?

You ought to think about that.

It's already against the law for a convicted felon to purchase or possess a firearm; it's already against the law for a minor to purchase or possess a handgun; there is already a law requiring background checks on gun buyers; gun dealers are already heavily regulated; many states have laws to punish adults for failure to store guns safely. Why then do people insist that more laws are needed? Why do they clamor for safer guns when firearm accidents account for only 1,400 of the 90,000 accidental deaths annually in the United States?

Well, I personally think that their motive has nothing to do with fighting crime or with safety. After all, firearms are dead last as a cause of accidental fatalities among both children and adults. Doctors, we now know, kill three times as many Americans annually from mistakes than firearms kill, counting homicides, suicides and accidents.

I think that the answer is both old and simple. Gun-control laws have always been elitist and racist. Elitists have always wanted to disarm the common folks while, of course, retaining the privileges of arms for themselves. And the right to keep and bear arms has always been a populist cause. James Madison boasted to a European critic that the new country of America, unlike his country, did not fear its own people and allowed them to own arms.

In fact, that Second Amendment right to keep and own arms is one of the things that makes America unique. Many countries protect speech and assembly and so forth. Almost no other protects the right of its people to keep arms.

You may, of course, think that the Second Amendment is obsolete. I would ask you to reconsider that. If you noticed in the last Los Angeles riot, neither the police nor the military was on hand initially to protect people's lives and property. The people had to protect themselves, and they did it with firearms. This is always true in a major disaster -- at least initially.

Any honest cop will tell you that if you are attacked by a criminal, on the street or in your home, you are on your own. It's up to you to defend yourself and your family. If you think that you are physically fit enough to disarm armed intruders, then more power to you. But every martial artist I have known says there is no substitute for a handgun when it comes to serious self-defense.

If the only things needed to prevent crimes were laws and policemen, then there wouldn't be any crime statistics. But every murder, every rape victim is testimony to the fact that neither the law nor the police can protect individuals from criminal attackers. On the other hand, very respectable studies have shown that firearms are used by Americans more than a million times a year to prevent crimes, usually without having to be fired.

It used to be said in America that God created people but that Samuel Colt (inventor of the revolver) made them equal. Indeed, a firearm is an equalizer. With a gun, an elderly person or a woman or a small, sickly man can stand up to a young and large thug. It was the invention of firearms that ultimately ended the practice of professional warriors being the ruling class.

It seems as self-evident to me as it was to the Founding Fathers that a people disarmed by their government cannot purport to be free. The bottom line remains: Force rules. Therefore, if you allow the government to have a monopoly on force, then you can never purport to be a free person.

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on April 18, 2000