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Old December 25, 2007, 08:47 PM   #1
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Letter to my grandfather re gun control

My grandfather is very liberal, and apparently an ardent fan of gun control. We had a small discussion last night, but I didn't say nearly what I wanted to and wrote him an email today. The broader issue was where we fall on the political spectrum, but below is the part on gun control.


First, let's get the basic premise of gun control out on the table, so it can be properly critiqued: The general logic of gun control advocates is that guns cause crime, and that by making guns illegal, both gun crime and crime as a whole will be reduced. Protection to the individual is to be provided by the Police and the Military, and therefore they are the only entities that should have guns.

Both of these premises are flawed and incorrect. Regarding the first point, that guns cause crime, allow me to redirect you to a study done by Don B. Kates And Gary Mauser, and published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Click on this link:

It is the most academic, objective piece on gun control I have ever read, and yes, it proves that less guns does not equal less death. Statistics and analysis in support of that statement are covered in depth in that article, so I won't reiterate them here.

All of that evidence supports the next major point which is that gun control laws target and affect ONLY law-abiding gun owners. That point is really the key to this entire issue, so read it again. Think of what happens when you ban guns. You remove any legal mechanism for ownership. That means that anyone who follows the law cannot buy or own guns, which removes from these people the most effective means of self defense (I'll deal with self defense below). Examples are always better than the abstract, so lets use me, since I am a law abiding gun owner. Ban guns, and you take away guns from me. That is how gun control works. Anytime you do an analysis of gun control, apply it to me and see if it makes you any safer.

But laws are only effective insofar that they are followed and upheld. Criminals, by definition, DO NOT follow or adhere to laws. That is why they are criminals. Yes, that sounds like typical NRA rhetoric, and indeed it is to an extent. But, once again, examples are always more poignant than the abstract, so I'll tell you about Chiara Levin.

She was my best friend's cousin. She was murdered in Dorchester (worst part of Boston) last March – shot in the head. I was actually with her, two of her friends, and our mutual friend that night. We went to a club, and then disbanded when the club closed. Chiara was invited by a stranger to a party in Dorchester, and she and here two friends went. As they were leaving, and she was sitting in the car, the person they came with got into a fight with someone else at the party and gunshots were exchanged (from handguns). She got hit by a stray bullet in the head.

Last I heard, they had a suspect in custody, who was 19 years old. He is a known gang member with a police record. In Massachusetts, you must have a license to own a handgun, and a license to carry concealed (there is no open carry in Massachusetts). You are only eligible for licenses when you are 21, and Boston does not issue any carry permits (which it is allowed to discriminate in since Massachusetts is a "may issue" state). Moreover, anytime anyone legally purchases a gun, the gun dealer is required to check your permit and then call your name into the FBI for a quick background check. You are also not allowed to discharge a firearm within city limits, attempt to kill someone, or kill someone.

So, in sum, this suspect was not old enough to own a handgun, would not have been issued a concealed license even if he was old enough (he lives in Boston), was ineligible to own a firearm due to his record, knowingly violated all of these laws regarding illegal gun ownership, knowingly discharged said gun within the city limits, attempted to murder someone and did, in fact, murder someone. How would further restrictions on legal gun ownership have had ANY impact whatsoever on this situation? How does infringing upon MY legal ability to own, possess, or carry a gun in any way serve to prevent this situation in the future?

Lets take another example, which demonstrates why gun control is so counterproductive. I'm sure you've read about the Heller case that the Supreme Court is going to hear in the spring. It is regarding the Constitutionality of D.C.'s handgun ban and effective ban on the use of any gun in self defense (you must keep all long guns disassembled in DC, which of course negates any ability to realistically defend yourself with said gun). One of the Plaintiffs is a woman living in D.C. who tried to get a handgun permit, but was of course denied because D.C. has ceased giving out new handgun permits. The reason she wanted a gun was because she lived in a very bad area of town, with drug dealers living and dealing right on her block. She had reported him to the police, and he had threatened her. She wanted the gun for self defense.

This conveniently brings us right into the next major point, which is the issue of self defense v. protection by the government. Take the case of the woman I mentioned in the above paragraph, as it is excellent for this analysis. You see her position – she is a law abiding citizen that wants to live in the house she has lived in for years without fear of crime or injury. She now has a threat from a known criminal to her safety. What is she to do?

1) She can call the police, but they are a responsive force, not a preventive force (I'll deal with that below). At best, they might be able to get the dealer for some very minor "threat" offense, depending upon what is on the books in D.C. I haven't studied such laws, so I don't know the full scoop on them. But, even assuming that he was locked up, he will be out in a fairly short time, and now be REALLY pissed at this lady because she had him jailed.

2) She can get a restraining order. A restraining order is a piece of paper that says "(Bad Guy), stay X number of feet away from this innocent victim or we'll put you in a jail for a few weeks." Murder, rape, robbery, assault, battery are all felonies, and have jail terms of YEARS. If someone is not persuaded by the punishment for these crimes, the threat of a restraining order is laudable at best. As for when they actually try to harm their victim, hitting them with a piddily piece of paper will not afford them much protection.

3) Then there is the police. The police are under NO OBLIGATION WHATSOEVER TO PROTECT ANY CITIZEN FROM ANY THREAT. EVER. Read that again. And again, until it sinks in. In the case of this lady above, if the dealer comes to attack her and she dials 911, the 911 operator is not required to transfer her to police, answer any questions, or do anything at all. This lady would have no recourse against the 911 operator. And, in fact, there are NUMEROUS examples of where calling 911 results in either a busy signal or a hold. Yup, think about that. Someone is trying to harm you, and you are on hold with 911. It DOES happen, so don't dismiss it as an anomaly. If she did get in touch with the police, they are under no obligation to come to her aid. None. And she would have no recourse against them either. But all of this is irrelevant anyways. Even if she got through to 911 immediately, and an officer was dispatched within 20 seconds, he wouldn't be on scene for another few minutes AT BEST. How many seconds do you think it takes an attacker to get from your front door to your room if they want to harm you? She would be harmed LONG before the police ever arrived.
Head shots are hard, but nut shots are twice as hard.

Last edited by TargetTerror; December 26, 2007 at 09:50 PM.
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Old December 25, 2007, 08:48 PM   #2
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The rest:
Here are a sampling of cases which have held that the police have no obligation to protect people:

Castle Rock v. Gonzales (US Supreme court) Holding: restraining orders do not provide people with entitlements to protection by the police. Gonzales tried to get police to enforce a restraining order against her estranged husband. They did not, and her 3 children were killed.

Bowers v. DeVito (Federal appeals court, stemming from an incident in Illinois 1982) "… there is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen."

Hartzler v. City of San Jose (California Appeals Court, 1975) Wrongful death suit stemming from Police's refusal to render immediate aid to a victim in fear for her life. Ruth Brunell called the police on 20 different occasions to plead for protection from her husband. He was arrested only one time. One evening, Mr. Brunell telephoned his wife and told her he was coming over to kill her. When she called the police, they refused her request that they come to protect her. They told her to call back when he got there. Mr. Brunell stabbed his wife to death before she could call the police to tell them that he was there. The court held that the San Jose police were not liable for ignoring Mrs. Brunell's pleas for help.

Warren v. District of Columbia (DC 1981) Two women were upstairs in a townhouse when they heard their roommate, a third women, being attacked downstairs by intruders. They phoned the police several times and were assured that officers were on the way. After about 30 minutes, when their roommate's screams had stopped, they assumed that the police had finally arrived. When the two women went downstairs, they saw that, in fact, the police never came, but the intruders were still there. As the Warren court graphically states in the opinion: "For the next fourteen hours the women were held captive, raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon each other, and made to submit to the sexual demands of their attackers." The three women sued the District of Columbia for failing to protect them, but D.C.'s highest court exonerated the District and its police, saying that it is a "fundamental principle of American law that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen"

And in a case that should sound home for you, being from NY:

Riss v. New York (State Court NY 1968) A young woman telephoned the police and begged for help because her ex-boyfriend had repeatedly threatened: "If I can't have you no one else will have you, and when I get through with you, no one else will want you." The day after she had pleaded for police protection, the ex-boyfriend threw lye in her face, blinding her in one eye, severely damaging the other, and permanently scarring her features. The court ruled that the city had no obligation to protect her. "What makes the City's position particularly difficult to understand," wrote a dissenting opinion in her tort suit against the City, "is that, in conformity to the dictates of the law, Linda did not carry any weapon for self-defense. Thus, by a rather bitter irony she was required to rely for protection on the City of New York which now denies all responsibility to her." Linda Riss obeyed the law, yet the law prevented her from arming herself in self defense.

All of these cases are still good law.

So consider the state that this leave the law abiding citizen in. On one hand, there is a large movement to completely disarm them (I'll get to that below), leaving them without the best means of defense. In the case of women and the elderly, they are left completely defenseless, for all intents and purposes. Yet, on the other hand, the police and the state are under absolutely no obligation whatsoever to offer any sort of assistance in time of need. And, even if they do, they will ALWAYS be too late because, as the saying goes, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Where does that leave the law abiding citizen? Out of luck at best, and dead at worst.

To make these analyses work, you HAVE to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is actually in danger. Sitting at your home in Bayside, or in my dining room in Lexington, this all seems completely academic and absent from reality. Imagine you are any of the people in the cases above. Imagine you live in rural Montana or Alaska, where the police are 30 minutes away, at BEST. THEN do your analysis.

Ultimately, whether you ban guns or not, innocent people will die. The world is a dangerous place, and there will always be a criminal element in any society. Banning guns will not create a utopia, it will just leave people who are not a threat to anyone defenseless. Yes, some people who legally own guns do use them to harm people, but far more use them to defend themselves and others from harm. There are 2-3 million reported cases where guns have prevented crimes every year, and the actual number is much higher (let me know if you want a cite for that statistic and I'll get it for you). The argument is utilitarian – you have to weigh how many people are harmed by banning guns v. not banning them. Few people want to do that – they only want to consider the harm caused by legal guns. But you MUST weigh everything to come to a proper conclusion.

As for the movement to completely disarm Americans, you better believe that there is a strong push in this direction. That IS the objective of the Brady Campaign, Senator Feinsten of California, and Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts, among a myriad of others. MA has some of the most draconian gun laws in the nation. To buy a handgun, the gun must be on 2 lists, one issued by the state of "approved" handguns, and one maintained by the Attorney General's office. The Attorney General's list is not publicly available. All in all, the bureaucratic hassle of making a gun "Mass-compliant" is so arduous, that most handguns available elsewhere are not available in MA because manufacturers do not want to go through the trouble and because the process is so convoluted that it is not even evident what exactly qualifies a gun to be deemed "safe" and therefore approved.

So, how well do these laws work to protect MA citizens? They do NOTHING. Remember Chiara from above? I haven't been able to find out the kind of gun that was used, but I bet, given the dearth of handguns available legally in MA, that it wasn't actually MA compliant, and thus you cannot buy it in MA. I wanted to buy a Free Pistol, because a place online had an amazing sale on some pistols. Free Pistol is an Olympic event, where you shoot a .22 lr gun at 50 yards with one hand. It is extremely difficult and challenging, and I was hoping to participate in some matches locally. I was unable to buy one of these pistols because it was not a MA-compliant gun, and thus no MA FFL holder (gun store) would do the required transfer for me. How does that make anyone safer? This is one of the least aggressive firearms you can imagine. It is huge, non-concealable, can ONLY be held with one hand due to the grip design, is slow to reload, only holds 1 round, and is chambered in the weakest round available. A murderer would have better luck with a hammer. Seriously.

I've also been burned by our newly elected Democrat Governor, Deval Patrick, who I voted for. He has pushed for legislation limiting the number of guns one can buy a month to 1. He says that it is an attempt to limit straw sales, which is when a legal person buys a gun and then gives it to someone who can't buy a gun. This of course is ALREADY ILLEGAL. At a hearing, neither the Governor nor anyone on his panel could offer any study evidence supporting their position. They also stated, explicitly, that they hoped to curb the illegal gun problem in MA by making legal guns illegal.

And how do I know that these laws are just an excuse to deprive gun owners of guns, and eventually push for the ban of all guns? Well, other than express statements of those involved (see Deval Patrick above, for example), the Police are exempt from all of the MA gun laws. They can order any gun they want and have it shipped directly to the station. Why can the police be trusted with these "unsafe" guns, but not the law abiding citizen? There is no reason. They are just trying to limit the rights of the law abiding citizen.
Head shots are hard, but nut shots are twice as hard.
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Old December 26, 2007, 03:07 AM   #3
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Nice-very well written and researched. Unfortunately, using academic reasoning to counter an emotional argument seldom works. And that's too bad.
I enjoyed it though. However, I got an "access forbidden" message when I followed the link to the Harvard study.

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Old December 26, 2007, 07:57 AM   #4
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Excellent job!! Problem is, whenever I logically say only the criminals will obtain guns because they don't obey laws, the anti-gunners say "well if you don't have one there's one less gun for them to steal".

Their logic is the logic of sheep. Very sad.
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Old December 26, 2007, 08:24 AM   #5
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Unfortunately, using academic reasoning to counter an emotional argument seldom works.
Scott hit it on the head. His argument is emotionally based. I honestly read only a small portion of your letter. It looks well written but it is a bombardment of facts that mean nothing in the decision cycle used by most liberals.

You would be better off giving examples of real people who have saved lives with firearms. The recent church attack and the Tyler Texas incident. Then line up the bodies with names to show all the people who died defenseless like at VT, Luby's, and other places. There is no point using facts in an emotional argument.

Finally, the odds of getting anything positive out of arguing a political point with someone your senior by 40-60 years is minimal at bets, especially if you wish to have a functional social relationship.
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Old December 26, 2007, 10:32 AM   #6
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Since the grandfather is "not a fan of gun control," what's the point of having him suffer through all that verbiage?
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Old December 26, 2007, 09:48 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by scottz0369
However, I got an "access forbidden" message when I followed the link to the Harvard study
Sorry, it cut down the url. I updated the post, and here is the full link:

Originally Posted by Alleykat
Since the grandfather is "not a fan of gun control," what's the point of having him suffer through all that verbiage?
Just to make sure you are on the ball, Alleykat

I updated the post. Now it is correct.
Head shots are hard, but nut shots are twice as hard.

Last edited by Al Norris; December 26, 2007 at 11:02 PM. Reason: 2 consecutive posts merged
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Old December 27, 2007, 08:12 AM   #8
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I think your letter is well written and he may read it and respect it...

hard call. Being a liberal myself, I might suggest you go in another direction.... and that is to document and point out that in reality gun control is not about reducing crime or saving lives but about keeping minorities from having power. Gun control started as racist and still is....

The key elements of the 1968 acts though seemingly about keeping cheap 'saturday night specials' out of crooks hands was really about keeping black folks in gettos from having the means to protect themselves.

Think hard about the assault weapons ban....

finally... most folks firmly believe it is illegal to own fully auto weapons and short barreled rifles... and silencers. I have a good friend who legally ownes several fully automatic silenced sub machine guns... he just has the ways and means ($) to do so.
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Old December 29, 2007, 11:22 PM   #9
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Particularly when this article is read by African American proponents of diversity.
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Old December 30, 2007, 09:35 AM   #10
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Take my word for it: Do not argue with the old man over gun control. It is going to end in frustration for both of you. My Dad was a lifetime hunter and proponent of gun control. There was no changing his mind. Now i wish that the clock could be turned back and that we had talked about hunting instead of gun control.
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Old December 30, 2007, 12:37 PM   #11
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Gun control started as racist and still is....
blume357 you beat me to the punch. I would add that it is also generally discriminatory against citizens who would risk losing their 'clean' record with any misdemeanor arrest so that the political crime of carrying without a permit puts them into the 'criminal class' the same way that exercising his freedom of speech put Rev. Martin Luther King into the 'criminal class'. Such laws create a class of political criminals.

IMHO efforts to restrict citizens from owning/carrying firearms are coercive efforts on the part of the state (in its generic sense) to control them and make them dependent on the state by labeling them as political dissidents or even political criminals. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his Nobel prize winning book, The Gulag Archipelago discussed the use of hardened criminals to control citizens, a practice which appears to be going on in US cities where the RKBA is overly regulated and citizens risk spending jail time if they choose to carry to protect themselves and their families.

My 2 cents.

Edited to add that if the prospect of reading Solzhenitsyn is too intimidating there is a dumbed down and humorous version of the effect of criminalization of noncriminal behavior in Kilgore Trout's famous, and much shorter novel, Venus on the Half-Shell.
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Old December 30, 2007, 01:00 PM   #12
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Yup, gun control is an emotional topic, especially for the "liberal" minded folks out there.

Instead of arguing with mountains of statistics, I've taken a different approach that seems to make anti-gun people think about the subject a little differently.

We have had serious "gun control" laws since 1968 when the gov't decided to restrict sales by forcing sellers to obtain a federal license to sell guns. No more buying guns at your local hardware store, Sears or J.C. Penny's and no more mail-order catalog guns from Montgomery Wards and the like. Supporters claimed these new laws would "reduce the wave of gun crimes and make it harder for criminals to get guns".

Has it worked? Next year, in 2008, we will have had ever-increasing forms of "gun control" for 40 years. If these laws really worked we should have seen a dramatic drop in armed robberies, homicides, attempted homicides and all forms of crime involving a gun.

Have we?

No. Instead, we've seen a steady increase in crimes, especially violent crime and the rise of mass public shootings.

Well then, why? In our country's history - for 181 years in fact - guns were much easier to buy than they are today. So it can't be that guns are "easily" or "readily" available that is the problem. It's not that guns are "more deadly" than they used to be either, since in bygone days even a low-powered gun could kill due to a lack of prompt, advanced medical care.

Could it be that "gun control" is the wrong solution to the problem of violence?

If you were in business and hired an advertising agency to promote your products to increase sales and after 12 months your sales were actually DOWN, would you continue to use that advertising agency? Then why should we spend another day debating yet more gun control if it doesn't work?

Could it be that "gun control" is a failure? If, after 40 years, we haven't seen the desired results, could it be there is a fundamental flaw in the concept of gun control?

Gun control is a failure. It hasn't worked in the U.S. It isn't working in the U.K. either. Maybe it's time to back up and start from a different perspective.

Think about it.
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