Following up on the conclusion to my previous post, two points to discuss here:
1) Gun control from the perspective of those who have actually used guns in defense of themselves, their homes and their loved ones; and
2) Why and under what possible future circumstances the availability of firearms for such protection would be desirable, if not essential, to the survival not only of individuals, but our society as a whole.
Your Right to Defend Yourself, Your Home and Your Loved Ones
Lost in the gun control debate, which has focused almost exclusively on the negative uses of firearms by criminals, is any discussion of the right of people to use guns to defend themselves and protects their homes and families.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much available in the way of reliable statistics about such use — in part for the same reasons that the subject is ignored in the gun control debate. One nut killing a number of people with a gun is BIG news. A homeowner using a gun to protect himself and his family against criminals rates barely a mention in the local newspaper and none whatsoever in the national news.
A recent article by Paul Barrett on the Bloomberg BusinessWeek website summarized the statistical dispute over defensive use of firearms. This article is available here:
Barrett notes that one 1994 study (by Gary Kleck, an accomplished criminologist at Florida State University) extrapolated a result of 2 million self-defense uses per year. Conversely, an annual federal government research project, called the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), estimates in the neighborhood of 100,000 defensive gun uses per year.
Finally, Barrett notes, “… other social scientists have suggested that perhaps a figure somewhere between 250,000 and 370,000 might be more accurate.” In support of this statement, he cites a 1997 article by Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, in the Northwestern Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, which is available here:
So, what does this all mean in terms of the gun violence/control debate?
There is, of course, no way of knowing how many innocent lives are saved every year by these defensive gun uses. Not every such use saves a life, but some assuredly must do so. What percentage? 5%? 10%?
One gun rights source, Second Amendment Sisters, in an article entitled “Nine Myths About Gun Control”, estimates 20%. See the concluding sentence of the discussion of Myth #1 in this article here:
This estimate, in turn, is based on the 1994 article “Guns in the Medical Literature — A Failure of Peer Review” by Edgar A. Suter, MD, in the Journal of the Medical Association of Georgia, which is available in full here:
Dr. Suter observes, correctly in my opinion, that: “The true measure of the protective benefits of guns are the lives saved, the injuries prevented, the medical costs saved, and the property protected ….” by defensive gun use.
Gary Kleck’s analysis of defensive gun use notes that: “Each year about 1500-2800 criminals are lawfully killed by gun-wielding American civilians in justifiable or excusable homicides, far more than are killed by police officers.”
So, for purposes of this discussion, let’s use the lowest estimate of defensive gun uses per year, the NCVS estimate of 100,000. And let’s assume that only one in ten of such uses saves an innocent life. In that case, the total number of lives saved is 10,000, at a cost of between 1500-2800 dead bad guys. Sounds like a pretty fair trade off to me.
Furthermore, it also means that every year guns save nearly as many innocent lives as they take … and that’s a low estimate. If we use the “more accurate” estimate of 250,000 to 370,000 defensive gun uses per year, guns are saving upwards of three times as many innocent lives as they are taking.
What this means in terms of the gun control debate is this — the more we restrict access by law-abiding citizens to self-defense firearms, the fewer innocent lives those citizens and their firearms will save. And, since it seems likely that most crooks won’t any more attention to stricter gun control laws than they currently pay to the existing gun control laws, the relative rate of innocent lives lost compared to those saved will rise. In other words, the stricter the gun control, the higher the relative loss of innocent lives.
All of which says nothing about the other “protective benefits of guns” — “the injuries prevented, the medical costs saved, and the property protected“.
Self-Defense in Case of a National Emergency
Earlier today, I posted on Facebook a comment about the recent Public Service Announcement by Milwaukee County WI Sheriff David Clarke in which he urged citizens to arm themselves for self-protection. In this PSA, Sheriff Clarke said:
“You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed or you can fight back. But, are you prepared? Consider taking a certified safety course in handling of firearms so you can defend yourself until we get there. You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.“
Sheriff Clarke’s full 32 second PSA is available here:
My comment about this announcement is here:
“If you think that the government — national, state or local — will always be able to protect you in an emergency, just ask the folks in New Orleans. And, even if it is a personal emergency only (such as a home invasion), how quickly do you think the local cops will get there to rescue you? Ten minutes? Five? Two? Too late in any event. Your personal safety is your personal responsibility. Have a family? They are your responsibility, too. Not the government’s. Not the local sheriff or chief of police. You are your family’s first line of defense and, perhaps, the last as well.”
In the U.S. government’s assessment of its own response to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, it was noted that:
“Almost immediately following Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, law and order began to deteriorate in New Orleans. The city’s overwhelmed police force–70 percent of which were themselves victims of the disaster—did not have the capacity to arrest every person witnessed committing a crime, and many more crimes were undoubtedly neither observed by police nor reported. The resulting lawlessness in New Orleans significantly impeded—and in some cases temporarily halted—relief efforts and delayed restoration of essential private sector services such as power, water, and telecommunications.”
This comment appears in the section of the report entitled “Critical Challenge: Public Safety and Security”. The report in full is available here:
In this regard, of course, New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is not unique. Any time there is a breakdown in civil order, crime is increasingly prevalent as civil disorder increases. And, all too often, in the midst of such civil disorder, governmental authorities, including law enforcement officials, will simply not be available to protect most citizens. As Sheriff Clarke says, “You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.” If the bad guys have guns and you don’t, it is going to be difficult or impossible for you to fulfill that duty.
In a 2012 “Mass Violence & Emergency National Training Conference” program entitled “Dealing with Secondary Crime Arising from Mass Casualty Events”, several key points are addressed:
1) During major disasters (“Mass Casualty Events” or MCEs), people are more vulnerable, local law enforcement officers are distracted or overwhelmed, and criminals can exploit the situation.
2) As a result, property crimes, including looting, are common.
3) Regarding Hurricane Katrina in particular, “a growing body of evidence suggests there were more storm-related sexual assaults than previously known.
4) “Disasters contribute to a significant increase in domestic violence, including acts such as domestic-related criminal homicide, rape, aggravated assault, stalking, and violent threats or intimidation.”
5) “An increase in human trafficking often comes in the wake of a natural disaster.”
6) The incidence of hate crimes can rise after a major disaster: “Post-disaster hate crimes have consisted of telephone, internet, mail, and face-to-face threats; minor assaults as well as assaults with dangerous weapons and assaults resulting in serious injury and death; and vandalism, shootings, arson and bombings directed at homes, businesses, and places of worship.” (emphasis added)
The complete slide presentation for this program is available here:
In short, during a major disaster, you are more likely to become a victim of crime, including violent crimes like rape, aggravated assault, arson and murder, than at other times. At the same time, local law enforcement is being overwhelmed by the demands of the disaster. Meaning that those upon whom you might otherwise depend to protect yourself against increased crime are simply not available to do so. At such times, more than ever, you have a duty to protect yourself and your family. How are you going to do so?
And what happens in the event of a more generalized breakdown in civil order. Localized disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, are bad enough. But what happens in the event of a more widespread disaster?
In an earlier post about gun control …
… I referred to the book One Second After by William Forstchen, in which the author fictionalized what might happen in the US in the aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. For those unfamiliar with EMP, such an event could conceivably shut down all electricity supply in large portions of the US. That would mean no electrically operated devices would work — some obvious examples, computers, televisions, radios and telephones. Less obvious examples, refrigerators & freezers, microwave ovens, washers & dryers, both interior and exterior lighting, and even most modern motor vehicles (the engines of which are operated by electrical commands).
Forstchen’s book focuses on how one American community in North Carolina deals with the consequences of an EMP attack. And makes clear just how important having firearms for self-protection would be in the event of such an attack.
See Forstchen’s website for detailed discussions of EMP and how to prepare for such an attack:
In the section of this site entitled “Preparing for EMP” …
… Forstchen says:
“You are on your own … for weeks, maybe months. Those of you living in Louisiana, Mississippi and coastal Texas know what I mean. Don’t count on the government to come to your rescue in a post EMP America. Consider yourself on your own from “one second after,” the event. Those who realize that now have the greatest chance of survival.”
With respect to personal security, Forstchen says:
“This is a tough one to discuss. In 1999 I kinda chuckled at some friends who were convinced Y2K was going to wipe us out and I think were slightly disappointed when it did not. I am not some right wing gun fanatic who sees conspiracies lurking round every corner, but I do take personal security seriously. This is a personal choice you will have to make on your own, I can’t advise other than to say this:
“There is a percentage of our population who will view a post EMP world as a paradise, where their system of survival, their personal greed, their willingness to use any means possible to survive will come to the fore. Yes, it is a plot point of the novel, but it is also a harsh reality. There are places in this world, at this very moment, where someone would kill you for a can of food. Someday, that could be America.
“If you do not own a gun but should decide to do so now, please get the proper training. I was fortunate in that my father was a firearms instructor during WWII and my training from him was the best, a training I have passed on to my daughter. Always remember the valid statistics that a weapon in your house is an increased danger to you and your family, especially without proper training of all family members and not just yourself, but on the other side, it might be the crucial factor of survival in a post EMP world. If you are unfamiliar with firearms but decide to purchase one, talk to the experts, you will find your local police are great guys to point you in the proper and safe direction. I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. I know that in some areas you cannot obtain that. If you can, the training to get the permit is superb and again crucial to your own safety and that of your family and does insure that your having a loaded weapon on you is legal.” (emphasis added)
And, if you think his book is science fiction and farfetched, see the Wikipedia article on EMP:
And this Heritage Foundation article about Congressional hearings on the subject:
The possibility of an EMP event and the potential consequences thereof are science fact, not science fiction.
And keep in mind that an EMP event can also result from natural occurrences, such as a major solar flare, and not just as a result of a nuclear attack. The website “Disaster Survival Resources” …
… provides a relatively minor example of what can happen as a result of a solar flare:
“On March 13th, 1989 a huge solar induced magnetic storm that played havoc with the ionosphere, and the earth’s magnetic field. This storm, the second largest storm experienced in the past 50 years, totally shut down Hydro-Quebec, the power grid servicing Canada’s Quebec province.”
As we grow increasingly dependent on electronically controlled devices, we also become increasingly vulnerable to the adverse effects of an EMP event. And, having the ability to protect ourselves in case of such an event becomes increasingly important.
You have a right to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones. You have that right today, tomorrow and every day thereafter … and under all circumstances. You cannot know in advance when it may become necessary for you to do so, either against a routine criminal assault or during a localized or national emergency.
In fact, as noted by Sheriff Clarke, you not only have a right to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones, “You have a duty to protect yourself and your family.”
Do not allow the government to impair your ability to fulfill that duty by diluting or eliminating your 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” … or by restricting that right in such a way as to make it impossible to effectively use those arms should it become necessary to do so. Do not succumb to the fear-mongering of those who would disarm you, or unduly restrict your ability to use your weapons, in the name of “public safety”.