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Letter to Los Angeles Time Columnist

by James vanderHoef


(ORIGINAL SENT TO:  re: his column titled: "Gun Control -- Because Accidents Happen," 31 Aug. '00, Page B3, Los Angeles Times)

***I read your column in its entirety, and I thought about it. Please extend me the same courtesy. Feel free to print this letter (in its entirety).***

Mr. Hicks:

I know you mean well, and this is not a rant against the "liberal" media, because -- I'm a "liberal" (which my dictionary defines as, "...politically, that philosophy which tends to maximize individual freedom. . .").

What I'd like to single-out in the great "gun control" debate is -- IGNORANCE.

There are those, and I don't disagree with them, who argue that no one should graduate from high school unless they can (among other skills) read and write, balance a checkbook, change a flat tire, perform basic CPR, and operate a fire extinguisher. To that I'd like to add -- and have at least a basic understanding of firearms and their operation. This would eliminate the need for AB273 and its training requirements, in addition to promoting a safer society.

A firearm is a lot like a fire extinguisher -- You hope with all your heart you will never need to use it, but should that need arise, you want the biggest and best one you can handle, you want to know how to use it properly, and -- highest priority -- you want the fire out.

I'd like to point out that in Israel, where school shootings were once a favored tactic of terrorists, the incidence of such occurrences has dropped to zero since teachers and aides were trained and armed. What if that brave teacher at Columbine who bled-out waiting for the SWAT team to poke their noses in the building had been armed and trained? There are no guarantees in life, but he might have had a chance to stop the incident at an early stage. What if the students there knew how firearms worked, and could tell when the assailants had to stop and reload? But, you see, they were in an officially declared "gun-free zone," and had no need for any defensive weapons, or such knowledge, right? Wrong, I'd say, and unfortunately, objectively demonstrated -- they needed all those things, and did not have them. Ignorance can kill you.

My own (informal) polling has shown that 85% of the people I come across who are strongly in favor of (what they call) "gun control" would not know how to safely unload a gun if they found one lying on their front porch. I grow weary of being preached-to by the ignorant, and have a hard time taking any of their other arguments seriously. It's like being lectured on astrophysics by a flat-earther.

Back in the days before it seemed we had all these problems with "gun control," many high schools had rifle and pistol teams, and sharpshooting was a Boy Scout merit badge. Many kids, especially in rural areas, grew up with guns in their houses, and were taught their safe and effective use from an early age. Now, living mostly in cities, we seldom need to run a fox away from the henhouse, right? Wrong, at least metaphorically. One very believable estimate says that firearms are used to prevent 2.5 million violent crimes each year -- and that the gun involved is usually not fired; merely displaying the weapon being sufficient to drive the would-be assailant off in search of another (presumably) un-armed victim. Crimes which are prevented are (also) usually not reported. When you read all the "statistics" trotted-out by the victim disarmament groups remember this: ". . .figures may not lie, but liars often figure. . ." (Sam Clemens.) Misleading figures and biased "information" lead to another form of ignorance, even more dangerous, because its adherents assume, incorrectly, that they are "informed."

". . .Assemblyman Scott. . .lost a son. . .accidentally shot. . .at a party. . ." Presumably by another kid who was ignorant of how a firearm worked, couldn't tell if it was loaded, and didn't know that the first rule of firearms safety is that one always assumes all guns are loaded. Ignorance can kill others, as well.

". . .One student found a gun. . .and began waving it around, assuming it was unloaded. . ." (See comments above.) Again, total ignorance of basic safety rules relating to firearms. Does a pattern begin to emerge here?

". . .The Bleks lost a son, shot to death. . .(in) New York. . .by a robber. . ." Question: do you think that the "robber" is going to trot-down to the DOJ to take his proficiency test? If so, you are totally ignorant of criminal behavior and psychology. By the way, New York has some of the strictest "gun control" laws in existence -- why didn't those laws prevent this crime? Maybe the "robber" was ignorant of the laws? -- but that's no excuse, is it?

You've probably read the second amendment sometime, and being also a writer, I'd have to say that it is somewhat poorly written -- the first clause is a bit vague, even confusing (and there is some historical evidence that it was "pasted-in" from an earlier draft). The second clause, however, is completely clear in its meaning, and written in plain English -- ". . .the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. " I think you and I both know who "the people" are, and I think we both know what "shall not be infringed" means. All else is, basically, bull$#!+.

I have a big problem when you start to seriously discuss "licensing" inalienable rights. Look up that word: "inalienable." Your comparison of gun licensing to automobiles fails at least in that there is no "inalienable" right to drive a car (or historically, to ride a horse). Isn't in there. . .but "keep and bear arms," is.

Imagine if you had to go to the Ministry of Truth and demonstrate your proficiency with a word processor, and subject your prose to government scrutiny before you could be issued a "journalist's license," and that without this license your work could not be published (legally) in any form. I'd imagine that you and every other journalist in the country would be screaming about the first amendment. I know I would. (Can you say, "Samizdat?" that's Russian for "underground press.") Imagine if you had to go to the Ministry of Politically Correct Faiths and "register" as a Jew (or Catholic, Muslim, etc.). What if they made you wear a funny armband? Extreme cases, you may say, but there are literally millions of law-abiding firearms owners who would feel (and I think, correctly) that this is (potentially) the same thing as registering Jews, Catholics, or journalists -- it is an unwarranted, unconstitutional, and despotic intrusion into an area that the very authors of the constitution, the highest law of our land, declared to be sacrosanct and off limits forever to any government. Think about this, please. ("Knock-Knock/Who's There?/Serb Militia.../Serb Militia Who?/Serb Militia who can do any damn thing they want to because you have no guns...")

This does not mean that one must keep and bear arms, or that by keeping and bearing said arms one has the right to use them indiscriminately. However, if we own anything in this life, we own our lives, and have an absolute right to defend ourselves, our families, and other innocents, against all enemies foreign or domestic; and, in extremis, by any means necessary including deadly force.

If one definition of insanity is repeating the same actions while expecting different results, then I hope what I am saying here may begin to make sense. There are currently more than 20,000 "gun control" laws on the books. Leaving aside the fact that most of them are probably unconstitutional, a strong case can be made that they simply do not work as intended, and that the law of unintended consequences is at work here? (Remember Prohibition, or the current War on Drugs?) ". . .If you have 10,000 regulations, you destroy all respect for the law. . ." (Winston Churchill) [Imagine what 20,000+ can do!!]

Almost every household in Switzerland has an Assault Rifle in the closet (the Real Thing -- not Ms. Feinstein's "cosmetic" definition). When was the last time anyone invaded Switzerland? For that matter, when was the last time one of these psychos attacked a police station, or a gun show? Basically, never. I'd like to note, also, that Ms. Feinstein holds a permit to carry a concealed weapon, that Nancy Reagan was well-known to carry a "little bitty gun" in her purse, "just in case," and that Rosie O'Donnel thinks her bodyguard should be armed. Ignorance, or hypocrisy?

You see, I cannot help but think that knowledge is superior to ignorance, every time. I'm saying _train everyone_ in firearms safety and proficiency. Those who do not wish to exercise their rights need not do so -- they can dial 911, and hope that their doors/windows/selves can hold-out for 15 minutes (or so) until armed and trained people can arrive. Those who chose to exercise their inalienable right to self-defense could do so, and would be properly trained. Criminals of the merely sociopathic rather than psychopathic persuasion might be encouraged to take up less violent forms of crime, such as check-kiting or counterfeiting, since they would never know just whom they were going up against, as experience in states with "shall issue" carry permits has demonstrated. AB273 would be irrelevant, and on the dung-heap of history, where it belongs. "No State shall convert a liberty into a privilege, license it, and charge a fee therefore." (Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 US 105)

Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge can save lives.

James vanderHoef


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All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Edmund Burke

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