Our Gun Legacy - Good or Bad?

By James D. Cool

Have you ever thoughtfully considered just how we got to where we are regarding the gun issue? Our nation was founded and evolved as a uniquely free society during the same time period that modern firearms were invented and became readily available due to the industrial revolution. Combine those two events with our founding fathers' genuine fear of tyrannical government along with a need for protection on a dangerous frontier and you have the answer - a modern society with an estimated 250 million guns.

Reasonable people can debate if it would have been better if guns had never been invented but they're here and will "never" go away. Any future banning attempts(especially handguns) would mean that only criminals and terrorists would have them as they will obtain them on the black market, smuggle them into the country or manufacture them in underground shops.

Gun control advocates like to publicize that in 2005 there were 300,000 cases of firearms related crimes but only 143 cases of justifiable homicide by armed civilians. However, they egregiously fail to include hundreds more justifiable "woundings" by armed civilians; the perhaps thousands of incidents where the mere "showing" of a firearm prevented a serious crime; or the untold number of crimes that were prevented because the perpetrator "thought" the victim might be armed. This is similar to protection provided by the United States Secret Service. How many assassination attempts are prevented each year? No one knows for sure. The mere presence of the Secret Service makes the difference.

Recent shooting tragedies have renewed an irresponsible call by some to repeal the 2nd Amendment. However, be reminded that other Amendments to our Constitution bring similar tragedy. Vicious criminals are freed everyday because of "technical violations" of the 4th (searches), 5th (self-incrimination) and 6th (right to an attorney) Amendments. As a result, thousands of citizens are later murdered, raped and assaulted. We as a nation hold those three Amendments so sacred we are willing to pay that price. The 2nd Amendment should be no less sacred. Remember the old adage, "if the 2nd Amendment applies only to flintlocks, then the 1st Amendment applies only to quills and lead type."

Some further argue that our founding fathers never envisioned our society of today when it comes to firearms. Perhaps they are correct
but they certainly never envisioned the current level of violent crime either. The 2nd Amendment was not included in our Constitution to protect hunting, target shooting, collection or even self-defense. Those rights were assumed. An accurate knowledge of history reveals that the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment (as the U.S. Department of Justice has stated and the D.C. Court of Appeals has recently ruled) was to guard against tyrannical government. That's why it states "the right of the PEOPLE (not the right of the militia) to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". "The people" in every other Amendment means just that - individual citizens and not some vague "collective group". Thus, every Amendment and the Constitution itself rests on the 2nd Amendment.

Those who disagree with the 2nd Amendment are free to work within the political process to change or even abolish it if they can but don't "cheapen" the Bill of Rights with false interpretations.

The recent Virginia Tech incident also shows each state needs responsible handgun carry laws. You don't always have to kill, wound or even shoot at a perpetrator. The mere showing of a weapon might have forced the shooter at Virginia Tech to alter his plan. Many assailants "cower out" or take their own lives very quickly when confronted with someone who can shoot back. It would be absurd to allow every college student to be armed but responsible students (those over age 21 including veterans, former police officers, trained ROTC cadets, etc.), as well as adult university employees and professors should have that option. One armed civilian might have made a big difference to at least one family that day. And when it comes to handgun crime, keep in mind that many in law enforcement believe a sawed-off 12 gauge pump shotgun (easily concealed) is just as much or even more lethal at close quarters than any handgun or assault rifle.

The true villain is our changing culture. I was able to wear my Roy Rogers cap guns to elementary school but now you can't even draw a picture of one. Are you old enough to remember when you could get on an airplane without going through "any" security? If every gun
could be eliminated tomorrow within the borders of our country I believe we would be even more unsafe. Why ? Because vicious sociopaths younger, bigger and stronger than you or I will use anything (including knives and impact weapons) to further their criminal activity. Murders, assaults, burglaries and rapes would rise substantially. If an intruder breaks into your home and you have no choice but to fight for your life do you want to fight with a club, a knife or a gun? I choose a gun. It's the great equalizer and the intruder knows and fears that!

Several years ago I was invited to the Atlanta office of the FBI to view an exhibit of Holocaust photos. The exhibit began with a photo of a small Jewish store in Warsaw, Poland. Subsequent photos showed Jewish citizens with big yellow stars sewn on the front of their clothes. The photos became progressively more disturbing and the last photo showed naked bodies being removed from an oven at one of the Nazi death camps. However, in the middle of the collection was an amazing photo of a ragtag group of about fifteen Jewish men and boys taken during the 1943 "Warsaw Ghetto Uprising". They had obviously assembled very quickly and were standing and kneeling there on the street with an odd assortment of weapons; a few shotguns, a rifle or two, some pistols and revolvers and even a captured German belt-fed machine gun. As a group of community leaders arrived at that photo, everyone became extremely vocal at the courage displayed by those men and boys. I then stated in a loud voice so all in the exhibit area could hear; "good reason for the 2nd Amendment folks." You could have heard a pin drop.

Many believe that our country is the most dangerous in the world because of guns. I believe I can disprove that many times over, but one thing is for sure: as a Secret Service agent I traveled and worked in twenty eight countries on five continents and I wouldn't trade what we have for anything!

Those adult students, employees and professors at Virginia Tech did not have the opportunity to adequately defend themselves. I don't have all the answers but I would dread living in a nation where I also lost that right.

James D. Cool
U.S. Secret Service (retired)
U.S. Marine Corps (Vietnam veteran)

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