A gun would give victims a chance

The following op-ed by Buckeye Firearms Association Legislative Chair Ken Hanson was originally published by The Columbus Dispatch. Republished with permission.

by Ken Hanson

Shortly after midnight on July 20, 2012, James Holmes entered an Aurora, Colo., movie theater and allegedly committed mass murder. I join millions of American gun owners in extending condolences and support to the victims and their families during this time of tragedy.

Before the first funeral was held, numerous politicians and news-media personalities began to question whether gun-control laws in the United States are strict enough, and whether new gun-control laws are needed. This is unfortunately typical in today's "let no crisis go to waste" political environment.

No amount of words set down on a piece of paper ever will prevent a mass murder. Rather, the most effective deterrent against a mass shooting is someone shooting back. Pass all the laws you wish, and the deranged will keep finding a way to shoot (or poison or bomb or burn). Mass shootings with "assault weapons" occurred during the time that the United States had a nationwide-ban on "assault weapons" and magazines that held more than 10 rounds.

And almost every multiple-victim shooting in the past three decades has occurred in a "no-guns" zone. Apparently, these criminals didn't see the no-gun signs.

If strict gun control was passed today, it would have the same effect as strict bans on marijuana, methamphetamines and child pornography. Somehow, we still find people using these prohibited items.

Criminals are criminals because they don't obey the laws. Banning guns is perhaps the most completely documented failure of a law-enforcement strategy in history. Just as you cannot fight shoddy home construction by banning hammers, you cannot prevent violence by banning the tools violent people use. Violence is a people problem, not a tool problem.

This is why talk about "reasonable" gun control makes no sense. Gun control fails to prevent criminals from using guns to commit crime. So what is reasonable about a law that has no effect on crime prevention? Particularly when it comes at the expense of impairing or eliminating a law-abiding person's constitutional right to self-defense.

The uncomfortable truth about mass shootings is that the only one with a chance to stop the shooting is the person being shot at. As the saying goes, when seconds count, the police are minutes away. During the Alrosa Villa shootings in December 2004, Columbus Police officer James Niggemeyer reacted as quickly and as bravely as possible in ending the shooting spree — several minutes and four murders after it began. Even that is unusual; in most multiple-victim shootings, police serve only to document the crime scene after the shooting has stopped.

The No. 1, almost 100 percent consistent factor in all mass shootings is that they occur in areas where the law-abiding are prohibited from having guns. Is it a coincidence that mass-shooting offenders choose gun-free zones for their crimes? In Aurora, it occurred in a theater with "no-gun" signs. Virginia Tech; Fort Hood, Texas; Columbine High School in Colorado, the Lubys restaurant in Killeen, Texas; Heath High School in Paducah, Ky.; the Amish school in West Nickel Mines, Pa.; and Case Western Reserve University — the roll call of mass shootings is a list of gun-free zones.

Please perform the following thought experiment: You are in that theater in Colorado on that horrible night. You have two choices: You can stare at the no-guns sign while waiting for the police to respond and maybe stop the shooting, or you can have a gun in your hand and attempt to defend yourself.

The gun in your hand is not guaranteed to stop the rampage, but which is more likely to save you? If you are counting on the no-guns sign, perhaps you should invest in a lucky rabbit's foot. Both are of equal use when it comes to stopping a spree killer.

Ken Hanson is a Delaware attorney active in gun-rights legislation, litigation and lobbying.

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