Gary is an author, trial lawyer, Mequon-area resident and town of Cedarburg supervisor. He is a columnist for the News Graphic and writes for several Wisconsin area magazines and is a national columnist with The American Thinker and PJ Media. He lives with his wife, Lisa, and has three sons ages 18 to 28. Gary won Ozaukee County in his bid for the Wisconsin Assembly's 60th District in 2011, but came up just 58 votes short.
Christmas came early for law-abiding gun owners. Recently, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Illinois' ban on carrying concealed weapons - the last-remaining such ban in the country. The landmark decision gave state lawmakers six months to come up with their own version of the law that legalizes concealed carry.
In contrast, one thousand miles from the Illinois state capitol, in a rare Sunday night address from Newtown, Connecticut which preempted even the usually-sacrosanct NFL football games, our president telegraphed – without coming right out and saying so - that he create political opportunity out of tragedy by pushing for more anti-gun measures in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like the one which took the lives of 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Included among the dead were 20 little children, who will never see another Christmas and whose parents' and families' lives will never again be the same.
The 7th Circuit decision in Michael Moore, et al. v. Lisa Madigan authored just three short days before the Newtown tragedy by Justice Richard Posner, stated that Illinois "had to provide us with more than merely a rational basis for believing that its uniquely sweeping ban is justified by an increase in public safety. It has failed to meet this burden." The court gave Illinois 180 days to draft new laws legalizing concealed carry.
Before the ink was even dry on this decision, however, federal agents were fanning out and searching dozens of gun stores and shooting ranges in Connecticut, in an effort to determine why the mother of the Newtown shooter owned and provided easy access to weapons at their home, including a Bushmaster .223 assault rifle and two handguns. Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Connecticut home before turning his sights on the children at Sandy Hook School.
In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy and the actions of a man representing evil-incarnate, we are at risk as a country of losing sight of the real issues and instead, once again, restricting the liberties of law-abiding citizens in the usual political rush to do "something" to prevent tragedies that simply cannot be prevented by merely passing more laws. Lost in this stark contrast is the fact that Connecticut already has some of the toughest restrictions on gun ownership in the country. In 2011, Connecticut was ranked the 5th toughest state by the pro-gun control Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, scoring 58 where many states score only in the single digits.
Gun-control advocates will point to the gun control experiment in Australia as ammunition for even tougher gun laws here in America. On April 28, 1996, a gunman opened fire on tourists at a seaside Tasmanian resort killing 35 and injuring 23 more. Twelve days later, led by conservative Prime Minister John Howard, Australia enacted expansive new gun controls which banned semiautomatic rifles and shotguns and included a huge buyback of 640,381 personal firearms owned by law-abiding Australians, or about one-fifth of all firearms in the country. The new laws also required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners and – most controversially – that prospective purchasers of guns present a "genuine reason" for needing the gun at the time of purchase. Self-defense was legislated as an insufficient such reason.
In light of the July, 2012 Aurora, Colorado theater shootings John Howard called on America to follow in Australia's footsteps. Citing a study which showed that homicides by firearm dropped nearly 60% between 1995 and 2006 and suicides dropped 65% as circumstantial evidence of Australia's success, Howard said, “There are many American traits which we Australians could well emulate to our great benefit, but when it comes to guns, we have been right to take a radically different path.”
Law-abiding gun owners beg to differ and warn about repeating the Australia experiment here in America. When one punishes law-abiding citizens for the sins of criminals it makes life easier for the criminals. America is quick to report on shootouts across the U.S. but unwilling to report on thousands of Americans who were saved by pointing their easy-to-access guns at would-be thieves, murderers and rapists. Hitler and Stalin supported gun control too, and look what happened there.
Barack Obama softened his gun control stance during the 2012 presidential campaign and took no action during his first term to push for such laws. I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms. There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away," he said in September of 2008. In the wake of the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and 18 others in Tucson, he called for "sound and effective steps" to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, including strengthening background checks on gun buyers. As usual, however, just as in Sunday night's address, he was short on specifics and never followed through. With no re-election effort to get in his way, he won't make the same mistake twice.
The Second Amendment is part of the Bill or Rights to the U.S. Constitution, and reads:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
Not exactly a model of clarity and good draftsmanship, the Second Amendment has given rise to heated debate regarding the ownership and use of firearms in America. First, there is a dispute regarding whether the Amendment limits federal action only, or also state gun laws. More importantly, gun rights advocates believe it protects the right of an individual to possess firearms, whereas the gun control crowd maintains that the founding fathers merely meant to protect the collective right of a militia to arm itself. They claim that the “well-regulated militia” clause necessarily adds meaning to the “keep and bear arms” clause by furnishing the reason for the latter's existence.
In the 2010 Supreme Court decision District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court held that the Second Amendment provides Americans a fundamental personal – as opposed to a "collective" - right to bear arms that cannot be violated by state and local governments. The case was about a handgun that Dick Heller wanted to keep in his home in Washington, D.C. He tried to register it with the city, but was turned down. In spite of a long-standing law which bans all handguns in the city, Washington, D.C. has been labeled as the “Murder Capital of the United States” due to an endless string of handgun murders. Heller lives in a high crime area and argued that he had a Second Amendment right to have a gun in his home for self-defense. The Supreme Court agreed.
Sensational news events such as the senseless massacre at Sandy Hook School tend to cause us all to think with our hearts rather than our heads. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports dramatically illustrate that states with right-to-carry laws have lower overall violent crime rates. Murder rates in states banning concealed-carry are 127% higher than in states having the most liberal concealed carry laws. Ironically, it is high crime, urban areas with large minority populations that experience the greatest reductions in violent crime when law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed handguns. For each additional year that a concealed handgun law is in effect, the murder rate declines by 3%, rape by 2% and robberies by more than 2%. Accidental deaths and suicides do not increase, and there are no shoot-outs at the O.K. Corral. Some of the first gun control laws passed in the 1870’s were a discretionary means of ensuring that Italians, Jews, African-Americans, and labor agitators did not obtain arms.
There are about 300 million guns in the hands of some 80 million American gun owners. From 300 million guns, there are 11,000 annual shooting deaths - nearly all of which are the action of criminals. At the same time, armed, law-abiding citizens use their guns to de-escalate a crime more than 2.5 million times every year, almost exclusively without even firing their weapon. We have a better chance of sending all illegal aliens back home than we do of removing these guns from their legal owners – and no chance of taking guns away from criminals.
Simple truths seemingly shine through impassioned and emotional responses to tragedies like Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Newtown. Guns do not cause crime, and gun-control laws do not reduce crime. Darrell Scott’s daughter was killed in the Columbine tragedy, yet afterwards, he uttered more common sense in four sentences than all the gun control advocates combined:
The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used. Neither was it the NCA - The National Club Association. The true killer was Cain and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain's heart.
Nobody understands the evil that transpires in the hearts of people like Adam Lanza. Limiting or eliminating the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment because of the random acts of criminals, or deranged individuals, knowing that a determined lunatic can use various methods to commit mass murder, is the emotional yet illogical response. Bombs can be built from items available at any hardware store. Biological terrorism is also very feasible.The simple weapon which allowed the tragedy of 9/11 was a box-cutter. The challenge is to protect one of the most fundamental of American rights, and to follow the admonition of Thomas Jefferson:
On every question of construction of the Constitution, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.”
The Second Amendment guarantees the “People” the right to keep and bear arms – not just a militia. No revision of history - no tragedy - will change that.
According to a leading researcher for the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, one woman in the United States is raped every five minutes. Three out of four American women will fall victim to violent crime at some time in their lives. Women are abused two million to four million times a year. In addition, blacks are 50 percent more likely to be violent crime victims than are whites and half of all murder victims are black. Our nation's first gun control laws, dating back to 1865, were in response to Emancipation and were known as “black codes”, restricting blacks from owning guns – for obvious reasons. Restricting firearm ownership disproportionately hurts the black community.
But make no mistake about it. American political winds shift as quickly as the news events which shape them. The horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook School has already become the catalyst for bold new "progressive" gun control efforts. Severely restricted firearm sales, stringent guidelines for their purchase, and mandatory buybacks of guns are all certain to be proposed in the wake of the events in Newtown. And with four more years of Obama to look forward to, all it takes is one Supreme Court appointment and the Second Amendment's guarantee of a personal right to bear arms for self-defense could become an exhibit in a gun rights museum.