Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Friday, April 08, 2005

Josh Sugarmann: One of the Few Semi-Honest Gun-Grabbers Out There

Googling around for the last piece, I found an op-ed written by Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director of the Violence Policy Center, and outspoken gun ban proponent. Josh pulls no punches. He wants all handguns banned - as in, "Mr. & Mrs. America, turn 'em all in" banned. And he's in favor of any means necessary to reach that end, too, as I've noted before in the VPC's (in)famous "anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun" willingness to mislead the public. He wants "assault weapons" banned, too, but even Josh admits that the threat represented by "scary looking guns" is overblown. But, hey! If it helps in the eventual confiscation of handguns, Josh is all for it.

Anyway, let's fisk Josh's latest "frighten the peons" piece from the Charlotte Observer, April 2. (Registration required, use
`The price of freedom': More bodies

The harsh reality is that too many Americans love their guns more than they love their children

Knight Ridder/Tribune
Now, I'm not sure if Josh or if the Charlotte Observer put in the subtitle (I suspect Josh) but isn't that just a wee bit inflammatory? "Americans love their guns more than they love their children"? How about "Americans cherish their freedom, and want to pass it on to their children," Josh? Hmm?
In just 10 days last month, two mass murder-suicides -- one ending in a Minnesota high school, the other taking place during a religious service in a Wisconsin hotel -- left a combined toll of 18 dead and more than 10 injured.

As Americans go through the familiar ritual of asking how this could happen, the National Rifle Association has a stark answer articulated by former head Harlon Carter more than 20 years ago. America's gun death toll, he explained, was simply "the price of freedom."

To Carter, no matter what atrocities stem from America's unfettered gun culture, they were a small price to pay for the unparalleled "freedom" of Americans to own virtually any gun of their own choosing: from pocket-size derringers to military-bred 50-caliber sniper rifles that can destroy aircraft and penetrate a half inch of armor plating from a mile away.
Did Harlon Carter actually say that? I Googled a bit, but didn't find such an attribution. I did find a couple of quotes. Harlon is attributed with this:
Can our form of government, our system of justice, survive if one can be denied a freedom because he might abuse it?
I found that on several different pages. Now, Joseph Sobran said something about the "price of freedom:"
The prospect of a government that treats all its citizens as criminal suspects is more terrifying than any terrorist. And even more frightening is a citizenry that can accept the surrender of its freedoms as the price of "freedom".
As did Benjamin Franklin:
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
I suppose Josh Sugarmann's position on whether owning handguns is "an essential liberty" is not in doubt.

I did, however, find a Dave Kopel piece on National Review Online from August of 2000 that addressed the Harlon Carter question. Here's the pertinent excerpt:
A much more serious error, however, is the description of the late Harlon Carter, the leading architect of the NRA's transformation from a sportsman's club into the most powerful civil liberties organization in the history of the world. According to the (Washington) Post, "Asked in 1975 if he would rather let convicted violent felons and the mentally deranged buy guns than endorse a screening process for gun sales, Carter did not hesitate to say yes. That's the 'price we pay for freedom.'"

Not really. At the 1975 congressional hearing, a congressman asked the question described by the Post, but when Carter began to answer, the congressman cut him off, saying he wanted a different witness to answer. In the official transcript, Carter's answer is "The price we pay for freedom — ".

The Post's inadvertent distortion of Carter's meaning was doubtless the product of an interview with someone from a Washington anti-gun lobby, where the politics of personal destruction have been the norm for decades.

Misrepresenting Carter's statement was pretty mild compared to other attacks that Handgun Control, Inc., launched on Carter. One fundraising letter from HCI featured a picture of Harlon Carter on the envelope. The letter screamed that Carter "has seen to it that thousands of life-loving people like you and me DIE every year — shot with a handgun."
I'm not so sure that Carter was all that misquoted. Smeared, yes. Misquoted, no. Nevertheless, I will be the first to admit that IF there were no guns, we'd have no gun crime. However, I've a firm grasp on reality, and I know that there's no way to get rid of all the guns, so the point is moot. But let's continue:
Carter's words have shaped the world view of today's NRA. They also lead to a more important question. At what point will Americans agree that the price exacted by guns -- the gun lobby's "price of freedom" -- is simply too high?
Well, Josh, I'd say that after 9/11 it will be a point - if ever - far in the future. And you know why? Sept. 11, 2001 was a wake-up call for a lot of Americans, who suddenly looked around them and saw reality, and realized that all the fuzzy-bunny wishful-thinking I'm-OK-you're-OK philosophies offered by the people who wanted to disarm America for its own good was just that - wishful thinking. They started thinking about the real price of freedom.
An all-too-familiar pattern has already emerged after the Red Lake High School shooting in Minnesota -- the worst school shooting in the United States since Columbine. Attention has focused on virtually everything except the actual tools -- reportedly two handguns and a shotgun -- that made the massacre possible.
Yes, weapons belonging to a police officer. Weapons issued by his police department.

And your point is...?
Did the school have metal detectors?
Was the security guard armed?
Did the unique struggles faced by the residents of Indian reservations play a role?
Apparently not.
What about the shooter's postings on a white supremacist Web site, and did other students help plan the attack? What have we learned since Columbine?
That we have some seriously messed up kids, and that drugging them might be a contributing factor in school shootings?
Each of these questions is legitimate. Yet while other Western, industrialized nations face their own civic, social and economic problems, they understand the direct link between gun availability and gun violence and severely restrict access to specific classes of firearms. The result is that other countries simply don't experience mass shootings as commonly seen in the United States. The United States is unique in the ease with which it allows its citizens to act on their rage through the barrel of a gun.
Very true. Yet other countries have had school shootings and other forms of lethal attack. Dunblane, Scotland, March 1996. Sanaa, Yemen, March 1997. Friesing Germany, Feb. 19, 2002. Erfurt Germany, April 26, 2002. Vlasenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina, April 29, 2002. Carmen de Patagones, Argentina, Sept. 28, 2004. All shootings. Osaka, Japan, June 8, 2001 (knife, 8 dead, 21 wounded.) According to the Time Magazine's Asia edition from Nov. 2004:
Last week, the city's place in (China's) consciousness acquired a stain that may take years to fade. At midnight, a 21-year-old named Yan Yanming reportedly entered the dormitory of Ruzhou's No. 2 High School and slipped into the rooms where male students slept. Yan slashed some students' throats, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. Others he stabbed in the heart. Eight died without rising. Four survived—hours later, witnesses saw the smears where their blood flowed down the school's front steps. Police caught Yan the next day after he overdosed on drugs at his parents' home. The attack left the city in shock. "People couldn't believe that their school could be so unsafe," says Cheng Honggen, a local Xinhua reporter.

The Ruzhou killings are part of a chilling rite of passage endured by modern societies all over the world. Ruzhou was the sixth in a string of deadly attacks on Chinese schoolchildren that began in August, when a schizophrenic janitor at a Beijing kindergarten stabbed 14 children, killing one, according to police. A bus driver in Shandong province was executed earlier this month for slashing 24 kids in September; last month, a teacher in Hunan province was arrested for killing four students and wounding 12; two weeks later a man in Beijing was arrested for killing a six-year-old and stuffing him into the school's washing machine. The violence stalking the land of one-child families is not confined to the lower grades. In April, a college student named Ma Jiajue hacked four classmates to death after an all-night poker game. Ma said he was "too poor to afford shoes" and killed from jealousy.

The number of murders, rapes and batteries committed by juveniles in China is growing faster than 10% a year, says criminologist Pi Yijun of the China Politics and Law University. Stunned parents and authorities are searching for reasons for the surge. Some blame greater individual freedom and the decline of authoritarian control. Others explain it as the result of epochal social change and the loss of moral ballast once supplied by communist ideology.
One thing they're not blaming it on is "knife availability."

Sorry, Josh, but "gun availability" isn't the reason we're having mass shootings. We've always had guns.
Even when Americans' attention is focused on gun policy, a timid mindset takes hold. Advocates and policy-makers look for minor, "common sense" policy proposals into which they can shoehorn the discrete circumstances of a particular attack.
To avoid ugly realities like "cops have guns, and they aren't going to give them up." Which might be a message you ought to take from the Red Lake massacre. You'll notice they ignore your major "ban-and-confiscate" legislation because by common sense they know better than to try.
They are unwilling to acknowledge the basic fact that America's gun violence problem is a direct result of the ease with which Americans can obtain virtually any gun of their choice for almost any intent. Why talk about banning handguns when you can focus on trigger locks?
Well, Josh, I reject your premise right there. America's "gun violence problem" has been declining for over a decade - while our stock of guns has been increasing by at least three million new guns per year. That's over 30 million new guns, and declining gun violence. More guns do not equal "more gun violence."

No matter how many times you keep repeating the lie.
Mass shootings today are treated almost like tornadoes or earthquakes -- unstoppable forces of nature that we must endure. The harsh reality is that too many Americans love their guns more than they love their children. Each new shooting -- regardless of the number of people killed or the formerly "safe" environment violated by the sound of gunfire -- seems less to shock us than to inure us to the next horrible incident.
Perhaps because we are not willing to be treated as criminals for crimes we have not committed? Perhaps because we resent being told things like "Americans love their guns more than they love their children" by preening self-righteous moralists like you? America listened to the Prohibitionists tell us that outlawing alcohol would solve all kinds of problems. It didn't. It created all kinds of new ones. England's subjects listened when their gun prohibitionists told them that banning semi-auto weapons would solve problems. It didn't. They listened again after Dunblane, and banned all handguns - and that hasn't helped either, has it? Why would we want to follow that disproven path?
In April, when parents across America think twice about sending their children to school on April 20, the sixth anniversary of the Columbine massacre, remember Harlon Carter's words: We are just paying "the price of freedom."
Perhaps they should think about something else: Their children are going to "gun free zones" where there isn't anyone to protect them against anyone with harmful intent, regardless of the weapon used. No administrator, no teacher, no groundskeeper, in most cases no security guard, will be able to stop a determined attacker.

They'll have to wait until the cops show up. With their guns.

The world has changed, Josh, but it's not the guns that are the problem, and it never has been.

Even China is figuring that out.

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