creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Jacob Sullum
Jacob Sullum
27 May 2015
The Unjust Law That Led to Freddie Gray's Death: If Cops and Prosecutors Can't Agree on Whether His Knife Was Legal, How Was He Supposed To Know?

One charge was conspicuously absent from the indictments that a Baltimore grand jury issued last Thursday in … Read More.

20 May 2015
Why Jeb Bush Can't Be Trusted With an Army: His Reluctance To Criticize His Brother's War Reflects a Dangerous Desire To Forget the Past

According to researchers at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, the war in Iraq … Read More.

13 May 2015
Warrantless Snooping Goes Far Beyond the NSA's Phone-Record Dragnet: Two Cases Highlight the Precariousness of Privacy When Your Records Are Not Yours

Last week a federal appeals court said police do not need a warrant to look at cellphone records that reveal … Read More.

The Folly of Unilateral Disarmament

Comment

When Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan started shooting up the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Pfc. Marquest Smith dove under a desk. The Associated Press reports that "he lay low for several minutes, waiting for the shooter to run out of ammunition and wishing he, too, had a gun."

Neither Smith nor the other victims of Hasan's assault had guns because soldiers on military bases within the United States generally are not allowed to carry them. Last week's shootings, which killed 13 people and wounded more than 30, demonstrated once again the folly of "gun-free zones," which attract and assist people bent on mass murder instead of deterring them.

Judging from the comments of those who support this policy of victim disarmament, Smith's desire for a gun was irrational. According to Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, "This latest tragedy, at a heavily fortified Army base, ought to convince more Americans to reject the argument that the solution to gun violence is to arm more people with more guns in more places."

Note how the reference to "a heavily fortified Army base" obscures the crucial point that the people attacked by Hasan were unarmed as a matter of policy. Also note the breathtaking inanity of Helmke's assurance that "more guns" are not "the solution to gun violence." In this case, they assuredly were.

The first people with guns to confront Hasan, two local police officers, were the ones who put a stop to his rampage. And while Sgt. Kim Munley and Sgt. Mark Todd acted heroically, they did not arrive on the scene until a crucial 10 minutes or so had elapsed and Hasan had fired more than 100 rounds.

If someone else at the processing center had a gun when Hasan started shooting, it seems likely that fewer people would have been killed or injured. Furthermore, the knowledge that some of his victims would be armed might have led him to choose a different, softer target in order to maximize the impact of his attack.

There would have been plenty of targets to choose from: any of the locations in Texas, including public schools, universities and shopping malls, that advertise their prohibition of gun possession.

The problem is that crazed killers tend not to follow such rules.

That problem was vividly illustrated by the second deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, which occurred in Killeen, Texas, a stone's throw from Fort Hood. In 1991, George Jo Hennard drove his pickup truck through the window of a Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, jumped out and began firing two pistols at the defenseless customers and employees inside, killing 23 of them.

One customer, Suzanna Hupp, saw Hennard gun down her parents. Hupp later testified that she had brought a handgun with her that day but, to her bitter regret, left it in her car, as required by state law. The massacre led the Texas legislature to approve a "shall issue" law that allows any resident who meets certain objective criteria to obtain a concealed carry permit.

But people with such permits are still barred from bringing their weapons into areas designated as gun-free zones. And when a killer fires on people he knows will be unarmed, it matters little whether he has 20-round or 10-round magazines, a detail emphasized in press coverage of the Fort Hood massacre. The second or two it takes to switch magazines is a minor nuisance when the people you are shooting at cannot shoot back.

Even less relevant is the allegation that Hasan used illegal armor-piercing ammunition. The Brady Campaign bizarrely chose to highlight that claim even though there was no indication that any of Hasan's victims were wearing bulletproof vests, let alone that his bullets penetrated them. Perhaps the group hoped that such puzzling illogic would distract people from the plain fact that having a gun is better than not having one when you are confronted by a homicidal maniac.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine, and his work appears in the new Reason anthology "Choice" (BenBella Books). To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS.COM



Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
Jacob Sullum
May. `15
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
26 27 28 29 30 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Authorís Podcast
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 1 Jun 2015
Lawrence Kudlow
Lawrence KudlowUpdated 30 May 2015
Mark Shields
Mark ShieldsUpdated 30 May 2015

26 Nov 2014 Why Michael Brown's Killer Would Have Been Acquitted: Conflicting Witness Accounts and Ambiguous Physical Evidence Provide Plenty of Room for Reasonable Doubt

27 Jun 2007 Bong Hits and Ad Runs

5 Sep 2012 The President as Planetary Policeman