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America's Coming Gun War


Eight days after the massacre of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary, where each child was shot with a Bushmaster .223, The Nation's Gun Show, the biggest east of the Mississippi, opened.

"A line already snaked around the building shortly after the three-day event began at 3 p.m., and the parking lot was jammed" at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va., wrote Justin Jouvenal of The Washington Post:

"With an AK-47 slung over one shoulder, Marco Hernandez offered one word when asked why he was in the overflow crowd at the gun show."

"Obama," he said. "I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the possible gun ban."

And this is the story across America since Sandy Hook.

The weapon most in demand at Chantilly?

The AR-15 black rifle, a version of which was used to slaughter the innocents in Newtown. At Chantilly, their price doubled in hours to $1,800. Gun stores have sold out their inventory.

Yet for weeks after Sandy Hook, journalists and politicians from the president to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who were making the case for a new assault weapons ban, dominated the airwaves. Those calling for reinstatement of the ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 had the national audience almost entirely to themselves.

The National Rifle Association was largely silent. Not until nine days after Newtown did the NRA's Wayne LaPierre appear on "Meet the Press" to be subjected to hostile interrogation.

Yet, from the record gun sales in December, and 2012 — there were 16.8 million calls to the FBI for background checks for gun purchases last year — the elites have lost the argument with the audience that counts. They have failed to convince those who buy guns.

Just as East Berliners, before the Wall was built, voted with their feet, fleeing west, Americans are voting with their checkbooks, paying hundreds and thousands of dollars to buy the guns liberals loathe.

The reflexive response of the gun controllers is to blame this on that malevolent force, the gun lobby, at whose apex is the NRA.

But those crowds coming to gun shows in droves and buying semi-automatics are not there because the NRA issued some order.

Today, we Americans are a far more heavily armed people than half a century ago. Forty-seven percent of adult males own a firearm. There are 270 million rifles, shotguns and pistols in private hands.

Are they for hunting? Not according to the Financial Times.

"The number of hunters fell from 16.6 million in 1975 to 12.5 million in 2006, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service." That number will continue to shrink as America's suburbs further encroach on rural areas, limiting hunting grounds and reducing game.

The FT notes that Freedom Group, owner of Bushmaster, has estimated that while "total sales of long guns to U.S. consumers rose at an annual rate of just 3 percent during 2007-2011, modern sporting rifles grew at an annual rate of 27 percent." Last year, sporting rifle sales doubled.

The number of rifles like the AR-15 in private hands has probably tripled since the assault weapons ban expired. The NRA's David Keene estimates the number now at above 3 million.

Who owns these weapons?

Half are owned by veterans and cops. Writes Keene: "Nearly 90 percent of those who own an AR-15 use it for recreational target shooting; 51 percent of AR owners are members of shooting clubs and visit the range regularly; the typical AR owner is not a crazed teenage psychopath, but a 35-plus-year-old, married and has some college education."

These figures suggest that a successful effort to restrict the sale and transfer of "assault rifles" will, as did the Volstead Act and Prohibition, drive the market underground, create lawbreakers out of folks who are law-abiding and send the AR-15 price further skyward.

Many gun controllers not only do not understand what motivates those who disagree with them, they do not like them, reflexively calling them gun nuts, a reaction as foolish as it is arrogant and bigoted.

For given the loosening of gun laws at the state level in recent years, the gun controllers no longer have the numbers to impose their will on the folks who have a love for, or feel a need for, guns.

To most Americans, an armed guard in a school is a good idea in our too-violent nation. Most Americans realize that when shooting breaks out in a gun-free zone — a school, movie theater, mall — the first call goes to 911 to get cops with Glocks and a SWAT team with black rifles there as soon as possible.

Most folks understand why air marshals on planes might have to be armed. Most folks know that the people running up the death toll in murder capitals like Chicago are not using AR-15s. And many Americans yet accept that in the last analysis it is a man's duty to be the defender and protector of his wife and children.

Human nature will ultimately triumph over ideology.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?" To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at



12 Comments | Post Comment
"To most Americans, an armed guard in a school is a good idea in our too-violent nation." Where are the stats on that claim? That might be the NRA's position. It is also unconstitultional. The NRA of all groups should be advocating the Constitution, since it provides the backbone of all their arguements. A better solution would be giving teachers the ability to carry their privatly owned handguns. More freedom instead of more government. Get the idea?
Comment: #1
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Tue Jan 8, 2013 9:19 AM
Re: Chris McCoy: Frankly, no, to answer your question.

Freedom is great, but in the simplistic form you seem to recommend it means anything goes. It's almost like saying "let's give our police the ability to carry guns, instead of training them in the obligation to have them and to use them to provide law enforcement." And can you imagine how effective an army would be with such an un-obligated "ability?"

Teachers either have them and the obligation and training to use them, or they have neither. There is no middle ground.

Anarchy isn't going to work, if you really buy into the concept of civilization.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Tue Jan 8, 2013 8:08 PM
Talk to General McChyrstal.
Yes, being able to play with a fantasy toy is great, but is it worth the carnage in our nation? Do we want to continue to rank right up there with Mexico in gun death rates? Wouldn't it be fun to play soldier with fully automatic weapons? Why do we let the evil government suppress our rights to be ready to take on a Battalion? It is time to get real. When we finally buck the NRA, the recent military gun sales will not be a permanent problem. it may take a couple of generations for the numbers of military combat weapons to decline from attrition. Consider it a down payment for our grand and great grand kids futures.
The first step is to release the data. It is hard to tell what will be effective if the NRA addled congress will not allow ATF to do their job.
Read Walter E. Williams current piece on education. Do you really want the folks he is describing packing heat around your kids? To be responsible for keeping the gun away from your kids AT ALL TIMES, and yet, be ready to take out the bad guy? More accidental shootings, resulting from inevitable human error on the part of the armed teachers, in our schools are not an improvement. (How many cops guns end up killing a family member? Remember, cops are focused on this kind of thing. Armed combat is not the focus of the teaching profession.) It is time to get real about why we have a culture awash in guns.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Mark
Tue Jan 8, 2013 8:36 PM
Masako I don't propose anarchy. I've always said that government has its place. So Mark you trust your kids teachers to educate them, but not to be able to handle a gun. I'm not saying all teachers need to be packing, but lets let the ones who are already proficient in firearms at least have the option. I carry a gun in public very often. I'm around kids. I have had training, but was never required to. This is no different from letting teachers carry in the classrooms. If you look at the statistics, licensed gun owners commit about as many crimes as policemen do. Your fears are unfounded.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Wed Jan 9, 2013 6:23 AM
Yes, I trust my kids teachers to educate them. They are highly trained professionals in the area of education. I would pull my kids if the teachers were packing guns. I am not concerned with teachers criminal behavior. Although that is always a possibility, it is a statistically trivial risk. I am concerned with the possibility of loaded firearms getting into the hands of kids. If you put guns in the schools, it will happen. The teacher will have the gun in her purse and run out, just for a minute to do, whatever. Little Joey ADD, sees a moment where he could do something really cool and Sam, a rules guy, jumps into action to take the gun away from Joey... This is, in my humble opinion, a disaster waiting to happen if teachers carry. If you look at the statistics, the guns possessed by licensed gun owners are far more likely to injure or kill somebody in their household than they are to be used to stop a bad guy. Sh*t happens and when it happens with guns, it tends to be bad sh*t. Same problem here. Guns in tens of thousands of schools across the country with the inevitable human error on the part of the teachers, vs a rare gunman attack on schools. Which is likely to have the higher body count?
There is a second issue. Do we really want to live in a society where we are teaching our kids that packing a gun is the only way to be safe? I know that the NRA, mouth piece of the gun manufacturers, would like things to be that way - it's great for sales! - but do we really want to live that way? In your comments to a previous column, you mentioned that a nation without an army is doomed, or words to that effect. Try visiting Costa Rica. No army, just a police force, and a stable, peaceful, middle class history in the middle of a historically ugly region.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Mark
Wed Jan 9, 2013 5:48 PM
Any teacher with the training and know-how to be comfortable carring a gun to school is not going to leave it in a purse or exposed in any way. People who carry guns don't alert people that they do. And considering how few people already conceiled carry, we might be talking one or two teachers per school if any at all. I think your fears are totally unfounded. We don't live in Costa Rica, we live in a society where violence is everywhere. So yes, we should teach our children that they are safer with guns. When was the last time you heard a story of a burgler or rapist stopping their illegal activities because they were asked nicely.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:33 AM
Any driver who is trained and licensed to drive a car is going to know to ALWAYS stop at red lights, look both ways before leaving a stop sign, drive at a safe speed in the snow, etc, etc. Thus we don't have to worry about licensed drivers screwing up? Accidents happen. There are about 99,000 schools in our nation. At one or two guns per school, that would be 150,000 guns in schools. (Put another way, that's about 27,000,000 classroom with a gun days a year.) Accidents happen. We are creating the violent society. It is time to get real on the gun issue as well as the violence issue.
Jon Stewart's Jan 8th show (available to view at his web site) is on the subject of gun control. Very insightful - and entertaining. I highly recommend watching it.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Mark
Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:11 PM
Since a gun is statistically much more likely to injure or kill a member of the household than it is to be used to defend the home from crime, why would we tell kids that they are safer with guns when the data clearly otherwise for the typical house with a gun?
Comment: #8
Posted by: Mark
Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:16 PM
How can a statistic like that even be accurate? Some people don't even report break ins when they have scared the bad guy away with their guns. Thats why we will never truely know how much good guns do. Because they stop incidents from happening. Are you suggesting that somewhere down the line a careless teacher will leave their gun exposed and and homicial kid will grab it and start shooting up the place? How many kids out there would do that? Close to none. Far less than 1%. Now what are the odds of a teacher leaving a gun exposed? Can't be very high. Less than 1%. When you multiply two extreamly unprobable events you get the chances of that happening at next to nothing. Consider that millions of people conceiled carry every day. And you never hear of any crimes commited because of that. Adding a few more buildings where people can carry won't change that.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:27 AM
Google it. Lots of studies, but I realize that I am not going to convince you on this. My concern is not with homicidal children. My concern is with kids who don't have the judgement to handle a gun suddenly having access to one in the middle of a classroom. Note that my hypothetical was one kid getting the gun, perhaps to show off, and another trying to restore order by taking it away from him. How often do you hear of one kid shooting another with the gun they found in dad's nightstand drawer? These are not homicidal kids, just kids with access to something they don't have the maturity to handle. Perhaps playing "gun" without the intent to actually shoot, but stuff happens. Note that we are now back to a much more common type of kid than a homocidal kid. There is probably a couple in every class, not "way less than 1%". 150,000 classes with guns, inevitable human error. Not a good solution.
"And you never hear of any crimes committed because of that" You may never hear of them, and FOX "News" may never hear of them, but I have. Google "concealed carry killer" and you can download the basic stories of the deaths of 499 people where the gun death involved a criminal act on the part of a concealed carry permittee since 2007. Acts ruled to be self-defense are not included. Scan it. Read a few. It's quite sobering. People shooting their ex's, shooting cops, mass shooting incidents, etc. It does not mean that the concealed carry is all wrong, but it is not benign either. Time to take off the NRA blinders on that one, though.
If I believed that the presence of a couple of guns in each school would make the difference, I might be tempted to say that it was worth the risk of the inevitable stupid human error that will occur, but I don't. (As a chemist friend says, hydrogen is the most common substance in the universe. Stupidity is second.) Columbine High had an armed law enforcement officer in the school, but the horror still happened. (Both shooters were fully aware that there was a cop working on campus. It did not stop them.) Remember, he, as a peace officer, trained extensively with guns. He even exchanged fire with one of the shooters. He was not an armed amateur. Is a teacher with a small handgun really going to successfully engage a man with an AR-15 and 30 round clips? In the movies, sure. In reality, not likely.
I am very interested in the ideas that the Biden group will propose. Determining the best path forward will be complex, but it is a problem we must engage. The status quo is unacceptable and nothing should be initially off the table.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Mark
Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:47 PM
I just read that some school are taking measures to arming certain members of the faculty. We'll see from the results which one of us is right.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Sat Jan 12, 2013 12:03 PM
Yes, that idea will certainly be applied in a few schools. Unless the risk is much greater than I think, the data, barring some disaster one way or another, may not be statistically significant. (Absence of a kid gun incident if the guns are only in few hundred classes does not mean that you can safely extrapolate to the 150,000 classes-with-guns model.) In the mean time, we, as a nation have much to discuss and this is the time. Let's get to work.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Mark
Sat Jan 12, 2013 3:05 PM
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