Last week's shooting in Arizona produced an entirely predictable torrent of leftist commentary deploring the easy availability of firearms. ""If only there were fewer guns,'' the confiscationists lament, ""this might not have happened.''
Also last week, a plainclothes Baltimore police officer, responding to a report of a disturbance at a night club, met several of his uniformed colleagues. The encounter ended with the plainclothes officer and a bystander dead, and four others wounded. Curiously, this terrible accident produced no leftist demands to disarm the police.
Consider: If we limited automobile use to "professionals," we'd all be much safer. We'd likely save about 40,000 lives each year. DWI would be vanishingly rare. Indeed, we'd likely be a lot healthier, as we'd be compelled to walk or ride bicycles (assuming that government doesn't think they're too dangerous). If safety is the only concern, how can one oppose such a proposal?
But, of course, safety is not the only concern. Use of these tools — cars and guns — provides a huge societal benefit, so measuring only the costs related to accidents or crime makes no sense. Let's be clear: the ubiquity of firearms is not the problem. If availability alone caused carnage, Switzerland would be awash in an ocean of blood, as every adult male serves in the militia and possesses a fully automatic "assault" weapon. Murder rates there are substantially less than in Great Britain, where few people own guns.
And no law which permits private ownership of firearms would have intercepted the Tuscon shooter; he had been convicted of nothing and had no public record of mental illness. Only a universal and 100 percent effective ban would prevent (private-sector) criminals and nuts from getting guns. Not only is that an impossibility, but to keep weapons from lunatics and criminals, the left would disarm everyone.
Except governmental agents.
So, we would all become "safer" by becoming defenseless.
When evil knocks at one's door, it tends to arrive heavily armed. History provides very little evidence for the inherent goodness of men. Much more common than the nutcase shooting at congresswomen is the rapist preying on your daughter. Against a knife wielding assailant, what chance does she have? Should law-abiding citizens stand defenseless against the criminal? Some 2 million times each year, Americans use firearms in their own defense. That's a lot of nonvictims who would become victims — and, perhaps, corpses — if the confiscationists prevail.
But more crucially, an armed populace is the greatest bulwark of freedom. Our framers understood that, and envisioned a society akin to Switzerland, in which every citizen is armed and responsible for his own defense and that of the state. Our own revolution against a tyrannical government was commenced by extra-governmental militiamen wielding their privately-owned assault weapons. Those who study history, politics and war know that entrusting a monopoly on force to small bands of disciplined young men trained to take orders without question is a horrible idea.
But, again, the left trusts government implicitly and regards the possibility of the descent of American government into tyranny as nothing more than the paranoid fantasy of screwball militia wannabes. We paranoid militia wannabes sincerely hope they're right, but wish to be prepared in case they're wrong.
What seems to us unthinkable, outrageous, and, perhaps, paranoid, is, by historical standards, an everyday occurrence. Examples of free, advanced, civilized countries spiraling into tyranny abound. Germany elected Hitler, who seized all private firearms to consolidate his murderous tyranny. Communists imposed their hateful ideology on disarmed people around the world. Indeed, the one inevitable quality of every tyranny throughout history is a disarmed populace, impotent against the destruction of its freedoms.
Put simply, the question presented is: do we trust the American people? Or do we believe that only the wise salons in government possess the requisite maturity and discretion to wield force and can be trusted to keep us "safe?"
Hubert Humphrey — that notorious conservative Republican and defender of right-wing militia kooks — supported an armed populace, because, he said, just because it hasn't happened here doesn't mean it can't. Madison, Washington, Adams and the rest of the Founding generation agreed. And history repeatedly proves them correct. Only those willing — and able — to fight for freedom get to keep it.
No, the Redcoats aren't marching on Lexington (to seize privately-owned firearms, as it happens). But who, in Berlin in 1925, could have predicted Berlin in 1935? A firearm is like a first aid kit: you hope you never need it, but it behooves you to keep it handy and know how to use it should the necessity arise. Jefferson would approve, and, as between his counsel and that of Barney Frank or Keith Olbermann, whom do you trust?
Michael P. Carroll, a Republican from Morris Township, represents the 25th District in the New Jersey Assembly.