Con: Why Erich Pratt Thinks Our Gun Laws Are Oppressive
“Gun control does not make people safer.”
In our Pro vs Con series, we ask two experts to weigh in on a hot button topic. This week, we tackle gun laws. Erich Pratt is Director of Communications at Gun Owners of America.
Loop 21: Do you think the Colorado state gun laws are adequate? Why or why not?
Erich Pratt: There are states that have better gun laws than Colorado’s, but the Silver State has taken some positive strides towards freedom in recent years. For example, the state’s Supreme Court struck down a gun ban on university campuses this year, making it possible now for concealed carry permit holders to possess firearms at institutions of higher learning in the state. Disarming victims has never kept bad guys from shooting up universities (consider Virginia Tech) or kept women safe from rapists. Take Amanda Collins, who was a college student in 2007. Though she had a concealed carry permit, she was unarmed the night she was brutally raped by James Biela. She had left her gun at home because she was scared of what could happen to her if she was caught disobeying the laws prohibiting firearms on campus. Amanda feels certain she could have used her gun successfully that night. “I would have at some point during my rape been able to stop James Biela,” she said. Amanda has reason to be confident, as there are women today who have escaped the ugliness of rape (or death) because they were armed. According to a study funded by the Clinton Justice Department in 1997, Americans use guns to defend themselves more than 4,000 times a day. People are less safe when they enter a “gun-free zone,” but have a better chance of protecting themselves when they can use a firearm for protection.
Loop 21: Could any viable changes to those state laws have prevented the mass murder there? If so, what would you change?
Pratt: What are positive changes that could prevent mass murders? The answer is simple: Repeal laws that create so-called “gun-free zones.” Almost every large-scale massacre in this country has occurred in an area where guns are outlawed: Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, etc. The Aurora theater was also in a gun-free zone. In all of these shootings, the victims were disarmed by law or regulation — yes, even the one at Fort Hood. They were made mandatory victims by restrictions, which never stop the bad guys from getting or using guns. Contrast these disastrous events with the Aurora shooting you didn’t hear about. That shooting occurred three months ago at a church, which was not in a gun-free zone. A gunman drove into the New Destiny Church parking lot in Aurora, got out of his car and started spraying bullets. Thankfully, a congregant with a concealed firearm shot and killed him, saving countless lives. Gun-free zones don’t save lives, but guns in good people’s hands do.
Loop 21: In general, are our states' right to carry laws effective? Why or why not?
Pratt: In general, concealed carry laws will save lives. Take the highly publicized shooting in 2007, which occurred at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. A gunman, armed with a thousand rounds of ammunition, entered the church, intending to commit the greatest massacre on U.S. soil using a gun. But he was only able to kill two people because he was met by an armed woman who had volunteered to help maintain security at the church. Jeanne Assam is a concealed carry permit holder, and she used her firearm to incapacitate the gunman, thus saving hundreds of lives at this church.
Loop 21: What are the pros of our current federal gun laws?
Pratt: The best “pro” in regard to our federal gun laws is to be found in the U.S. Constitution. Our Constitution grants limited and enumerated powers to the federal government. If a power is not delegated to Congress in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, then the Congress has no authority over that particular issue. Such is the case with firearms in the U.S. Constitution. There is no authority for gun control, and the Second Amendment specifically states that individuals have a right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the right protected in the Second Amendment applies to individuals, and not to states or militias or police. For years, gun control advocates had argued that the Second Amendment right did not protect individuals; hence, Draconian gun bans in cities like Washington, DC, were considered to be constitutional. But the Supreme Court rebuffed those arguments in DC v. Heller in 2008. That year, gun ownership once again became legal in the District, and residents began purchasing thousands of firearms. Incidentally, gun control advocates predicted that the murder rate in the nation’s capital would spike as a result of legal guns entering the city. But what was the reality? Murders in the nation’s capital immediately dropped to a 45-year low. More (legal) guns resulted in less crime.
Loop 21: What are the cons of our current federal gun laws?
Pratt: Despite the fact that our Second Amendment is quite clear — that private individuals enjoy the right to bear arms — many federal gun laws have imposed restrictions or infringements upon the rights of law-abiding gun owners. These laws never work to disarm criminals who want to get and use firearms. And sadly, they threaten good people. Luke Woodham was a student at Pearl High School in Mississippi who brought his gun to school one day in 1997. Happily, he was only able to kill two people. The reason was that Assistant Principal Joel Myrick retrieved a handgun from his truck, blocked the road as Woodham was on his way to kill some other students, and ordered him to the ground at gunpoint until police arrived. Myrick said he had no doubt Woodham would have killed more people if he had not been stopped, as he had 36 rounds of ammo in his pocket when he was finally subdued. Here are the important points: First, the federal gun-free school zone did not keep the student from taking his gun to school and trying to kill as many people as possible. Second, Joel Myrick had to break the law to save people’s lives. So anyone who supports gun-free zones needs to answer this question: Are you willing to punish a brave assistant principal like Joel Myrick for using his gun on school grounds to stop a killer's rampage?
Loop 21: What does the ideal federal gun law look like to you?
Pratt: The ideal federal gun law would be one that is consistent with the words in the Second Amendment, which state that the “right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Restrictions at the federal level are infringements, and they violate the Constitution. If gun control proponents were honest, they would seek to amend the Bill of Rights before enacting any gun bans.
Loop 21: As we get deep into election season, what should readers advocate for when it comes to gun control? Why?
Pratt: Readers should remind politicians that voters do not vote for gun control. That was President Bill Clinton’s conclusion after he lost the Congress in 1994; and it was the conclusion of the Gore campaign after he lost the presidency in 2000. According to the Rasmussen (2007) and Gallup (2009) polling organizations, more Americans oppose gun control than support it. Considering all this data, any candidate who supports gun control should be asked the ole Dirty Harry question: “Do you feel lucky, punk?”
Loop 21: Is there anything else our readers need to know about gun control?
Pratt: Readers should realize that gun control does not make people safer. El Paso, Texas was ranked by CQ Press as America’s safest big city in 2010, even though residents there can carry concealed firearms (and live quite peacefully). All of this, despite being located across from Juarez City, Mexico, a town with very stringent gun control laws and one of the highest murder rates in the world. In Juarez, people are disarmed, they live in fear, and criminals still manage to get ahold of firearms. In El Paso, average citizens can carry firearms, and they live in peace. Any sensible person would choose El Paso over the gun-free zone in Juarez. Many foreign nations have discovered that gun control does not make their citizens safer. For example, England actually had lower crime rates before they began passing their gun control laws. It was not until they enacted a Draconian gun ban after the Dunblane school shooting in 1996 that their crime rates quickly became the highest in the Western World. England is not an anomaly. Many countries with much stricter gun control than that of the United States have failed to prevent gun-related massacres in their countries, including Scotland (1996), Germany (2009), India (2008), England (2010) and Norway (2011). All of these events involved body counts as high as or higher than the recent Aurora shooting.
Do you think we need stronger gun control laws? Tell us in the comments.