gun girlIn the worst shooting since Virginia Tech in 2007, 6 people are confirmed dead in a northern Illinois campus shooting at NIU yesterday:

“The gunman dressed in black stormed into an oceanography class Thursday afternoon and opened fire with a shotgun and two handguns. In a matter of seconds, he killed six and wounded 15. Then, still on stage, he killed himself, authorities said.”

Horrible. Perhaps one day we’ll understand why people do these things, an answer which eludes me entirely at present. And maybe at some stage we’ll have a way to better deal with the disenfranchised of our society. In the meantime, there’s some speculation that this will provide the impetus needed by the anti-gun lobby to make gun control a campaign issue in the presidential election.

First, let me say that this shameless politicising of the incident only a day afterwards seems rather ugly, whether or not the arguments of the anti-gun lobby have any merit (and, they don’t). These people are truly classless. For example, NBC news anchor Andrea Mitchell, in the middle of reporting on the incident, decides that it’s an appropriate time to express her hope that Barack Obama will use the shooting as a way to raise the gun issue in his presidential campaign:

“You know, it does bring to mind all the debates we’ve had over the years about gun control. I remember covering it on the Hill in the ’80s. Of course I know the Bradys and all the efforts they made, and it eventually persuaded Ronald Reagan to switch his position on gun control and depart from what was traditional consersative Republican ideology. And gun control is not yet a big issue in this campaign, but you wonder: Barack Obama is a senator from Illinois. Maybe this will become propelled to the front of the…”

One has to wonder if she didn’t just wet herself in the excitement. It appears Mitchell doesn’t share the view of most of her fellow conservatives regarding the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (more on that in a moment).

Of course, we’ve dealt with the gun debate often on this blog, and none of the arguments or players have become any different simply because we find ourselves in an election year. I’m not surprised to find that Obama is on record as wanting to ban all semiautomatic firearms (1998 IL State Legislative National Political Awareness Test) – a measure which would make both of my own firearms illegal and most of the guns in America at large along with them – but it perhaps makes the issue a little more pertinent, and certainly makes good responses to anti-gun arguments more important.

I once described the arguments of the gun control lobby (who want to ban or restrict firearms) as among “the worst arguments in contemporary political discourse.” I still believe that’s true. Take, in a randomly-chosen example, an editorial published today on, in which blogger Kevin Naff asserts:

“From Virginia Tech to the more recent shopping mall shootings to this tragedy in California, it’s clear that guns have pervaded our culture.”

“Pervaded”? Well I suppose they have, in the same way that kitchen knives have pervaded our culture, or that stupid anti-gun arguments have pervaded our culture, or that jelly beans have pervaded our culture. He goes on:

“What will it take for the American people to realize that the only solution to this madness is tough gun control laws?”

Er, perhaps a cogent, provable link between tough gun control laws and a reduction in firearm violence? Maybe if Mr. Naff could provide such a piece of evidence the American people would be persuaded of his point of view. But he can’t, because such a piece of evidence doesn’t exist. To the contrary, some evidence exists to prove the opposite: that when more citizens are trusted to own and carry firearms for self-defense, less gun violence occurs (see John Lott’s excellent book on the subject, More Guns, Less Crime). This point is actually proven by yesterday’s shooting at NIU itself: some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation are enforced on university campuses! And, as Lott points out, “Illinois is of course one of two states that completely ban people carrying concealed handguns anyplace.”  Neither of these facts appear to have thwarted the shooter.

But, Naff continues, absent of reason:

“The nefarious influence of the NRA ensures that we will one day soon exceed 20,000 fatal shootings in a single year. This is unfathomable to residents of Europe and Canada, who are lucky to live in societies where lawmakers have restricted access to guns.”

He might ask European lawmakers whether gun violence has gone up or down since they enacted their restrictions on guns (London’s gun violence is at an all-time high, for example, despite its having gun laws tougher than anywhere in America). And I find it highly amusing that Naff thinks the NRA will be responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people per year by firearms (which, by the way, works out at about 0.00006 percent of the population of the United States) merely by advocating that people be allowed to retain their rights under the 2nd Amendment. And that’s the problem, of course: Naff and his ilk seem convinced – despite a ton of good evidence to the contrary – that attempting to remove one particularly efficient means to kill will also remove the motives to kill and the recourse to any other means. It’s cretinous.

Whether or not guns become a campaign issue (upon which I might add that, of the three frontrunners for the presidency, only John McCain is likely to take a satisfactory position), the issue is about to undergo its most important test in almost 70 years. Next month, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether gun control (banning or restricting firearms) is constitutional, for the first time since 1939. The verdict will have profound implications for all Americans.

Central to the case will be the wording of the 2nd Amendment, and whether it protects an individual right or a collective right:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

What is meant by that sentence is only ambiguous, in my opinion, in the absence of anything else written on the issue by the people who wrote it. In other words, what the authors of the 2nd Amendment meant by this text can be easily clarified by the other things that they said. James Madison wrote that Americans had “the advantage of being armed” that was lacking in other nations, where “the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” John Adams: “Arms in the hands of the citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny or private self-defense.” Thomas Jefferson: “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” Thomas Jefferson, in an early draft of the Virginia constitution: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms in his own lands.”

The U.S. Department of Justice would appear to agree: in 2004, it published a thorough memo on the 2nd Amendment, concluding that “the Second Amendment secures a personal right of individuals, not a collective right that may only be invoked by a State or a quasi-collective right restricted to those persons who serve in organized militia units.”

Some progressives will no doubt disagree and insist that times have changed; that what the founding fathers thought about firearms should now be considered irrelevant. But doesn’t this beg the question of what has changed since then? What’s different about firearms today, about how they’re used or about the need for self-defense in the centuries since the Constitution was written? Were more or less than zero-point-zero-zero-zero-zero-six percent of the U.S. population getting shot in 1775? And if a greater proportion of the U.S. population was killed by firearms in 1775 than are being killed by firearms in 2008, as I strongly suspect, how can anyone claim that the wisdom of the founding fathers is inapplicable today? What other factor invalidates the 2nd Amendment for 2008? It certainly isn’t found in any evidence that infringing on the rights laid down in the amendment produces a safer society or less crime or less deaths by gun violence, as I mentioned above.

As Col. Oliver North points out:

“When the Washington, D.C. City Council enacted the toughest gun-control law in the nation in 1976, the city fathers — according to what they said at the time — believed they were making our nation’s capital a safer place. The measure failed miserably. Since passage, the murder rate in the District has skyrocketed by more than 200 percent. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has a chance to both make our capital safer — and ensure that the Second Amendment to our Constitution is enshrined as an individual right for every law-abiding American.”

Isn’t this the exact opposite of what the Brady Bunch and other gun control lobbyists (like Naff above) say will happen? Not only has enacting “tough gun control laws” failed to reduce gun violence in Washington, D.C., it’s actually had the obverse effect! Far from reducing gun violence, gun violence increases: the very reverse of what they claim will occur. There are well understood reasons that this is the case, of course, but I wouldn’t expect the Bradys or Naff or any of the others contending that restricting or banning guns reduces crime to have bothered to read about it.

I can only conclude that the people who believe in restricting or banning firearms haven’t done their research, or haven’t thought hard enough about it, or are ideologically impeded enough to be blatantly, willfully ignorant of the facts. Let’s hope the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court do better in this regard, consider that the facts and statistics clearly come down on the side of individual liberty, and choose to uphold the rights of all Americans to own and use firearms for their self-defense. It’ll be an interesting case to watch.

Perhaps we’ll never understand why someone would walk onto a university campus and try to kill as many innocent people as possible. But there’s one thing absolutely certain: tough laws banning guns have never stopped it happening, and didn’t stop it yesterday. On the contrary, tough laws banning guns make it easier to accomplish! If only one of those innocent students in that room at NIU had been carrying a firearm for self-defense, there’s a good chance that lives may have been saved by the actions they could have taken on behalf of himself or herself and their fellow students. Instead, the law prevented them from doing that, and essentially created the circumstances in which they became victims.

That’s inexcusable. (Listen to my interview with a representative of a student group fighting for their right to protect themselves on campus by clicking here.)