First of all, I’m not a gun nut. Not even close. My father was a fairly serious hunter, my extended family are very serious hunters, and my brother, though he seldom if ever hunted in his last decades, loved guns. (He was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.) I went hunting a few times, and I learned from a very young age to be quite comfortable around weapons. I own several guns myself. But I never really caught the bug, and I don’t use my guns. And gun issues are far down my list of political priorities.
That said . . .
The gunman in Aurora plainly chose, when the option was placed before him by police, not to die in a gun battle. He apparently wanted to live. He surrendered.
So how would events have turned out differently had one or two or three people in that theater audience possessed concealed carry permits and a reasonable amount of practice with pistols, and been armed at the time? How many lives might have been saved? Had the gunman known that there was a serious likelihood that he would be shot fairly early in his rampage, would he have even undertaken it in the first place?
I saw a poster the other day asking how many gun-related murders have occurred at gun shows. The answer, according to the poster, is “zero.” Which is probably correct, or very nearly so.
I served my mission in Switzerland, where practically every adult male is actively involved with the military, is required to do regular weapons practice, and owns at least one serious, military-quality gun. The rate of violent crime in Switzerland is minuscule. Apart from obvious political episodes, the same, I think, is true of Israel.
I’m made nervous when various places announce that this church congregation, or that park, or this stadium, or that business, is a gun-free zone. I’ve never, truth be told, felt any urge to pack heat at sacrament meeting. But why announce that nobody at such a place is carrying even legal weaponry? That seems to me an open invitation for the occasional loon to come into a place where he’s going to have absolutely free and leisurely opportunity to kill as many people as his bizarre fantasies or resentments move him to murder.
Many years ago, Barry Goldwater was asked whether he would really have used nuclear weapons on North Vietnam. Almost certainly not, he replied. But why not let the the North Vietnamese think that he was just crazy enough to do it? Why give them any sense of security or assurance?
A former student of mine, an Iranian who has gone on to earn a Ph.D. in international relations, visited me a year or two ago. We spoke for a while about President Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection and the mass street demonstrations that followed. He claimed, based on his sources, that the regime was very near collapse, that the private jet of the chief ayatollah was actually on the tarmac at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, fueled up and ready to go. It was only, he said, when President Obama publicly announced that the United States considered the demonstrations and the crackdown upon them a purely internal Iranian matter and would not intervene that Iranian authorities felt that they had a blank check to unleash their thugs and the full force of their machinery of oppression. Nobody knows how many people died as a result.
Again, why should wrongdoers be given any assurance at all of impunity? Let them feel insecure!
Policy makers considering gun control questions ought to give serious attention to the work of John Lott.
Finally, my wife and I attended a showing of the new Batman movie last night. I enjoyed it, and it helped to take my mind off of the many long telephone conversations that had dominated the day. (Various people were filling me in on what they know about recent developments involving me, and it was, on the whole, deeply depressing, more than a little infuriating, and discouraging.) My wife’s purse was searched, going into the theater, and a theater employee was posted in the theater until some point into the film, watching over the emergency exit doors, and etc. It really felt like going to a movie theater in Israel. (One of my favorite related memories is attending a film in Jerusalem once, many years ago, carrying a grammar of Middle English with me. I rarely go to movies without a book, in case there’s some free illuminated time before ads and previews begin, and I favor grammars and such things because reading them in small snatches of them is still useful, as opposed to opening a novel and getting only five lines into it before the lights dim. Anyway, the Israeli guards couldn’t believe that somebody would bring a book with him to a theater, and they interrogated me for several minutes, all the while trying to find chemical traces or something sinister in the book. It was pretty funny. In retrospect.)
I was pleased, after watching the film, to learn that Christian Bale, who plays Batman, had visited some of the victims of the shooting in Aurora. That was a very nice gesture.