Armed Granny

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She looked like the perfect victim. Last Friday, 56-year-old Margaret Johnson was leaving her building in her wheelchair. Except for her small dog, she was alone and didn’t see the criminal attack her from behind. Having suffered bruises to her neck and arm, a friend of Johnson’s said, "She was scared for her life. She’s devastated."

But this attack ended differently than most crimes in New York City. As her attacker grabbed her "violently" and "choked" her, Johnson pulled out a handgun and shot once, hitting the criminal in the elbow. Johnson was fortunate that she was able to defend herself.

The city obviously wasn’t there to protect Johnson. A police officer could have handled it, but cops can’t be everywhere, and they virtually always arrive after a crime has occurred.

Nor does it appear that the city was doing a particularly good job of keeping the criminal off the street to begin with. Johnson’s attacker had been previously arrested nine times, primarily for the violent crime of robbery, and he had served time in prison for selling illegal substances. One can only wonder how many times he was never caught.

Even worse, if Mayor Bloomberg would have enforced New York City’s gun-control laws, it’s Johnson who would be in jail. Her license only allows her to carry a handgun that is unloaded and in a locked container to and from a firearms range. With an attacker choking her, there is no way she could have unlocked and loaded her gun.

Ironically, just last week Bloomberg went to Washington, D.C., and lashed out at those who failed to stop people who "possess a gun illegally." What would Bloomberg recommend Johnson have done, had she sought to follow the law?

Bloomberg might want to keep in mind Johnson’s case in his lawsuits against gun dealers. The suits mention only the harm and none of the possible benefits from people owning guns to protect themselves.

Considering how others benefit from guns goes against every reflex Bloomberg has. Even after a City Council member was killed at City Hall a few years ago, Bloomberg questioned why the murdered councilman, James Davis, would want to carry a gun. Davis, a retired police officer, had a permit to carry a gun, but Bloomberg found it very troubling: "I don’t know why people carry guns," the mayor said. "Guns kill people."

Bloomberg’s crime-fighting solution was then to ban off-duty and former cops from carrying guns in City Hall. But the criminal was not an officer. Such bans have only one possible outcome: Criminals have less to worry about; in these "gun-free zones," fewer people can act to defend themselves and others.

Coincidentally, last week the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association announced its quixotic plan to push for right-to-carry concealed-handgun laws in the state. Some 40 other states already allow people to carry concealed handguns once they pass a criminal background check and meet age and some training requirements. Some 600,000 people have concealed-handgun permits just in New York’s neighboring state, Pennsylvania.

The Brady Campaign, the gun-control advocacy group, last week responded to a call for a right-to-carry law by saying: "Oh yeah, that’s going to happen — when hell freezes over."

Too bad. It would be nice if the Margaret Johnsons of New York were able to defend themselves legally.

John Lott [send him mail], a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of The Bias Against Guns (Regnery 2003).

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