Ban People — They Kill

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The tragic murders of Virginia Tech students, apparently by an insane person, will prompt new attempts to ban private ownership of guns. Once guns are banned, crime will explode. Households and vulnerable members of society will lose the ability to defend, which will invite more intrusions and attacks. Knife crimes will rise as they have in Great Britain.

Gun prohibition will create a new industry for criminals — gun running and black market sales. Police will conduct stings by posing as black market gun dealers and entrap innocent citizens driven by fear and threat to secure means of personal protection.

A large industry of family businesses dedicated to meeting the needs of shooters, who would never shoot at anything but a paper or clay target, will be wiped out. Gun clubs will close their doors. Collectors of valuable Winchesters and Colts, beautiful pieces of Americana, will have to give them up or be at risk of prison sentences.

Gun banners might be surprised at the number of Americans who provide parts and repairs for firearms that have been out of production for 70 or 80 years. Other businesses provide components from which dedicated hobbyists fashion ammunition that is no longer commercially produced.

Marksmanship is an Olympic sport. A large number of marksmanship events are hosted all over the country, with the national championships at Camp Perry being the best known. I have been a member of gun clubs for decades, and no member has ever shot anyone, accidentally or intentionally. For an older person, marksmanship is one of the few outdoor convivial pursuits, and the challenge of mind-eye-hand coordination and windage calculation is rewarding.

Guns have been around for a long time, but these crazy shootings are a new development that point to a failure of culture to produce people with a sense of responsibility and self-control. When I was a kid, a youngster could walk into a local hardware store and buy a gun. There were no restrictions. If a kid was so young that he couldn’t see over the counter, the store owner might call a parent for approval. We all had guns, and we never shot ourselves or anyone else.

One of my grandmothers thought nothing of me and my friends playing with the World War II weapons my uncle had brought back. My other grandmother never batted an eye when I collected my grandfather’s shotgun from behind the door and went off to match wits with the crows that raided the pecan trees or the poisonous cottonmouth snakes that could be found along the creek that ran through the farm.

My grandmother never worried about me until I got a horse, a more dangerous object in her view than a gun.

We also all had knives, which we carried in our pockets to school every day. We never stabbed anyone and very seldom cut our own fingers.

We often had fights, more often wrestling each other to the ground than fist fights. No one ever thought of pulling a knife or a gun on his antagonist. Parents and teachers did not exactly approve of fights, but they considered them natural. We were not arrested, handcuffed and finger-printed for being in a fight.

Except for war films, movie violence was rare. I still remember the shock we all experienced when the hero in a cowboy movie actually shot and killed the outlaw. Until that film, the hero would shoot the gun out of the outlaw’s hand, knock him out with a punch to the jaw, and deliver him rope bound to the sheriff.

I began my teaching career at Virginia Tech when the institution still had its Cadets. Students marched in uniforms with powerful military weapons that as far as I can remember still had firing pins. No one ever loaded a rifle and shot someone. Indeed, as a high school and Georgia Tech student, we had to take R.O.T.C. We knew how to field strip an M1 30-06 rifle and could have procured surplus army ammunition with ease, but no one was ever irresponsible enough to load one of the weapons. When we had marksmanship practice, it was at a firing range.

The change is in the behavior of people, not the presence of guns. Banning guns does not address the cause of gratuitous violence. We need to find the cause of the sickness in our society that produces people who deal with their problems by murdering others.

England has discovered the truth of the NRA’s motto — "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." The gun ban has only disarmed the honest citizens. Drugs are banned, but they are available almost everywhere, as was alcohol during Prohibition. If a deranged person can’t obtain a black market gun, he will make a bomb.

Indeed, the Iraq war has greatly stimulated interest in, and knowledge of, bomb-making. The longer the senseless occupation of Iraq continues, the more likely that Americans, like residents of Baghdad, will awaken each day to the news of 100 dead and 100 injured.

Gun rights are constitutionally protected, because the Founding Fathers did not trust even the limited and constrained government that they created. To infringe this constitutional right makes it easier to infringe others. Certainly the Bush administration has shown no reluctance to infringe such foundations of our political and legal existence as habeas corpus and the requirement that warrants be obtained before privacy is invaded.

If we lose the Constitution, we have lost our country.

Responsibility goes with accountability. Government, like people, becomes less responsible as accountability declines. Indeed, it is impossible to have irresponsible people and responsible government as the government is staffed by people.

In my day, parents and teachers had authority. Today teachers have no authority, which is why they have to call the police to control the kids. Child Protective Service has stripped parents of authority. Children are taught at school to call CPS if they are spanked by parents. Apparently, teachers cannot recognize the decline of their own authority in the decline of parental authority.

I remember when a misbehaving kid picked up by the police was turned over to his parents. Today, the kids are taken to jail.

Humans are fallible and will fail in their responsibilities to others and do bad things. However, today they fail more often than in the past. The cause is not guns.

Paul Craig Roberts [send him mail] wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is author or coauthor of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholar journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury’s Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He is also coauthor with Karen Araujo of Chile: Dos Visiones — La Era Allende-Pinochet (Santiago: Universidad Andres Bello, 2000).

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