Guest Editorial

BY C.D. MICHEL  | APRIL 24, 2013

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Unintended victims

She went home from the gun store to endure a ten day cooling off period before she could take her new gun home. But her estranged husband, the subject of a restraining order, was not cooling off about their pending divorce. That same evening she was raped, beaten nearly to death, and their son was almost killed by the man he once called “Daddy.” Every law has unintended consequences. Many have perverse intended consequences. Nowhere are the perverse results more horrific than with gun control laws, because laws relating to the legal acquisition of firearms often harm no one except those who are inclined to obey such legislation.

Oddly, it is the most vulnerable among us who are most harmed by ill-conceived gun control laws. According to criminologists, guns are used to prevent violence about six times more often than commit it. In the absence of efficacy as a crime deterrent – a conclusion reached by the National Academy of Science – we should accept that gun control laws endanger people and disproportionately so.

Disempowering women
The old adage goes: “When a 220 pound rapist attacks a 110 pound woman, the rapist wins. When a 200 pound rapist attacks a 110 pound woman with a revolver, the revolver wins.” Despite legal equality, the reality is that typically women are physically unequal to men. On average women are weaker, putting woman at a disadvantage during physical altercations with a man. Many thuggish men rely on this, and it shows in the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics. Women are nearly as likely to be assaulted as men, but are less physically able to resist. Needless to say, women make up nearly all rapes victims. The curve also disfavors younger women (ages 12-24) who are more prone to being violently attacked than older women.

Given these physical dynamics, a woman’s enhanced ability in defending herself becomes important. According to national victimization surveys gathered by the government, the most commonly advised forms of self-defense or physical resistance are largely ineffective and often downright dangerous. To avoid injury and death, women should avoid physical, or even close contact with their attacker. But using a gun results in the victim being injured about one fifth as often as when mere physical resistance was used, and one fourth of as often when trying to get help. So of all means cataloged, using a gun for self-defense resulted in fewer people suffering at the hands of violent attackers.

This is where gun control really works to a woman’s detriment. Many attacks occur in the home, a place where it takes an average of 8-10 minutes for an officer to arrive … and that is if a woman can reach the telephone and dial 9-1-1. Combined, this makes self-defense a requisite for women. Laws designed to slow or prevent acquisition of firearms make injury from attack more probable, and given physical disparities, make it more likely that women are injured or killed.

Disadvantaged poor and minorities
The Los Angeles, California police chief once said “'No guns can be sold to Mexicans and all dealers who have used guns for window displays have been ordered to take them from the windows and to show them to no Mexican until the embargo is lifted.” Granted, this was in 1916. But it shows that be it California or Jim Crow’s south, gun control tends to target minorities. Both at the state and federal level, the fact is gun control has racist roots.

Violent crime disproportionately affects the poor and economically disadvantaged minorities. This is not because poor people or minorities are inherently violent. You can find people fitting both profiles in rural areas around the country where violent crime is low. The combined symptoms are largely confined to inner-city neighborhoods where violent career criminals devolve into their own poverty, and by doing so influence local culture. Nonetheless, gun control laws significantly target low income populations, and so minorities. Some states, such as California, have attempted to ban inexpensive firearms (so-called “Saturday Night Specials”), making the cost of firearms prohibitive to many in minority communities. Politicians also enact licensing and registration laws that come with associated, and often hefty, fees. Combined, these systems price people out of the firearms market and effectively disarm the law abiding poor in primarily minority districts. And they simultaneously expose the same people to violent career criminals who get black market guns without paying the fees, and drift into those same neighborhoods.

This creates an extremely dangerous situation for minorities, and one that has exacerbated inner-city victimization rates. The homicide rate for blacks is nearly six times higher than for whites, with blacks making nearly half the annual income per household as whites. With lower incomes and an associated inability to afford firearms for self-defense, and living in more violent surroundings where the need for self-defense is most acute, gun control has greatly harmed minorities by disarming them while emboldening violent criminals in their neighborhoods. Nowhere has this become more evident than in Chicago, Illinois. Having banned private handgun ownership in the early 1980s, Chicago’s homicide rates exploded – second highest rate of major metropolitan cities – with 94.2 percent of homicides there having black or Hispanic victims. Even though Chicago’s handgun ban has recently been overturned by the courts, to discourage gun ownership the city still puts economic disincentives in front of poor communities in the form of a Chicago Firearm Permit, which costs $100 and which must be renewed every three years. Before even obtaining this permit, an economically challenged citizen must complete a training course at their expense.

The mugger weighted more than 200 pounds. His specialty was robbing old ladies in Miami of their Social Security checks. When one retiree resisted, he beat her, shattering an eye socket, fracturing several ribs and leaving her for dead. Like women, the elderly are vulnerable due to their physical condition, but also due to frequent isolation. Many live alone in less than safe neighborhoods due to the necessity of living frugally. The elderly are particularly vulnerable during “hot home invasion” robberies where they may face multiple attackers, or an attacker with a gun.

Being easier targets on small fixed incomes puts elderly people in a uniquely dangerous position. Affording firearms may be economically challenging, especially in metropolitan centers where politicians have imposed significant fees and training requirements. In some states, not being allowed to obtain concealed carry permits prevents older Americans from meaningful self-defense in public, where attacks are more likely. The elderly are more than capable of armed self-defense when gun control does not prevent it. Jay Leone was 90 years old when an armed burglar broke down the door of his San Francisco area home. Leone managed to get his own firearm, and even after being shot by the burglar, wounded and held his attacker for the police. Despite such routine occurrences, some politicians have suggested forcibly disarming senior citizens under the false comparison to rescinding driver’s licenses (public roadways and private homes have vastly different jurisdictional rules).

In Merced, California, two children were murdered by a man with a history of violence, drug abuse and mental illness. He used a pitchfork.

The oldest child escaped and she called the police, who arrived far too late to protect her siblings. The children’s father had taught all his children how to shoot, and his oldest girl received her hunter safety certificate at age 12. She also knew where her dad kept his handgun, stowed away locked from her access in obedience to California’s “safe storage” law. She could not get the gun and save her nine and seven year old brother and sister. Well intended as they may be, gun control laws to protect children are statistically misplaced. Accidental firearm deaths in America have been steadily falling for decades, and in the last reporting year, only 62 children died from firearm accidents (a little more than one child per state for the entire year). Protecting children from firearms is a low priority compared to other deadly situations (twenty two times as many children are accidentally killed in traffic).  Childproofing also has indirect endangerments. If a parent is hindered in using a firearm in defense of their children, then gun control laws that designed to protect kids may do just the opposite.

First; do no harm laws should never deprive someone of their rights. Chief among human rights is the right of survival and that includes the means to stay alive. The American Second Amendment was crafted for many reasons, and among the publicly debated justifications was to ensure the weakest among us had an equal right and chance to live. That gun control laws rob them of these basic rights is inhuman.

Victimization data: Criminal Victimization, 2010, Bureau of Justice Statistics
Police response time: Police Beat

Chicago homicide data: Chicago Murder Analysis, City of Chicago Police Department, 2011
C.D. “Chuck” Michel is one of the leading authorities on 2nd Amendment issues and gun rights ordinances. As one of the chief litigators for the NRA, author of “CA Gun Laws”, Adjunct Professor at Chapman University and Senior Partner at Michel & Associates law firm, Mr. Michel has been an integral figure in defining gun rights legislation since 1991.