Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crime spree shows value of guns

(AGPVTR/Wikimedia Commons)
A series of crimes in Villa Rica this week makes a compelling case for keeping a gun in the home for personal protection.  The victim of the crimes in question lives across the street from me.  She is a single mother who is raising a pre-teen daughter by herself.   

The story begins with my neighbor shopping at a local department store.  While she was in the store, her wallet and keys were stolen from her purse as it sat in her shopping cart.  The brazen thief must have walked by her cart and reached inside her purse as her back was turned.  The thief promptly made several stops where items were fraudulently charged to my neighbor’s credit cards.

Adding insult to injury, before she could have the locks on her house changed the thief struck again.  While mother and daughter slept, the thief entered their house, directly across the street from my house, to look for more loot.  In the middle of the night, the thief used the stolen car keys to make off with my neighbor’s only car. 

As bad as the situation is, my neighbor is actually very lucky.  The intruder could have assaulted her or her daughter in the middle of the night instead of just stealing her car.  Even if that had not been his intention, if one of the sleeping women had been awakened by the intruder the situation could easily have escalated to a violent confrontation.

In a situation like this, a gun is often the only protection that innocent citizens have.  If an intruder is in the house, the residents are at his mercy until the police arrive.  In such a circumstance, even though a police response might only take minutes, a gun could make the difference between life and death.  In a disaster such as the flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when local government and law enforcement completely broke down, law-abiding citizens might have to be able to protect their homes and families for hours or days before help arrives.   

These are not far-fetched situations.  The Future of Freedom Foundation cites a study by the Northwestern University School of Law which found that privately owned weapons are used sixty times more to protect lives than with criminal intent.  The study also found that private citizens shoot and kill about nine times more criminals each year than the police do with a lower error rate.  The article quotes George Will’s statistic that accidental police shootings of innocent civilians occur at a rate of eleven percent, while private citizens have a mistaken shooting rate of only two percent. 

One of the best ways to protect your family is to get a gun.  Georgia allows instant gun sales if the buyer passes an instant background check.  This means that in a situation like my neighbor’s, a crime victim does not have to wait defenselessly for several days to take possession of a gun.  They can buy one and take it home as soon as they feel threatened.  There is no need for a permit unless the gun owner wants to be able to carry a pistol in public.  If a law-abiding citizen feels threatened away from their property, they have the right to get a Georgia Weapons Carry License that permits them to carry a concealed weapon in public.

For home defense, a shotgun is a good choice.  The fact that a shotgun fires a spread of buckshot and not a single projectile means that pinpoint accuracy is not needed.  Just point the barrel in the general direction of the intruder and pull the trigger.  The downside to a shotgun or any long gun is that they can be clumsy to use in a confined space.  The gun owner should stay well away from the intruder to ensure that the bad guy does not grab the barrel and take the gun. 

Another favorite choice for home defense is a pistol.  Pistols (handguns) are small and easily handled in tight spaces like hallways and closets.  Because they are semi-automatic (they fire a single bullet for each pull of the trigger), they do require more practice to be effective.  In a high stress situation like a home invasion at night, it would be easy to miss the target if the gun owner is unfamiliar with the weapon. 

If a new gun owner is unfamiliar with guns, a course in firearms safety is a must.  Regardless of your opinion of the gun lobby, NRA certified instructors and courses provide a high-quality introduction into the world of firearms.  Just as you wouldn’t buy scuba gear and go diving without any instruction, you shouldn’t try to teach yourself about guns if you’ve never been around them.  The NRA offers courses on personal protection both inside and outside the home as well as “Refuse to Be a Victim” seminars.  You can look up the date and location of these courses by zip code on the NRA website.  Many of the courses are offered in the Atlanta area.

If there are children in the home, you should also take safety precautions such as placing the gun in a location that is inaccessible to the child.  Guns should not be simply hidden from children because secrecy can breed curiosity and fascination, but the children should be taught not to touch the gun.  The NRA also offers the Eddie Eagle Gunsafe program, which teaches children to go tell an adult if they find a gun.  Older children might even be given the chance to fire the family gun under controlled conditions at a practice range.

Trigger locks and locking gun cabinets are another safety alternative.  While these do prevent children from being able to obtain and fire a weapon accidentally, they also make it more difficult for the gun owner to access the weapon in an emergency.  In the heat of a home invasion burglary in the middle of the night, it would be difficult to quickly and quietly unlock and load the weapon without turning on the lights and alerting the burglar.  It would be even more difficult if the burglar was assaulting the gun owner.

An April 2011 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports a rise in the number of women buying guns and participating in the NRA’s “Women on Target” shooting clinics.  As more and more women turn to guns for self-defense and recreation, the NRA is expanding its selection of women-only courses, hunts, and competitions.   

It was famously said that the Lord made men, but Sam Colt, a famous American gun maker, made them equal.  This certainly remains true today.  Without privately owned firearms, innocent men, women and children would remain at the mercy of hardened criminals who would be free to terrorize them with impunity anytime the police were not in sight.

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