The most recent attack by terrorists in a western nation has come to an end with the deaths of the primary killers and, as can be expected in such things, the deaths of many innocents, including hostages. Special Operations forces around the world have a common aphorism: “it sucks to be a hostage” because so often, so many of them are killed, and so it was in the Paris terrorist attacks. Though one terrorist remains at large, possibly headed for Syria, this particular series of attacks appears to be, for the moment, over. However, the issues it raises are not . . .
France, like most European nations, is a gun banner’s utopia. Private ownership of firearms is strictly regulated. There is no such thing as a right to keep and bear arms and Frenchmen have, over the years, developed an entitlement mentality, a reliance on government, in ways repugnant to most Americans. Part of that mentality is reliance on the government to protect them. One might expect the French public to begin to question that reliance after the events of the last week, but that is unlikely.
As many Americans discovered to their amazement and horror, even many French policemen are unarmed and wear no body armor though given sufficient time and provocation, they can activate SWAT teams and special operations forces that are as well-armed and outfitted as any. The consequences for the average French citizen are as predictable as they have proved to be deadly. An almost entirely disarmed populace, combined with a sometimes unarmed police force have not only produced a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism, but provide a nation of soft targets. Targets that are easily exploited as the world came to realize when an Islamic terrorist murdered a wounded and unarmed policeman as he lay, helpless, on a Paris sidewalk, and another killed a female officer going about her duties.
Despite being a nation that almost entirely disarms its citizens, criminals have little trouble obtaining arms, as was the case with the Charlie Hebdo attackers who were reportedly able to obtain fully automatic Kalashnikov rifles.
In France, when seconds counted, the police were minutes away, and when they arrived, they had no choice but to flee, as several police officers on bicycles did when they realized that being unarmed meant they could do nothing but die.
None of this should be a surprise to the French who have welcomed Muslim immigration and declined to require assimilation to French culture, which has produced Islamist-dominated neighborhoods where Sharia is the only law and where French police officers wisely refuse to set foot, as do any reasonable, non-Muslim Frenchmen. Even this is not enough as Muslims often accost women–even American tourists–in parks, demanding they cover themselves.
Making comparisons to the United States and foreign nations is usually an exercise in futility that leads to faulty conclusions and worse policy, as illustrated by this comment by Washington Post columnist and disarmament advocate Eugene Robinson on MSNBC’s January 9, 1015 edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports:
“Just to keep it into perspective, I don’t think we should imagine that the conditions and the threat are exactly the same in the United States as they are in France. They are different. In fact, one thing that is different here is weapons are universally available and so it is actually a very good thing that, that the tensions are not exactly the same because we would expect to have a lot more carnage.”
As gun-banners tend to do, Robinson blames guns rather than criminals and terrorists, and misses the truly definitive point. He suggests that because Americans have the right to keep and bear arms, a similar attack in America would be thereby far more deadly. France and America do have one thing in common: criminals and terrorists will always be willing and able to obtain whatever weapons they choose. How could anyone planning mass murder be deterred by laws providing lesser penalties for the possession of guns? The only true difference is the potential deterrent effect of widespread American ownership of, and skill with, arms and the ability of citizens to rapidly and decisively respond to any criminal or terrorist attack.
In France, terrorists can be certain citizens are disarmed and that virtually the entire nation is a soft target. They can also be certain that relatively few policemen will be armed, and that the police, therefore, provide little or no deterrent effect. Terrorists do not have to plan to martyr themselves. They can plan to kill, escape, and live to kill again, just as the Paris barbarians did.
Do terrorists face the same calculus in America?
Before exploring the facts of American firearm ownership and distribution, we must better understand Americans. Historian Frederick Jackson Turner, at an 1893 Chicago meeting of historians, proposed what has come to be called the Turner Thesis, or The Frontier Thesis. Turner suggested that America and Americans are unique among all nations and peoples, because unlike all other nations, we had to conquer the west. By courage, determination, self-reliance, and hard work, Americans forged a national character that required and appreciated liberty, individualism, mobility, restless energy and optimism. Americans do not expect others to provide for them, to protect them, or to secure their futures. Government, for most, is seen as a potential danger rather than an advantage.
One can certainly argue that some substantial portions of the contemporary American populace seem determined to prove Turner wrong. Reliance on government, relentless pessimism, substituting reliance on self-anointed “experts” for self-reliance, and the substitution of political correctness for courage and common sense go hand in hand with the never-ending impulse to disarm the population, an impulse shared with all terrorists and tyrants.
The unalienable right to keep and bear arms is a necessary condition for the vindication of the Turner Thesis, and for the continuance of liberty. Without that Freedom, America could not have been successfully settled, and America, and the world, would be a very different, and far darker, place.
No other nation has a Second Amendment or the will to have one. According to the NRA, there are more than 300 million privately owned firearms in America, of which approximately 100 million are handguns. While this is essential a firearm for every man, woman and child, there are approximately 100 million firearm owners in America, with something between 40-45% of all households owning firearms. Approximately 14.5 million hunting licenses are sold annually. Forty-two states now have right-to-carry laws, and all allow at least some form of concealed carry, though in states like California and Illinois, that right is still highly restricted and being litigated. Despite the numbers of firearms in private hands increasing at an incredible rate, the national violent crime rate, from 1991 to 2012, declined 49%–a 42-year low–and the murder rate dropped by 52%, a 49-year low. Accidents with firearms have also continued to drop to historically low levels.
According to Fox News, at least 11 million Americans have a concealed carry permit, which is a substantial increase–146%–from 4.5 million in 2007. At the same time, violent crime and murder rates have dropped by approximately 22%. Disarmament advocates often look at such statistics and say: “with crime rates dropping so much, why do people have to buy so many guns?” These are the same people who are upset at increasing prison populations, that can’t figure out why incarceration rates are so high as fewer crimes are being committed.
Dr. John R. Lott succinctly explains:
“When you allow people to carry concealed handguns, you see changes in the behavior of criminals.”
If one gives it a bit of thought, it almost makes sense. More guns do equal less crime, and putting more criminals in jail prevents those criminals from committing crimes, which would seem–to the rational person–to explain declining crime rates.
Statistics don’t tell the whole story. Wyoming, for example, has nearly 28,000 concealed carry licensees, but Wyoming has constitutional carry. No concealed carry license is necessary, but some people obtain them, because without one, neighboring states do not grant reciprocity, and Wyomingites often travel to bordering states.
Will firearm ownership deter terrorist attacks? Will it potentially make attacks less successful and deadly?
There can be little question that the widespread distribution of arms, and the fact that someone will be carrying a concealed weapon virtually anywhere, must be factored into any terrorist’s plans, but it is unlikely that fact alone will be a complete deterrent. Disarmament advocates have been successful in carving out hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of citizen disarmament/gun free zones throughout America, including schools, courthouses, parks, state and national monuments, theaters, sports stadiums, medical facilities, malls and a variety of other public and private venues. Terrorists can be assured that even with universally armed police, an attack on a school, for example, will virtually always allow them more than sufficient time to kill many, even if they do not intend to try to escape. In such victim disarmament zones, unless a citizen is willing to disobey the law, it is unlikely anyone will be armed and in a position to resist an armed attack.
The reality of policing, circa 2015, is also largely in the favor of terrorists. Most are shocked to learn how few police officers of all kinds–city officers, county deputies, state troopers, etc.–are available to respond to any emergency, let alone a terrorist attack, anywhere in America at any time of the day or night. In many cities, and in much of rural America, police response times to emergency calls, when they are available to respond at all, mirror Detroit, which has reluctantly admitted to a 58 minute average response time. The national average is 11 minutes, which should not be reassuring. At the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack, the first local officer did not enter the school until 14 minutes and 47 seconds after the attack began. The killer shot himself nearly five minutes earlier. All killing was completed within 10 minutes; the police had no role in stopping the slaughter. They virtually never do.
I’m not suggesting the police don’t want to save lives. Stopping a terrorist attack would be very near the top of any police officer’s “let me! Let me!” list. But if there are only three or four city officers, two or three deputies, and one highway patrolman 62 miles away available to handle such extraordinary emergencies, we are–as we have always been–on our own.
Even so, Americans are better suited, in terms of character–all that makes Americans American–than the citizens of perhaps any other nation. We are surely more able to be armed than the citizens of virtually any other nation, and even if we are not carrying concealed weapons, many of us have firearms close at hand.
At the same time, I suspect a compelling reason that many Americans are now gun owners is their growing knowledge of disturbing trends in America and the world. Terrorism is on the rise, terrorist cells are surely operating in America and terrorists can wade across our southern border at any time. American leadership has never been so weak or deluded, enabling our enemies and hampering our allies. Many Americans also reasonably fear the tyrannical attitudes and desires of many so-called leaders. President Obama is determined to empty Gitmo, even if he has to release some of the worst terrorist murders in history back to the international battlefield to do it. Their time in Gitmo has surely served to make their ever-present desire for revenge on America burn brighter. The fact that the police cannot protect any individual, and in fact, have no legal duty to do so, is likewise a motivating factor.
For most Americans, being a victim of a terrorist attack remains highly unlikely, but there is nothing preventing such an attack, as Americans across the nation from New York City to Ft. Hood in Texas know. However, it is clear that the fact of wide-spread firearm ownership can have a deterrent effect on criminals and terrorists, particularly outside citizen disarmament zones, and that when an attack occurs, armed and capable citizens have a far better chance of quickly ending the attack, and surviving.
France was not that fortunate, nor are Frenchmen–or the citizens of virtually any other nation–likely to learn that lesson. Perhaps Turner was right about us? Maybe we are unlike the people of any other nation.
Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.