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Patrick Walsh is a writer who lives in Princeton. He served as a rifle platoon leader, battalion adjutant, and company executive officer in the Fifth Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. This passage is excerpted from his letter to the editor at The Philadelphia Enquirer.

After graduating from college, I served four years as an infantry officer in the Army’s 25th Infantry Division. I fired everything from 9mm pistols to .50-caliber machine guns, routinely qualifying as “expert” with an M16A2 rifle.

It’s not despite such experience, but precisely because of it, that I think the availability of guns in America is stunningly negligent public policy. And it may get worse . . .

Scientists talk about gene “expression” when referring to how the inherited instructions of our DNA are converted into working proteins in our bodies – an interpretive process. With interpretation can come error, and serious errors in gene expression can lead to diseases such as cancer.

America has a cancer originating in the misinterpretation of our government’s DNA, the Constitution. In 2008, the Supreme Court handed down an erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, striking down a handgun ban in Washington and endorsing the misconception that individuals have a right to own firearms. Now, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the court could compound the error by striking down a Chicago gun ban, extending the principle beyond the District of Columbia . . .

With a bolt-action rifle and a telescopic sight, I could put a bullet through my neighbor from a hundred yards away as he crosses his living room. With a Glock 17 pistol stashed in my briefcase, I could enter a boardroom, coolly dispatch a dozen executives, and still have five rounds left to deal with the security guards.

To put it another way, Virginia Tech doesn’t happen if Seung-Hui Cho is brandishing a sword. Columbine doesn’t happen if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are wielding Louisville Sluggers. Charles Whitman doesn’t kill 14 people at the University of Texas at Austin if he takes up his sniping position armed with a longbow.

Take it from a former soldier: A gun’s power is arbitrary and wildly disproportionate to its price, size, and ease of use. Before the advent of firearms, becoming dangerous meant years of training, if not membership in a warrior caste. Cho simply used a credit card to pay $571 for a Glock 19 and 50 bullets.

A Glock 19 weighs less than a quart of milk; it measures under 7 inches long. Its operation is simple: load, point, shoot 15 times, reload. In one span of nine minutes, Cho killed 30 people and wounded dozens more.

I once carried a rifle in defense of the Constitution. Now I wield a pen and must trust the adage about its superiority. But I admit to feeling outgunned by madmen like Cho and the Supreme Court justices who think more guns are the answer.

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  1. Which, I think just goes to show you that while everybody is entitled to an opinion, one person's opinion – even when he might have some experience that lends weight to his argument – is not necessarily valid.

    Patrick Walsh takes a several facts and arrives at an erroneous conclusion – largely by ignoring (conveniently or otherwise) a couple of really important points – primarily that when you eliminate the legal purchase and ownership of guns, what's left is all the ILlegal ownership of guns by criminals. There is no way to eliminate all guns in the hands of civilians – criminals or law-abiding citizens. Take a look at countries that restrict gun ownership to the police and military. Do they have an unarmed criminal populace? Nope. Until you wipe all guns off the planet, you'll find somebody ready, willing, and able to misuse that last gun for criminal purposes.

    Walsh also ignores the intent of the 2nd Amendment – to insure that the government itself doesn't become the problem. Historically, all oppressive, totalitarian regimes begin by confiscating guns in the hands of civilians, ostensibly to "preserve the public order."

    I appreciate the fact that Walsh has enough experience with weapons that he respects the power that firearms offer, and further, has a healthy respect for what a gun can do in the hands of someone who is bent on murder, assassination, or other crime. But to suggest that the answer is to ban guns is simply naive.

    Walsh further ignores all the concrete evidence that shows a one-to-one correlation between strict gun control laws and higher crime rates, and conversely, reduced crime rates in states that have gun laws that support citizen's right to carry. Are these differences in crime statistics simply one huge coincidence? Hardly. In the world of statistics, this ranks as more than a trend…it's an obvious and reproducible phenomenon.

    While I appreciate Walsh offering up his opinion (and really appreciate his service to our country, and his willingness to defend our rights, including the 1st and 2nd amendments), just because he's ex-Army and has experience shooting a gun does not anoint him as an omniscient expert on gun rights or gun policy.

  2. I'm curious about why Walsh thinks his Army experience is in any way relevant to the issue of firearms law. Soldiers are charged with executing orders, not interpreting law. Walsh's bald (and unsupported) assertion that the Supreme Court made an "erroneous" decision would carry a bit more weight if Walsh listed among his credentials some study of law.

    For those who wish to argue for stricter gun control, it seems to me there are two routes they can take that offer a more supportable approach: First, they can argue for laws that restrict or control the possession of arms, without outright banning it, and argue that such laws are not by themselves in violation of the 2nd amendment; or in the alternative, they can argue that the 2nd amendment itself should be repealed.

    But to arrogantly state that the supreme court made an erroneous decision is not only presumtuous, it is also weak from a rhetorical standpoint: The Supremes have spoken. Period. The law is what they say it is, so arguing that they were wrong might win points among the already-converted, but it does nothing to advance the debate because the debate has to start where the law is, and move from there.

    Walsh might just as well wish for a time machine to take him back to 1791 where he could use his dubious powers of persuasion to prevent the anti-federalists from putting the 2nd amendment in the Constitution in the first place.

  3. Mr. Walsh looks for a cancer on the constitution and all he sees are guns. I suggest he lay down the pen, go to the window and have another look.

  4. You may be at odds with his position, but he's well within his rights and his history to question the Supreme Court's track record. The Supreme Court ruled in Plessy vs. Ferguson that separate but equal is the law of the land; they were absolutely and horribly wrong. It took 70 years for their egregious error to be fixed: it's called Brown v. Board of Education.

  5. This mentality is just why I am beginning to doubt the effectiveness of the Oathkeepers. I fear this is the mindset of more officers than we care to admit, and said above officer would have little trouble issuing orders to take our guns, shoot citizen resisters, and load the women and children of those resisters onto cattle cars. As long as he has the political cover of traitors such as the first Kenyan, he will be happy to trade his soul for a pension.

    Just following orders, Herr Sturmbannfurher?

    Thanks for your service. Now shut the f*#k up.

    Signed, an 0311…

  6. Any man who goes to war in the name of protecting freedom, and then comes home hoping to oppress his own people, should've come home in a body bag.

  7. America's a great country. A guy like Patrick Walsh goes and voluntarily serves his country in the Army, does all that good infantry stuff (Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger School) that not one male in 100 could complete, defends his fellow Americans' right to free speech, and then gets run down by anonymous racists, Twinkie eaters, and other assorted cavemen.

    In keeping with his track record as a solid citizen, he signs his name to an article published in a newspaper. Meanwhile, a bunch of fat slobs still living at home, playing video games, and eating Doritos on mommy and daddy's tab get to sneak onto the computer and spit on him behind avatars and pseudonyms on the Internet.

    Ain't that America, little pink Fascists for you and me….

  8. That's a bit harsh. I assume that Mr. Walsh fought for America's freedoms (however tangentially or unwittingly). One of which is the freedom of speech. To diss, dismiss or prohibit criticism of his opinions is contrary to the spirit of his service, and the country that owes him a debt of gratitude. IMHO.

  9. Harsh, Mr. Farago, but largely accurate (just look at some of the knuckle-dragging mental midgets who have posted on your forum.)

    "Tangentially"? "Unwittingly"? The oath goes: I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…."

    Opinions are only as good as the knowledge and information that backs them up. while everyone has a right to their opinion, that hardly means that all opinions are equal. You don't go to a plumber when you have a pain in your abdomen; you don't call a doctor when your toilet won't flush. Both people offer opinions, but their opinions out of their area of expertise are dubious. Similarly, fat slobs who sit around cleaning their guns, watching tractor pulls, and drinking Bud-Lite aren't very sound sources for any subject involving the use of more than 10 brain cells.


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