I’m writing this in the wake of this morning’s shootings at an after-midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. Deranged gunman James Holmes entered the theater, shot 71 people, killing 12 of them, before police arrived just 90 seconds later.1 I’m also writing this as a graduate of Virginia Tech, where a similarly deranged gunman Seung-Hui Cho shot 49 people, killing 32 of them. The Virginia Tech massacre remains the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history, and occurred in the same halls in which I spent many hours myself.
The victims in both instances had something in common: They were unarmed. In the case of the theater, they have a no firearms policy. Cinemark’s official firearms policy is no OC/CC except for LEOs. If you want to watch a movie in their theater, you must forfeit your Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, your right to protect yourself and your loved ones from harm. In the case of Virginia Tech, their “gun-free zone” was seen by Cho as a “free-fire zone,” for some simple reason: When you disarm honest, law-abiding citizens, you remove a powerful deterrent to crime — the most powerful deterrent, according to violent criminals.
Some people opinion if we were to get rid of all firearms, we wouldn’t have this problem, yet when England followed this course of action, their rate of violent crime soared by 77%.2 Why? Simple — because their victims were now unarmed. Apparently Australia thought they could do better than their former warden and enacted the same measures, with similarly dismal results. Put simply, gun control is a naive and idealistic attempt to lesson one’s fear of guns or gun-related crimes. The problem is, not only is gun control futile, it actually increases the likelihood of violent crime.
Our Founding Fathers knew this well. Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms is widely recognized throughout the annuls of American History. Thomas Jefferson said “No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms.”3 In their 24-page 1982 Report on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, our U.S. Congress concluded, “The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and court in the first half century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.” (attached) Furthermore, “The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, … or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press.”4
The laying down of arms in any manner, whether through gun control laws or frequenting establishments sporting “No Firearms” signs, is counterproductive to a peaceful society. Perhaps the most insightful treatise on why this is so was well-explained by Thomas Paine in his “Thoughts on Defensive War” in 1775:
[A]rms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not others dare not lay them aside. And while a single nation refuses to lay them down, it is proper that all should keep them up. Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them; for while avarice and ambition have a place in the heart of man, the weak will become a prey to the strong. The history of every age and nation establishes these truths, and facts need but little arguments when they prove themselves.
The soundness of this wisdom has repeatedly been echoed throughout our nation’s history, even in recent times: “I cannot consider the Bill of Rights to be an outworn 18th Century ‘strait jacket’…Its provisions may be thought outdated abstractions by some. And it is true that they were designed to meet ancient evils. But they are the same kind of human evils that have emerged from century to century wherever excessive power is sought by the few at the expense of the many. In my judgement the people of no nation can lose their basic liberty so long as a Bill of Rights like ours survives and its basic purposes are conscientiously interpreted, enforced and respected so as to afford continuous protection against old, as well as new, devices and practices which might thwart those purposes.”5
In fact, our Supreme Court reaffirms this as well. In District of Columbia vs Heller, they held that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes such as self-defense, even in federal enclaves. Later, in McDonald v. Chicago, the Court held that the right of an individual to “keep and bear arms” protected by the Second Amendment is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applies to the states.
Why then is Hollywood Theaters erecting “No Firearms” signs at all their theaters today? Are they merely ignorant of the fact that it’s not only a Constitutional right, but that the exercise of that right is actually a known, proven deterrent to violent crime, even in the case where the perpetrator is criminally insane? Do they not understand that the mere act of posting a “No Firearms” sign greatly increases the likelihood that their establishment will be targeted by criminals, mass shooters, and Islamic extremists? Don’t know they that they are actually — and significantly — increasing the risks of loss of life, limb, and property for themselves, their employees, and their customers?
For that matter, why does any institution restrict or prohibit the ability of honest, law-abiding citizens to protect themselves against these events?
That’s just stupid!
I both open carry (OC) and concealed carry (CC). In recent years I’ve been waffling about whether or not I should carry at all when I’m at the movies. They’re so peaceful and safe, right? I mean no one would ever go on a rampage in a crowded theater…
As we learned today, we never know where these events will happen. They can and have happened at the movies. They can and have happened at public areas, college campuses, supermarkets, post offices, and public parks. Despite the fact that people can legally carry a firearm in most areas throughout 49 states, these events seem to happen most often where people are prohibited from carrying firearms, areas those who claim are “safe” call “no-gun zones.” Those of us who’re more knowledgeable about how and why criminals choose their targets refer to them as “free-fire zones,” and we do our best to avoid them!
Why is it, then, that the most common knee-jerk reaction to these incidents are to create more such zones, thereby increasing the likelihood of such an event? If a course of action continually proves to have the opposite outcome than the one that’s desired, it’s time to change the course of action. The relaxation of gun control laws over the last twenty years has had a tremendously positive impact on the reduction of crime! Criminals, even insane ones, don’t target a well-armed populace.
Hollywood Theaters and others who throw up knee-jerk “No Firearms” signs are doing their honest, law-abiding customers a grave disservice. What they should be doing is posting the following sign:
1Link to MSNBC article
2James Slack, “The most violent crime rate in Europe: Britain is also worst than South Africa and the U.S.,” Daily Mail U.K., July 2, 2009. Link.
3Draft Constitution for Virginia, 1776
4Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Major John Cartwright (5 June 1824).
5Justice Hugo Black, dissenting in Adamson v. California (1947)
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