Should Antigun Liberals Use Armed Bodyguards?
Insight on the News,
Feb 14, 2000 by Carmine Sarracino
It’s what the rich and powerful do. According to an article in my morning paper of Jan. 14, television personality Ben Stein, star of Win Ben Stein’s Money, was robbed at gunpoint recently and now has decided to hire a part-time bodyguard. The surprise is that he did not, as is the case with most celebrities, already have one. Like celebrities, politicians as well — even the most shrill antigun governors and senators — have their taxpayer-provided state-trooper bodyguards. It would be interesting to ask someone such as Bill Bradley, for example, to lead the way in the gun-control movement, which he champions, by disarming his bodyguards. “But,” the objection would come, “I am a public figure and vulnerable to violent attack.” And, would come my counter-objection, “we private citizens are not?”
In my years of thinking and reading about the issue of armed self-defense (years of shooting recreationally and competitively as well), I have come to realize that many people who would abolish the Second Amendment fall into two broad categories. Some simply are afraid of guns — far beyond the healthy respect and rules of safety that guns require. These are “gunophobes” in the same way that we have, say, “arachniphobes” who irrationally fear spiders. (And who, I am sure, would be happy to ban the creepy critters if they could.) Others find in the gun issue an easy way to claim the moral high ground. Since guns obviously are evil, they who oppose guns must be just as obviously on the side of the angels. The litmus test for inclusion into one or both of these categories is this: the relentless and irrational insistence upon defining guns in terms of their worst uses and ignoring altogether their best uses.
The best use of a firearm is the most common. According to a recent study by a University of Chicago law professor, firearms are used more than I million times each year in the United States to thwart crime and, in the overwhelming majority of cases the firearm is not even fired, but simply displayed, or its use is threatened. For example, a homeowner pumps a round into the chamber of his 12-gauge shotgun, an unmistakable sound which sends an intruder diving out the door. In a dimly lighted parking garage a woman fleeing a stalker pulls a revolver from her purse, turning the tables and sending him fleeing into the night. In those kinds of circumstances, which happen thousands of times a day in the United States, who would brand the firearm in question “evil”?
Guns often are used badly but, for the most part, guns mainly are used well. Those who carelessly let guns fall into the hands of children use guns badly. Those who use guns to rob, rape and murder use guns badly. But we don’t write laws to punish the sensible majority because of the stupid few or to defend us from the law-abiding.
Reportedly, Stein has said that he is not angry at the men who robbed him; rather, he is grateful that they did not kill or beat him. Those who eschew guns also presumably are willing to trust in the kindness of criminals. So be it. I am not trying to put a gun into every hand. It is the other side, rather, that is trying to take the gun I would use in self-defense and home defense out of my hand. I do not, you see, have Stein’s sense of gratitude toward thugs. Nor do I have his money.
Carmine Sarracino teaches English and American literature at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.
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