Don’t Let the Aurora Shooting Curtail the Right of Self-Defense

Gun control isn't the answer.

The shooting in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater has incited the usual debate over guns. One side says tighter gun restrictions could have prevented the horrible incident that night. The other responds that more guns in the hands of law-abiding people might have prevented it.

While the theater chain prohibits firearms, it is hard to say that the alleged shooter, James Holmes, would have been stopped by armed moviegoers. He wore protection from head to toe and caused mass confusion by setting off tear gas. This isn’t to say that a few shots might not have stunned Holmes, giving others time to subdue him. Perhaps there would have been fewer victims that night. We’ll never know.

However one comes down on this issue, we should understand that it is not relevant to the gun-policy question. Even if there was no chance of stopping Holmes, that would not justify restricting law-abiding people from carrying handguns.

Let’s go over some basics, which the gun controllers stubbornly refuse to acknowledge:

People intent on breaking the law against murder are not likely to respect a law against possession of firearms. The only people restricted by gun laws are law-abiding people. This point is so obvious, one wonders why some deny or ignore it.

The criminal, unfortunately, chooses the time, place, and manner of his crime. I don’t like that rule either, but that’s the way it is. Criminals aren’t irrational, so they tend not to pick victims standing near cops. When you are attacked, calling 9-1-1 will do little good. For the record, the police are under no legal obligation to defend you. The courts have spoken on this—not that your survivors’ ability to sue the police would bring much comfort.

The upshot is that, high-flown political theory aside, no one can truly delegate his or her right to or responsibility for one’s own self-defense. Ultimately, you are the only one who can look out for your safety, because you are only one who is with you 24/7 and therefore the only one you can count on when the criminal targets you. That’s just a fact.
Another fact is that while guns are used to take innocent life, they are also used to protect innocent life. The numbers are in dispute—ranging from 100,000 to over 2 million times a year—but no reasonable person can doubt that people use guns to prevent violent crime, often, if not usually, without firing them. Gun opponents downplay this by distracting us with dubious statistics on how often criminals disarm and kill their victims or how often guns are used to escalate arguments over card games and fender benders. The fact remains: Guns save lives.

Many people don’t appreciate this because most such incidents are not reported to police or the news media. Moreover, the national media are uninterested in defensive gun-use stories. Local news outlets pay attention when an elderly person or shopkeeper uses a gun to thwart a would-be criminal, but the national media, which give wall-to-wall coverage to mass shootings, apparently have no time to report life-saving uses of firearms. No wonder some people believe handguns are only tools for criminals.

Even if we concede that tighter gun laws would have stopped the Aurora shooting—unlikely, because a determined Holmes could have acquired guns in the inevitable black market—those laws also would have cost innocent lives, because people who would have used guns to defend themselves would have been unable to do so. Why are those lives less important than the others?

People are not interchangeable. Even if gun control could save one life—or a hundred—in one place, that would not justify putting other people at the mercy of criminals somewhere else. People have a right to defend themselves, and handguns are by far the best way for smaller, physically weaker innocent people (women, please note) to protect themselves from larger, stronger bad people. (If all guns were to disappear, who would gain the advantage?)

Finally, it is unappreciated that along with increasingly wider gun ownership and liberalized concealed-carry laws, violent crime has been declining for years. The Aurora tragedy should not overshadow that happy fact.

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, editor of The Freeman magazine. This article originally appeared at The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  • wareagle||

    it is unappreciatednot reported because it does not fit the narrative that along with increasingly wider gun ownership and liberalized concealed-carry laws, violent crime has been declining for years.

    isn't that what the writer really meant to say?

  • Tim||

    Also history is full of examples where governments have turned their police and militaries loose on large segments of unarmed civilians: Syria, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Liberia, Iraq, Cambodia, China, Germany, The Soviet Union, Turkey, ...

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    That can't happen here. This is the city on the hill!

  • jacob the barbarian||

    Drax is right, because our congress critters are paragons of righteousness and reason. er. uh. Never mind! Lock and load. DRINK!

  • jacob the barbarian||

    Also our police would NEVER abuse their powers. Our women are strong, and all our kids are above average.

  • ||

    The badge ensures godly righteousness. Kneel and kiss the boot, civilian.

    STOP RESISTING.

  • sarcasmic||

    They took an oath!

    An oath I tell you!

    An oath!

  • ||

    Stop chanting, Sarcasmic. You're assaulting me with air and sound. *Draws and empties magazine into Sarcasmic's body.*

    *Approaches corpse in really retarded 007-style leaps.*

    *Pokes corpse with gun, causing movement of corpse.*

    STOP RESISTING, I SAID.

  • Harvard||

    The eye! The eye doesn't lie!! Touch the eye. With the barrel prefferably.

  • ||

    Don't be ridiculous. Syria and Rwanda were just cleansing its population of Jewish infiltrators in the name of Muhammad, PBUH, like any good nation would, praise be to Allah, and the Soviets and Chinks were just trying to undo the evils of capitalism.

    Misinformed libertards!1!11!!11!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    We need to stop trying to defend ourselves. For the children.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    And teach kids to just let bullies punch them until an adult arrives.

  • ||

    Then get the courts to prosecute and imprison the adult that eventually arrived and fought back the bully, because responding to aggression with anything but pitiful yelping is Republican-grade evil and bad.

    Piers "Limey Badass" Morgan and Michael Moore told me so on CNN.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Then get the courts to prosecute and imprison the adult that eventually arrived and fought back the bully, because responding to aggression with anything but pitiful yelping is Republican-grade evil and bad.


    And what about the people doing the imprisoning?

    Would they not be kidnappers?

  • $park¥||

  • rts||

    Enjoy this breathless piece of fear-mongering: Guns used in Colorado theatre shooting legal in Canada

    Oh no! Run for the hills!

  • Jeff||

    Thankfully, his bombs were illegal. For all the good that did.

  • Drax the Destroyer||

    Unfortunately, the prescription drugs possibly in his system were legal. Lot of harm they maybe did.

  • SIV||

    Get stopped by the police with a handful of loose Vicodins and you'll see how "legal" they are.

  • ||

    "The recent mass shooting at a Colorado movie theatre has raised questions about access to firearms and renewed calls for stronger gun control laws in the United States."

    Only for clueless hoplophobes.

    "Handguns in Canada, except for the ones used by police, are limited to a 10-round magazine whereas in the U.S. they can have 15 rounds."

    Eh? No.

  • Rufus J. Firefly||

    It's the CBC. What do you expect?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Even if there was no chance of stopping Holmes, that would not justify restricting law-abiding people from carrying handguns.

    Que?

  • SIV||

    RIP

  • sarcasmic||

    Ultimately, you are the only one who can look out for your safety, because you are only one who is with you 24/7 and therefore the only one you can count on when the criminal targets you.

    Unless you're, I dunno, the mayor of a big city.
    Then you've got armed guards with you at all times.

  • ||

    Fuck Daley.

  • jacob the barbarian||

    Yes, but do so with a large, sand encrusted splintered 2x4. Repeatedly.

  • jacob the barbarian||

    Hmmm. I wonder if this will get Tony excited?

  • SusanM||

    This isn’t to say that a few shots might not have stunned Holmes, giving others time to subdue him. Perhaps there would have been fewer victims that night. We’ll never know.

    Of course, it could never happen that stray bullets aimed wildly at a gunman in a crowded space would hit innocent bystanders. Just like in the movies, all shots aimed at bad guys always hit their mark.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Did you actually spend neural energy to formulate the concepts to write that or was it a 'knee-jerk' instinctual reaction, like the braying of a jackass?

  • fish||

    HM she's a woman by definition she makes more sense and cares more than you!

    Learnt it on the TeeVee!

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Transvestites don't count, fish.

  • fish||

    Apparently what was not "learnt on the TeeVee" was proper punctuation!

    Shit!

  • SusanM||

    At least you're being creative :) C+!

  • WTF||

    Yeah, those damn cops should never shoot back at armed criminals.

  • SusanM||

    Maybe not, WTF. Not never, but they should take some care. Isn't Reason filled with stories about reckless cops?

  • WTF||

    So you agree that people other than cops also have the right to shoot back to defend themselves.

  • SusanM||

    When did I say I didn't? I own a pistol which my late father had from Vietnam. Not mint but serviceable. I have no delusions that having it turns me into Officer Ripley. Those that have that idea are the truly dangerous ones.

  • R C Dean||

    No, the truly dangerous ones aren't the ones who overestimate their ability to defend themselves.

    The truly dangerous ones who set out to commit crimes.

  • sarcasmic||

    When did I say I didn't?

    Look up "imply" in the dictionary, because while you have not said it explicitly, you have implied it.

    I have no delusions that having it turns me into Officer Ripley.

    See? Like right there. Your implication is that only Officer Ripley may shoot back, while everyone else must lay down and whimper.

  • SusanM||

    Why the either/or? In any case, I don't mean that. I'm saying it doesn't turn me into a movie action hero whose shots always hit, who always outdraws an opponent and who never gets hit by a bullet. I have no objection to self-defense and every objection to careless yahoos who don't know the first thing about range safety trying to save the day.

  • sarcasmic||

    every objection to careless yahoos who don't know the first thing about range safety trying to save the day

    Why do you assume that anyone who carries for self protection is an irresponsible yahoo?

    Why do you deny the possibility that a responsible gun owner could change the situation in a positive way?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    And, again, your examples of this happening are...?

  • ||

    Yes, the only thing worse than being gunned down by an armed assailant as you sit helplessly with no ability to return fire would be to accidentally be hit by the stray bullet of an uniformed yahoo movie action hero who drew his gun to try and stop it.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Are there more examples of this happening than of the shooter being taken down?

  • SusanM||

    Not that I'm aware of. It's simple common sense gun safety, though.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Your "it" is very vague. What is common-sense gun safety?

  • ||

    Note that phrases like "commonsense gun safety" is a definitional mark of the budding prohibitionist.

  • sarcasmic||

    it could never happen that stray bullets aimed wildly at a gunman in a crowded space would hit innocent bystanders

    It could never happen that someone with a weapon would choose not to use it for fear of hitting innocent bystanders.
    No, guns have this magical quality that compels people to use them.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I especially liked the "aimed wildly" part.

  • Ulmeyda||

    'It could never happen that someone with a weapon would choose not to use it for fear of hitting innocent bystanders.
    No, guns have this magical quality that compels people to use them.'

    Yeah, how dare they suggest that people with guns would actually use them if they were in the one situation in their entire life in which they were actually being fired upon by a homicidal maniac? The very idea is preposterous!

  • wareagle||

    right susan...all people in such situations should sit quietly and wait for the gunman to run out of bullets. Your masters have taught you well.

  • SusanM||

    If you can pull a gun and with eyes blurred from smoke and gas line up a shot properly on a moving target which is shooting at you - with low light and people running back and forth ,confident that you can put a double tap on him then go ahead.

  • sarcasmic||

    If it just so happened that someone in the front row was packing, then it is entirely possible that exactly that could have happened.

    But we'll never know because this happened in a gun-free unarmed victim zone.

  • SusanM||

    And yet, Colorado is fairly open about firearms. It happened in a privately owned theater whose company policy prohibited firearms.

  • sarcasmic||

    It happened in He chose a privately owned theater whose because their company policy prohibited firearms.

    ftfy

  • ||

    "And yet, Colorado is fairly open about firearms."

    That depends on your standards.

    "It happened in a privately owned theater whose company policy prohibited firearms."

    Sure. And they have every right to institute those policies. They're still fucking retarded.

  • ||

    Sheep's Slaughter Zones.

  • RPK||

    The army should hire you as a motivational speaker for soldiers. After you got through with 'em, they'd be fucking unstoppable!

  • Scotticus Finch||

    Seriously, if anyone else in that theater had a gun, people could have been hurt! :/

    This happened in an honest-to-god "gun-free" zone. The theater was a microcosm of what modern liberals want America to be, and a dozen people were murdered. And still, somehow, we're the nutjobs for saying something might be wrong with that picture.

  • WTF||

    No, really, more gun lawz would have stopped Holmes. /libtard

  • sarcasmic||

    The "Gun-Free Zone" sign was not large enough and wasn't prominently displayed.

    Otherwise Holmes would have said "Damn! This is a gun-free zone! I can't carry guns in there to murder people! Damn it!" and gone back home.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    "Of course, it could never happen that stray bullets aimed wildly at a gunman in a crowded space would hit innocent bystanders."

    Because those innocent bystanders just fared so swimmingly without someone shooting back.

  • IceTrey||

    What if the armed citizen is sitting in the first few rows mere feet away from the gunman? What if they had been sitting in the seat closet to the door?

  • milquetoast||

  • Schultz||

    In Washington Times, President Obama said he wasn't interested in gun control. However, he's able to say this because he's more interested in another term or another plan which is more of a logical avenue for liberal politicians to take. Violence control. As he said, "Not just of gun violence, but violence at every level.” This goes beyond gun control.

  • rts||

    The War on Violence!

    I love it.

  • WTF||

    They're fighting for peace!

  • ||

    The War on War!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    For the record, the police are under no legal obligation to defend you.

    But the local school district (based on the monsters in some VIP's closet) are paying a gun-toting union baboon to hang out at the high school to protect teh childrenz! leer at teenage girls' asses all day, every day.

    When I heard about this, I incredulously asked why the school didn't just give the janitor a gun (or merely permit him to bring one of his own to work); I trust any random school janitor to respond more effectively in an emergency than the poh-leece.

  • R C Dean||

    There's always a cop or two hanging out in front of our high school, where they are highly visible to parents, but where no crime ever has, or ever will, occur.

    Meanwhile, violent crimes are committed behind the high school, up to and including rape.

    But damned if the Boys in Blue can be bothered to walk around where something might actually happen.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    stray bullets aimed wildly at a gunman in a crowded space would hit innocent bystanders.

    An Agitator reader, I see.

  • sarcasmic||

    But, but, but it would be just like those western movies where you've got people randomly shooting in all directions!

    *bang* *bang* *bang*

    "Dag nabbit!"

    *bang* *bang* *bang*

    "Deed I git 'em?"

    *bang* *bang* *bang*

    "Sorry ma'am, didn't mean to kill the youngun."

    *bang* *bang* *bang*

  • The Late P Brooks||

    It could never happen that someone with a weapon would choose not to use it for fear of hitting innocent bystanders.

    It depends on whether they might actually be held responsible for the consequences of their actions.

  • sarcasmic||

    you're just an anti-cop bigot who gets his news from no source other than reason magazine

    /D

  • WTF||

    You forgot "hth".

  • ||

    And every other acronym and abbreviation known to linguistics.

  • sarcasmic||

    The ones he uses are unknown to anyone but him.
    I could have randomly typed in caps, but I'm too lazy.

  • R C Dean||

    He wore protection from head to toe

    Great example of how the lie that gets out first will never be overtaken by the truth.

    He wore no protection. Period. Just clothes. As has been known for days.

  • sarcasmic||

    What? No condom?

  • The Late P Brooks||

    That hair dye is bulletproof!

  • NeonCat||

    Whenever that jackass is pictured, can we get an alt-text saying "(alleged) asshole", something like that? Get creative with it, just don't forget the (alleged).

  • ||

  • R C Dean||

    Wait, if they are "operating", doesn't that pretty much definitionally mean they are conducting official police duties?

  • ||

    Obviously you aren't well versed in the art of doublethink.

  • dinkster||

    They also aren't "military" even if Bloomy calls them the 7th largest army in the world. They own lots of scary black guns.

  • Nodnarb the Nasty||

    There is waaaay too much passion in this thread. Since most of us are dudes, I find this to be disturbing.

    Jacques Delacroix, a sociologist educated at Stanford, has a good cross-national comparison on the numbers regarding gun control: Guns and Truth.

    I urge us all to keep our pants on until this cool, level-headed argument has been read.

  • Oropher||

    People here in Colorado get it it would seem. Firearm purchases are up over 41% since the incident, and people are rushing to get CCW permits as well. By comparison (to me at least) the cry for gun control is relatively quiet.

  • jacob the barbarian||

    Try coming east. The place is full to the rafters with these idiots.

  • Proprietist||

    Yeah, I was thinking this incident will probably be enough to spur me to go finally get my CCW permit and buy a gun. I'd rather be safe than sorry.

  • Harvard||

    *Patiently waiting, for that pant load, cop wannabe, self rightous, reason impaired, hero complex of a fuck Dumbphry-The Real One to come skipping into the discussion with some gripping bullshit anecdotes*

  • GJ77||

    you are right on the money, gun control isn't the answer, it's the OBVIOUS answer.

  • dinfeee||

    Blah Blah Blah, these bought and paid for politicians have SO much hot air!

    www.Anon-Rules.tk

  • Proprietist||

    Thank god Mexico has banned guns. They never have mass shootings like this there.

    Can we even imagine the amount of cartel gangster blood that would be spilled if civilian vigilantes could shoot back?

  • ant1sthenes||

    No, see, gun control is like Communism. If anywhere on earth doesn't have it, then those places undermine it, and therefore its failure doesn't count.

  • Ed Zeppelin||

    He wore protection from head to toe

    BS
    he wore a 'tactical vest', which means it had a lot of pockets, but would have been easily perforated by a well-placed pistol shot.

  • Sam X||

    James Holmes was not a criminal. If you could not easily go to store and purchase guns in Colorado, then 12 more people would still have their lives.

    Guns kill people. That's their design and purpose.

    This fantasy world of defending yourself with firearms is ridiculous and ficticious. The only reason why any of you actually believe that is because of the gun culture that we've established in this country. Murder rates are lower in places where guns are illegal. Period.

  • dinkster||

    However, violent crimes in general are higher. The UK is the worst country in the world for per capita violent crime, 2000 crimes for 100000 people. The criminals wouldn't want to end the lives of their walking money bags/rape victims, it would damage their bottom line.

  • milquetoast||

    Is that true? If so, what kind? Kevlar? Ceramic? All I have seen so far is that he had a "tactical vest," i.e., one with pockets. Police Chief Oates said the vest was bulletproof, but he got plenty of other details wrong (e.g., doesn't know the difference between an AK47 and an AR15, or a clip and a magazine). Are there no reporters curious enough to ask for proof of the assertion that he wore body armor?

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