Charlie Hebdo Massacre

Charlie Hebdo Attack Demonstrates That Laws Don't Disarm Terrorists (But Screw the Rest of Us)

France's gun controls mean only that weapons are unavailable to the innocent, leaving them at the mercy of predators.


Nobody yet knows exactly where the terrorists who murdered 12 people at Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman, and four hostages at a kosher market got their funding, backing, and equipment—French authorities and their colleagues elsewhere are investigating that as I write. But one question that appeared early in the media was about the "worrying level of firepower" brandished by terrorists in a country with strict firearms laws. Just how did the attackers acquire AK-style weapons in a country where gun ownership is tightly controlled by law, and where possession of handguns and semiautomatics is almost off-limits to civilians?

The obvious answer is that they didn't obey the law. They were terrorists with radical connections, criminal backgrounds and, no doubt, access to the black markets that everywhere make available the things people want that governments don't want them to have.

"The French black market for weapons has been inundated with eastern European war artillery and arms," Philippe Capon, the head of UNSA police union, told Bloomberg. "They are everywhere in France." Capon put the black market price of AK-47s at between 1,000 and 1,500 euros.

This squares with what the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey found in its 2003 annual report. As of that year, France had 2.8 million registered firearms, but an estimated 15 million to 17 million owned illegally. Smuggled guns "flow largely from east to west" in Europe the report found, fueled by simmering distrust of authorities in countries that suffered communist rule, as well as a mother lode of old Soviet weapons abandoned by collapsed regimes—weapons like AK-47s.

That's the supply side. The demand side likely consists of individuals who wants arms for themselves, criminals, and of course, terrorists. The Christian Science Monitor notes that raids by French police in October "found hundreds of illegal arms stashed away. The seized caches included machine guns, assault rifles, and automatic pistols."

This is an old story in all areas of life involving prohibitions, from weapons to drugs, from sex to forbidden literature. If people want something, somebody else will earn a buck by making it available. Supply will meet demand.

That's not to say that France's laws had no impact. It's impossible to know whether anybody at Charlie Hebdo or at the market could have successfully taken advantage of an opportunity to defend against murderers who didn't care about statutes and penalties. What we do know is that, under the law, the victims had no chance to find out. They had to settle for being legally disarmed when their assailants were not so encumbered.

NEXT: 9-Year-Old Boy Who Stole Gum Was Arrested and Jailed—The Streets Are Safe Again

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  1. Gun control, is a success if the right people are disarmed. (Taxpayers)

    1. The point of citizen disarmament law is to make otherwise law abiding citizens helpless before criminals, government or freelance.

  2. Did Brevik not already prove that?

  3. Just how did the attackers acquire AK-style weapons in a country where gun ownership is tightly controlled by law, and where possession of handguns and semiautomatics is almost off-limits to civilians?

    Loopholes! Loopholes in the gun laws! Close the loopholes now!

    1. It’s the fault of violent video games!

      1. I blame Bush

        1. I blame Bush for creating violent video games and the AK-47.

    2. Well, I imagine they acquired the weapons from the United States somehow, as everyone knows that the U.S. is armed to the hilt. I understand that even American toddlers are armed.

      1. Surely Texas was the origin.

        1. America, Texas, what’s the difference? It’s the Wild West anyway you cut it.

          1. Time for the Holder Justice Department to reinstitute operation “Fast and Furious.” In that way we can supply more American made guns, thereby increasing the guilt of the US in future tragedies.

    3. Time to close the gun bazaar loophole!

  4. Laws are magic.

    1. Intentions are magic.

  5. “The French black market for weapons has been inundated with eastern European war artillery and arms,”

    Wow, “war” artillery. I missed “peace” artillery in all my Ordnance courses, somehow…

    1. “peace” artillery

      You know…like those t-shirt and confetti canons.

      1. hotdog cannon FTW…

        1. I think a “hotdog mortar” would work better.

          But, God do I hate that sound.

      2. 105mm t-shirt howitzer? I thought those things were more like MANPADS o’ clothing.

      3. Operated by Rip Taylor?

  6. To the state-worshippers, ordinary citizens with guns are a threat to their power, whereas criminals are merely a nuisance (and mostly afflict ordinary citizens, hot them). This is probably one reason why the most dedicated state-worshippers (such as the Democratic Party) are so reluctant to let themselves be aware of the nature of the jihadist threat, which really is a serious (albeit probably only long-term) threat to their power.

    1. Not as long-term as they might think. These intellectuals are always utterly surprised when they find themselves first in line to be shot.

  7. I thought I read in early accounts that there were guards in the office (because of the past threats, firebombing, etc). Were they armed? If so, were they able to return any fire?

    And, I guess since this is Europe, was the slain officer armed?

    1. So, some digging turned up this source which refers to ‘armed guards’ plural.…

      This one, however, only refers to one armed guard slain.…..63788.html

      1. Good grief, this one says ‘a body guard and a doorman’…..d=28087685

    2. He was armed with a loaf of stale French bread.

      1. Well, at least that would make a very effective blunt instrument. Too bad they were up against AK-47s.

  8. Take a good look at the video where the dogsqueeze kill the policeman on the ground. Imagine if the cameraman had a decent gun instead.

    Lenin said: One man with a gun can control 100 without one. You just saw that in France and last month in Australia.

    When thugs attack, YOU are your own first responder.

    1. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away. And in some places, they obviously don’t do anyone any good.

  9. The obvious answer is that they didn’t obey the law.

    Well, I don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn the whole program because of a single slip-up.

  10. About 25 years ago, I used to write for a Charlie Hebdo-style publication in San Francisco, which among other claims to fame was the starting point for now well-known cartoonists Tom Tomorrow and Keith Knight. The magazine was Harpoon.

    PapayaSF may remember the publication, which had a circulation of over 50,000 in the early 90’s — or maybe one of the other Bay Area commentariat (perhaps even Sevo?)

    I’ve been thinking about the mag a lot in the past few days, as you might expect. We certainly never did anything as ballsy as Charlie Hebdo, but just the idea that someone we might have pissed off because of our jokes could have come after us is disquieting.

    1. You had handguns for protection, right?

  11. Wow man, I never thought about it liek that.

  12. The thing is the gun grabbers aren’t all one kimd..Yes, there are those who think of themselves as The Elite, who resent the idea that the Unwashed might be armed. But terr are also plent who simply are scared of violence and gund and maybe themselves too. They don’t THINK about the issue, they emote about it. They emote about every issue, which is why that can hold several positions that shiuld be mutually exclusive;

    “People shouodn’t have guns; leave defence aginst crime to the police”


    “The police are out of control racists”

    For example.

  13. More than one news account of the Paris fiasco mentioned “?the great job the French police did in bringing down the bad guys?”

    Well Hell-Bells?.when no one is allowed to be armed in France other than the police, who else did you expect to get the bad guys? The police could have done a crap job and still would have outshined the populace.

    Funny how having a monopoly on something makes you great at it.

  14. I saw that Liam Neeson had a lot to say about gun control (more control is needed) and how Americans have too many guns. He’s an ass. I can’t help but think how all these victims were sitting ducks. I personally do not have a carry license but I do take comfort (when in public) that a good guy in the vicinity is packing heat.

    1. Why are you relying on someone else to protect you?

    2. Well that’s the beauty of a (partially) armed public, Georgia. Not everybody needs to be armed. The creeps simply don’t know which person is packing and may be able to fight back or help defend the next guy.

      When everyone is unarmed, as in France, the armed criminal is king (until the police eventually arrive, if they do).

      1. When enough people think that someone will be armed so I don’t have to then maybe no one will be armed.

        The point is why wouldn’t you want to be responsible for your own protection?

        1. Exactly as Yet Another Kevin mentioned. Anyone in GA can carry. Criminals don’t know who is carrying and who’s not.

          Also, when you’re trudging around with toddlers on your hip, the idea of a gun in my purse or diaper bag isn’t really optimal.

      2. Herd immunity.

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  16. $89 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening?And i get surly a chek of $1260……0 whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.
    Here is what i did

  17. Crazy guess, but I am going to say they didn’t come from where they are saying. By saying “eastern-european” they are basically saying it was a bunch of Russians running guns dramatically through darkened warehouses in trucks across the boarder. In truth, they more likely came in the same boats that bring a large portion of the illegals into France from fun places like Algeria and Libya. But if they said that then it might, allah forbid,imply that the religion of peace was somehow involved in gun smuggling instead of you know building schools (for bomb building), running clinics (with bunkers underneath) or educating young women (on how not to get educated).

  18. $89 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening?And i get surly a chek of $1260……0 whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.
    Here is what i did

  19. A truly misleading editorial. Consider the real issues:

    From Shankar Vedantam’s “The Hidden Brain”

    People feel safer barreling down a highway at seventy miles an hour-without seat belts-than they do sitting in a passenger plane going through turbulence. The fact that we are in control of the car gives us the illusion of safety, even though all the empirical evidence shows we are safer in the plane.

    The researchers Arthur Kellermann and Donald Reay once examined all gun-related deaths over a lengthy period of time in King County in the state of Washington. They were trying to find evidence for the common intuition that gun owners are safer because they can protect themselves and their families should someone break into their homes. Kellermann and Reay identified nine deaths during the period of the study where people shot and killed an intruder. These are the stories that gun advocates endlessly relate to one another. In the same period, guns in people’s homes were implicated in twelve accidental deaths and forty-one homicides–usually family members shooting, one another. The number of suicides? Three hundred and thirty-three.

    1. The Kellerman study is bunk.

      Its number one flaw is that the only defensive gun uses counted are those in which the offender is killed.

      Wounding an offender, or forcing them to withdraw is every bit a successful DGU as killing the offender, and many times more common.

  20. Just so you don’t miss the paragraph implied by … above:

    Suicide rates in states with high levels of gun ownership are much higher than in states that have low levels of gun ownership. Alabama, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico have twice the rate of suicide of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New York. The United States as a whole has a very high suicide rate compared to other industrialized countries. Researchers working for the federal government once examined the suicide rate among children in the United States and twenty-five other industrialized countries over a single year. The suicide rate among American children was more than twice the average suicide rate among children in the other twenty-five countries. The homicide rate among children in the United States was five times higher. Guns were responsible for much of this. If you measured only gun-related homicide and suicide, American children were eleven times more I likely than children in the other twenty-five countries to commit suicide by shooting themselves, were nine times more likely to be killed in accidental shootings, and were sixteen times more likely to be murdered. There were 1107 children shot to death in all the countries; 957 of these victims-86 percent-were children in the United States.

  21. N.B.:
    Those estimated numbers of Unregistered Firearms in the UK and France almost certainly comprise mainly:
    a) multi-millions of low powered air guns (“pellet” guns) for which there is no registration nor licencing requirement in either country (below a 12ftlb limit, which is sufficient to take pests and small game).
    b) in France only: large numbers of “black powder” weapons, including functioning US civil-war-era replica revolvers like the Colt 1860 and Remington 1858. These require neither registration, nor licence to own, anyone over 18 can buy them (and powder, caps & ball) from the widespread gunshops, and join a shooting club (of which there are many in France) to practice.
    c) in France only: large numbers of “less-than lethal” rubber bullet guns, again these require neither registration nor licence to own for over 18s.

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