Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gun Laws

You're sound  asleep when you hear a thump  outside your bedroom  door. Half-awake,  and nearly paralyzed with fear,  you hear  muffled whispers. At least two  people have broken into  your  house  and are moving your  way. With your  heart pumping, you reach down  beside your  bed and pick up  your shotgun. You rack a  shell into the chamber, then inch  toward the  door and open it. In the  darkness, you make out two  shadows. One holds  something that looks like a  crowbar.  When the  intruder brandishes it as if to  strike,  you raise  the shotgun and fire. The blast  knocks both thugs to the  floor.  One  writhes and screams, while the  second  man  crawls to the front door and lurches  outside.  As you pick  up the telephone to call  police,  you know  you're in trouble.  In your  country, most guns were outlawed  years before,  and the few  that are privately owned  are so  stringently regulated as to make them  useless.  Yours  was never registered.  Police  arrive and inform you  that the  second burglar has died.  They arrest  you for First Degree Murder  and Illegal  Possession of a Firearm.  When you  talk to your attorney, he  tells  you not to  worry: authorities will  probably plea the  case down to manslaughter.  "What kind  of sentence will I get?" you  ask.  
  "Only  ten-to-twelve years," he  replies, as if that's  nothing.  "Behave  yourself, and you'll be out in  seven."  

The next  day, the shooting is the lead  story in the  local newspaper.  Somehow,  you're portrayed as an  eccentric  vigilante  while the two men  you shot  are  represented as choirboys.  
Their  friends and relatives can't  find  an unkind  word to say about them.  Buried  deep down in the article, authorities acknowledge  that both "victims" have been arrested numerous  times.  
But  the next day's headline says it  all:  "Lovable  Rogue Son Didn't Deserve to  Die."  The thieves  have been transformed from career criminals into  Robin  Hood-type pranksters.   As the  days wear on, the story takes  wings.  The national  media picks it up,  then the  international media.  The  surviving burglar has become a folk  hero.  Your  attorney says the thief is  preparing to sue  you, and he'll probably win.  The media  publishes reports that your home has been  burglarized several times in the past and that  you've been critical of local police for their  lack  of  effort in apprehending the  suspects.  After the  last break-in, you told your  neighbor that you'd  be prepared next time.  The DA uses  this to allege  that you  were lying in wait for the  burglars.  A few months  later, you go to trial.  The charges  haven't been reduced,  as your  lawyer had so confidently  predicted.  When  you take the stand, your anger  at  the  injustice of it all works against  you.  Prosecutors  paint a picture of you  as a mean,  vengeful man.  It  doesn't take long for the jury to  convict  you of all  charges.  

The judge  sentences you to life in  prison.  

This case  really happened.  

On August  22, 1999, Tony Martin of Emneth, Norfolk , England  , killed one burglar and wounded a  second.  In  April, 2000, he was convicted and is  now serving a life term.  How did it  become a crime to defend  one's  own life in  the once great British  Empire ?  It started  with the Pistols Act of 1903.  This  seemingly reasonable law forbade selling pistols  to minors or felons and established that handgun  sales were to be made only to those who had a  license. The Firearms Act of 1920 expanded  licensing to include not only handguns but all  firearms except shotguns.  Later laws  passed in 1953 and 1967 outlawed the carrying of  any weapon by private citizens and mandated the  registration of all shotguns.  

Momentum for  total handgun confiscation began in earnest after  the Hungerford mass  shooting in  1987. Michael  Ryan, a mentally  disturbed man with a Kalashnikov  rifle, walked  down the streets shooting everyone he saw.   When the  smoke cleared, 17 people were  dead.

The British  public, already de-sensitized by eighty years of  "gun control", demanded even tougher restrictions.  (The seizure of all privately owned handguns was  the objective even though Ryan used a  rifle.)
Nine years  later, at Dunblane ,   Scotland ,  Thomas Hamilton used a semi-automatic weapon to  murder 16 children and a teacher at a public  school.
For many  years, the media had portrayed all gun owners as  mentally unstable or worse, criminals. Now the  press had a real kook with which to beat up  law-abiding gun owners. Day after day, week after  week, the media gave up all pretense of  objectivity and demanded a total ban on all  handguns. The Dunblane Inquiry,  a few months later, sealed the fate of the few  sidearms still owned by private  citizens.
During the  years in which the British government  incrementally took away most gun rights, the  notion that a citizen had the right to armed  self-defense came to be seen as vigilantism.  Authorities refused to grant gun licenses to  people who were threatened, claiming that  self-defense was no longer considered a reason to  own a gun. Citizens who shot burglars or robbers  or rapists were charged while the real criminals  were  released.
Indeed,  after the Martin shooting, a police spokesman was  quoted as saying, "We cannot have people take the  law into their own  hands." All of  Martin's neighbors had been robbed numerous times,  and several elderly people were severely injured  in beatings by young thugs who had no fear of the  consequences. Martin himself, a collector of  antiques, had seen most of his collection trashed  or stolen by  burglars.
When the  Dunblane Inquiry ended, citizens who owned  handguns were given three months to turn them over  to local  authorities. Being  good British subjects, most people obeyed the law.  The few who didn't were visited by police and  threatened with ten-year prison sentences if they  didn't comply.  Police later  bragged that they'd taken nearly 200,000 handguns  from private citizens.

How did the  authorities know who had  handguns?
The guns had  been registered and  licensed.
Kind of like  cars. Sound  familiar?
"..It  does not require a majority to prevail, but rather  an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush  fires in people's  minds.." --Samuel  Adams

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