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April 18, 2007

Why We Cannot Just Be Quiet and Mourn

In the hours and days just after the mass murder-suicide at Virginia Tech last Monday, many people felt it would be more sensitive and polite if the advocates for gun rights would sit quietly and allow the personal and national mourning to take place without a lot of gun policy arguments.

We at JPFO considered the sensitive and polite approach. We certainly feel terrible for the victims and for the families and friends whose lives are shattered by the horrendous crime. The deep evil of the murders makes it all the harder to come to terms with that sickening event. We agree that it would be best if we, as a nation, could gather together with the survivors in national mourning.

But we could not just be sensitive, polite and quiet, for two key reasons. First, we know that the enemies of defense rights always capitalize on strong emotions of the moment to drive their policies.

The Brady Campaign, for example, released a message almost immediately that called for more national "gun control" and said: "We are building a crescendo of public outcry to ensure that action is taken. We are aggressively rallying support among allies for our solutions."

Those benighted people, who think that making everybody defenseless is a good plan, have already swung into action. Their policy goals ride on strong emotions, not on reason and practicality.

If we stay quiet while the anti-self defense crowd defines the issues and whips up emtions, then we lose. We lose by being absent and by giving the appearance of conceding we are wrong about self-defense. We lose by letting emotional appeals go unchallenged by careful rational thought.

We know also that a bad law driven by high-emotions in Congress and the media will be extremely hard to eliminate later.

A second reason we could not just stay quiet: gun owners have been made to feel guilty for having guns, just because one suicide-murderer misuses a firearm in such an horrific way. In this moment of national focus, many gun owners don't remember some of the key reasons that we have the right to keep and bear arms. Under pressure, many gun owners cannot respond to challenges, and that makes us all look shallow or unprincipled.

Talk host Bill O'Reilly, for example, took to the airwaves the following day to claim that Virginia's gun laws are not strict enough. O'Reilly urged that a 7-day waiting period is necessary, that the instant background check is not enough. A caller to his radio show pointed out the several procedures in Virginia that a buyer must pass through, and said that the 7-day waiting period was not needed.

O'Reilly replied by challenging the man to explain why he couldn't wait 7 days to get a Glock? Why did the man need to take immediate possession?

The caller was unable to answer the question -- because he was feeling defensive and cornered and somehow guilty. The answers to O'Reilly's challenges are:

  1. a woman who is being stalked should not have to wait 7 days to obtain the means to protect herself from a potentially armed madman,
  2. the police owe no duty to protect individual citizens from criminal attack. Blocking a person from getting defense tools is to cripple the endangered citizen's ability to protect himself or herself,
  3. the suicide-murderer in this case had planned his crime carefully, such that a 7 day waiting period would have had zero effect upon him.

We cannot let the anti-defense people and the ignorant media personalities command the policy discussion while we are sensitively and politely silent. We wish it were otherwise. Innocent lives depend upon the right to keep and bear arms, so we must protect it, even in times of tragedy and grief.

- The Liberty Crew


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