Freedom insurance: The way firearm ownership should be viewed

By Dr. Jeremy Blanks
web posted July 10, 2000

Currently, there are many debates over the basic civil right to own a firearm.  Unfortunately, very few of these debates are centered on factual information, but rather they are based on emotion and what can only be termed scare tactics.  This paper will examine the arguments on this issue from a factual standpoint and evaluate this author's theory that firearm ownership should be construed as a form of insurance, i.e. freedom and self-defense insurance.

There are two main reasons that the founding fathers included the 2nd Amendment in the Bill of Rights.  The first is the need to have a militia made up of every able bodied person to defend against a variety of threats both external and internal, but more importantly the militia would serve as a deterrent to any future tyrannical government that might come to be.  The second, and equally essential, is the need for self-defense.  Both of these issues are clearly addressed by the founders in the 2nd Amendment, in the various state Constitutional ratification meetings, in the vast majority of state constitutions, and in the writings of the founders during and after the ratification of the Constitution, i.e. the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist papers, personal letters, newspaper articles, etc.  These two concerns accurately portray the intent of the 2nd Amendment as both an individual and collective right for law-abiding citizens.  Much of the confusion that has been encountered by various scholars over the 2nd Amendment is based in the inability to see that both individual and collective rights are contained in this amendment.1-21

Without a doubt, the founders of the United States were very concerned about a future development that would include a government that would not be for the people or run by the people.  These founders, in their infinite wisdom, were very aware of how governments can and do turn against its citizenry.  There were many examples of these events during the time of our founders with the most obvious being the treatment of the American colonist by the British government.1-4  Today, such heinous events fill our history books and they have continued to occur throughout the 20th century and during more recent times throughout the world, i.e. Mao and the Cultural Revolution in China, China and the students in Tianamen Square, the Kamer Rouge in Cambodia, Hitler's Jewish Holocaust, Stalin's Soviet Union, Iraq and the Kurds, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Sudan along with many countries in Africa, etc.21,22  In response to this potential and realistic threat, the American founders decided that the only true counter to such a totalitarian government would be the armed citizen.  Not only would the law-abiding citizens have the ability to defend themselves in such a situation, but the mere fact that the citizens were armed would serve as a great deterrent to the initial formation of such tyranny.  Many argue that an armed citizen force could not defend itself in today's modern warfare, but that point is not only open to debate but irrelevant, because the true value of an armed citizenry is in deterrence.4-6,24

In today's world, we have certain anti-gun groups that now argue that the founders were wrong in their concern about the possibility of a tyrannical government coming to be in the United States.  These people argue that it just couldn't happen in today's America.  And even if one accepts that it could happen, the chances are very remote and not worth our concern.  In their view, we, United States citizens, should view the government as sort of a big brother that is looking out for us and could never harm us.  In addition, we should accept whatever our government tells us, because surely they are only concerned about our well-being.  I wonder if the American citizens of Japanese ancestry believed this after they were forced into camps during World War II, or possibly we could ask the American citizens of African descent who were attacked, enslaved, and denied their basic rights during the past by this government, or maybe we could ask the American citizens of Native Indian decent how they feel about the honesty and supposed concern of government for the welfare of citizens.  And these aforementioned examples are just the tip of the iceberg.  If anyone truly believes that any government cannot or will not cause great harm to its citizens, then they simply have no understanding of history or even human nature.

What's really interesting, however, about the anti-gun group's argument here is that they have apparently developed the ability to predict the future in their assumption that a dictatorial government simply can't happen.  How do we know what the future holds ten, twenty, fifty, or one hundred years from now?  In truth we do not and neither do the anti-gun groups.  The founders realized that they could not predict the future accurately, so they put the power in the hands of the people and they gave the people the ability to defend themselves.  This argument by the gun control extremist is a ploy that simply does not address reality or even basic common sense.  I, personally, do not believe that it is likely to have such a tyrannical government come to pass in the future in the United States, but yet the possibility exists without a doubt.  Doesn't simple prudence require that any reasonable people at least have the option to prepare for the possibility of an event that would be so devastating to our freedom?25,26

In addition to the need for a collective defense, the founders also specifically commented on the need for a means of personal defense in their writings and public statements.  Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison are just the beginning of the list of the founders that noted the need for the incorporation of the basic human right to self-defense in the Bill of Rights.  It was their belief that the personal ownership of firearms would not only provide for a means of response to tyranny, but also and equally important as a method of personal defense.  It was true over 200 years ago, as it is today, that one simply cannot rely on another or the government for their defense.  In all honesty, one is not free if that individual is incapable or disallowed of self-defense.1,4,7,9,27

The anti-gun groups also do not view self-defense as sufficient reason to own a firearm.  We often hear about sporting purposes, but I have yet to hear hard core gun control supporters mention the basic human right to self-defense.  This is truly odd because anyone who has reviewed the 2nd Amendment quickly realizes that it's not about "duck hunting."3  The gun control supporter's position is that the police already protect the people and the citizens therefore have no need for a firearm.  In their view, one does not have the right to defend his / her family from an intruder of unknown intentions in one's home.  Instead, one should take the course of action of calling the police and then waiting for their arrival.  When one realistically considers the need for personal defense, that person cannot with any good conscience rely on the police or any other government agency.  With all due respect to the fine men and women of the police organizations in America, it is clear that they simply cannot be everywhere at every point during the day and night.  They are doing an admirable job under extreme circumstances, and they are overwhelmed.  The average response time in the larger U.S. cites runs into the tens of minutes, while the time in more suburban and rural areas is at a half-hour or more.  If one were to follow the advice of these anti-gun groups, they would be advocating that people place themselves at the mercy of criminals.9,26-28

Can you imagine the joy such a gun ban policy as proposed by Handgun Control or the other left-wing gun control groups would bring the armed robbers, burglars, rapist, and murderers in this country?  This very event has recently occurred in Australia.29-34  The Australian Prime Minister, who pushed this legislation along with his socialist supporters, was fond of saying that the people did not need to own firearms because the police would protect them.  Also, the Australian Prime Minister frequently stated that the gun ban would immediately and continual lower crime.  After over a year of having essentially all of their firearms removed (over 600,000 at a taxpayer cost of half a billion dollars), the people of Australia are now in the midst of a crime wave.  After experiencing 25 years of steady declines in homicides, assaults, armed robberies, etc., they now have experienced a 25.6% rise in manslaughter, a 20.1% rise in attempted murder, a 6.8% increase in assaults, a 17.8% rise in kidnapping / abductions, a 19.8% jump in armed robbery, and break-ins are up dramatically.29-34  In addition to the nationwide statistics certain areas of Australia have experienced an even more extreme rise in crime.  In the province of Victoria, murders have tripled, robberies with guns are up 39%, and assaults involving guns rose 28%.30-34  Clearly, the people of Australia have only received more crime and violence for their half a billion dollars in taxpayer money.  Now, they are merely sheep awaiting the slaughter of the Australian criminal.  One must wonder what has come to be of the predictions by the Australian Prime Minister that the results of his extremist gun ban would include a lower crime rate.  How surprising it is to think that a law that only takes away the rights of law-abiding citizens would not lower the crime rate, but instead such bans actually cause an increase in crime through the removal of self-defense rights.  Yes, surprising indeed.

A similar situation has developed in England, where they also took the extreme step several years ago of removing firearms from the hands of law-abiding citizens.35,36  In England, the use of guns by criminals has increased steadily and they now have developed a criminal in England that has no fear of breaking into one's home regardless of whether or not the home is occupied.  Currently, England has a break-in rate while people are at home that is three times higher than that of the United States.  The only logical answer for these increases in crime and break-ins is that the English criminal knows that the people have been disarmed.  The English criminal simply has nothing to fear from the law-abiding citizens of England now that they have been disarmed.  I can only fathom at the joy the English and Australian criminals enjoy these days.  Truly, such laws as have been enacted in Australia, England, and other places around the world can only be viewed for what they correctly are, i.e. criminal protection acts.

Some people also like to use Canada and Japan as examples of supposed gun control successes.37,38  However, a review of those results shows that such is far from the truth.  It is factual that Canada has much stricter firearm laws than the U.S., and in Japan firearms are essentially outlawed.  It is also true that the murder rates in those countries are lower than that of the U.S.  However, to say that such is due to firearm laws is ludicrous.  Let's look at Canada first.  The main thing that is normally overlooked in comparisons to other countries is the culture effect.  Without a doubt, Canada has a much different culture than that of the U.S.  A more accurate comparison would be to compare the crime and murder rates of bordering U.S. areas to that of Canada.  The culture has far more similarities and the general population has a similar makeup.  Such a comparison finds that the murder rates in those areas bordering Canada are about the same or even lower than that found in Canada.  Even though the firearm laws on the U.S. side of the border do not have the wide ranging regulations found on the Canadian side, the murder rate is the same or lower.  If the firearm laws are the problem, then that certainly doesn't seem to be the case here.  Japan may well be the most used example by gun control advocates.  However, you will never observe a gun control advocate mention the suicide rate of Japan.  Gun control advocates in the U.S. have attempted to say that firearms lead to suicides, but if they were to use their Japan example they would have a problem.  That's because the suicide rate in Japan is almost three times higher than that of the U.S.  Even though guns are essentially absent in Japanese society, the people of Japan still suffer from a much higher suicide rate.  In addition to Japan, one can compare the U.S. suicide rate (11.8 per 100,000 in 1996) to many other countries that year and see the same affect as we do with Japan.  For example, Canada with gun registration and selective bans had a suicide rate of 13.6 per 100,000, France with strict gun laws and bans had 20.9 per 100,000, and Finland with gun bans had over 25 per 100,000.  Again, if it is the presence of a gun that causes these problems, then why are these problems persistent in countries that have banned or severely restricted them?

With international examples, gun control advocates conveniently fail to mention countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Israel, etc., which have high gun ownership rates and low crime rates.39-42  Switzerland in particular has a gun ownership rate near that of the U.S. and they also have wide civilian ownership of fully automatic firearms.  Yet, their murder rate is less than that of almost all of the countries in Europe that have banned firearms from the hands of law-abiding citizens.  Again, if the presence of an inanimate object, a gun, is the problem, then why is the murder rate in Switzerland so low?  Also lost in these debates are places like Mexico and Russia where civilian gun ownership is strictly prohibited, yet they still have a murder rate above that of the U.S.  Mexico continues to have murder rates that are several multiples above that found in the U.S., yet it is illegal for a civilian to possess any type of firearm.  In 1988 under the communist regime of the Soviet Union that banned firearms in civilian hands, the Russian murder rate was 9.8 per 100,000 people compared to the U.S. rate of 8.9 per 100,000.  By 1994, the Russian rate of murder had jumped to more than 32 per 100,000 or about five times that found in the U.S.  It was still illegal for civilians to possess firearms, but the culture had dramatically changed and crime had become rampant by 1994.  The reality of the situation is that there has never been an example of where an extremist gun ban was implemented and the results included a decrease in crime.  In fact, as I have shown the opposite is true.  In reality, gun control schemes simply have nothing to do with crime control, due to the simple fact that gun control focuses on law-abiding citizens instead of the criminals who carry out violent crimes.

All of these international comparisons are interesting, but in all cases the cultural affect is disregarded.  In essence, we are comparing apples to oranges.  Fortunately for the sake of argument, we also have many examples of gun control failures here in the United States.  We have places like Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL, and New York City, where gun bans were implemented in the 1970s.43  None of these cities received a lower crime rate in return for banning firearms.  Instead, the crime rates in these locales went up, while the crime rates in areas with high gun ownership went down.  Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL, and New York City have been regular competitors for the murder capital of the world since their gun bans.  In all of these cases, those in favor of such bans said they were necessary to reduce crime.  Yet, the results show that such has not happened.  Even in the 1990s when crime has been going down considerably across the U.S., the areas with gun bans have seen little reduction in their crime rates or reductions that were much slower than the national average.  If the presence of a gun in the hands of a law-abiding citizen is the problem, why is it that those areas with the strictest gun laws and lowest gun ownership rates also have the highest crime rates?  This is a question the gun control establishment will avoid at all cost.

Besides the clear evidence of the problems that can be encountered when the law-abiding citizens of a population are disarmed, there is also considerable documentation that displays the values of firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens.  This point has been clearly demonstrated in the dozens of studies that have been carried out by respected criminologist and even the Department of Justice, which show that millions of crimes are prevented every year through the use of firearm's by law abiding citizens.44  That is millions of rapes, murders, and other violent crimes prevented through firearm ownership.  This is the ultimate point that is missed and not even acknowledged by gun control supporters.  They simply fail to understand or recognize the fact that a firearm in the hand of a law-abiding citizen is a good thing millions of times more often than it is a bad thing.14,26,27

Additionally, we have the results from the passage of concealed carry laws in thirty-one states in the U.S.  The laws were passed at the outrage of left wing groups like Handgun Control, who said that such laws would lead to "wild west" type shootouts on our streets.  The results from these laws must be very discouraging to supporters of Handgun Control.  Instead of Handgun Control's predicted rise in violence, we have instead seen an immediate and continued reduction in crime in those areas that have passed such laws.  Florida was one of the first to pass such a law and their crime rate continues to be just a fraction of that found in the national average and in areas with strict gun laws.45-49  Again, these results beg the question that if it is the firearm that is the problem, why do areas with high gun ownership and few gun laws also have the lowest crime rates?

It is clear to anyone of reason that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens have far more advantages than disadvantages.  Documented examples of this key fact are found throughout the world and in our own country.  This brings us back to the key points in this discussion.  Why should anyone own a firearm if the possibility of future government abuses is remote and why does one need a firearm if we have the police to protect us?  The answers are really very simple.  We own firearms for the same reasons as we have other forms of insurance.  The large majority of the population has homeowner's insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, catastrophic medical insurance, a cell phone in case of emergency, a spare tire in their car, a safe deposit box or a safe at home, a home security system, etc.  I have all of these items, but to date I have never truly needed any of them.  I may well need them some day and I am sure I will be fortunate I had them if I do.  These items are all forms of insurance that prepares us for the possibility of a future event.  Some of these events are more likely to occur than others.  When one looks at the likelihood of an armed break-in at their personal residence compared to many of the other types of insurance, disability and life for example, the statistical probability of a break-in is actually much higher.  Some groups, such as women or people living in crime plagued areas, are more at risk for such events and have a stronger need for such self-defense measures.  Just as it makes good common sense to own many other types of insurance, it is reasonable to have a means for self-defense or what I have termed freedom and self-defense insurance.  It is not paranoia, as some have claimed, any more so than it is for one to possess any form of insurance that we deem necessary.  The reality is that we simply cannot predict the future and the need for freedom and self-defense insurance is just as valid today as it was over 200 years ago when the founders included this right in the 2nd Amendment.  It is true that we do indeed have a serious violence problem here in America and each individual that owns a firearm does have a responsibility to use such a tool in a reasonable and safe manner.  However, the gun control schemes and bans offered by those, that in most cases have no understanding of firearms, are merely a simplistic and misguided methodology that has nothing to do with violent crime reduction.  In the end, we should simply think of firearm ownership for what it really is, i.e. a type of freedom and self-defense insurance.

References:

1.    Halbrook, Stephen P., "Encroachments of the Crown on the Liberty of the Subject: Pre-Revolutionary Origins of the Second Amendment," 15 U. Dayton L. Rev. 91-124 (1989).
http://www.2ndlawlib.com/journals/rev-hal.html
2.    Barnett, Randy E., "The Relevance of the Framers' Intent," 19 Harv. J. of L. & Pub. Pol'y 403-410 (1996).
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4.    Reynolds, Glenn H., "The Ideological Origins of the Second Amendment," 69 J. of Am. Hist. 599-614 (1982).
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6.    Halbrook, Stephen P., "What the Framers Intended: A Linguistic Analysis of the Right to Bear Arms," 49 Law & Contemp. Probs. 151-162 (1986).
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7.    Halbrook, Stephen P., "To Keep and Bear Their Private Arms: The Adoption of the Second Amendment," 1787-1791, 10 N. Ky. L. Rev. 13-39 (1982).
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8.    Halbrook, Stephen P., "The Jurisprudence of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments," 4 GMU L. Rev. 1-69 (1981).
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39.    Kopel, David B. & D'Andrilli, "The Swiss and their Guns," American Rifleman, February, (1990).
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 http://members.aol/protell/wallstreet.html
41.    Halbrook, Stephen P., "An Armed Society," American Guardian, (1998).
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44.    Kleck, Gary & Gertz, Marc, "Armed Resistance to Crime:  The Prevalence and Nature of Self Defense with a Gun," Journal of Law and Criminology, Vol. 86, 1, 1995.
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46.    Blodgett-Ford, Sayoka, "Do Battered Women Have a Right to Bear Arms?," 11 Yale L. & Pol. Rev., 509-560, (1993).
 http://www.2ndlawlib.com/journals/fordbatt.html
47.    Kopel, David B., "The Untold Triumph of Concealed Carry Permits," 78, Policy Review, (1996).
http://www.policyreview.com/ju196/labs.htm.
48.    Lott, John R., "Liscense to Kill?  Careful Look at Critical Study Actually Backs Gun Permit Holders," Dallas Morning News, (Feb. 8, 1998).
 http://www.i2i.org/SuptDocs/OpEdArcu/Liscense%20to%20Kill.htm
49.    Kopel, David B., "Why Good People Own Guns: Better Safe than Sorry," Los Angeles Times, p. B-5, (November 26, 1993).
http://i2i.org/SuptDocs/Crime/Why_Good_People_Own_Guns.htm

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