- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2000


On Tuesday, Massachusetts law-enforcement officials say, 42-year-old Michael McDermott ambled through a Boston Internet firm on a five- to eight-minute shooting spree that left seven people dead. Then he quietly returned to a reception area, still fully armed, and sat down next to two of his victims, where authorities found him.
In the face of such ghastly and bizarre behavior, some might hesitate before rushing into the public arena to propose solutions to such shootings. Not gun-control advocates. The mourning had barely begun before they took the opportunity to evangelize for the anti-arms agenda. "It's a wake up call to all of us," said state Sen. Cheryl Jacques, a Democrat, "that we are not safe from gun violence and we need to redouble our efforts to do everything possible to prevent gun violence." A spokesman for the Violence Policy Center tried to capitalize on the shooting too, saying, "There will always be angry men [as opposed to "angry women"] who want to take out their rage," he said, "and it's the access to specific categories of firearms like assault rifles and handguns that allow them to do so quickly and easily."
Already gun-control advocates expect the shootings to boost three measures they are pushing in the state's legislature. One would limit gun buyers to one weapons purchase per month. (How about one per year or one per 10 years? Why so modest?) Another would require gun makers to ship a spent shell casing and bullet with every gun sold. When the gun is sold, the casing and bullet would go to the state, enabling authorities to track weapons more easily when used in crimes. In Maryland, some manufacturers haven't sent casings along with guns, so gun dealers haven't been allowed to sell them. With some dealers in the nominally Free State running out of weapons, some lawmakers are now wondering whether to reconsider what has turned out to be a de facto ban on gun sales. Still a third measure would restrict further already restricted sales of "assault" weapons, a term that says less about a particular class of weapons than it does about the use, or misuse, of semantics to gin up opposition to firearms.
There are obvious problems with each of the proposals, some of which are mentioned above. Notwithstanding the good intentions of Ms. Jacques and others like her, there are also larger and more general problems. One organization, the Soros Foundation, already lists Massachusetts gun laws as the most restrictive in the country, Reuters reports. These restrictions having failed, gun-control advocates seem to believe the solution is more of the same.
Another problem is that when gun-control does "work," it works to the advantage of criminals and deranged gunmen. Neither group is inclined to abide by gun-control laws or any laws for that matter. That's why people call them criminals or want to treat them as such. Law-abiding citizens, by definition, do comply with such laws and, as a consequence, find themselves without means of defense when looking down the barrel of a gun that wasn't supposed to be there.
John Lott, a senior researcher at Yale University, put the public-policy dilemma this way in an op-ed for the Boston Globe this week. "I received an e-mail from a friend recently," he wrote, "telling me that he had just dropped off his kids at a public school and outside the school was a sign that said, 'This is a gun-free zone.' I couldn't help but think, if I put up a sign on my home that said, 'This home is a gun-free zone,' would it make it more attractive or less attractive to criminals entering my home and attacking myself or my family." Gun-control backers haven't exactly rushed out to promote such signs in front of their own houses, which is an endorsement of sorts for Mr. Lott's argument.
His research on concealed-carry laws is too. Some 32 states now allow citizens without criminal records or history of mental health problems to carry concealed weapons. Over a 23-year period, states with such laws saw a decline in multiple-victim shootings of 67 percent. Deaths and injuries from these shootings fell an average 78 percent.
If Mr. Lott is right, it means that states with restrictive gun laws, like Massachusetts, have effectively established "self-defense-free zones." After this week's shootings, Massachusetts isn't in the strongest position to argue otherwise.We welcome your opinions. Please email your letters to the editor to letter@twtmail.com. All letters may be edited for clarity and length. Please include your name, daytime telephone number, city and state.

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