- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

Richard Poe says he's "not a hunter, a gun hobbyist or a gun enthusiast." But he defintely supports the Second Amendment, which guarantees Americans the right "to keep and bear arms." His new book, "The Seven Myths of Gun Control," was written "not out of any personal zest for firearms," he says, "but out of my sense of duty as a journalist and citizen.
"I could no longer stand silent while my Constitution was shredded," says Mr. Poe, editor of Front Page Magazine (www.frontpagemag.com). "The Second Amendment was not written to protect the rights of hunters and sportsmen, but rather to ensure a vital liberty, important to every American."
His book outlines the seven most common arguments used by anti-gun proponents and then rebutts each one through statistics, court case histories, examples from gun rights experts and other research. He attributes the current push for increased gun-control measures to the deterioration of a "warrior culture" in America.
It used to be, he says, that American boys became men when they started using guns — often learning to hunt with their fathers. Now, however, American boys no longer experience such a defined rite of initiation, without which, "a man goes through life unsure, at every stage, whether he has attained manhood."
"If you raise boys to be afraid to fight and fear guns, you are raising boys who will not be warriors, boys who will not protect your society," Mr. Poe says. "Manhood has been redefined as a badge of shame. To be a man today is something suspect — it's not a good thing."
Feminists have backed efforts to infringe the rights of gun owners, says Mr. Poe, adding that women have "formed the backbone of the modern gun-ban movement." He cites feminist Alan Bassin, who in a 1998 article in the Hastings Women's Law Review called firearms "a source of male domination — a symbol of male power and aggression."
Gun-control advocates say guns aren't always the best defense — and can be dangerous to their owners.
"We certainly feel that people should defend themselves, but guns are not necessarily the best way to defend yourself. It all depends on the circumstance," says Nancy Hwa, spokeswoman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "The gun lobby ignores the fact that the presence of a gun can create a greater risk. A gun isn't a cure-all for defense."
Mr. Poe says that American perception of guns has changed from "normal and wholesome" to "diabolical" in nature. He describes the reaction of a test audience for the Revolutionary War movie "The Patriot" as "shocked" to see Mel Gibson arm his two young sons, ages 10 and 13, and lead them into war against British soldiers.
"The spectacle of children firing guns was evidently too much for them," Mr. Poe says. "Perhaps it evoked memories of Columbine and other well-published school shootings."
Opponents of gun rights say that present-day perception of Colonial firearm culture is slanted due to romanticized Western novels and Hollywood movies.
"Gun ownership was rare in Colonial America," Ms. Hwa says, citing Emory Univerity historian Michael Bellesiles' recent book, "Arming America."
"The gun lobby says that guns were essential during the founding days of this country," Ms. Hwa says. "That's a misstep that the NRA likes to propagate. That fact that everyone owned a gun is simply not true."
But, as Mr. Poe points out, just three years after the Mayflower landed, Plymouth Colony passed a law requiring "that every freeman or other inhabitant of this colony provide for himselfe and each under him able to beare arms a sufficient musket." It was the British intent to disarm the Patriots that led to Paul Revere's ride and the "shot heard 'round the world" in the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, when armed citizens — the Minutemen — turned back the Redcoats.
Mr. Poe concludes that the elimination of gun rights could ultimately lead to the
decline of democracy and increased dependence on government. To detail that possibility further, he cites research from Rudolph J. Rummel, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii.
During a study in his 1994 book, "Death by Government," Mr. Rummel found that during the 20th century, four times as many people were killed by their own governments as were killed in combat.
"Aristotle observed that 'those who possess and can wield arms are in a position to decide whether the constitution is to continue or not,'" Mr. Poe says. "The awesome power to decide whether or not our country remains free should lie in the hands of the people, not in the hands of the elite. Should a tyrant arise, who will oppose him if the people have no arms? Our only choice will be to submit and obey."
Mr. Poe describes a citizen's choice between dependence on a government that is "not legally obliged to protect citizens" and the growing number of laws that limit private gun ownership.
"Even in the best of times, police cannot always be there to protect you," he writes. "In fact, it is not their job to protect you. Their job is to enforce the law, which usually means coming in after a crime is committed and arresting suspects."
However, gun-control activitists contend that better options for self-defense exist.
"There are all sorts of preventative techniques you can take to defend yourself," Ms. Hwa said. "You can secure a home with good locks, leave lights on. Sometimes it's better to lose your wallet than your life."
Mr. Poe says that "self-defense is the only real protection that honest citizens have at the moment a crime is committed." Without the Second Amendment, Americans are "helpless in the face of criminal violence," he says.
Gun-control advocates disagree. "There are several common sense measures that people can take to protect themselves without using a gun," Ms. Hwa said. "A gun is much more likely to be used in an argument between family members in the house than it is to be used in self-defense."
But Mr. Poe cites statistics indicating that Americans use guns in self-defense between 760,000 and 3.6 million times each year. In 98 percent of those cases, the criminal "flees at the mere sight of the gun," Mr. Poe says.
"There will always be plenty of wolves in society," he says. "Transforming ourselves into sheep will not make the wolves go away. It will simply provide the wolves with an easier meal.
"If we are not tough enough to fight for ourselves, then someone else will have to do our fighting for us. We will have to find a protector, stronger than ourselves, in whose shadow we can hide. That protector will be our master."

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