- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

The current U.N. Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons has focused heavily on the perceived suffering of women and children and seeks, as a cure-all, to restrict severely if not ultimately ban guns, legal and illegal, except those in teh hands of the police and the military. There is even a large poster displayed in the room where delegates work to come up with a final program of action, with the words in big bold letters: "SMALL ARMS KILL WOMEN & CHILDREN."
Nothing is neutral about this U.N. establishment. Needless to say, there are no other posters visible to the delegates. No dissenting views are prominently displayed. The long-range outcome of the U.N. process is predictable, despite 2 weeks of non-stop speeches in New York.
The leaders of universal gun-control non-governmental organizations (NGOs) driving the U.N. conference agenda, particularly the Americans, appear to be upper-middle class, well-educated women who, no doubt, are well meaning but undoubtedly have had very few experiences in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Minority women who run small businesses in dangerous "hoods" would hold a different view. Sadly, they are not present. A pistol for self-defense empowers these minority women, freeing them from the debilitating fear of robbery, rape or even murder as they go about their daily routines just as a few pistols also might have spared some victims in Rwanda from unspeakable cruelties there. The women of Rwanda, of course, couldn't call 911 for protection; nor does a call to 911 in American cities always guarantee a timely response from the local police.
The rule of law is the best guarantee of a peaceful world not the law of totalitarians or authoritarians, but the morally ordered liberty of people who understand that a virtuous citizenry is the best protection from violence. When the culture that inculcates the values necessary for a peaceful society breaks down, the best protection for women (and women protecting children) is the right of self-defense with a firearm. The social breakdown that afflicts our inner cities has not yet hit the world of these upper-middle class NGO women so they mistakenly focus on firearms rather than root causes, namely, societal and family dissolution.
Small arms are impersonal objects which can be used for good or ill depending on the character of the person or police force into whose hands they are placed. They can be used to prevent one's daughter from being taken to be raped in the Balkans, to resist a "necklace" torture killing in Haiti or fend-off rioting thugs from looting a small store in Los Angeles. Criminals do, indeed, inflict harm with small arms also with knives and machetes. But to purposely disarm the vulnerable and innocent, as the proposed U.N. program of action seeks to do, only compounds the problem and misses the point. In sum, it is reckless.
Where is the discussion on human rights of victims of violence including the right of victims to protect themselves from abuse by legitimate and lawful means? Our Founding Fathers got it right; they had a profound understanding of human nature. They laid out the constitutional formula to ensure civil peace but just to be sure, Americans were guaranteed in the Bill of Rights the right to defend themselves form criminal intruders and those who would do harm to innocent people.
Minority women and children are, indeed, among the greatest beneficiaries of the protections afforded by the Second Amendment today, since most crime is committed not in the suburbs, but in the inner cities where they live and work. In America alone, firearms are used 2.5 million times a year in self-protection as positive proof of their life-saving value. So I suggest another poster be ordered and mounted forthwith in the U.N. delegates workroom, alongside the one already there: "SMALL ARMS SAVE WOMEN & CHILDREN."
This would create a modicum of balance in keeping with the egalitarian American spirit of fair play. Then let a principled debate begin.

Faith Whittlesey is a delegate at large with the United States delegation to the U.N. Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons, and a former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland.

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