Policy Analysis No. 109
July 11, 1988
TRUST THE PEOPLE: THE CASE AGAINST GUN CONTROL
by David B. Kopel David B. Kopel, formerly an
assistant district attorney in
Manhattan, is an attorney in Colorado.
Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into
two parties: 1) Those who fear and distrust the people
. . . . 2) Those who identify themselves with the
people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider
them as the most honest and safe . . . depository of
the public interest.
-- Thomas Jefferson
Few public policy debates have been as dominated by emotion
and misinformation as the one on gun control. Perhaps this
debate is so highly charged because it involves such fundamental
issues. The calls for more gun restrictions or for bans on some
or all guns are calls for significant change in our social and
Gun control is based on the faulty notion that ordinary
American citizens are too clumsy and ill-tempered to be trusted
with weapons. Only through the blatant abrogation of explicit
constitutional rights is gun control even possible. It must be
enforced with such violations of individual rights as intrusive
search and seizure. It most severely victimizes those who most
need weapons for self-defense, such as blacks and women.
The various gun control proposals on today's agenda--
including licensing, waiting periods, and bans on so-called
Saturday night specials--are of little, if any, value as crime-
fighting measures. Banning guns to reduce crime makes as much
sense as banning alcohol to reduce drunk driving. Indeed,
persuasive evidence shows that civilian gun ownership can be a
powerful deterrent to crime.
The gun control debate poses the basic question: Who is
more trustworthy, the government or the people?
Guns and Crime
Guns as a Cause of Crime
Gun control advocates--those who favor additional legal
restrictions on the availability of guns or who want to outlaw
certain types of guns--argue that the more guns there are, the
more crime there will be. As a Detroit narcotics officer put
it, "Drugs are X; the number of guns in our society is Y; the
number of kids in possession of drugs is Z. X plus Y plus Z
equals an increase in murders." But there is no simple
statistical correlation between gun ownership and homicide or
other violent crimes. In the first 30 years of this century,
U.S. per capita handgun ownership remained stable, but the
homicide rate rose tenfold. Subsequently, between 1937 and
1963, handgun ownership rose by 250 percent, but the homicide
rate fell by 35.7 percent.
Switzerland, through its militia system, distributes both
pistols and fully automatic assault rifles to all adult males and
requires them to store their weapons at home. Further, civilian
long-gun purchases are essentially unregulated, and handguns are
available to any adult without a criminal record or mental
defect. Nevertheless, Switzerland suffers far less crime per
capita than the United States and almost no gun crime.
Allowing for important differences between Switzerland and
the United States, it seems clear that there is no direct link
between the level of citizen gun ownership and the level of gun
misuse. Instead of simplistically assuming that the fewer guns
there are, the safer society will be, one should analyze the
particular costs and benefits of gun ownership and gun control
and consider which groups gain and lose from particular policies.
Guns as a Tool against Crime
Several years ago the National Institute of Justice offered
a grant to the former president of the American Sociological
Association to survey the field of research on gun control.
Peter Rossi began his work convinced of the need for strict
national gun control. After looking at the data, however, Rossi
and his University of Massachusetts colleagues James Wright and
Kathleen Daly concluded that there was no convincing proof that
gun control curbs crime. A follow-up study by Wright and
Rossi of serious felons in American prisons provided further
evidence that gun control would not impede determined crimi-
nals. It also indicated that civilian gun ownership does
deter some crime. Three-fifths of the prisoners studied said
that a criminal would not attack a potential victim who was
known to be armed. Two-fifths of them had decided not to commit
a crime because they thought the victim might have a gun.
Criminals in states with higher civilian gun ownership rates
worried the most about armed victims.
Real-world experiences validate the sociologists' findings.
In 1966 the police in Orlando, Florida, responded to a rape
epidemic by embarking on a highly publicized program to train
2,500 women in firearm use. The next year rape fell by 88
percent in Orlando (the only major city to experience a decrease
that year); burglary fell by 25 percent. Not one of the 2,500
women actually ended up firing her weapon; the deterrent effect
of the publicity sufficed. Five years later Orlando's rape rate
was still 13 percent below the pre-program level, whereas the
surrounding standard metropolitan area had suffered a 308 percent
increase. During a 1974 police strike in Albuquerque armed
citizens patrolled their neighborhoods and shop owners publicly
armed themselves; felonies dropped significantly. In March
1982 Kennesaw, Georgia, enacted a law requiring householders to
keep a gun at home; house burglaries fell from 65 per year to 26,
and to 11 the following year. Similar publicized training
programs for gun-toting merchants sharply reduced robberies in
stores in Highland Park, Michigan, and in New Orleans; a grocers
organization's gun clinics produced the same result in
Detroit. r 9 1
Gun control advocates note that only 2 burglars in 1,000
are driven off by armed homeowners. However, since a huge
preponderance of burglaries take place when no one is home, the
statistical citation is misleading. Several criminologists
attribute the prevalence of daytime burglary to burglars' fear of
confronting an armed occupant. Indeed, a burglar's chance of
being sent to jail is about the same as his chance of being shot
by a victim if the burglar breaks into an occupied residence (1
to 2 percent in each case).
Can Gun Laws Be Enforced?
As Stanford law professor John Kaplan has observed, "When
guns are outlawed, all those who have guns will be outlaws."
Kaplan argued that when a law criminalizes behavior that its
practitioners do not believe improper, the new outlaws lose
respect for society and the law. Kaplan found the problem
especially severe in situations where the numbers of outlaws
are very high, as in the case of alcohol, marijuana, or gun
Even simple registration laws meet with massive resistance.
In Illinois, for example, a 1977 study showed that compliance
with handgun registration was only about 25 percent. A 1979
survey of Illinois gun owners indicated that 73 percent would not
comply with a gun prohibition. It is evident that New York
City's almost complete prohibition is not voluntarily obeyed;
estimates of the number of illegal handguns in the city range
from one million to two million.
With more widespread American gun control, the number of new
outlaws would certainly be huge. Prohibition would label as
criminal the millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens who
believe they must possess the means to defend themselves,
regardless of what legislation dictates.
In addition, strict enforcement of gun prohibition--like our
current marijuana prohibition and our past alcohol prohibition--
would divert enormous police and judicial resources to ferreting
out and prosecuting the commission of private, consensual
possessory offenses. The diversion of resources to the prosecu-
tion of such offenses would mean fewer resources available to
fight other crime.
Assume half of all current handgun owners would disobey a
prohibition and that 10 percent of them would be caught. Since
the cost of arresting someone for a serious offense is well over
$2,000, the total cost in arrests alone would amount to $5
billion a year. Assuming that the defendants plea-bargained at
the normal rate (an unlikely assumption, since juries would be
more sympathetic to such defendants than to most other
criminals), the cost of prosecution and trial would be at least
$4.5 billion a year. Putting each of the convicted defendants in
jail for a three-day term would cost over $660 million in one-
time prison construction costs, and over $200 million in annual
maintenance, and would require a 10 percent increase in national
prison capacity. Given that the entire American criminal
justice system has a total annual budget of only $45 billion, it
is clear that effective enforcement of a handgun prohibition
would simply be impossible.
Do Gun Laws Disarm Criminals?
Although gun control advocates devote much attention to the
alleged evils of guns and gun owners, they devote little atten-
tion to the particulars of devising a workable, enforceable law.
Disarming criminals would be nearly impossible. There are
between 100 and 140 million guns in the United States, a third
of them handguns. The ratio of people who commit handgun
crimes each year to handguns is 1:400, that of handgun homicides
to handguns is 1:3,600. Because the ratio of handguns to
handgun criminals is so high, the criminal supply would continue
with barely an interruption. Even if 90 percent of American
handguns disappeared, there would still be 40 left for every
handgun criminal. In no state in the union can people with
recent violent felony convictions purchase firearms. Yet the
National Institute of Justice survey of prisoners, many of whom
were repeat offenders, showed that 90 percent were able to obtain
their last firearm within a few days. Most obtained it within a
few hours. Three-quarters of the men agreed that they would have
"no trouble" or "only a little trouble" obtaining a gun upon
release, despite the legal barriers to such a purchase.
Even if the entire American gun stock magically vanished,
resupply for criminals would be easy. If small handguns were
imported in the same physical volume as marijuana, 20 million
would enter the country annually. (Current legal demand for new
handguns is about 2.5 million a year). Bootleg gun manufacture
requires no more than the tools that most Americans have in their
garages. A zip gun can be made from tubing, tape, a pin, a key,
whittle wood, and rubber bands. In fact, using wood fires and
tools inferior to those in the Sears & Roebuck catalogue,
Pakistani and Afghan peasants have been making firearms capable
of firing the Russian AK-47 cartridge. Bootleg ammunition is
no harder to make than bootleg liquor. Although modern smokeless
gunpowder is too complex for backyard production, conventional
black powder is simple to manufacture.
Apparently, illegal gun production is already common. A
1986 federal government study found that one-fifth of the guns
seized by the police in Washington, D.C., were homemade. Of
course, homemade guns cannot win target-shooting contests, but
they suffice for robbery purposes. Furthermore, the price of
bootleg guns may even be lower than the price of the quality guns
available now (just as, in prohibition days, bootleg gin often
cost less than legal alcohol had).
Most police officers concur that gun control laws are
ineffective. A 1986 questionnaire sent to every major police
official in the country produced the following results: 97
percent believed that a firearms ownership ban would not reduce
crime or keep criminals from using guns; 89 percent believed that
gun control laws such as those in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and
New York City had no effect on criminals; and 90 percent believed
that if firearms ownership was banned, ordinary citizens would be
more likely to be targets of armed violence.
Guns and the Ordinary Citizen
Some advocates of gun prohibition concede that it will not
disarm criminals, but nevertheless they favor it in the belief
that disarming ordinary citizens would in itself be good. Their
belief seems to rely heavily on newspaper accounts of suicidal or
outlandishly careless gun owners shooting themselves or loved
ones. Such advocates can reel off newspaper stories of children
or adults killing themselves in foolish gun accidents (one
headline: "2 Year-old Boy Shoots Friend, 5") or shooting each
other in moments of temporary frenzy.
In using argument by anecdote, the advocates are aided by
the media, which sensationalize violence. The sensationalism and
selectivity of the press lead readers to false conclusions. One
poll showed that people believe homicide takes more lives
annually than diabetes, stomach cancer, or stroke; in fact,
strokes alone take 10 times as many lives as homicides.
Even in the war of anecdotes, however, it is not at all
clear that the gun control advocates have the advantage. Every
month the National Rifle Association's magazines feature a
section called "The Armed Citizen," which collects newspaper
clippings of citizens successfully defending themselves against
crime. For example, one story tells of a man in a wheelchair who
had been beaten and robbed during five break-ins in two months;
when the man heard someone prying at his window with a hatchet,
he fired a shotgun, wounding the burglar and driving him
Anecdotes rarely settle policy disputes, though. A cool-
headed review of the facts debunks the scare tactics of the gun
Some people with firsthand experience blame guns for
domestic homicides. Said the chief of the homicide section
of the Chicago Police Department, "There was a domestic fight.
A gun was there. And then somebody was dead. If you have
described one, you have described them all." Sociologist
R. P. Narlock, though, believes that "the mere availability of
weapons lethal enough to produce a human mortality bears no
major relationship to the frequency with which this act is
Guns do not turn ordinary citizens into murderers. Sig-
nificantly, fewer than one gun owner in 3,000 commits homicide;
and that one killer is far from a typical gun owner. Studies
have found two-thirds to four-fifths of homicide offenders have
prior arrest records, frequently for violent felonies. A
study by the pro-control Police Foundation of domestic homicides
in Kansas City in 1977 revealed that in 85 percent of homicides
among family members, the police had been called in before to
break up violence. In half the cases, the police had been
called in five or more times. Thus, the average person who
kills a family member is not a non-violent solid citizen who
reaches for a weapon in a moment of temporary insanity. Instead,
he has a past record of illegal violence and trouble with the
law. Such people on the fringes of society are unlikely to be
affected by gun control laws. Indeed, since many killers
already had felony convictions, it was already illegal for them
to own a gun, but they found one anyway.
Of all gun homicide victims, 81 percent are relatives or
acquaintances of the killer. As one might expect of the
wives, companions, and business associates (e.g. drug dealers and
loansharks) of violent felons, the victims are no paragons of
society. In a study of the victims of near-fatal domestic
shootings and stabbings, 78 percent of the victims volunteered a
history of hard-drug use, and 16 percent admitted using heroin
the day of the incident. Many of the handgun homicide
victims might well have been handgun killers, had the conflict
turned out a little differently.
Finally, many of the domestic killings with guns involve
self-defense. In Detroit, for example, 75 percent of wives who
shot and killed their husbands were not prosecuted, because the
wives were legally defending themselves or their children against
murderous assault. When a gun is fired (or brandished) for
legal self-defense in a home, the criminal attacker is much more
likely to be a relative or acquaintance committing aggravated
assault, rather than a total stranger committing a burglary.
The "domestic homicide" prong of the gun control argument
demands that we take guns away from law-abiding citizens to
reduce the incidence of felons committing crimes against each
other. Not only is such a policy impossible to implement, it is
morally flawed. To protect a woman who chooses to share a bed
and a rap sheet with a criminal, it is unfair to disarm law-
abiding women and men and make them easier targets for the
criminal's rapes and robberies.
It is often alleged that guns cause huge numbers of fatal
accidents, far outweighing the minimal gain from whatever anti-
crime effects they may have. For example, former U.S. Senate
candidate Mark Green (D-N.Y.) warned that "people with guns in
their homes for protection are six times more likely to die of
gunfire due to accidental discharge than those without them."
Of course, that makes sense; after all, people who own swimming
pools are more likely to die in drowning accidents.
The actual number of people who die in home handgun acci-
dents, though, is quite small. Despite press headlines such as
"Pregnant Woman Killed by Own Gun While Making Bed," the actual
death toll is somewhat lower than implied by the press. Each
year roughly 7,000 people commit suicide with handguns and 300 or
fewer people die in handgun accidents. People who want to
commit suicide can find many alternatives, and even pro-control
experts agree that gun control has little impact on the suicide
rate. Japan, for example, has strict gun control and a suicide
rate twice the U.S. level. Americans have a high rate of suicide
by shooting for the same reason that Norwegians have a high rate
of suicide by drowning; guns are an important symbol in one
culture, water in the other.
If a U.S. gun prohibition was actually effective, it could
save the 300 or so handgun victims and 1,400 or so long-gun
accident victims each year. Even one death is too many, but guns
account for only 2 percent of accidental deaths annually.
Guns are dangerous, but hardly as dangerous as gun control
advocates contend. Three times as many people are accidentally
killed by fire as by firearms. The number of people who die
in gun accidents is about one-third the number who die by drown-
ing. Although newspapers leave a contrary impression,
bicycle accidents kill many more children than do gun accidents.
The average motor vehicle is 12 times more likely to cause a
death than the average firearm. Further, people involved in
gun accidents are not typical gun owners but self-destructive
individuals who are also "disproportionately involved in other
accidents, violent crime and heavy drinking."
Moreover, there is little correlation between the number of
guns and the accident rate. The per capita death rate from
firearms accidents has declined by a third in the last two
decades, while the firearms supply has risen over 300 percent.
In part this is because handguns have replaced many long guns as
home protection weapons, and handgun accidents are considerably
less likely to cause death than long-gun accidents. Handguns
are also more difficult for a toddler to accidentally discharge
than are long guns.
The risks, therefore, of gun ownership by ordinary citizens
are quite low. Accidents can be avoided by buying a trigger lock
and not cleaning a gun while it is loaded. Unless the gun owner
is already a violent thug, he is very unlikely to kill a relative
in a moment of passion. If someone in the house is intent on
suicide, he will kill himself by whatever means are at hand.
Gun control advocates like to cite a recent article in the
New Enqland Journal of Medicine that argues that for every
intruder killed by a gun, 43 other people die as a result of
gunshot wounds incurred in the home. (Again, most of them
are suicides; many of the rest are assaultive family members
killed in legitimate self-defense.) However, counting the number
of criminal deaths is a bizarre method of measuring anticrime
utility; no one evaluates police efficacy by tallying the number
of criminals killed. Defensive use of a gun is far more likely
to involve scaring away an attacker by brandishing the gun, or by
firing it without causing death. Even if the numbers of criminal
deaths were the proper measure of anticrime efficacy, citizens
acting with full legal justification kill at least 30 percent
more criminals than do the police.
On the whole, citizens are more successful gun users than
are the police. When police shoot, they are 5.5 times more
likely to hit an innocent person than are civilian shooters.
Moreover, civilians use guns effectively against criminals. If a
robbery victim does not defend himself, the robbery will succeed
88 percent of the time, and the victim will be injured 25 percent
of the time. If the victim resists with a gun, the robbery
"success" rate falls to 30 percent, and the victim injury rate
falls to 17 percent. No other response to a robbery--from using
a knife, to shouting for help, to fleeing--produces such a low
rate of victim injury and robbery success. In short,
virtually all Americans who use guns do so responsibly and
effectively, notwithstanding the anxieties of gun control
Enforcing Gun Bans
Apart from the intrinsic merit (or demerit) of banning or
restricting gun possession, the mechanics of enforcement must
also be considered. Illegal gun ownership is by definition a
possessory offense, like possession of marijuana or bootleg
alcohol. The impossibility of effective enforcement, plus the
civil liberties invasions that necessarily result, are powerful
arguments against gun control.
Search and Seizure
No civil libertarian needs to be told how the criminaliza-
tion of liquor and drugs has led the police into search-and-
seizure violations. Consensual possessory offenses cannot be
contained any other way. Search-and-seizure violations are the
inevitable result of the criminalization of gun possession. As
Judge David Shields of Chicago's special firearms court observed:
"Constitutional search and seizure issues are probably more
regularly argued in this court than anywhere in America."
The problem has existed for a long time. In 1933, for
example, long before the Warren Court expanded the rights of
suspects, one quarter of all weapons arrests in Detroit were
dismissed because of illegal searches. According to the
American Civil Liberties Union, the St. Louis police have
conducted over 25,000 illegal searches under the theory that any
black driving a late-model car must have a handgun.
The frequency of illegal searches should not be surprising.
The police are ordered to get handguns off the streets, and
they attempt to do their job. It is not their fault that
they are told to enforce a law whose enforcement is impossible
within constitutional limits. Small wonder that the Chicago
Police Department gives an officer a favorable notation in his
record for confiscating a gun, even as the result of an illegal
search. One cannot comply with the Fourth Amendment--which
requires that searches be based upon probable cause--and also
effectively enforce a gun prohibition. Former D.C. Court of
Appeals judge Malcolm Wilkey thus bemoaned the fact that the
exclusionary rule, which bars courtroom use of illegally seized
evidence, "has made unenforceable the gun control laws we now
have and will make ineffective any stricter controls which may
be devised." Judge Abner Mikva, usually on the opposite
side of the conservative Wilkey, joined him in identifying the
abolition of the exclusionary rule as the only way to enforce
Abolishing the exclusionary rule is not the only proposal
designed to facilitate searches for illegal guns. Harvard
professor James Q. Wilson, the Police Foundation, and other
commentators propose widespread street use of hand-held mag-
netometers and walk-through metal detectors to find illegal
guns. The city attorney of Berkeley, California, has
advocated setting up "weapons checkpoints" (similar to
sobriety checkpoints), where the police would search for
weapons all cars passing through dangerous neighborhoods.
School administrators in New Jersey have begun searching
student lockers and purses for guns and drugs; Bridgeport,
Connecticut, is considering a similar strategy. Detroit
temporarily abandoned school searches after a female student
who had passed through a metal detector was given a manual
pat-down by a male security officer, but the city has resumed
the program. New York City is also implementing metal
Searching a teenager's purse, or making her walk through a
metal detector several times a day, is hardly likely to instill
much faith in the importance of civil liberties. Indeed,
students conditioned to searches without probable cause in high
school are unlikely to resist such searches when they become
adults. Additionally, it is unjust for the state to compel a
student to attend school, fail to provide a safe environment at
school or on the way to school, and then prohibit the student
from protecting himself or herself.
Perhaps the most harmful effect of the metal detectors is
their debilitating message that a community must rely on paid
security guards and their hardware in order to be secure. It
does not take much imagination to figure out how to pass a weapon
past a security guard, with trickery or bribery. Once past the
guard, weapons could simply be stored at school. Instead of
relying on technology at the door, the better solution would be
to mobilize students inside the school. Volunteer student
patrols would change the balance of power in the schoolyard,
ending the reign of terror of outside intruders and gangs.
Further, concerted student action teaches the best lessons of
democracy and community action.
The majority of people possessing illegal weapons during a
gun prohibition would never carry them on the streets and would
never be caught even by omnipresent metal detectors. Accord-
ingly, a third of the people who favor a ban on private handguns
want the ban enforced with house-to-house searches. Eroding
the Second Amendment guarantees erosion of the Fourth Amendment.
Those who propose abolishing the exclusionary rule and
narrowing the Fourth Amendment apparently trust the street
intuition of the police to sort out the true criminals so that
ordinary citizens would not be subject to unjustified intrusions.
However, one-fourth of the guns seized by the police are not
associated with any criminal activity. Our constitutional
scheme explicitly rejects the notion that the police may be
allowed to search at will.
Other Civil Liberties Problems
Although gun control advocates trust the police to know whom
to arrest, the experience of gun control leads one to doubt
police judgment. A Pennsylvania resident was visiting Brooklyn,
New York, to help repair a local church when he spotted a man
looting his truck. The Pennsylvania man fired a warning shot
into the air with his legally registered Pennsylvania gun,
scaring off the thief. The police arrived too late to catch the
thief but arrested the Pennsylvania man for not acquiring a
special permit to bring his gun into New York City. In
California a police chief went to a gun show and read to a
machine gun dealer the revocation of his license; the dealer was
immediately arrested for possessing unlicensed machine guns.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been
particularly outrageous in its prosecutions. Sometimes the
BATF's zeal to inflate its seizure count turns its agents into
Keystone Kops. One year in Iowa, for example, the BATF hauled
away an unregistered cannon from a public war memorial; in
California it pried inoperable machine guns out of a museum's
In the early 1970s changes in the price of sugar made
moonshining unprofitable. To justify its budget, the BATF had to
find a new set of defendants. Small-scale gun dealers and
collectors served perfectly. Often the bureau's tactics against
them are petty and mean. After a defendant's acquittal, for
example, agents may refuse to return his seized gun collection,
even under court order. Valuable museum-quality antique arms may
be damaged when in BATF custody. Part of the explanation for the
refusal to return weapons after an acquittal may lie in BATF
field offices using gun seizures to build their own arsenals.
The BATF's disregard for fair play harms more than just gun
owners. BATF searches of gun dealers need not be based on
probable cause, or any cause at all. The 1972 Supreme Court
decision allowing these searches, United States v. Biswell, has
since become a watershed in the weakening of the Constitution's
probable cause requirement.
Lack of criminal intent does not shield a citizen from the
BATF. In United States v. Thomas, the defendant found a 16-
inch-long gun while horseback riding. Taking it to be an antique
pistol, he pawned it. But it turned out to be short-barreled
rifle, which should have been registered before selling.
Although the prosecutor conceded that Thomas lacked criminal
intent, he was convicted of a felony anyway. The Supreme
Court's decision in United States v. Freed declared that criminal
intent was not necessary for a conviction of violation of the Gun
Control Act of 1968.
The strict liability principle has since spread to other
areas and contributed to the erosion of the mens rea (guilty
mind) requirement of criminal culpability. U.S. law prohib-
its the possession of unregistered fully automatic weapons (one
continuous trigger squeeze causes repeat fire). Semiautomatic
weapons (which eject the spent shell and load the next cartridge,
but require another trigger squeeze to fire) are legal. If the
sear (the catch that holds the hammer at cock) on a semiautomatic
rifle wears out, the rifle may malfunction and repeat fire.
Accordingly, the BATF recently arrested and prosecuted a small-
town Tennessee police chief for possession of an automatic weapon
(actually a semiautomatic with a worn-out sear), even though the
BATF conceded that the police chief had not deliberately altered
the weapon. In March and April of 1988, BATF pressed similar
charges for a worn-out sear against a Pennslyvania state police
sergeant. After a 12-day trial, the federal district judge
directed a verdict of not guilty and called the prosecution "a
severe miscarriage of justice."
The Police Foundation has proposed that law enforcement
agencies use informers to ferret out illegal gun sales and model
their tactics on methods of drug law enforcement. Taking
this advice to heart, the BATF relies heavily on paid informants
and on entrapment--techniques originated during alcohol prohibi-
tion, developed in modern drug enforcement, and honed to a
chilling perfection in gun control. So that BATF agents can
fulfill their quotas, they concentrate on harassing collectors
and their valuable rifle collections. Undercover agents may
entice or pressure a private gun collector into making a few
legal sales from his personal collection. Once he has made four
sales, over a long period of time, he is arrested and charged
with being "engaged in the business" of gun sales without a
To the consternation of many local police forces, the BATF
is often unwilling to assist in cases involving genuine criminal
activity. Police officials around the nation have complained
about BATF's refusing to prosecute serious gun law viola-
In 1982 the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution
investigated the BATF and concluded that the agency had habitual
conduct which borders on the criminal. .
[E]nforcement tactics made possible by current
firearms laws are constitutionally, legally and
practically reprehensible. . . . [A]pproximately
75 percent of BATF gun prosecutions were aimed
at ordinary citizens who had neither criminal
intent nor knowledge, but were enticed by agents
into unknowing technical violations.
Although public pressure in recent years has made the BATF a
somewhat less lawless agency, it would be a mistake to conclude
that the organization has been permanently reformed.
One need not like guns to understand that gun control laws
pose a threat to civil liberties. Explained Aryeh Neier, former
director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
I want the state to take away people's guns.
But I don't want the state to use methods
against gun owners that I deplore when used
against naughty children, sexual minorities,
drug users, and unsightly drinkers. Since
such reprehensible police practices are prob-
ably needed to make anti-gun laws effective,
my proposal to ban all guns should probably
be marked a failure before it is even tried.
Gun Control and Social Control
Gun control cannot coexist with the Fourth Amendment
(probable cause for search and seizure) and has a deleterious
effect on the Fifth Amendment (due process of law). Gun control
is also suspect under the equal protection clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment, for it harms most those groups that have
traditionally been victimized by society's inequities.
Throughout America's history, white supremacists have
insisted on the importance of prohibiting arms to blacks. In
1640 Virginia's first recorded legislation about blacks barred
them from owning guns. Fear of slave revolts led other Southern
colonies to enact similar laws. The laws preventing blacks
from bearing arms (as well as drinking liquor or traveling) were
enforced by what one historian called a "system of special and
general searches and night patrols of the posse comitatus."
In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney
announced that blacks were not citizens; if they were, he
warned, there would be no legal way to deny them firearms.
Immediately after the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson
permitted several Southern states to return to the Union without
guaranteeing equality to blacks. These states enacted "black
codes," which were designed to keep the ex-slaves in de facto
slavery and submission. For example, in 1865 Mississippi forbade
freedmen to rent farmland, requiring instead that they work under
unbreakable labor contracts, or be sent to jail. White terrorist
organizations attacked freedmen who stepped out of line, and the
black codes ensured that the freedmen could not fight back.
Blacks were, in the words of The Special Report of the Anti-
Slavery Conference of 1867, "forbidden to own or bear firearms
and thus . . . rendered defenseless against assaults" by
whites. In response to the black codes, the Republican
Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing to all
citizens, freedmen included, their national constitutional
rights, especially the right to bear arms. Said Rep. Sidney
Clarke of Kansas, during the debate on the Fourteenth Amendment,
"I find in the Constitution of the United States an article which
declared that 'the right of the people to keep and bear arms
shall not be infringed.' For myself, I shall insist that the
reconstructed rebels of Mississippi respect the Constitution in
their local laws."
White supremacy eventually prevailed, though, and the South
became the first region of the United States to institute gun
control. During the Jim Crow era around 1900, when racial
oppression was at its peak, several states enacted handgun
registration and licensing laws. As one Florida judge explained,
the laws were "passed for the purpose of disarming the negro
laborers . . . [and] never intended to be applied to the white
For several years in the 1970s the American Civil Liberties
Union lobbied for stricter gun control to forestall white
terrorist attacks on minorities. (The ACLU currently does not
work for or against gun control.) Concern over racist shooting
was certainly justified, for during the civil rights era in the
1960s, white supremacist tactics were just as violent as they had
been during Reconstruction. Over 100 civil rights workers were
murdered during that era, and the Department of Justice refused
to intervene to prosecute the Klan or to protect civil rights
workers. Help from the local police was out of the question;
Klan dues were sometimes collected at the local station.
Blacks and civil rights workers armed for self-defense.
John Salter, a professor at Tougaloo College and NAACP leader
during the early 1960s, wrote "No one knows what kind of massive
racist retaliation would have been directed against grass-roots
black people had the black community not had a healthy measure of
firearms within it." Salter personally had to defend his home
and family several times against attacks by night riders. When
Salter fired back, the night riders, cowards that they were,
fled. The unburned Ku Klux Klan cross in the Smithsonian
Institution was donated by a civil rights worker whose shotgun
blast drove Klansmen away from her driveway.
Civil rights professionals and the black community generally
viewed nonviolence as a useful tactic for certain situations,
not as a moral injunction to let oneself be murdered on a
deserted road in the middle of the night. Based in local
churches, the Deacons for Defense and Justice set up armed patrol
car systems in cities such as Bogalusa and Jonesboro, Louisiana,
and completely succeeded in deterring Klan and other attacks on
civil rights workers and black residents. Sixty chapters of the
Deacons were formed throughout the South. Of the more than
100 civil rights workers martyred in the 1960s, almost none were
Of course civil rights activists were not the only people
who needed to defend themselves against racist violence. Francis
Griffin, a clergyman in Farmville, Virginia, related, "Our last
trouble came when some Klansmen tried to 'get' a black motorist
who had hit a white child. They met blacks with guns, and that
put a stop to that." Moreover, the tendency of Southern blacks
to arm themselves not only deterred white racist violence, it
reduced the incidence of robberies of blacks by drug addicts.
Lest anyone think that blacks' need to defend themselves
against racist mobs--whom the police cannot or will not control--
is limited to the old South, New York City provides a few
counterexamples. In 1966 a mob burned the headquarters of the
Marxist W. E. B. Du Bois Club while New York City police looked
on. When a club member pulled his pistol to hold off the mob
while he fled from the burning building, the police arrested him
for illegal gun possession. No one in the mob was arrested for
In 1976 Ormistan Spencer, a black, moved into the white
neighborhood of Rosedale, Queens. Crowds dumped garbage on his
lawn, his children were abused, and a pipe bomb was thrown
through his window. When he responded to a menacing crowd by
brandishing a gun, the police confiscated the gun and filed
charges against him. The recent mob attack on black pedes-
trians in Howard Beach, New York, would not have resulted in the
death of one of the victims if the black victims had been
carrying a gun with which to frighten off or resist the mob.
In some ways, social conditions have not changed much since
the days when Michigan enacted its handgun controls after
Clarence Darrow's celebrated defense of Ossian Sweet in 1925.
Sweet, a black, had moved into an all-white neighborhood; the
Detroit police failed to restrain a mob threatening his house.
Sweet and his family fired in self-defense, killing one of the
mob. He was charged with murder and acquitted after a lengthy
Racially motivated violence is not the only threat to which
blacks are more vulnerable than whites. A black in America has
at least a 40 percent greater chance of being burgled and a 100
percent greater chance of being robbed than a white. Simply
put, blacks need to use deadly force in self-defense far more
often than whites. In California, in 1981, blacks committed 48
percent of justifiable homicides, whites only 22 percent.
In addition, although blacks are more exposed to crime, they
are given less protection by the police. In Brooklyn, New York,
for example, 911 callers have allegedly been asked if they are
black or white. Wrote the late senator Frank Church:
In the inner cities, where the police cannot
offer adequate protection, the people will
provide their own. They will keep handguns
at home for self-defense, regardless of the
prohibitions that relatively safe and smug
inhabitants of the surrounding suburbs would
impose upon them.
Judge David Shields of the special firearms court in Chicago
came to the court as an advocate of national handgun prohibition.
Most of the defendants he saw, however, were people with no
criminal record who carried guns because they had been robbed or
raped because the police had arrived too late to protect them.
Explaining why he never sent those defendants to jail, and indeed
ordered their guns returned, the judge wrote that most people
would not go into ghetto areas at all except
in broad daylight under the most optimum
conditions--surely not at night, alone or on
foot. But some people have no choice. To
live or work or have some need to be on this
"frontier" imposes a fear which is tempered
by possession of a gun.
Gun control laws are discriminatorily enforced against
blacks, even more so than other laws. In Chicago the black-to-
white ratio of weapons arrests one year was 7:1 (prostitution,
another favorite for discriminatory enforcement, was the only
other crime to have such a high race ratio). Black litigants
have gone to federal court in Maryland and won permits after
proving that a local police department almost never issues
permits to blacks. General searches for guns can be a night-
mare-come-true for blacks. In 1968, for example, rifles were
stolen from a National Guard armory in New Jersey; the guard
ransacked 45 homes of blacks in warrantless searches for weapons,
found none, and left the houses in shambles.[94
Many of the same arguments about gun possession that apply
to blacks also apply to women. Radical feminist Nikki Craft
worked with an antirape group in Dallas. After one horror story
too many, she founded WASP--Women Armed for Self Protection.
Craft explained that she "was opposed to guns, so this was a
huge leap . . . . I was tired of being afraid to open a window at
night for fresh air, and sick of feeling safer when there was a
man in bed with me." One of her posters read, "Men and Women
Were Created Equal . . . And Smith & Wesson Makes Damn Sure It
Stays That Way." Her slogan echoed a gun manufacturer's
motto from the 19th century:
Be not afraid of any man,
No matter what his size;
When danger threatens, call
And I will equalize.
If guns somehow vanished, rapists would suffer little. A
gun-armed rapist succeeds 67 percent of the time, a knife-armed
rapist 51 percent. Only 7 percent of rapists even use guns.
Thus, a fully effective gun ban would disarm only a small
fraction of rapists, and even those rapists could use knives
almost as effectively. In fact, a complete gun ban would make
rape all the easier, with guaranteed unarmed victims. As
discussed above, one of the most effective self-defense programs
in modern U.S. history trained 2,500 Orlando women in firearms
use and produced an 88 percent drop in the rape rate.
One objection to women arming themselves for self-defense is
that the rapist will take away the gun and use it against the
victim. This argument (like most other arguments about why women
should not resist rape) is based on stereotypes, and proponents
of the argument seem unable to cite any real world examples.
Instead of assuming that all women are incapable of using a
weapon effectively, it would be more appropriate to leave the
decision up to individual women. Certainly the cases of women,
even grandmothers, using firearms to stop rapists are legion.
If a woman is going to resist, she is far better off with a gun
than with her bare hands, Mace, or a knife. Mace fires a pin-
point stream, not a spray, and the challenge of using it to score
a bull's-eye right on a rapist's cornea would daunt even Annie
Oakley. And it is more difficult to fight a bigger person with
one's hands or with a knife than with a handgun--especially a
small, light handgun that can be deployed quickly, and which has
a barrel that is too short for the attacker to grab.
The Second Amendment and the Sources of Political Power
Regardless of the utility or disutility of guns, laws about
them are circumscribed by the Constitution. The Second Amendment
means what it says: "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to
the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and
bear Arms, shall not be infringed." If we are to live by the
law, our first step must be to obey the Constitution.
Attitudes of the Founding Fathers toward Guns
The leaders of the American Revolution and the early
republic were enthusiastic proponents of guns and widespread gun
ownership. The Founding Fathers were unanimous about the
importance of an armed citizenry able to overthrow a despotic
government. Virtually all the political philosophers whose ideas
were known to the Founders--such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero,
Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Beccaria, Locke, and Sidney--agreed
that a republic could not long endure without an armed
citizenry. Said Patrick Henry, "Guard with jealous attention
the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel.
Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force.
Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined. . . . The great
object is that every man be armed. . . . Everyone who is able
may have a gun." Thomas Jefferson's model constitution for
Virginia declared, "No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms
in his own lands or tenements." Jefferson's colleague John
Adams spoke for "arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at
individual discretion . . . in private self-defense."
The Original Meaning of the Second Amendment
The only commentary available to Congress when it ratified
the Second Amendment was written by Tench Coxe, one of James
Madison's friends. Explained Coxe: "The people are confirmed by
the next article of their right to keep and bear their private
Madison's original structure of the Bill of Rights did not
place the amendments together at the end of the text of the
Constitution (the way they were ultimately organized); rather, he
proposed interpolating each amendment into the main text of the
Constitution, following the provision to which it pertained. If
he had intended the Second Amendment to be mainly a limit on the
power of the federal government to interfere with state govern-
ment militias, he would have put it after Article 1, section 8,
which granted Congress the power to call forth the militia to
repel invasion, suppress insurrection, and enforce the laws; and
to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia.
Instead, Madison put the right to bear arms amendment (along with
the freedom of speech amendment) in Article I, section 9--the
section that guaranteed individual rights such as habeas cor-
pus. Finally, in ratifying the Bill of Rights, the Senate
rejected a change in the Second Amendment that would have
limited it to bearing arms "for the common defense."
Gun control advocates argue that the Second Amendment's
reference to the militia means that the amendment protects only
official uniformed state militias (the National Guard). It is
true that the Framers of the Constitution wanted the state
militias to defend the United States against foreign invasion, so
that a large standing army would be unnecessary. But those
militias were not uniformed state employees. Before independence
was even declared, Josiah Quincy had referred to "a well-regu-
lated militia composed of the freeholder, citizen and husbandman,
who take up their arms to preserve their property as individuals,
and their rights as freemen." "Who are the Militia?" asked
George Mason of Virginia, "They consist now of the whole
people." L 107] The same Congress that passed the Bill of Rights,
including the Second Amendment and its militia language, also
passed the Militia Act of 1792. That act enrolled all able-
bodied white males in the militia and required them to own arms.
Although the requirement to arm no longer exists, the
definition of the militia has stayed the same; section 311(a) of
volume 10 of the United States Code declares, "The militia of the
United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years
of age and . . . under 45 years of age." The next section of the
code distinguishes the organized militia (the National Guard)
from the "unorganized militia." The modern federal National
Guard was specifically raised under Congress's power to "raise
and support armies," not its power to "Provide for organizing,
arming and disciplining the Militia."
Indeed, if words mean what they say, it is impossible to
interpret the Second Amendment as embodying only a "collective"
right. As one Second Amendment scholar observed, it would be odd
for the Congress that enacted the Bill of Rights to use "right of
the people" to mean an individual right in the First, Fourth, and
Ninth Amendments, but to mean a state's right in the Second
Amendment. After all, when Congress meant to protect the states,
Congress wrote "the States" in the Tenth Amendment.
Moreover, several states included a similar right to bear arms
guarantee in their own constitutions. If the Second Amendment
protected only the state uniformed militias against federal
interference, a comparable article would be ridiculous in a
Modern Interpretations of the Second Amendment
For the Constitution's first century, there was no question
that the Second Amendment prohibited federal interference with
the individual right to bear arms. During this period the
Supreme Court did not view any articles of the Bill of Rights,
the Second Amendment included, as applicable to the states.
Accordingly, the Second Amendment, like the First Amendment and
all the others, was construed by the Supreme Court to place no
limits on state interference with individual rights. (Some state
courts, however, treated the Second Amendment as binding on the
In 1906 the Kansas Supreme Court announced in dicta that the
Second Amendment did not guarantee an individual right to bear
arms but only guarded official state militias against federal
interference. Over the following decades, the collectivist state
militia theory was accepted by many in the intellectual com-
munity but never by the American population as a whole. Today,
89 percent of Americans believe that as citizens they have a
right to own a gun, and 87 percent believe the Constitution
guarantees them a right to keep and bear arms. Recently,
the collectivist theory has begun to lose its standing even in
the intellectual community. In the past two decades, scholarship
of the individual rights view has dominated the law reviews,
especially the major ones. Indeed, only one article published
in a top-50 law review argues that individual citizens are not
protected by the Second Amendment. The Senate Subcommittee
on the Constitution investigated the historical evidence and
concluded that the individual rights interpretation was unques-
tionably the intent of the authors of the Second Amendment, and
was intended by the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment to be
applied against the states. Stephen Halbrook's That Every
Man Be Armed, the first book to deal in depth with the historical
background of the Second Amendment, also endorses the individual
Sometimes writers in popular magazines claim that the
Supreme Court has endorsed the collective theory. They are
wrong. Twice in the l9th century, the Court heard cases involv-
ing state or private interference with gun use. Both times the
Court took the now-discredited view that the Bill of Rights did
not restrict state governments and therefore the Second Amend-
ment offered no protection from state firearms laws. The
collective theory was not even invented until the early 20th
century; neither of the Court's l9th-century cases endorsed it.
The next (and last) time the Court ruled on the Second
Amendment was 1939. In United States v. Miller the Court held
that since there was no evidence before that Court that sawed-off
shotguns are militia-type, militarily useful weapons, the Court
could not conclude that sawed-off shotguns were protected by the
Second Amendment. As for the meaning of "a well-regulated
Militia," the Court noted that to the authors of the Second
Amendment, "The Militia comprised all males physically capable
of acting in concert for the common defense. . . . Ordinarily
when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing
arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the
Since the 1930s the Court has not had much to say about the
Second Amendment. It denied a petition to review the Morton
Grove case, in which a suburb's handgun ban was upheld. (The
lower court had gotten its result by stating that the intent of
the Framers of the Second Amendment was "irrelevant" to the
amendment's meaning.) As the Supreme Court has stated,
though, a denial of review has no precedential effect. Had
the Court wanted the Morton Grove case to apply nationally, the
Court could have issued a summary affirmance. More indicative of
the modern Court's view of the Second Amendment is Justice
Powell's opinion for the Court in Moore v. East Cleveland, where
he listed "the freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right
to keep and bear arms; the freedom from unreasonable searches and
seizures" as part of the "full scope of liberty" guaranteed by
Some gun control advocates argue that the Second Amendment's
goal of an armed citizenry to resist foreign invasion and
domestic tyranny is no longer valid in light of advances in
military technology. Former attorney general Ramsey Clark
contended that "it is no longer realistic to think of an armed
citizenry as a meaningful protection."
But during World War II, which was fought with essentially
the same types of ground combat weapons that exist today, armed
citizens were considered quite important. After Pearl Harbor the
unorganized militia was called into action. Nazi submarines were
constantly in action off the East Coast. On the West Coast, the
Japanese seized several Alaskan islands, and strategists wondered
if the Japanese might follow up on their dramatic victories in
the Pacific with an invasion of the Alaskan mainland, Hawaii, or
California. Hawaii's governor summoned armed citizens to man
checkpoints and patrol remote beach areas. Maryland's
governor called on "the Maryland Minute Men," consisting mainly
of "members of Rod and Gun Clubs, of Trap Shooting Clubs and
similar organizations," for "repelling invasion forays, parachute
raids, and sabotage uprisings," as well as for patrolling
beaches, water supplies, and railroads. Over 15,000 volunteers
brought their own weapons to duty. Gun owners in Virginia
were also summoned into home service. Americans everywhere
armed themselves in case of invasion. After the National
Guard was federalized for overseas duty, "the unorganized militia
proved a successful substitute for the National Guard," according
to a Defense Department study. Militiamen, providing their own
guns, were trained in patrolling, roadblock techniques, and
guerilla warfare. The War Department distributed a manual
recommending that citizens keep "weapons which a guerilla in
civilian clothes can carry without attracting attention. They
must be easily portable and easily concealed. First among these
is the pistol." In Europe, lightly armed civilian guer-
rillas were even more important; the U.S. government supplied
anti-Nazi partisans with a $1.75 analogue to the zip gun (a very
low quality handgun).
Of course, ordinary citizens are not going to grab their
Saturday night specials and charge into oncoming columns of
tanks. Resistance to tyranny or invasion would be a guerrilla
war. In the early years of such a war, before guerrillas would
be strong enough to attack the occupying army head on, heavy
weapons would be a detriment, impeding the guerrillas' mobility.
As a war progresses, Mao Zedong explained, the guerrillas would
use ordinary firearms to capture better small arms and eventually
The Afghan mujahedeen have been greatly helped by the new
Stinger antiaircraft missiles, but they had already fought the
Soviets to a draw using a locally made version of the outdated
Lee-Enfield rifle. One clear lesson of this century is that
a determined guerrilla army can wear down an occupying force
until the occupiers lose spirit and depart--just what happened in
Ireland in 1920 and Palestine in 1948. As one author put it:
"Anyone who claims that popular struggles are inevitably doomed
to defeat by the military technologies of our century must find
it literally incredible that France and the United States
suffered defeat in Vietnam . . . that Portugal was expelled from
Angola; and France from Algeria."
If guns are truly useless in a revolution, it is hard to
explain why dictators as diverse as Ferdinand Marcos, Fidel
Castro, Idi Amin, and the Bulgarian communists have ordered
firearms confiscations upon taking power.
Certainly the militia could not defend against intercon-
tinental ballistic missiles, but it could keep order at home
after a limited attack. In case of conventional war, the militia
could guard against foreign invasion after the army and the
National Guard were sent into overseas combat. Especially given
the absence of widespread military service, individual Americans
familiar with using their private weapons provide an important
defense resource. Canada already has an Eskimo militia to
protect its northern territories.
The United States is virtually immune from foreign invasion,
but as the late vice president Hubert Humphrey explained,
domestic dictatorship will always be a threat: "The right of
citizens to bear arms is just one more guarantee against ar-
bitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which
now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved
to be always possible."
The most advanced technology in the world could not keep
track of guerrilla bands in the Rockies, the Appalachians, the
great swamps of the South, or Alaska. The difficulty of fighting
a protracted war against a determined popular guerrilla force is
enough to make even the most determined potential dictator think
The Second Amendment debate goes to the very heart of the
role of citizens and their government. By retaining arms,
citizens retain the power claimed in the Declaration of Indepen-
dence to "alter or abolish" a despotic government. And citizens
retain the power to protect themselves from private assault.
Ramsey Clark asked the question, "What kind of society depends on
private action to defend life and property?" The answer is
a society that trusts its citizenry more than the police and the
army and knows that ultimate authority must remain in the hands
of the people.
Particular Forms of Gun Control
The foregoing discussion has focused on gun control in
general. Many people who are skeptical about a complete ban on
all guns nevertheless favor some sort of intermediate controls,
which would regulate but not ban guns or ban only certain types
of guns. While some of these proposals seem plausible in the
abstract, closer examination raises serious doubts about their
Gun registration is essentially useless in crime detection.
Tracing the history of a recovered firearm generally leads to the
discovery that it was stolen from a legal owner and that its
subsequent pattern of ownership is unknown.
Analogies are sometimes drawn between gun registration and
automobile registration. Indeed, a majority of the public seems
to favor gun registration not because a reduction in crime is
expected but because automobiles and guns are both intrinsically
dangerous objects that the government should keep track of.
The analogy, though, is flawed. Gun owners, unlike drivers, do
not need to leave private property and enter a public roadway.
No one has ever demanded that prospective drivers prove a unique
need for a car and offer compelling reasons why they cannot rely
solely on public transportation. No Department of Motor Vehicles
has ever adopted the policy of reducing to a minimum the number
of cars in private hands. Automobile registration is not
advocated or feared as a first step toward confiscation of all
automobiles. However, registration lists did facilitate gun
confiscation in Greece, Ireland, Jamaica, and Bermuda. The
Washington, D.C., city council considered (but did not enact) a
proposal to use registration lists to confiscate all shotguns and
handguns in the city. When reminded that the registration plan
had been enacted with the explicit promise to gun owners that it
would not be used for confiscation, the confiscation's sponsor
retorted, "Well, I never promised them anything!" The
Evanston, Illinois, police department also attempted to use state
registration lists to enforce a gun ban.
Unlike automobiles, guns are specifically protected by the
Constitution, and it is improper to require that people possess-
ing constitutionally protected objects register themselves with
the government, especially when the benefits of registration are
so trivial. The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment
prohibits the government from registering purchasers of news-
papers and magazines, even of foreign Communist propaganda.
The same principle should apply to the Second Amendment: the
tools of political dissent should be privately owned and un-
Although opinion polls indicate that most Americans favor
some form of gun licensing (for the same reasons they approve of
auto licensing), 69 percent of Americans oppose laws giving the
police power to decide who may or may not own a firearm.
That is exactly what licensing is. Permits tend to be granted
not to those who are most at risk but to those with whom the
police get along. In St. Louis, for example, permits have
routinely been denied to homosexuals, nonvoters, and wives who
lack their husbands' permission. Other police departments
have denied permits on the basis of race, sex, and political
affiliation, or by determining that hunting or target shooting
is not an adequate reason for owning a handgun.
Class discrimination pervades the process. New York City
taxi drivers, who are more at risk of robbery than anyone else in
the city, are denied gun permits, since they carry less than
$2,000 in cash. (Of course, most taxi drivers carry weapons
anyway, and only rookie police officers arrest them for doing
so.) As the courts have ruled, ordinary citizens and storeowners
in the city may not receive so-called carry permits because they
have no greater need for protection than anyone else in the
city. Carry permits are apparently reserved for New Yorkers
such as the Rockefellers, John Lindsay, the publisher of the New
York Times, (all of them gun control advocates), and the husband
of Dr. Joyce Brothers. Other licensees include an aide to a
city councilman widely regarded as corrupt, several major
slumlords, a Teamsters Union boss who is a defendant in a major
racketeering suit, and a restaurateur identified with organized
crime and alleged to control important segments of the hauling
industry--hardly proof that licensing restricts gun ownership to
The licensing process can be more than a minor imposition on
the purchaser of a gun. In Illinois the automated licensing
system takes 60 days to authorize a clearance. Although New
Jersey law requires that the authorities act on gun license
applications within 30 days, delays of 90 days are routine; some
applications are delayed for years, for no valid reason.
Licensing fees may be raised so high as to keep guns out of the
hands of the poor. Until recently Dade County, Florida, which
includes Miami, charged $500 for a license; nearby Monroe County
charged $2,000. These excessive fees on a means of self-
defense are the equivalent of a poll tax. Or licensing may
simply turn into prohibition. Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary,
Indiana, ordered his police department never to give anyone
license application forms. The police department in New
York City has refused to issue legally required licenses, even
when commanded by courts to do so. The department has also
refused to even hand out blank application forms.
In addition to police abuse of licensing discretion, there
is also the problem of the massive data collection that would
result from a comprehensive licensing scheme. For example, New
York City asks a pistol permit applicant:
Have you ever . . . Been discharged from
Been subpoenaed to, or attended [!] a
hearing or inquiry conducted by any
executive, legislative, or judicial body?
Been denied appointment in a civil service
system, Federal, State, Local?
Had any license or permit issued to you by
any City, State, or Federal Agency?
Applicants for a business premises gun permit in New York
City must also supply personal income-tax returns, daily bank
deposit slips, and bank statements. Photocopies are not accep-
table. A grocer in the South Bronx may wonder what the size ofhis bank
deposits has to do with his right to protection.
The same arguments that lead one to reject a national
identity card apply to federal gun licensing. A national
licensing system would require the collection of dossiers on half
the households in the United States (or a quarter, for handgun-
Implementing national gun licensing would make introduction
of a national identity card more likely. Assuming that a large
proportion of American families would become accustomed to the
government collecting extensive data about them, they would
probably not oppose making everyone else go through the same
procedures for a national identity card.
Finally, licensing is not going to stop determined
criminals. The most thorough study of the weapons behavior of
felony prisoners (the Wright-Rossi project funded by the National
Institute of Justice) found that five-sixths of the felons did
not buy their handguns from a retail outlet anyway. (Many of the
rest used a legal, surrogate buyer, such as a girlfriend.)
As noted above, felons have little trouble buying stolen guns on
the streets. In sum, it remains to be proven that gun licensing
would significantly reduce crime. Given the very clear civil
liberties problems with licensing, it cannot be said that the
benefits outweigh the costs.
In the 1960s and 1970s bills to implement federal gun
registration and licensing were soundly defeated in Congress,
never to resurface as politically viable proposals. The broadest
federal gun legislation currently under consideration is a
national waiting period for gun purchases. Senator Howard
Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) has introduced legislation to require a
national seven-day waiting period for handgun transfers, which
would be permitted only after police officials had an opportunity
to check an applicant's background. Because the bill applies to
all gun transfers, it would even compel a wife to get police
permission before receiving a handgun as a gift from her
However, statistical evidence shows no correlation between
waiting periods and homicide rates. The image of a mur-
derously enraged person leaving home, driving to a gun store,
finding one open after 10 p.m. (when most crimes of passion
occur), buying a weapon, and driving home to kill is a little
silly. Of course, a licensing system is bound to deny some
purchasers an opportunity to buy, but only the most naive
rejected purchaser would fail to eventually find a way to acquire
an illegal weapon.
In addition, waiting periods can be subterfuges for more
restrictive measures. Former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson
proposed a six-month waiting period--a long time to wait for a
woman who is in immediate danger of attack from her ex-boyfriend.
Senator Metzenbaum's bill would give the police de facto licens-
ing powers, even in states that have explicitly considered and
rejected a police-run licensing system.
Those who want to make simple gun possession a crime
frequently call for a mandatory prison sentence for unlawful
possession of a gun. The National Handgun Information Center
demands a one-year mandatory minimum sentence for possession of a
handgun during "any crime" (apparently including drunk driving
or possession of a controlled substance). Detroit recently
enacted a 30-day mandatory sentence for carrying an unlicensed
gun. None of those proposals is a step toward crime
Massachusetts's Bartley-Fox law, with a mandatory one-year
sentence for carrying an unlicensed gun, has apparently reduced
the casual carrying of firearms but has not significantly
affected the gun use patterns of determined criminals. Of
the Massachusetts law, a Department of Justice study concluded
that "the effect may be to penalize some less serious offenders,
while the punishment for more serious offenses is postponed,
reduced, or avoided altogether." New York enacted a similar
law and saw handgun homicides rise by 25 percent and handgun
robberies 56 percent during the law's first full year.
The effects of laws that impose mandatory sentences are
sometimes brutally unfair. In New Mexico, for example, one judge
resigned after being forced to send to prison a man with a clean
record who had brandished a gun during a traffic dispute.
One of the early test cases under the Massachusetts Bartley-Fox
law was the successful prosecution of a young man who had
inadvertently allowed his gun license to expire. To raise money
to buy his high school class ring, he was driving to a pawn shop
to sell his gun. Stopping the man for a traffic violation, a
policeman noticed the gun. The teenager spent the mandatory
year in jail with no parole. Another Massachusetts case
involved a man who had started carrying a gun after a co-worker
began threatening to murder him. The Civil Liberties Union
of Massachusetts had opposed Bartley-Fox precisely because of the
risk that innocent people would be sent to jail.
The call for mandatory jail terms for unlicensed carrying is
in part an admission by the gun control advocates that judges
reject their values and instead base sentences on community
norms. A Department of Justice survey of how citizens regard
various crimes found that carrying an illegal gun ranked in
between indecent exposure and cheating on taxes--hardly the stuff
of a mandatory year in jail. The current judicial/community
attitude is appropriate. In a world where first-time muggers
often receive probation, it is morally outrageous to imprison for
one year everyone who carries a firearm for self-defense.
As a general matter of criminal justice, mandatory sentences
are inappropriate. One of the most serious problems with any
kind of mandatory sentencing program is that its proponents are
rarely willing to fund the concomitant increase in prison space.
It is very easy for legislators to appear tough on crime by
passing draconian sentencing laws. It is much more difficult for
them to raise taxes and build the prison space necessary to give
those laws effect. Instead of more paper laws, a more effective
crime-reduction strategy would be to build enough prisons to keep
hard-core violent criminals off the streets for longer periods.
If there are to be mandatory sentences for gun crimes, the
mandatory term should apply only to use of a firearm in a violent
A total ban on the private possession of handguns is the
ultimate goal of a Washington lobby called the National Coalition
to Ban Handguns. Unlike some other gun control measures, a ban
lacks popular support; only one-sixth to one-third of the
citizenry favors such a measure.
Handgun-ban proponents sometimes maintain that handguns have
no utility except to kill people. The statement is patently
wrong and typical of how little the prohibitionists understand
the activities they condemn. Although self-defense is the
leading reason for handgun purchases, about one-sixth of handgun
owners bought their gun primarily for target shooting, and one-
seventh bought the gun primarily as part of a gun collection. In
addition, hunters frequently carry handguns as a sidearms to use
against snakes or to hunt game.
Cost-benefit analysis hardly offers a persuasive case for a
ban. One recent study indicates that handguns are used in
roughly 645,000 self-defense actions each year--a rate of once
every 48 seconds. (As noted above, most defensive uses simply
involving brandishing the gun.) The number of self-defense uses
is at least equal to, and probably more than, the number of times
handguns are used in a crime. Most homicides (between 50
and 84 percent) occur in circumstances where a long gun could
easily be substituted. Besides, sawing off a shotgun and
secreting it under a coat is simple. Many modern submachine guns
are only 11 to 13 inches long, and an M-1 carbine can be modified
to become completely concealable. Since long guns are so
much deadlier than handguns, an effective handgun ban would
result in at least some criminals switching to sawed-off shotguns
and rifles, perhaps increasing fatalities from gun crimes. In
the Wright and Rossi prisoner survey, 75 percent of "handgun
predators" said they would switch to sawed-off shoulder weapons
if handguns were unavailable.
If families had to give up handguns and replaced them with
long guns, fatalities from gun accidents certainly would in-
crease. Since handguns have replaced long guns as a home
defense weapon over the last 50 years, the firearm accident
fatality rate has declined. The overwhelming majority of
accidental gun deaths are from long guns.
Handguns are also much better suited for self-defense,
especially in the home, than are long guns, which are more
difficult to use in a confined setting. Rifle bullets are apt to
penetrate their intended target and keep on going through a
wall, injuring someone in an adjacent apartment. Further, the
powerful recoil of long guns makes them difficult for women,
frail people, or the elderly to shoot accurately. Lastly, a
robber or assailant has a much better chance of eventual recovery
if he is shot with a handgun rather than a long gun.
Banning Saturday Niqht Specials
If a Saturday night special is defined as any handgun with a
barrel length less than 3 inches, a caliber of .32 or less, and a
retail cost of under $100, there are roughly six million such
guns in the United States. Each year, between 1 and 6 percent of
them are employed in violent gun crimes, a far higher percentage
of criminal misuse than for other guns. Although opinion
polls find the majority of Americans in favor of banning Saturday
night specials, the practical case for banning these weapons is
Criminals do prefer easily concealable weapons; roughly 75
percent of all crime handguns seized or held by the police have
barrel lengths of 3 inches or less. At least for serious
felons, though, low price is a very secondary factor in choice of
firearm. Experienced felons prefer powerful guns to cheap ones.
The Wright and Rossi survey, which focused on hardened criminals,
found that only 15 percent had used a Saturday night special as
their last gun used in a crime. It should not be surpris-
ing that serious criminals prefer guns as powerful as those
carried by their most important adversaries, the police.
It is often said that a Saturday night special is "the kind
of gun that has only one purpose: to kill people." Again,
this is untrue. Such guns are commonly used as hunting sidearms,
referred to as "trail guns" or "pack guns." One does not
long-range accuracy to kill a snake, and lightness and compact-
ness are important. Nor can all hunters afford $200 for a
quality sidearm. More importantly, inexpensive handguns are
used for self-defense by the poor.
There is no question that laws against Saturday night
specials are leveled at blacks. The first such law came in 1870
when Tennessee attempted to disarm freedmen by prohibiting the
sale of all but "Army and Navy" handguns. Ex-confederate
soldiers already had their military handguns, but ex-slaves could
not afford high-quality weapons.
The situation today is not very different. As the federal
district court in Washington, D.C., has noted, laws aimed at
Saturday night specials have the effect of selectively disarming
minorities, who, because of their poverty, must live in crime-
ridden areas. Little wonder that the Congress on Racial
Equality filed an amicus curiae brief in a 1985 suit challenging
the Maryland Court of Appeals' virtual ban on low-caliber
handguns. As the Wright and Rossi National Institute of Justice
The people most likely to be deterred from
acquiring a handgun by exceptionally high
prices or by the nonavailability of certain
kinds of handguns are not felons intent on
arming themselves for criminal purposes
(who can, if all else fails, steal the hand-
gun they want), but rather poor people who
have decided they need a gun to protect them-
selves against the felons but who find that
the cheapest gun in the market costs more
than they can afford to pay.[1811
Indeed, one wonders what a ban on these low-caliber guns
would accomplish. Criminals who use them could easily take up
higher-powered guns. Some criminals might switch to knives, but
severe knife wounds are just as deadly (and almost as easy to
inflict at close range, where most robberies occur).
If a ban on Saturday night specials failed to reduce crime,
is it likely that its proponents would admit defeat and repeal
the law? Or would they conclude that a ban on all handguns was
what was really needed? Once criminals started substituting
sawed-off shotguns, would the new argument be that long guns too
must be banned? That is the point that gun control in
Great Britain is approaching, after beginning with a seemingly
innocuous registration system for handguns.
In 1911 state senator Timothy Sullivan of New York promised
that if New York City outlawed handgun carrying, homicides would
decline drastically. The year the Sullivan law took effect,
however, homicides increased and the New York Times pronounced
criminals "as well armed as ever." Gun control does not
reduce crime; gun ownership does. Gun control insists that
citizens rely on the authorities. Gun owners know better than to
put their lives and liberty in the hands of 911 and the police.
Gun control and the Bill of Rights cannot coexist. The advocates
of gun control believe that government agents are more trust-
worthy than ordinary citizens. The authors of the Second
Amendment believed just the opposite.
 "Urban Murders on the Rise," Newsweek, February 9, 1987, p.
30. The officer's formula does not consider the possibility
that gun ownership might be a response and a deterrent to rising
crime rates. For gun ownership as a response to crime rate
increases, see B. Benson, "Private Sector Responses to Rising
Crime," in Firearms and Violence: Issues of Public Policy,
ed. Donald B. Kates (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1984), pp. 329-
 D. Lunde, Murder and Madness (San Francisco: San Francisco
Book Co., 1976), p. 1.
 Donald B. Kates, Why Handqun Bans Can't Work (Bellevue,
Wash.: Second Amendment Foundation, 1982), p. 23. One study of
various Illinois counties found no relation between gun ownership
and crime, except that female gun ownership appeared to rise in
response to a rising crime rate. See David Bordua, "Firearms
Ownership and Violent Crime: A Comparison of Illinois Counties,"
in The Social Ecoloqy of Crime (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1986).
 James Wright, Peter Rossi, and Kathleen Daly, Under the Gun:
Weapons, Crime and Violence in America (Hawthorne, N.Y.: Aldine,
 James Wright and Peter Rossi, Armed and Considered Dangerous:
A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms (New York: Aldine, 1986),
pp. 141, 145, 151.
 Alan Krug, "The Relationship between Firearms Ownership and
Crime: A Statistical Analysis," reprinted in Congressional
Record, 99th Cong., 2d sess., January 30, 1968, p. 1496, n. 7;
Gary Kleck, "Policy Lessons from Recent Gun Control Research,"
Journal of Law and Contemporary Problems 49 (Winter 1986): 35-47.
 Carol Ruth Silver and Donald B. Kates, "Self-Defense, Handgun
Ownership, and the Independence of Women in a Violent, Sexist
Society," in Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak
Out, ed. Donald B. Kates (Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.: North River
Press, 1979), p. 152.
 "Town to Celebrate Mandatory Arms," New York Times, April 11,
1987, p. 6.
 Gary Kleck and David Bordua, "The Factual Foundation for
Certain Key Assumptions of Gun Control," Law and Policy Ouarterly
5 (1983): 271-98; Krug, p. 1496, n. 7.
 George Rengert and John Wasilchick, Suburban Burglary- A
Time and a Place for Everything (Springfield, Ill.: Charles C.
Thomas, 1985), p. 30; J. Conklin, Robbery and the Criminal
Justice System (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1972), p. 85.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 139-40.
 John Kaplan, "Controlling Firearms," Cleveland State Law
Review 28 (1979), p. 8.
 Donald B. Kates, "Handgun Control: Prohibition Revisited,"
Inquiry, December 5, 1977, p. 20, n. 1.
 David Bordua, Alan Lizotte, and Gary Kleck, Patterns of
Firearms Ownership, Use and Registration in Illinois, (Spring-
field, Ill.: Illinois Law Enforcement Commission, 1979), p. 253.
 Kates, Why Handqun Bans Can't Work, p. 43.
 David Hardy, "Critiquing the Case for Handgun Prohibition,"
in Restrictinq Handguns, pp. 87-88. Hardy's article was published
in 1979, so it is fair to assume that the actual costs would be
considerably higher than the figures quoted here. See also
Raymond Kessler, "Enforcement Problems of Gun Control: A Victim-
less Crimes Analysis," Criminal Law Bulletin 16 (March/April
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 25-44.
 The armed crime ratio is based on an assumption that there
are about 100,000 handgun criminals in the United States. About
300,000 handgun crimes are reported annually to the FBI. Since
many robbers and burglars carry out several dozen crimes or more
a year, it seems safe to divide the total of 300,000 by at least
three, allotting three crimes per criminal.
The homicide ratio is based on an assumption of 10,000
handgun homicides annually (and no gun being used in more than
one homicide). In 1984 there were 9,819 gun homicides in the
United States, of which 7,277 were committed with a handgun. See
Department of Commerce (Bureau of Census), Statistical Abstract
of the United States 1986 (Washington: Government Printing
Office 1985) p. 171.
 Wright and Rossi, pp. 189, 211.
 "Tribesmen in Pakistan Thrive," New York Times, November 2,
1977, p. 2; Wright, Rossi, and Daly, p. 321.
 Kaplan, p. 20.
 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Analysis of
Operation CUE (Concentrated Urban Enforcement, interim report
(Washington D.C.: February 15, 1977), pp. 133-34, cited in Paul
Blackman and Richard Gardiner, Flaws in the Current and Proposed
Uniform Crime Reporting Proqrams Regardinq Homicide and WeaPons
Use in Violent Crime, paper presented at 38th Annual Meeting of
the American Society of Criminology; Atlanta, October 29-November
 Gerald Arenberg, Do the Police Support Gun Control?
(Bellevue, Wash.: Second Amendment Foundation, n.d.), p. 10.
Arenberg is executive director of the National Association of
Chiefs of Police.
In the past several years, Handgun Control Inc. has at-
tempted to create the impression that the police support gun
control. It is true that some police organizations, such as the
Police Foundation and the International Association of Chiefs of
Police, often favor gun control. It is hardly surprising that
some police lobbies support a narrow view of the Second Amend-
ment, since police organizations often take a dim view of all
constitutional rights, such as search and seizure protections or
suspects' right to legal counsel.
The antigun police lobbies, however, can hardly claim the
unanimous support of rank-and-file police. The International
Association of Police Unions (AFL/CIO), for example, has testi-
fied before Congress against gun control legislation. The
president of the American Federation of Police, Dennis Ray
Martin, appears in print advertisements as a Second Amendment
Foundation spokesman (e.g. Gun Week, April 22, 1988, p. 7).
After Handgun Control Inc. placed an advertisement in Police
magazine, the magazine received mail "unrivaled by any subject in
the last two years," most of the writers "saying they didn't like
the contents of the ad one bit." Police's editor composed an
editorial condemning Handgun Control Inc., defending the NRA, and
warning that "HCI is trying to erode" the Second Amendment. F.
McKeen Thompson, "Readers Respond to HCI . . . And We Agree,"
Police (The Law Officer's Magazine), December 1987, p. 4.
 W. Allman, "Staying Alive in the 20th Century," Science 85
vol. 6, no. 8 (October 1985) 34, cited in Lance Stell, "Guns,
Politics and Reason," Journal of American Culture 9 (Summer
 "The Armed Citizen," American Hunter, February 1987, p. 6,
citing Miami Herald, December 16. 1986.
 Quoted in Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 129-30.
 R. P. Narlock, Criminal Homicide in California (Sacramento:
California Department of Justice, Bureau of Criminal Statistics,
1967), p. 55, cited in Congressional Record, 90th Cong., 2d
sess., January 30, 1968, p. 1497. Even the University of
Pennsylvania's Marvin Wolfgang, who favors gun control, agrees
(Marvin Wolfgang, Patterns in Criminal Homicide [Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1958], p. 83). The conclusion
is strongly disputed by some pro-control scholars, such as
Stanford University's Franklin Zimring.
 Kates, Why Handgun Bans Can't Work, pp. 25-26. See also
Kleck, "Policy Lessons," pp. 40-41, stating that 70-75 percent of
domestic homicide offenders have a previous arrest, and about
half have a previous conviction.
 M. Wilt, G. Marie, J. Bannon, R. K. Breedlove, J. W.
Kennish, D. M. Snadker, and R. K. Satwell, Domestic Violence and
the Police: Studies in Detroit and Kansas City (Washington:
Government Printing Office, 1977), quoted in Wright, Rossi, and
Daly, p. 193, n. 3.
 Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Niqht Special (New York:
Charterhouse, 1975), p. 29, citing "Gun Murder Profile," written
by Senate Judiciary Committee's Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee
(Washington: Government Printing Office, n.d.).
 Kirkpatrick and Walt, "The High Cost of Gunshot and Stab
Wounds," Journal of Surqical Research 14 (1973): 261-62.
 M. Daly and M. Wilson, Homicide (New York: Aldine, 1988),
pp. 15, 200 (table p.1).
 Mark Green, Winning Back America (New York: Bantam, 1982),
 David Hardy, "Product Liability and Weapons Manufacture,"
Wake Forest Law Review 20 (Fall 1984), p. 551; Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Uniform Crime Report 1982, (Washington: Government
Printing Office), p. 10; National Safety Council, Accident Facts
1986 Edition (Washington: Government Printing Office), p. 12.
Total deaths from all firearms suicides are about 17,000 annually
(Statistical Abstract of the United States 1985, p. 79)
 George Newton and Franklin Zimring, Firearms and Violence in
American Life, report to the National Commission on the Causes
and Prevention of Violence (Washington: Government Printing
Office, 1970), ch. 6. See also Bruce Danto, "Firearms and Their
Role in Suicide," Life-Threatening Behavior 1 (1971), p. 14
(Study of foreign and American suicide; "[D]ata shows that people
will find a way to commit suicide regardless of the availability
of firearms."); Herbert Hendin, Suicide in America (New York: W.
W. Norton, 1982), pp. 144-46, citing Maurice Taylor and Jerry
Wicks, "The Choice of Weapons: A Study in Suicide by Sex, Race,
and Region," Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 10 (1980):
142-49; Paul Friedman, "Suicide Among the Police," in Essays in
Self-Destruction, ed. E. Shneidman (New York: Science House,
1967), pp. 414-49.
 National Safety Council, Accident Facts 1986 Edition
(Washington: Government Printing Office), p. 12. According to
the Council, in 1983 there were 92,488 accidental deaths, and
1,695 accidental firearms deaths.
 National Safety Council, p. 12, reporting 1,695 deaths from
firearms accidents, and 5,028 deaths from flame or fire
 National Safety Council, p. 12, reporting 1,695 deaths from
firearms accidents, and 5,254 deaths from drowning or submersion
accidents (not including drowning deaths relating to water
 Mark Benenson, "A Controlled Look at Gun Controls," New York
Law Forum 14 (Winter 1968): 741.
 Philip Cook, "The Role of Firearms in Violent Crime: An
Interpretative Review of the Literature," in M. Wolfgang and N.
Weiler, eds. Criminal Violence (Beverly Hills, Ca.: Sage, 1982),
pp. 236, 269.
 Colin Greenwood, "Comparative Statistics," in Restricting
Handquns, pp. 58-59.
 The trigger on a rifle or shotgun is much easier to pull
than is the trigger on a revolver or the slide on an automatic
pistol. Rifles or shotguns are also more prone to fire if
accidentally dropped. Finally, handguns can be hidden from
inquisitive children more easily than long guns can.
 Arthur T. Kellerman and Donald T. Reay, "Protection or
Peril? An Analysis of Firearm-Related Deaths in the Home," New
England Journal of Medicine 24 (June 1986): 1557-60; discussed,
for example, in "Sons of Guns," The New Republic, March 2, 1987,
 Donald B. Kates, "Handgun Prohibition and the Original
Meaning of the Second Amendment," Michigan Law Review 82 (1984),
p. 269, n. 278, citing 1981 Federal Bureau of Investigation
statistics. Sources other than the FBI put justifiable civilian
killing of criminals at much higher levels. Although the Bureau
estimates that civilians kill 300 criminals annually, Lawrence
Sherman of the pro-control Police Foundation puts the figure at
600. Gary Kleck of Florida State University's School of Crimi-
nology estimates that 1,500-2,800 criminals are shot to death
annually by citizens acting lawfully. The different statistical
results may be due to the FBI's reliance exclusively on incidents
reported to the police, and the fact that if a homicide is
initially labelled a criminal homicide, but later determined to
be self-defense, the homicide is still reported to the FBI as a
criminal homicide. Gary Kleck, "Crime Control Through the
Private Use of Armed Force," Social Problems 35 (February 1988)
 Silver and Kates, pp. 154-55. The problems police encounter
do not necessarily imply that the police are poorer shooters, or
that they possess worse judgment. Official guidelines may force
the police to intervene in situations that ordinary citizens
could avoid, and may prevent an officer from drawing his weapon
at the most opportune time.
 Kleck, "Crime Control," pp. 7-9.
 David J. Shields, "Two Judges Look at Gun Control," Chicago
Bar Record (January/February 1976): 182. (The second judge
referred to in the title was Marvin E. Aspen, who wrote a pro-
 J. B. Waite, "Public Policy and the Arrest of Felons,
"Michigan Law Review 31 (April 1933): 764-66.
 A.C.L.U. estimate cited in Kates, "Handgun Control: Prohibi-
tion Revisited," p. 23.
 Steven Brill, Firearms Abuse: A Research and Policy Report
(Washington: Police Foundation, 1977), p. 34.
 Malcolm Wilkey, "Why Suppress Valid Evidence?," Wall Street
Journal, October 10, 1977. See also Mike Royko, "Magnum Force,"
San Francisco Examiner, May 14, 1982.
 Blackman, "Civil Liberties and Gun-Law Enforcement," p. 27.
 James Q. Wilson, "Again, The Gun Question," Washington Post,
April 1, 1986; Police Foundation quoted in "Whether It Sharply
Reduces Crime or Not, Is a Federal Ban Worth Trying?" New York
Times, April 5, 1981, p. IV 3. See also, J. Fyfe, "Enforcement
Workshop: Detective McFadden Goes Electronic," Criminal Law
Bulletin 19 (March/April 1983): 162-67; N. Morris and G. Hawkins,
The Honest Politician's Guide to Crime Control (Chicago: Univer-
sity of Chicaqo Press, 1970).
 "Berkeley City Attorney Mulls Car Searches for Weapons,"
Associated Press, December 19, 1987 (available in NEXIS in Wires
 For New Jersey, see Jonathan Friendly, "Schools Ease Curbs
on Drug and Weapons Checks," New York Times, June 17, 1986, p.
B2. For Bridgeport, see Richard L. Madden, "Bridgeport Acts to
Keep Guns Out of Schools," New York Times, March 20, 1987, p. B2
(locker searches for guns); for Detroit, see "In Detroit, Kids
Kill Kids," Newsweek, May 11, 1987, p. 24. The Police Foundation
proposal for general "perimeter control" metal detectors in
schools is discussed in the National Rifle Association's letter
of March 13, 1985, to Alfred Regnery, director of the Justice
Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preven-
tion. The Baltimore city government considered a perimeter-
control proposal in 1985.
 "5 Schools to Use Detectors for Guns," New York Times, May
5, 1988, B3; Mark Mooney, "Green Wants Weapon Searches in
Schools," New York Post, March 25, 1988, p. 7.
 A. Mackay-Smith, "Should Schools Permit Searching Students
for Weapons, Drugs?" Wall Street Journal, May 30, 1984. Mackay-
Smith discussed policy in Detroit, where police searches looked
for knives and Mace carried by girls to protect themselves from
 Blackman, "Civil Liberties and Gun Law Enforcement," p. 2.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 177-78.
 "Deadly Weapons," The Park Slope Paper, October 23, 1986.
 Kates, "Civil Liberties Obstacles," pp. 1-2.
 BATF abuses are chronicled in detail in David Hardy, The
B.A.T.F.'s War on Civil Liberties (Bellevue, Wash.: Second
Amendment Foundation, 1979).
 United States v. Biswell, 406 U.S. 311 (1972), discussed in
Robert Batey, "Strict Construction of Firearms Offenses," Journal
of Law and Contemporary Problems 49 (Winter 1986): 184-85.
 Batey, p. 163. In Florida, as everywhere else, it is
illegal for a felon to possess a gun. One Florida felon dis-
covered this when he wrested a pistol away from someone who was
attacking him--and was convicted of illegal possession of a
weapon (Thorpe v. State, 377 So.2d 221 [Fla. App., 1979]).
 United States v. Freed, 401 U.S. 601 (1974).
 Batey, p. 187.
 For Tennessee, see J. J. Baker, "Assault on semi-Avtos,"
American Rifleman, April 1987; 42. For Pennsylvania, United
States v. Corcoran, Crim. no. 88-11 (W.D. Pa, April 6, 1988)
 Brill, pp. 134 ff. See also Lawrence Sherman, "Equity
Against Truth: Value Choices in Deceptive Investigations," in
Police Ethics, ed. Heffernand and Stroup (New York: John Jay
Press, 1985), pp. 117-32 (Police Foundation head arguing that
random selection of undercover investigation targets is fairer
than probable cause selection).
. Hardy, The B.A.T.F.'s War on Civil Liberties, pp. 11-41,
 Ibid., pp. 53-55.
 Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the
Constitution, The Riqht to Keep and Bear Arms, 97th Congress, 2d
sess., Senate Doc. 2807 (February 1982): 20-23.
 Aryeh Neier, Crime and Punishment: A Radical Solution (New
York: Stein & Day, 1976), p. 76.
The Fourth and Fifth Amendments are not the only parts of
the Bill of Rights threatened by antigun sentiment. In derogation
of the Sixth Amendment's right to jury trial, a Pennsylvania
federal district court judge recently tried to categorically bar
National Rifle Association members from serving on a jury in a
gun law prosecution. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed
the lower court (United States v. Salamone, 800 F.2d 1216 [3d
Cir. 1986]). If not reversed, the lower court's ruling would
have provided precedent for excluding all Sierra Club members
from environmental cases, or NAACP members from discrimination
The First Amendment is not safe either. Attempts to censor
allegedly violent entertainment are legion. For example, the
National Coalition on Television Violence wants the government to
ban "Photon Warrior" because the program shows "adolescents
fighting 'the forces of evil' with infra-red Photon guns." The
coalition insists that "the toy industry's greed for money must
not be allowed to trample the moral development of our next
generation." Previous generations, which include veterans of
foreign wars, might find shooting guns at evil forces like the
Wehrmacht to be quite moral.
 Lee Kennett and James L. Anderson, The Gun in America: The
Oriqins of a National Dilemma (New York: Westport Press, 1975),
 Donald B. Kates, "Attitudes Toward Slavery in the New
Republic," Journal of Negro History 53 (1968): 37.
 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393, 417 (1857).
 Quoted in H. Hyman, The Radical Republicans and Reconstruc-
tion (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967), p. 217. For the black
codes, see Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States
(New York: Harper, 1980), p. 194.
 Quoted in David Hardy, "The Constitution as a Restraint on
State and Federal Firearm Restrictions," in Restrictinq Handguns,
 Watson v. Stone, 148 Fla. 516, 450 So.2d 700, 703 (1941)
(Buford, J., concurring specially).
 John Salter, Social Justice Community Organizing and the
Necessity for Protective Firearms, paper presented at the 18th
annual meeting of the Popular Culture Association New Orleans
March 26, 1988, p. 2.
 Salter, p. 3.
 Richard Maxwell Brown, "The American Vigilante Tradition,"
in The History of Violence in America, ed. Hugh Davis Graham and
Ted Robert Gurr (New York: Praeger, 1969), pp. 203, 217 n. 150.
 Donald B. Kates, "Why a Civil Libertarian Opposes Gun
Control," The Great Gun Control Debate (Bellevue, Wash.: Second
Amendment Foundation, 1976), p. 4. For more, see J. Weiss, "A
Reply to Advocates of Gun Control Laws," Journal of Urban Law 53
(1974): 577. At the time, Weiss was director of the Office of
Economic Opportunity's national legal services office for the
 "Decade of Change in South Gives Negroes High Hopes," New
York Times, August 16, 1970, pp. 1, 54. See also "Panel Told
Mississippi Negroes Are Prepared for Self-Defense," New York
Times, August 13, 1970, p. 20.
 John Salter and Donald B. Kates, "The Necessity of Access to
Firearms by Dissenters and Minorities Whom the Government Is
Unwilling or Unable to Protect," in Restricting Handguns, p. 187.
 Eleanor Blau, "Black Couple in Home Bombing Shot in
Accident," New York Times, August 29, 1975, p. 31 (the "accident"
was due to Spencer's resisting the officer's attempt to wrest the
gun away); Nathaniel Shephard, "Policeman Attacked at Bombed
Home," New York Times, January 5, 1975, p. 46; Jill Gerston,
"Home of Blacks Struck by Bomb," New York Times, January 1, 1975,
p. 21. Half a year later, the charges against Spencer were
dropped. Murray Illson, "Harassed Rosedale Black Cleared of Gun
Charges," New York Times, April 17, 1976, p. 25.
 Donald B. Kates, "A History of Handgun Prohibition," in
Restrictinq Handquns, p. 19; Walter White, "The Sweet Trial,"
Crisis, 31 (January 1926): 125-29. See generally Irving Stone,
Clarence Darrow for the Defense (New York: Doubleday, 1941), pp.
 James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Hernstein, Crime and Human
Nature (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976), p. 463. Other
statistics indicate a black is almost three times as likely to be
robbed as a white. See Department of Justice (Bureau of Justice
Statistics), Report to the Nation on Crime and Justice: The Data
(Washington: Government Printing Office, October, 1983), p. 20.
 Benson, p. 342.
 "We're Mad as Hell and We're Not Going to Take It Anymore,"
Brooklyn Free Press, November 24, 1986, p. 35.
In one case, citizens called to report that a man outside
their apartment building was screaming for help (robbers were
stabbing him to death). The 911 operators, however, relayed only
a message that the man was unconscious, and the police, thinking
that the man was merely a drunk, took their time arriving on the
scene. (They stopped to issue a reckless driving ticket.) One
of the callers to 911 told a reporter, "They kept asking me
stupid questions--what race the victim was, what race I was--can
you imagine that? A man's outside hurt and they're asking me
things like that." The patrol car took 20 minutes to arrive on
the scene, and the ambulance took even longer. The man died.
Dennis Turner, "Did 911 Foul-up Kill Gardens Man?" Park Slope
Paper, April 2, 1988, p. 1.
 Frank Church, foreword to Restrictinq Handquns, p. xiii.
Consider also an item in the (New York) Daily News, June 17,
1977, "Where Survival is a Crime." A crippled black middle-aged
cab driver was preparing dinner in his Harlem tenement when a
junkie broke in, began beating the cab driver on the head with a
lead pipe, and demanded money. The cab driver having none, the
junkie continued the assault until the cabbie reached for his
Saturday night special and killed his attacker. The police
arrested him for criminal possession of a weapon. Commented the
writer, "Willie [the cab driver], of course had no gun permit.
To get one in New York City you need to know somebody. Willie
doesn't know anybody. All he knows is he had to defend himself.
Our politicians don't give a damn about Willie, anymore than they
give a damn about you. They ride in limos and carry guns."
 David Shields, p. 184.
 David Hardy and Kenneth Chotiner, "The Potential for Civil
Liberties Violations in the Enforcement of Handgun Prohibition,"
in Restricting Handquns, p. 211.
 Clark v. Gabriel, civil action no. M-75-581 (D. Md., Dec. 13
1976), cited in Paul Blackman, "Carrying Handguns for Personal
Protection," paper presented at the 37th annual meeting of the
American Society of Criminology, San Diego, November 13-16, 1985,
 Sherrill, p. 274.
 Quoted in Tricia Lootens and Alice Henry, "Interview: Nikki
Craft, Activist and Outlaw," Off Our Backs: A Women's News-
journal, vol. 15, no. 7 (July 1985): 3.
 Inscription on a Winchester rifle, quoted in Kennett and
Anderson, p. 108.
 Philip J. Cook, "Gun Availability and Violent Crime," Crime
& Justice 4 (1982), p. 61, n. 8, analyzing data in Joan McDer-
mott, Rape Victimization in Twenty-Six American Cities (Washing-
ton: Government Printing Office, 1979), pp. 20-21. Rate of
firearms use in rape is from Department of Justice, Report to the
Nation on Crime and Justice, p. 14.
 A feature in the National Rifle Association magazine every
month, called "The Armed Citizen," collects such stories from
newspapers around the nation. Only incidents that have been
verified as legitimate self-defense by the police, grand jury, or
other official body are included. See also Silver and Kates,
"Self-Defense, Handgun Ownership, and the Independence of Women
in a Violent, Sexist Society," p. 139, citing numerous instances
of women defending themselves from criminal attack.
 Stephen Halbrook, "The Second Amendment as a Phenomenon of
Liberal Political Philosophy," in Firearms and Violence, pp. 363-
 Quoted in ed. Morton Borden, The Antifederalist Papers,
vol. 3 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press), p. 386.
 Thomas Jefferson, "The Virginia Constitution, Third Draft,"
in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson Vol. I 1760-1776 (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1950), p. 363. The limitation
regarding private property was added in Jefferson's second draft.
 Stephen Halbrook, "What the Framers Intended," Journal of
Law and Contemporary Problems 49 (Winter 1986): 155; John Adams,
A Defence of the Constitutions of the Government of the United
States of America against the Attack of M. Turgot (Philadelphia:
1788), p. 471.
 A Pennsylvanian (Coxe's pen name), "Remarks on the First
Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution," The Federal
Gazette and Pennsylvania Eveninq Post, June 18, 1789, p. 2,
quoted in Stephen Halbrook, That Every Man Be Armed (Albuquerque:
University of New Mexico Press, 1984), p. 76.
 Donald B. Kates, "Second Amendment," in Encyclopedia of
the American Constitution, ed. Leonard Levy (New York: MacMillan,
1986), p. 1639. See also Robert Shalhope, "The Ideological
Origins of the Second Amendment," Journal of American History 69
(December 1982): 599-614; Joyce Malcolm, "The Right of the People
to Keep and Bear Arms: The Common Law Tradition," Hastinqs
Constitutional Law Ouarterly 10 (Winter 1983): 285-314.
 Senate Committee on the Judiciary, The Right to Keep and
Bear Arms, p. 6. The senators in part may have wished to avoid
the implication that a large standing army was acceptable for
nondefensive, overseas war.
 Quoted in Clinton Rossiter, The Political Thought of the
American Revolution (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1953),
 Quoted in Borden, p. 425.
 House Report No. 141, 73d Cong., 1st sess. (1933), pp. 2-5.
Congress did so in order that the National Guard could be sent
into overseas combat. The National Guard's weapons plainly
cannot be the arms protected by the Second Amendment, since Guard
weapons are owned by the federal government. (32 United States
Code sect. 105[a] .)
The most thorough discussion on the political status of the
National Guard is John G. Kester, "State Governors and the
Federal National Guard," Harvard Journal of Law and Public
Policy, 11 (Winter 1988): 177-212. As Kester explains, there are
technically two distinct National Guards. State National Guards
are created by state governments under their power to raise an
 Kates, "Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the
Second Amendment," p. 218.
 Today, 42 state constitutions guarantee a right to firearms
 Halbrook, That Every Man Be Armed. See, e.g., Nunn v.
State, 1 Ga. 243 (1846).
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, p. 229, quoting survey conducted
by Decision-Making Information Inc. Decision-Making Information
is headed by conservative pollster Richard Wirthlin, and the
particular survey was funded by the National Rifle Association.
Despite the potential for bias, the survey is probably reliable,
Wright and his coauthors concluded. Wright compared the Wirthlin
data with data in a contemporaneous poll by Cambridge Research,
Patrick Caddell's polling organization. The Caddell poll was
sponsored by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Handgun
Violence, whose then-director Pete Shields was also the head of
Handgun Control Inc. Although the Wirthlin and Caddell polls
both could have suffered from their sponsors' biases, "the actual
empirical findings from the two surveys are remarkably similar.
Results from comparable (even roughly comparable) items rarely
differ between the two surveys by more than 10 percentage points.
. . . [O]n virtually all points where a direct comparison is
possible, the evidence for each survey says essentially the same
thing." Wright, Rossi, and Daly, p. 240.
 Peter Feller and Karl Gotting, "The Second Amendment: A
Second Look," Northwestern University Law Review 61 (March/April
1967): 46-69. The authors did not address any of the evidence
against the collective view discussed in the previous section.
Surprisingly, the collective interpretation, lacking support in
Supreme Court precedent, academic scholarship, or popular
opinion, still abounds in many lower federal courts--generally in
an offhand sentence or two in cases where arms smugglers invoke
frivolous Second Amendment defenses.
 Senate Committee on the Judiciary, The Right to Keep and
Bear Arms, pp. 11-12.
 Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886); United States v.
Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875).
 307 U.S. 174, 179.
 Ouilici v. Village of Morton Grove, 532 F. Supp. 1169 (N.D.
Ill.), affd. 695 F.2d 261 (7th Cir., 1982), cert. denied 464 U.S.
 Hopfman v. Connolly, 471 U.S. 459 (1985).
 431 U.S. 494, 502 (1976). Justice Powell was quoting
Justice Harlan's dissent in Poe v. Ullman, 367 U.S. 497, 542-43
(1961) (Harlan, J., dissenting). The "liberty" that Justice
Powell was referring to was the liberty protected by the Four-
teenth Amendment's clause "nor shall any State deprive any
person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."
That clause has been construed, in the last century, to mean that
states must not violate the individual freedoms guaranteed in the
Bill of Rights. (The Bill of Rights had originally been held
only to limit federal power.)
If the Second Amendment were only a limit on federal power
over official state militias, it would have been preposterous for
Justice Powell to list the right to bear arms as one of the
rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment's liberty clause;
for that clause is explicitly a limit on state powers over
 Ramsey Clark, Crime in America (New York: Simon & Schuster,
1970), p. 88.
 Alan Gottlieb, "Gun Ownership: A Constitutional Right,"
Northern Kentucky Law Review 10 (1982): 138.
 Governor O'Conor of Maryland delivered a radio address on
March 10, 1942, at which he called for volunteers to defend the
state: "[T]he volunteers, for the most part, will be expected to
furnish their own weapons. For this reason, gunners (of whom
there are sixty thousand licensed in Maryland), members of Rod
and Gun Clubs, of Trap Shooting and similar organizations will be
expected to constitute a part of this new military organization."
State Papers and Addresses of Governor O'Conor, vol III, p. 618,
quoted in Bob Dowlut, "The Right to Bear Arms: Does the Constitu-
tion or the Predilection of Judges Reign?" Oklahoma Law Review 36
(1985): 76-77, n. 52. See also Kates, Why Handgun Bans Can't
Work, p. 74, citing Baker, "I Remember 'The Army' with Men from
16 to 79," Baltimore Sun Maqazine, November 16, 1975, p. 46.
 M. Schlegel, Virqinia On Guard--Civilian Defense and the
State Militia in the Second World War (Richmond: Virginia State
Library, 1949), pp. 45, 129, 131. According to Schlegel, the
Virginia militia "leaned heavily on sportsmen," because they
could provide their own weapons. Ibid., p. 129; quoted in Bob
Dowlut, "State Constitutions and the Right to Keep and Bear
Arms," Oklahoma City University Law Review 2 (1982): 198.
 "To Arms," Time, March 30, 1942, p. 1.
 Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, U.S. Home
Defense Forces Study (March 1981), pp. 32, 34, 58-63, quoted in
Dowlut, "State Constitutions," p. 197.
 Originally printed as Bert Levy, Guerilla Warfare (New
York: Penguin Books, 1942), p. 55; reprinted as B. Levy, Guerilla
Warfare (Panther Publications: 1964), p. 56; quoted in Dowlut,
"State Constitutions," p. 198, n. 91.
 Julian Hatcher, Frank Jury, and Joe Weller, Firearms
Investiqation Identification and Evidence (Harrisburg, Pa.:
Stackpole, 1957), p. 59.
 Mao Zedong, Mao-Tse Tung on Guerilla Warfare, translated
by S. Griffith (New York: Praeger, 1961), cited in Raymond
Kessler, "Gun Control and Political Power," Law and Policy
Ouarterly 5 (1983): 395.
 "One Year Later, Analysts Groping for Answers to Afghanis-
tan," Kansas City Times, December 26, 1980, p. B-3, cited in
Kessler, p. 395.
 Gottlieb, p. 139. Even the pro-control New York Times
editorial board sometimes understands the efficacy of lightly
armed guerrillas; see, for example, "Who Will Hold the Guns in
Rhodesia?" New York Times, August 31, 1977, p. 18. Nor do the
guerrillas have to drive the occupier out single-handedly. At
the least, guerrillas can tie down the enemy army, weakening the
enemy so that he is defeated elsewhere. Although the Nazis faced
critical manpower shortages on the Eastern Front against the
Soviet Union, a sixth of their forces were deployed fighting Tito
and his Yugoslavian partisans.
. For the Philippines, see Sherrill, p. 272. For Uganda,
"Uganda Curbs Firearms," New York Times, December 22, 1969, p.
36. For Cuba, see Kessler, p. 382; Crum, "Gun Control Paved
Castro's Way, Conservative Digest, April 1976, p. 33 (use of
Batista's registration lists to facilitate confiscation);
Williams, "The Rise of Castro: 'If only we hadn't given up our
guns!"', Medina Countv Gazette, October 15, 1978, p. 5. For
Bulgaria, see "Gun Control Laws in Foreign Countries," rev. ed.
(Washington: Library of Congress, 1976), p. 33. (Upon coming to
power Bulgarian communists immediately confiscated all firearms.)
 "Far North Has Militia of Eskimos," New York Times, April
1, 1986, p. A14.
 Quoted in David Hardy, "The Second Amendment as a Restraint
on State and Federal Firearm Restrictions," in Restricting
Handguns, pp. 184-85.
 From Aaron Burr to Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, Douglas
MacArthur, and Richard Nixon, American history has seen its share
of potential dictators. So far, our other safeguards have
succeeded. But in a Constitution and political structure
designed to last several hundred years, one cannot always count
on the press or Congress to save things at the last minute.
 Clark, p. 89.
 J. Howard Mathews, Firearms Identification (Springfield,
Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1962), pp. 77, 80; Hatcher, Jury, and
Weller, pp. 177, 180, 184.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 236, 241.
 B. Bruce-Briggs, "The Great American Gun War," The Public
Interest, (Fall 1976): 59. Historians disagree about whether
the Nazis used registration lists to carry out confiscations in
Denmark and Norway. Gun confiscation in Jamaica was part of a
severe government anticrime program, which drastically curtailed
civil liberties; the program did little to stop crime in the long
run but did imprison many innocent people, particularly from
outcast groups such as the Rastafarians. Edward Diener and Rick
Crandall, "An Evaluation of the Jamaican Anticrime Program,"
Journal of Applied Social Psychology (March 1979): 137-48; Dudley
Allen, in Crime and Punishment in the Caribbean, eds. R. and G.
Brana-Shute [Gainesville, Fl.: Center for Latin American Studies,
1980]: 29-57 [Allen was formerly the Jamaican Commissioner of
Corrections]; Kates, Why Handquns Bans Can't Work, p. 16.
 "Wilson's Gun Proposal," Washinqton Star-News, February 15,
1975, p. A 12; Lawrence Francis, "Washington Report," Guns &
Ammo, December 1976, p. 86.
 Blackman, "Civil Liberties and Gun-Law Enforcement," p. 14.
 Lamont, DBA Basic Pamphlets v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S.
301 (1965). The U.S. Post Office intercepted "foreign Communist
propaganda" before delivery, and required addressees to sign a
form before receiving the items. The Court's narrow holding was
based on the principle that addressees should not have to go to
the trouble of filling out a form to receive particular items of
politically oriented mail. Since the Post Office had stopped
maintaining lists of propaganda recipients before the case was
heard, the Court did not specifically rule on the list-keeping
practices. One may infer that the Post Office threw away its
lists because it expected the Court would find them unconstitutional.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 223-35.
 Donald B. Kates, "On Reducing Violence or Liberty," Civil
Liberties Review (August/September, 1976): 56.
 Slatky v. Murphy, New York Law Journal, October 14, 1971,
 "Permit 29,000 to Pack Guns," (New York) Daily News, June
22, 1981; Susan Hall, "Nice People Who Carry Guns," New York,
December 12, 1977; Kates and Silver, p. 153.
 William Bastone, "Born to Gun: 65 Big Shots With Licenses
to Carry," Villaqe Voice, September 29, 1987, p. 11.
 Pete Shields, Guns Don't Die--People Do (New York: Arbor
House, 1981), p. 83.
 Statement of Robert F. Mackinnon, on behalf of the Coali-
tion of New Jersey Sportsmen, before the House Committee on the
Judiciary, on Legislation to Modify the 1968 Gun Control Act,
part 2, serial no. 131, 99th Congress, 1st and 2d sess., Feb. 27,
1986 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1987), p. 1418.
 Blackman, "Carrying Handguns," p. 8. The Florida state
legislature recently enacted a statewide gun law, effective
November 1987, which supplanted all local fees with a $125 state
 Motley v. Kellogg, 409 N.E.2d 1207 (Ind. App. 1980).
 For some examples of the New York City Police Department's
flagrant abuse of the statutory licensing procedure, see Shapiro
v. Cawley, 46 A.D.2d 633, 634, 360 N.Y.S.2d 7, 8 (1st Dept. 1974)
(ordering N.Y.C. Police Department to abandon illegal policy of
requiring applicants for on-premises pistol license to demon-
strate unique "need"); Turner v. Codd, 85 Misc. 2d 483, 484, 378
N.Y.S.2d 888, 889 (Special Term Part 1, N.Y. County, 1975)
(ordering N.Y.C. Police Department to obey Shapiro decision);
Echtman v. Codd, no. 4062-76 (N.Y. County) (class action lawsuit
that finally forced Police Department to obey Shapiro decision).
Also: Bomer v. Murphy, no. 14606-71 (N.Y. County) (to compel
Department to issue blank application forms for target shooting
licenses); Klapper v. Codd, 78 Misc.2d 377, 356 N.Y.S.2d 431
(Sup. Ct., Spec. Term, N.Y. Cty.) (overturning refusal to issue
license because applicant had changed jobs several times);
Castelli v. Cawley, New York Law Journal, March 19, 1974, p.2,
col. 2 (Applicant suffered from post-nasal drip, and repeatedly
cleared his throat during interview. His interviewer "diagnosed"
a "nervous condition" and rejected the application. An appeals
court overturned the decision, noting that the applicant's
employment as a diamond cutter indicated "steady nerves.")
 Wright and Rossi, p. 185.
 The Attorney General's 1981 Task Force on Violent Crime
also offered a waiting period proposal. Recommendation 18 of
Report of the Attorney General's Task Force on Violent Crime
(Washington: Government Printing Office, August 17, 1981).
 Report on the Federal Firearms Owners Protection Act, S.
Rep. no. 3476, 97th Cong., 2d sess. (1982), pp. 51-52; Murray,
"Handguns, Gun Control Laws and Firearm Violence," Social
Problems 23 (October 1975): 81-93. Statistical studies not-
withstanding, the Palm Beach, Florida, police credit a 1984
waiting period law with causing a drop in homicides the next year
(Congressional Record, February 4, 1987 [Sen. Howard Metzenbaum]).
 David Hardy, "Legal Restrictions on Firearms Ownership as
an Answer to Violent Crime: What Was the Question?" Hamline Law
Review 6 (July 1983): 404.
 Isabel Wilkerson, "Urban Homicide Rates in U.S. Up Sharply
in 1986," New York Times, January 15, 1987, p. A14.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 290-94, 298, 308.
 Kenneth Carlson, "Mandatory Sentencing: The Experience of
Two States," Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice
policy brief (Washington: Abt Associates, May 1982), p. 15. The
document analyzes of the Massachusetts gun law and New York drug
 "State's Gun Law: Impact and Intent Uncertain," New York
Times, April 11, 1982, p. 1.
 "Judge Hears Conscience, Not 'Gun Law' Sentence," American
Bar Association Journal 67 (November 1981): 1433.
 Hardy, "Legal Restrictions on Firearms Ownership as an
Answer to Violent Crime," p. 407.
 Commonwealth v. Lindsey, (Mass. Supreme Judicial Court,
March 5, 1986) (available in LEXIS library, Massachusetts file).
Wrote the court, "The threat of physical harm was founded on an
earlier assault by Michel with a knife and became a real and
direct matter once again when Michel attacked the defendant with
a knife at the MBTA station. . . .[D]efendant is a hardworking,
family man, without a criminal record, who was respected by his
fellow employees (Michel excepted). Michel, on the other hand,
appears to have lacked the same redeeming qualities. He was a
convicted felon with serious charges pending against him. .
It is possible that defendant is alive today only because he
carried the gun that day for protection. Before the days of a
one-year mandatory sentence, the special circumstances involving
the accused could be reflected reasonably in the sentencing or
dispositional aspects of the proceeding. That option is no
longer available in judicial branch of government in a case of
this sort." Eventually, the defendant was pardoned by the
 Brief for Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts as amicus
curiae, Commonwealth v. Jackson, pp. 22-26, cited in James Beha,
"And Nobody Can Get You Out," Boston University Law Review 57
(1977): 110, n. 55. The Massachusetts legislature's black
caucus had also opposed the bill, because of concern about
discriminatory licensing and arrests. Beha, p. 108, n. 45.
 Department of Justice, "The Severity of Crime," Bureau of
Justice Statistics Bulletin (January 1984): 4.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 234-35. Public opinion on
this issue has changed rather strongly since the late 1950s, when
the Gallup Poll found a majority in favor of a handgun ban.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 57-58, citing survey conducted
by Decision-Making Information Inc.; Finn Aagard, "Handgun
Hunting Today," American Hunter, February 1987, p. 32 ("I doubt
if any branch of the shooting sports has grown more phenomenally
over the last decade than hunting with a handgun.")
 Kleck, "Crime Control," pp. 2-4.
 Gary Kleck, "Handgun-Only Control," in Firearms and
Violence, p. 193.
 David Hardy and Donald B. Kates, "Handgun Availability and
the Social Harm of Robbery" in Restrictinq Handquns, p. 127. M-1
information is from the California attorney general's 1965
appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee
on Juvenile Delinquency, hearings On Amendments of Federal
Firearms Act 1965, quoted in Sherrill, p. 63.
 Wright and Rossi, p. 220.
 Benenson, "A Controlled Look at Gun Controls," p. 720; John
Kaplan, "The Wisdom of Gun Prohibition," Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Sciences 455 (1981): 17.
 Pete Shields, the chairman of Handgun Control, writes, "Of
the accidental deaths, again it is safe to assume that over 50%
were by handguns." (Pete Shields, p. 28.) As noted above,
handgun accidents comprise 300 of the 1,700 accidental gun
L 173] Affidavit of professor of criminology Gary Kleck in amicus
curiae memorandum of law by Congress on Racial Equality and
Second Amendment Foundation in Kelly v. R.G. Industries, at 20-
23 (Md.Ct.App. 1983)
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, pp. 234-35.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, p. 17.
 Wright and Rossi, pp. 167, 233. (As noted above, the
survey was part of a National Institute of Justice project.)
 Pete Shields, p. 46.
 Wright, Rossi, and Daly, p. 58.
 Kates, "Toward a History of Handgun Prohibition in the
United States," p. 14.
 Delahanty v. Hinckley (D.D.C. July 1986)(Penn, J.).
Recently, the federal appeals court in Washington certified this
case to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to have the
case decided under Washington, D.C.'s common law. Slip op. no.
87-7055 (April 29, 1988) (Mikva, J.).
 Wright and Rossi, p. 238.
 The son of the chairman of Handgun Control was slain by San
Francisco's "Zebra killer," an insane black man who murdered
whites for no reason at all (Pete Shields, p. 12). Had the man
been armed with a sawed-off shotgun, he still could have con-
cealed it inside his jacket. Any psychopath capable of carrying
out so many slayings and evading detection for so long would
probably know where to buy a stolen shotgun. Even an effective
prohibition on all guns would not stop such maniacs; the man
committed his first homicide with a machete (ibid., p. 37).
The founder of Handgun Control was moved to action after he
was robbed with what he was told was a gun underneath a robber's
jacket. Ibid., p. 22. Again, banning handguns would not
eliminate the type of problem that led him into antigun lobby-
ing; would robberies be any less terrifying at the point of a
sawed-off shotgun or a knife?
 Clyde Barrow, of Bonnie and Clyde fame, could "quick draw"
his shotgun from a special holster in his pants. Kennett and
Anderson, p. 203.
 New York Times, May 23, 1913, p. 9; Kennett and Anderson,
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