Last week in Salem, an elderly Oregonian stood up to speak at a local town hall meeting about gun control. Manuel Martinez is not the average senior citizen. He was a resident of Cuba during Castro’s Revolution and saw firsthand how an unarmed populace can protect itself from an overpowering central government. Put simply, it cannot.
Mr. Martinez’s position (and the position of this column) is that the more gun regulations there are, the less safe the citizenry. The position of his opponents is that the more gun control regulations, the greater the safety of the American people. It is a simple proposition to analyze this tension by addressing the question ‘what are the stakes’?
If Mr. Martinez is wrong, what are the potential consequences? Imagine there are fewer gun regulations, leading to wider gun ownership. Laws prohibiting the carrying of arms into shopping malls, movie theaters, and schools are taken off the books. It is still impossible for a convicted criminal or someone with a history of mental illness to obtain a firearm legally, but imagine that a mentally-unstable individual does just that and takes advantage of the new legal leniency to carry his illegally-obtained firearm into a public place with lots of innocent civilians.
When this nut-job pulls his firearm from his trench-coat, he soon finds that he is not surrounded by unarmed targets, ripe for the killing. Instead, he finds that he is surrounded by dozens of pistol-packing Americans who are perhaps better-armed but almost certainly better-practiced shooters than he, since they can legally train their sharp-shooting skills at their local shooting range.
In fact, a situation very close to this happened in close proximity to Mr. Martinez’s town of Salem a few months ago. Mid-December 2012, at the Clackamas Town Center mall outside of Portland, a man entered the shopping center with a rifle and began shooting. 22-year-old Nick Mell, who has a concealed carry weapons permit, was at the mall with a friend and her child.
When the shooting began, the friend and child hit the floor while Nick took cover behind a pillar, drawing his firearm. After aiming at the shooter, Nick realized there were others in his line of fire and he made the decision not to pull the trigger and risk a stray bullet hitting innocents. But the shooter had seen an armed citizen and very shortly afterwards, made the decision to take his own life without firing another shot.