M.D. Harmon: The charge for gun control is not about controlling guns


Woman AR15

“If you don’t want to have a gun in your home or in your school, that’s your choice. But don’t be such a damn fool as to advertise to the whole world that you are in ‘a gun-free environment’ where you are a helpless target for any homicidal fiend who is armed. Is it worth a human life to be a politically correct moral exhibitionist?”

— Thomas Sowell

Normally, I would be the first one to rush into print with a column about “gun control” whenever the topic hit the news, but after Newtown I thought better about it.

First, the horrific murders of children and teachers in that once-idyllic community (the name of the perpetrator does not need to be repeated) seemed to require a decent period of silence.

That’s true even though I knew those opposed to Americans’ civil liberties as they applied to firearms would show no such restraint. Second—and this is my main point—it became clear very quickly that liberals in government and the media (that’s one group, not two) were not interested in an “open debate” on the issue of firearms in American life, despite repeated calls for precisely that to occur.

One way to understand that is to know that twice as many children and teenagers are shot in Chicago every single month as were killed in Newtown, yet those hundreds of casualties create no media firestorm.

The reason is that the guns used in those crimes are already illegally acquired, and the Democrats who have run Chicago since forever have failed to control their street-gang wielders. No one currently in power in government or the media wants to call attention to that.

It is also true that Connecticut already has an “assault-weapons ban” nearly identical to the one proposed at the federal level, and the rifle used by the shooter there was legally acquired (by the killer’s mother) under it—which means it was legally determined not to be an “assault rifle,” no matter what the liberals are saying.

Another way to see that no “debate” is occurring is to look at how people who tried to defend their rights under the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms were treated when they dared to say something.

Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association, waited a respectable period of time and then spoke some good sense about the need to protect vulnerable schoolchildren, and he was called every name in the book (and many that most papers wouldn’t print) for daring to defend his (Supreme Court-supported) positions on firearms.

Meanwhile, people calling for the imprisonment and even execution of NRA leaders and members seemed to go without any criticism—or even mention—in the mainstream media.

But, such is the nature of our “tolerant” and “non-violent” elite. It’s odd that when then-President Bill Clinton called for $60 million to be appropriated to put armed guards in schools, he wasn’t held up to liberal scorn.

And it is tiring to hear some of our elected representatives speaking out on topics on which they show no respect whatsoever for the liberties for which our Founders risked “their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor,” and for which hundreds of thousands of Americans died on battlefields all over the world to protect in many wars.

One state official shared her views with us in the Forecaster, a southern Maine weekly, a few days ago. Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, whose daughter Becky died in 2011 (not from guns, but in a hiking accident abroad) was moved to set us all straight on our supposed “rights,” and she’s worth quoting at length:

“If anything good is to happen as a result of Newtown and my response to it, it is to stand up and speak against the tyranny of the gun-worshipping culture of powerful parts of our society, and the fear and tolerance that the rest of our country accords it.”

She went on, “… the fault lies in viewing a mother with an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction as a ‘gun enthusiast,’ and to see nothing inconsistent about this and her description as a good neighbor and citizen.

“I believe that no one in her right mind should acquire and play (on shooting ranges or otherwise) with such tools. It is a sickness to revere these instruments, or at least self-delusional to think they provide self-protection, if that is why this mother bought them. They are far more likely to be used in suicide, accidental shootings (especially by children) or other tragedies. They are not machines of beauty. They are not manly or sexy. No home should contain them. We must teach our children this, and change the thinking of our adults.”

Now, one has to sympathize with any parent who has lost a child for any reason, and Rep. Cooper is entitled to her opinions. But as long as they remain as full of emotion and as bereft of information as this one is, she can’t expect them to be taken seriously by those who know the truth.

First of all, her “argument” utterly ignores the fact that firearms ownership is a basic constitutional right. What would she say if someone said we had to “teach our children” that papers such as the Forecaster had no right to print opinions with which other people (or the government) disagreed?

And with regard to the use of firearms, studies uniformly show that firearms prevent crimes far more often than they cause them (a federal study put the number of crimes halted by firearms display or use at 108,000 a year, more than twice the number of firearms deaths). Others (Professor Gary Kleck of Florida State, et al.) estimate 2 million defensive uses annually, or perhaps even more—most often without a shot being fired, which is why no one ever hears of them.

Clearly, no one is going to be able to take away the hundreds of millions of firearms now in private hands in America or prevent their lawful use.

No laws will be passed to prevent self-defense with firearms; no confiscatory orders will be published (not only would they be widely disobeyed, but few law enforcement agencies would try to enforce them); and no law ever will keep firearms out of the hands of criminals (armed robbery has gone up by nearly 50 percent in England after the private possession of most firearms was banned).

And, despite all the firestorm of criticism, no one will make an open attempt to repeal the Second Amendment. Nobody thinks that Congress would approve such a measure, or that three-fourths of the states would pass it.

Yes, we know that if enough liberal judges can be appointed, the Supreme Court may eventually emasculate it. However, that still remains an unrealized hope in leftist circles—and if they want to start a social movement that would dwarf what happened after Roe v. Wade imposed the Court’s desires about abortion on an unwilling nation, let them try.

What’s happening now is an attempt to stampede Americans to support laws that will restore the utterly ineffective “assault rifle” and “high-capacity magazine” bans passed under Clinton and allowed to expire under Bush.

Interestingly, polls are showing more people like LaPierre’s cops-in-schools idea than support such bans. And certainly people stripping the inventories of gun stores bare are voting with their wallets on the undesirability of more futile “gun control” laws.

The bottom line is that what we have seen in the responses of our national media and many government officials since Newtown has not been a reasoned debate, but is instead a coordinated effort to deny Second Amendment rights to American citizens.

The purpose of the campaign is not gun control, it’s people control.

When the goal after one person kills someone else with a gun is to disarm all the millions of people who didn’t do it, the tyrannical motive behind the rhetoric becomes obvious to anyone not blinded by collectivist ideology.

If we can count on the government to protect us, why did it take the police 20 minutes to get to that Newtown school after the first calls for help were received? You can kill a lot of people in 20 minutes if they can’t fight back, whether you’re using guns or any other lethal weapon, including knives.

Just 20 years ago in Rwanda, 500,000 defenseless people were killed with machetes, knives, clubs and other such weapons. In this country, more people die of knife wounds or beatings with hands, feet or clubs than by “assault rifles”—or rifles of any type.

Most firearm deaths are with handguns, which is why the liberal propaganda machine has switched to “assault weapons” instead, as if semi-auto pistols, which have been in existence for well over a century, were some new invention.

It’s also important to note that those calling the loudest for restrictions on firearms rights quite often have armed guards of their own.

The head of the new presidential task force on firearms is Vice President Joe Biden, a long-time gun-control partisan who benefits from armed Secret Service guards. And people like David Gregory, who as the host of NBC’s Meet the Press program last Sunday mocked the NRA’s LaPierre for demanding armed guards at schools, themselves send their children to schools with substantial security forces.

Gregory’s children go to Sidwell Friends, the same school the Obamas’ daughters attend, so obviously the Secret Service guards them too. But, in addition, the Quaker school’s web site says it has an 11-person security force of its own.

Other prominent media critics work in buildings protected by guards with “assault weapon” semi-auto handguns, and politicians such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and media lords like Rupert Murdock have squads of armed guards.

Yet, they would deny the same kind of protection to everyone else who can’t afford a personal protector’s salary.

What we need more than “gun control” is “crime control.” The convicted killer who shot two firefighters in New York a few days ago had served 17 years for killing his grandmother with a hammer. Yet, he was out on the street to kill again.

I thought the reason we were supposed to oppose the death penalty for murder was that killers would be locked up for life. This one certainly wasn’t, and yet the headline at the top of the front page of the paper Wednesday was focused on the type of gun he used, rather than the utter failure of the “justice system” to keep him off the street.

As Adam Smith said 200 years ago, “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.”

Meanwhile, the truth remains that the best way to stop someone with a gun is to for someone else with a gun to confront them.

The reason that there were only two people killed by a shooter at a mall in Oregon earlier this month is that a shopper with a carry permit (who didn’t know the mall was a “gun-free zone”) confronted the shooter, who promptly shot—himself.

That incident, of course, has not been all over our front pages for the past two weeks. Does anyone wonder why?

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com.


  1. The Second Amendment has been considered an individual right since 2008. In that decision, the Court clearly stated some restrictions are constitutional. District of Columbia vs Heller: ” Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.” Of course, whether restrictions are good or bad public policy is another question.

  2. Many would agree that the Second Amendment has been an individual right since 1791.The sale of firearms is already very highly regulated, as is the right to carry concealed. We can navel-gaze about the myriad laws and regulations and legal interpretations all day. But which public policies do you suggest would stop a mentally ill person from getting someone else’s firearm and killing people with it?

  3. 2008 is the first time the Supreme Court said it was an individual right. As I said below, there will need to be multiple policies, focused around numerous issues. I agree with Harmon that this should include jailing violent criminals. By the way, no one in public office has suggested disarming citizens; instead, they have made proposals about which arms and ammunition they may use.

  4. “The Second Amendment has been considered an individual right since 2008” The right to arms has been considered a constitutional right since 1791 and a natural right since the first colonists entered this land. The SCOTUS confirmed that interpretation in 2008.
    There is no way to claim that semi-automatic rifles are not arms “in common use.” There are tens of million of them in use in the country and at least 800 AR-15s a day in Maine from one manufacturer alone, that I am aware of.

  5. Amy Fried We don’t need more regulations about specific firearms and ammunition. We need more common sense. Most liberals are very uncomfortable and terribly misinformed about the vast array of arms and ammunition that is available to the public (and those that are not available to the public). Just because liberals have an irrational and emotional fear of these things doesn’t justify creating more and more laws trying to restrict them for responsible citizens.

    Common sense dictates that a properly licensed citizen should be able to carry a firearm anywhere they please, whether it is a school, mall, government office, Applebee’s, Starbucks or college campus. Many, many people carry firearms in these places every day, responsibly and without incident. These are not the folks you need to punish by stripping them of certain kinds of ammo and firearms that you fear.

    Of course, that kind of common sense doesn’t fit with the kind of utopian society that liberals so desperately yearn for. They don’t want a society that is “unfair” or “unequal” or “unjust.” They don’t want people who have earned wealth to have a better life than those who haven’t. They don’t want to live in a society that allows firearms around (gasp!) children. They don’t even want to keep score at kids’ games, and they definitely don’t want to give trophies only to the winners. They want to live in Candyland, where a “Gun-Free Zone” sign and dozens of regulations written in a law book somewhere will prevent evil.

    Therefore, they will churn and burn to tax, regulate and restrict anything that makes them uncomfortable or upsets them emotionally (like the wealth earned by “rich” people or the cigarettes smoked by poor people).

    We would be happy to take the professor, as well as any member of Maine’s woefully uninformed media, to the range to demonstrate why banning certain kinds of ammo and firearms, but allowing all other kinds, will not stop evil people from doing unspeakably evil things to rest of us.

    Had the killer in N.Y. used a bolt-action .30-06 hunting rifle with a five-round magazine, he undoubtedly would have killed all 4 firefighters. He also could have used the shotgun and .38 pistol. Neither the shotgun, hunting rifle or .38 (or ammo for them) will be banned. We would be glad to demonstrate their effectiveness alongside the type of weapons and ammo you would like to see restricted or banned.

    Doing online research about arms and ammunition is hardly the same thing as using them in the real world.

  6. Brendan, Heller is consistently described as a landmark case. June 27, 2008: “The Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s ban on handgun possession yesterday and decided for the first time in the nation’s history that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun for self-defense. The court’s landmark 5 to 4 decision split along ideological grounds and wiped away years of lower court decisions that had held that the intent of the amendment, ratified more than 200 years ago, was to tie the right of gun possession to militia service.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/26/AR2008062600615.html The case law and coverage of the case bear that out.

  7. Hi!

    That is correct. No one is assigned to protect my family or others for the most part.

    Rather than more gun laws, how about examining the many psychiatric drugs that are responsible for the many suicides, aggression, violence, murders, etc?

    Thank you!

  8. you and I (as well as my 4 sisters) have wondered the same thing. Too many new and so-called great drugs have been given to people w/o paying much attention to possible psychopathic side-effects. Of course the drug companies don’t want to lose any money. Sorry, I’m a bit drunk but I just lost my grandma to dementia/old age on Christmas and my dad(her son) died barely 24 hrs. later from cancer. Instead of gun control maybe we should have better drug control. I’ve read some of the side effects of RA meds and anti-depressant drugs. The so-called cure for something can back fire big time. My dad’s cat scans were clear in April of this year. More investigation should be done w/o government involvement.

  9. It’s mostly liberal public policies that have created these situations. These policies prevent society from institutionalizing mentally ill people, even though they are clearly a danger to society.

    These policies allow some criminals, killers and rapists to walk free after serving only fragments of their sentences.

    These policies restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens from owning and/or carrying firearms, but do nothing to prevent criminals from using firearms illegally. The places with the strictest gun laws (N.Y., L.A., Chicago) have the highest crime rates in the nation.

    The liberal media promote these policies while ignoring the tens of millions of people who own, use and possess firearms responsibly every single day. The media and academic elite have virtually no understanding about the use, manufacture or type of firearms that they vilify.

    They don’t know the difference between a.45 Long Colt and a.45 ACP or a.41 and a.410. They don’t know the difference between a bolt action, pump action and lever action. They most certainly don’t know the difference between semi-automatic and automatic firearms.

    If the Newtown killer used two handguns with 8-round capacities, he could have killed 16 children instead of 20. Had he used the shotgun, rather than the “assault rifle,” he could have killed more victims. Somehow, banning 30-round magazines and “assault weapons” makes this acceptable to liberals.

    The off-duty cop who happened to swing by to check out the fire in N.Y. had his firearm and shot at the killer, ending the attack. Sadly, two firefighters were killed. But more surely would have died had the good guy with the gun not shot at the bad guy with the gun.

    In the Oregon mall shooting, a properly licensed civilian simply pointed his handgun at the shooter, prompting the shooter to kill himself. Two died, but again, the good guy with the gun certainly prevented further tragedy—and he never had to fire a shot. The media quickly buries or ignores any story that highlights the positive, responsible use of firearms.

    Liberal policies, strict gun laws and “Gun-Free Zone” signs failed those poor little children. So did police, who took 20 minutes to arrive. Surely, those heroic teachers and horrified children were praying that a good guy with a gun would show up a lot faster than that.

    Had teachers who were properly licensed allowed to carry their firearms in school, perhaps the Newtown tragedy could have been prevented. Perhaps. We’ll never know, will we?

    Prof. Fried comments about “prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.” Is a revolver bullet less dangerous than a shotgun pellet? Is a. 223 more or less lethal than a.22 magnum at close range? What is an “unusual weapon,” a box cutter, a hammer or a shod foot? Is a kitchen knife or baseball bat considered a “dangerous weapon?” Maine has a high rate of gun ownership, low rate of gun violence and the highest rate of stabbings in the country.

    Perhaps we should limit knives to 4 inches and ban 6- or 8-inch knives. Would that reduce the stabbings in Maine? The liberal logic (or illogic) about crime, punishment and firearms is absolutely astounding.

    Finally, all of these arguments are moot. M.D. Harmon nails it: gun control isn’t about controlling guns. It’s about our “benevolent” government, academic elitists, liberal politicians and their lapdog media trying to control the populace. Fortunately, that dusty old piece of paper they so abhor—the United States Constitution—is still standing in their way.

    The Second Amendment provides the right of civilians to arm themselves against an oppressive government—especially if that government is their own.

  10. “”Prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons” is a quote from the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2008 Heller case. The words are Justice’s Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion. And, no, the Second Amendment does not give civilians the right to attack government officials; that is outlawed by numerous state and federal laws.

  11. @Amy Fried Yes, we know the quote is Scalia’s. But you parroted it in your comments, which is why we directed it at you. Killing innocent children and other people with illegally obtained firearms is outlawed by numerous state and federal laws, too. But it still happens. Which public policies do you suggest would prevent this, other than banning inanimate metal objects and restricting the rights of millions and millions of law-abiding citizens because of the actions of a few mentally deranged individuals?

  12. I think we need multiple policies. These won’t be free; better mental health care, for instance, would be quite costly. I am still reading research on gun laws in the U.S. and elsewhere, but right now it looks like a good policy for that area would involve regulating large magazines and ammunition. State and local regulations don’t seem to be very effective, so the solution would have to be national. However, this is a very complex problem and there are no easy answers. One thing is very clear: There is no single constitutional right that is without restrictions. Scalia explicitly recognized that fundamental reality.

  13. It would seem that Amy’s brain is fried. Tell you what “aimless”, if you and I are in the same place and someone else starts shooting at us I’ll shoot back to defend myself and you are on your own.

  14. Dear Maine Wire, It’s not usual to see a group that calls itself a think tank call upon “common sense” over rigorous empirical research and legal analysis. Your discussion based on “common sense” includes a wide mix of empirically unsupported and false stereotypes about people with whom you disagree. Should your think tank wish to operate that way, it’s your business.

    However, research demonstrates that this approach doesn’t form a basis for the listening and conversation necessary to forge meaningful and productive compromises, particularly when your faction is in the political minority. Nor does it help one persuade others to support one’s candidates and positions.

    With an issue this complex, I bet everyone agrees with everyone else about something that could be done. But that won’t be discovered by painting one’s opponents in starkly negative terms and overlooking the bases of agreement.

  15. Amy Fried “Rigorous empirical research and legal analysis” have failed to come up with a reasonable approach to “gun control” that does not trample the rights of law-abiding citizens. Nor has it prevented senseless gun violence in virtual war zones like your beloved president’s hometown of Chicago.

    We are commenting casually about gun control on a blog, not taking an official stance as a think tank. MHPC does not take an official stand on “gun control.” That is not the focus of MHPC, nor will it ever be.

    However, we will debate any and all issues that arise in columns, stories or readers’ comments on the Wire—if that’s okay with you. We are affiliated with no “faction” and we don’t support candidates. You are making “empirically unsupported” accusations about us and perpetuating “false stereotypes” because you disagree with us.

    Don’t confuse a free-wheeling comment thread with the excellent policy work that MHPC does. CEO Scott Moody now has a blog on Bangor Daily News; you can see his policy discussions there. You can also see a decade’s worth of analysis, reports and well-documented policy positions on the MHPC website.

    As for “painting one’s opponents in starkly negative terms,” you don’t seem to be above the fray, blaming us for “Heritage hackery.” Why is it okay for liberals to cast aspersions and use derogatory terms about people they disagree with, but it’s not okay for conservatives to criticize them?

    We are quite familiar with the research and legal analysis surrounding firearms, as well as the actual use of them. However, we strongly suspect that all of your knowledge comes from someone else’s legal opinions, biased news stories and anecdotal hysteria. If you want to get your nose out of case law and try some real live firearms in the real world, let us know.

    Heaven forbid, it might just change your perspective.

  16. @[709405437:2048:Amy Fried] ….Like many of your kind, you are fixated by guns; not the causes of violent behavior or the origins of personal animosity or the eventual hatred and class warfare which eventually follows.

    Nor does waving the ‘flag’ of ’empirical research and legal analysis’ do much for the discussion, since all the factors need to be weighed in a political forum and you obviously seek to overturn the legal restrictions of the Second Amendment…you can’t weasel out of it can you no matter how much ‘legal analysis’ you attempt to conduct as a non-lawyer?

  17. Amazing what liberals have done with Free Speech and the imputed right to privacy—unless you’re tracking an opponent, of course.

    The Court has repeatedly said that FREE SPEECH is not an unmitigated, but when it’s used to make and distribute the violent games which encouraged mass murder, why is it always the ‘gun’s fault’ when a player steps from virtual reality to a classroom?


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