The Senseless Death in a Charleston Church Could Have Been Prevented


Every time an American community suffers a tragedy involving a firearm, the anti-gun crowd unveils itself in full tribal dress.

Wednesday night, a 21-year-old sandy blonde-haired white man with blue jeans and Timberland boots walked into a historically black church in Charleston, S.C. and killed 9 people.  That’s a horrible, murderous act, made worse by the fact that the man is still at large.

The New York Times reported S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s statement about the tragedy.

“While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another,” the governor said. “Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers.”

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney was among those killed.  Pinckney was a S.C. state senator, a Democrat who served since 1998, was on the Corrections and Penology and Education committees, among others.

His voting record indicates that he was not a supporter of expanding gun rights for S.C. citizens.

In 2014, he voted against S.308, which Haley signed in law, allowing a Concealed Weapons Permit holder to carry firearms into restaurants that serve alcohol, while preserving the restaurant owner’s right to ban individuals carrying firearms in their establishment.

Current S.C. state law prohibits permitted individuals from carrying a weapon in a church (S.C. Code Ann § 21-31-215).

This year, the S.C. house passed H.3025, which would have rescinded that prohibition.  The measure was not voted on by the full senate, but it’s likely Pinckney would have voted against it.  A bill like that could have saved his life.

Conservative blogger and fellow Georgia resident Erick Erickson noted that it’s inappropriate to respond to a tragedy like this with anti-gun invective, and he’s absolutely right.

But we should note that it’s illegal for anyone to carry a gun in a church in Charleston, so there was no opportunity for the congregation to defend itself.  Unless someone in that church was committing a felony on their own, they were all sitting ducks, just like the moviegoers in Aurora.

We can expect all the typical liberal anti-gun folks to parade this mass murder as another reason for the government to confiscate all guns.  They’ll rail on about the “Second Amendment myth,” as the Daily Kos* did in 2012 after the Aurora tragedy, citing Federalist Paper #29 to discredit our nation’s founders’ intent that the citizenry be armed.  They quote Alexander Hamilton (who served as Gen. Washington’s aide during the Revolutionary War) out of context and twist his own words worse than Hamilton’s rebuke of those who argued against the Constitution itself.

n reading many of the publications against the Constitution, a man is apt to imagine that he is perusing some ill-written tale or romance, which instead of natural and agreeable images, exhibits to the mind nothing but frightful and distorted shapes —

“Gorgons, hydras, and chimeras dire”;

discoloring and disfiguring whatever it represents, and transforming everything it touches into a monster.

James Madison wrote in Federalist #46 that our nation, as an experiment in self-government, should allow citizens to defend their own rights.

Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures which must precede and produce it.

There is no right more precious than the right to one’s own life.

In Georgia, where I live, Georgia Weapons Carry License holders may carry firearms in a church, in the absence of a church policy prohibiting firearms, or in the case of that policy, by individual exception and permission.  At my church, I know for a fact that some people are carrying firearms concealed on their persons.  These people have permission to do so.  They serve as citizens defending our rights.

Were anyone to walk into our church when it’s packed with worshippers with the intention of harming us, I am fairly certain that individual would be met with equal and neutralizing force.  In other words, we’d shoot him dead.

Were Pinckney alive now to see the carnage left by a criminal attacking defenseless parishioners, he might arrive at the same question that longtime crime journalist Jeffrey Goldberg posed writing in The Atlantic in the wake of the Aurora mass shooting.

Which raises a question: When even anti-gun activists believe that the debate over private gun ownership is closed; when it is too late to reduce the number of guns in private hands—and since only the naive think that legislation will prevent more than a modest number of the criminally minded, and the mentally deranged, from acquiring a gun in a country absolutely inundated with weapons—could it be that an effective way to combat guns is with more guns?

Perhaps if liberals would open their minds to the fact that guns are an inseparable part of American culture because they were intended to be so by our founding fathers, and there is no reversing this foundational element of our experiment in government, they would stop all the howling about gun “rights” every time a criminal commits a horrendous crime.

It is an unexamined assumption on the part of gun-control activists that the possession of a firearm by a law-abiding person will almost axiomatically cause that person to fire it at another human being in a moment of stress. Dave Kopel, the research director of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, in Denver, posits that opposition to gun ownership is ideological, not rational. “I use gay marriage as an analogue,” he said. “Some people say they are against gay marriage because they think it leads to worse outcomes for kids. Now, let’s say in 2020 all the social-science evidence has it that the kids of gay families turn out fine. Some people will still say they’re against it, not for reasons of social science, but for reasons of faith. That’s what you have here in the gun issue.”

There is no proof to support the idea that concealed-carry permit holders create more violence in society than would otherwise occur; they may, in fact, reduce it. According to Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA and the author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, permit holders in the U.S. commit crimes at a rate lower than that of the general population. “We don’t see much bloodshed from concealed-carry permit holders, because they are law-abiding people,” Winkler said. “That’s not to say that permit holders don’t commit crimes, but they do so at a lower rate than the general population. People who seek to obtain permits are likely to be people who respect the law.” According to John Lott, an economist and a gun-rights advocate who maintains that gun ownership by law-abiding citizens helps curtail crime, the crime rate among concealed-carry permit holders is lower than the crime rate among police officers.

It’s time to wake up to the reality:  criminals commit crimes, and gun laws deprive law-abiding citizens of their ability to defend themselves from criminals.  There is no way to create a gun-free society in America, even if the Second Amendment were repealed (something I cannot imagine, myself), without massive bloodshed—essentially another civil war.  Criminals will always be able to access firearms—by stealing them, illegally buying them, or even legally buying them and then committing a crime.

The best way to counter criminals with guns is through citizens with guns.

If only H.3025 had passed in May, possibly nine lives in Charleston, including Pinckney’s, could have been saved.

(image source: Shutterstock)

*No I won’t link to Daily Kos, Google it yourself.

(crossposted from sgberman.com)