by John H. Trentes


As a practical matter, it is not necessary, desirable, or for that matter even possible to form communities where guns are absent, banned or taboo. My counterpart, Jon Wallace suggests that individuals could form a little gun free zone called "Walden Township" where the citizens could mutually agree that guns don't belong in their community. He posed the theme in these words:

2. Practicalities. A scheme of regulation in which guns are considered an environmental problem, and the people who want them collaborate with the people who don't to avoid forcing the latter to share their lifestyle, seems completely practical to me.

My reply to Mr. Wallace's proposal is that we've already got such a scheme of regulation, if you want to call it that. It's called personal choice. I choose to own guns. Mr. Wallace chooses not to. It's perfectly fine with me if some people choose not to own guns. That seems completely practical to me. Jon has described guns as an "environmental problem". I suppose if the mere sight of guns caused him emotional distress, he would have a legitimate complaint to lodge about the presence of the guns themselves, but I doubt that's the case. I doubt this because Mr. Wallace isn't making an argument about the presence of guns, but rather about the presence of other things, namely, crime and violence. Mr. Wallace is proposing that an individual should be able to choose to live in a community with less potential for crime and violence and he characterizes that community, his "Walden Township", as one that has disarmed itself by mutual consent. His implication is that a community with no firearms would necessarily be a safer place to live.

If Jon were to offer me the gift of a nice split-level ranch home on Charles E. Schumer Street in Walden Township, I would have to politely turn him down. Not because I prefer to own guns. Not because I would feel out of place living in such a community. I would decline because I'd be scared to death to live in a place that is generally known to be unarmed. Criminals would love this place. They'd be merrily robbing, raping and killing the good folk of Walden Township faster than you could say "Take what you want, but don't hurt my wife!"

I have a revolutionary concept to propose: maybe the "environmental problem" isn't guns or any other implement that could be misused to harm others. Maybe the real problem is that in any given population of human beings, some people are nice and follow the Golden Rule, and others are nasty self-centered iconoclastic sons-of-bitches. And the latter class tends to feast upon the former.

Now if Jon could figure out a way to construct a community where everyone agreed not to be a nasty self-centered iconoclastic son-of-a-bitch, I'd move there fast enough to impress Mario Andretti.

But this kind of wishful thinking is about what "ought" to be. Let's talk about what "is".

In 1987, the Florida State legislature passed a groundbreaking new law that required the state to issue permits to private citizens to carry concealed firearms. Between the years 1987 and 1997, an additional 25 states enacted "shall issue" carry permit laws, and an additional 17 states have or have enacted discretionary "may issue" carry laws.

In Florida, between October 1, 1987 and August 31, 1997 the state issued a total of 457,299 concealed carry permits to private citizens. In that same time period, only 602 licenses were revoked due to misuse of the firearms. (Which is a revocation rate of 0.13%, and none of these, by the way involved murders.) When you compare this to the number of driver's licenses that are revoked each year. (Not to mention the death toll due to misuse of motor vehicles!) The presence of guns in the pockets of the citizens of Florida hardly posed an "environmental problem."

Furthermore, the effect on the criminal population in Florida was pronounced. Crimes against persons fell sharply, while crimes against property rose. Since property can be replaced, I find that to be an acceptable trade.

Here's another "is".

If Jon Wallace prefers to live in a place where there are no guns, I respect his choice. He's a free man and that's up to him. I challenge him, however, to find such a place. (The North Pole doesn't count.) The technology to manufacture firearms exists in every corner of the globe. Assuming a government could reliably seize every single gun within its borders, and heave them in the sea, they would only be gone for the period of time it would take to make new ones. This is not to say that eradication of guns would be a desirable goal, but merely to point out the practicality of the matter.

All of this discussion is really unnecessary, though.

If someone really wants to live in Walden Township, all he has to do is decide that his home will be unarmed. Nobody will force him to accept the ownership of a gun. Not me, his neighbor. Not the police. Not the government.

And I wish that resident peace and safety, especially from that shadowy figure lurking outside his livingroom window; safety from the nasty self-centered iconoclastic son-of-a-bitch who knows he has nothing to fear from anyone who lives in Walden Township.