On Friday, July 6, about 1030pm, two armed suspects attempted an armed robbery of the Meadow Maid Dairy, at 1355 West Willow Street in Long Beach.
The owner, Mean Kim (a native of Cambodia) happened to be working that night and also happened to be in legal possession of a loaded and concealed handgun. Kim's possession of that handgun, and his willingness and ability to use it, appear to have helped him prevent the robbery and may well have saved his life.
A fairly good synopsis of the incident, including an interview with Mr. Kim and store video footage filmed during the incident, can be found here:
Blaming the gun, rather than the criminal:
Many folks are avidly, almost rabidly, anti-gun. I understand this. I do not agree with most of the reasons they offer for their position, but I respect their right to take that position nonetheless.
While discussing the thwarted robbery in Long Beach recently, an acquaintance (we'll call him "Chuck") said a few things that I thought seemed fairly representative of those who believe as he does. I'll paraphrase some of his comments here and offer my responses:
Chuck: People seem to think they need guns because everyone else is running around with a gun.
Response: Extrapolated from a 2011 Gallup poll on the subject, about 34% of Americans own a gun. While this is, indeed, a significant number of people, there are still many more people in the U.S. who do not own a gun than who do own one.
Chuck: People seem to have forgotten the Seal Beach massacre, Columbine, and all the gang shootings.
Response: Gun crimes are commited by criminals, not by law abiding citizens who are meeting their personal responsibilites concerning legal gun ownership. Had someone in Salon Meritage or at Columbine been legally carrying a firearm and knew how to use it, those despicable modern day examples of mass-murder may well have been far less deadly than either one of them eventually became.
Chuck: What about all of the accidental deaths from gunshot wounds?
Response: Gun accidents usually occur because people sometimes handle and/or store firearms negligently or otherwise improperly. Most gun accidents can be prevented through increased education, training, and more responsible gun handling and storage.
Chuck: Why do so many people feel they are in so much danger, or that they might be at some point in their lives, where they might need a gun?
Response: The FBI reported that in 2010 (most recent complete figures available), on average, a violent crime occurred somewhere in the U.S. every 25.3 seconds, an aggravated assault every 40.5 seconds, a robbery every 1.4 minutes, a forcible rape every 6.2 minutes, and a murder every 35.6 minutes.
Perhaps these are valid reasons that some folks feel they are in danger.
In California in 2010, victims reported 164,163 violent crimes. That was an average of about 450 violent crimes somewhere in our State every single day and those are just the crimes that were actually reported.
Perhaps this is another valid reason that some folks feel they are in danger.
Almost all major news outlets tend to follow the editorial philosophy that "if it bleeds, it leads", meaning that the more violence, of any sort, they can report to the public and the more often, the better. Violent crimes are the daily lead stories in nearly every media market and across all media platforms.
Perhaps these are also valid reasons that some folks feel they are in danger.
Chuck: We would all be a lot happier with gun control.
Response: We do have gun control. Between the hundreds of federal laws and regulations, and the hundreds of laws and regulations in each State and most localities, I would say we have tons of gun control and yet, in the U.S., criminals still commit tens of thousands of gun-related crimes each year.
Clearly either: The gun control laws and regulations we have are ineffective; We are not fully enforcing the laws we have; We are not imposing severe enough penalties upon those who are convicted of gun crimes; or some combination of some or all of these.
Guns are not for everyone:
I am not so pro-gun as to believe that nearly every person should own one. Owning a firearm is a very personal choice and, perhaps more importantly, a very personal commitment and serious responsibility. People who choose to avail themselves of their legal right to own a firearm should also be willing to learn how to use it in a lawful manner, to train with it to at least a minimum level of proficiency, and to maintain, store, and transport it properly when not actually in use.
These are all very serious responsibilities that not everyone is willing or, in some cases, even able to meet. Such people should certainly not own a firearm.
My purpose, here, is not to try to convince anyone who is anti-gun to change his or her mind, nor to recruit new members for the National Rifle Association or any other such group.
My goal is to try to offer some factual information that some folks -like "Chuck" there- may not be fully aware of as relates to the people's individual right to keep and bear arms and how often each year folks in the United States legally defend theselves or others using firearms.
Guns in defense of self and others:
This year, CATO published an excellent, comprehensive, and very even-handed, report on this topic entitled "Tough Targets, When Criminals Face Armed Resistance from Citizens." (Cramer and Burnett, 2012) The report can be found here:
I've attached a .pdf copy of this report to this column as well.
The report ties together a considerable amount of research from various credible sources and, I think, can help the reader understand that while no study is definitive and no statistical analysis is entirely immune from critique, many, many people in the U.S. use firearms each year to legally defend themselves and others, just like Mr. Kim did on July 6th.
The report concludes, in part:
"Policymakers interested in harm reduction should thus refrain from treating ordinary gun owners as hoodlums or loose cannons and adopt policies that respect the ownership and carrying of arms by responsible individuals."
I very much welcome your questions and comments.