Expanding gun rights will not lead to more deaths

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Like all law-abiding gun owners I would be quite pleased if a well trained law enforcement officer were present in my home or at my side if I were ever to find myself or a loved one under attack by someone with a weapon or size disparity advancing and indicating a threat to my life or limb. Unfortunately home invasions and attacks in shopping malls, office Christmas parties, or parking lots seldom occur if the perpetrator of the attack sees an armed officer at the scene. In fact, in almost all shots fired incidents, the victim of the attack is the only potential responder to the attack.

Iowa may soon join 33 states that have Stand Your Ground laws and 13 states that have pending legislation that would add this codification of a law-abiding citizen’s right to defend themselves or their loved ones in the event of a deadly force attack. These laws do not allow law-abiding citizens to shoot someone who is just verbally threatening, or who “looks scary” or is “acting strange”. The person who stands his or her ground and uses potential deadly force must find himself or herself in a situation where the attacker has indicated intent to do harm and has the means — a knife, gun, club, or great size disparity advantage — and who is advancing despite demands by the intended victim to stop. An unarmed but physically powerful person who attacks a 75 year old during commission of a burglary for instance could easily overpower and badly injure or kill the victim but such incidents have been stopped when the elderly intended victim defends himself or herself with a gun. Previous Iowa law required that they must attempt to retreat, and when trapped in a hallway or bedroom this may be physically impossible for the would-be victim.

Each time the proponents of gun control are unsuccessful in attacking the Second Amendment rights they announce that more gun means more deaths. In fact, the murder rate per 100,000 citizens in the United States peaked in 1991 and according to FBI data, has dropped significantly despite the fact that many more guns and many more concealed carry licenses are present in the population today. The threat of “Wild West gunfights in the streets” has not emerged in Iowa, and seems to occur mostly in large cities such as Chicago where gang wars seem to be the primary driver according to law enforcement there. The FBI did 2,043,184 background checks in January. Anyone who has a previous felony conviction, drug related arrests, or even a restraining order, if the local law enforcement is sending those names to the FBI instant Background Check System, would not pass a background check and would be unable to legally buy a gun. A recent study in Chicago questioning prisoners about how long it would take them to get a weapon on the street revealed that they steal the gun or purchase a stolen gun from other criminals. There were 111 guns stolen from shipments on trains in Chicago in 2015 alone. Background checks have been largely ineffective and seem only to make the law-abiding citizen fill out more forms to legally purchase a gun.

The number of women who purchase guns and the number of black Americans applying for and taking the training for concealed carry is growing. This is understandable given that these two groups are often the victims of criminal attacks. The number of law-abiding citizens taking appropriate training, and spending time at the shooting range ensuring their ability to handle a weapon safely and to be accurate should they ever be required to defend themselves, is growing steadily.

It is interesting that the national news has recently reported at least two situations where a law-abiding citizen with a permit to carry has intervened in a situation where a policeman was being assaulted by a criminal and the citizen after warning the criminal to stop, then shot the perpetrator saving the policeman’s life. The myth that a good guy with a gun has never stopped a bad guy with a gun is just that, a myth proposed repeatedly by those who favor gun control over control of the criminals carrying out these attacks. The gun is inert. The person controlling the gun must make the decision to shoot. Blaming the gun is like blaming the car in a drunken-driving fatality.

Contrary to Jacqueline Watkins’ guest column assertion that every gun owner will “become a judge”, (“When every gun owner becomes a judge,” March 19). I believe every law-abiding gun owner will continue to hope they will never be forced to defend themselves or another innocent person with their gun. No one “wins” in a gunfight, the best you can hope for is you will survive the event. The legislation before the Senate merely clarifies some of the things not covered in the Castle doctrine. It is not a “game changer” giving the green light to gunfights in the street.

• Albert Cram, of Iowa City, is a retired surgeon who has safely employed guns for hunting and shooting sports since age 7.

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