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Jewish World Review Sept. 23, 1999 /13 Tishrei, 5760

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez
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Why I own a gun -- EVERY TIME some homicidal maniac with a gun starts shooting people, especially children, I start rethinking my opposition to gun control. Last week's blood bath at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas, was no exception. I own guns -- two handguns, a .357 magnum and a .22, and my husband is considering buying a rifle to hunt deer. But with every mass shooting, I ask myself whether the gun-control advocates aren't right after all.

I purchased my first revolver some 25 years ago, after my husband was mugged on the streets of Washington, D.C. The only time I had occasion to use it to protect myself, I couldn't get to it in time. A young male intruder snuck into my house through a door carelessly left unlocked. He hid in a corner of my front hall while I was putting my newborn son down for a nap in the bassinet in my living room.

Luckily, I saw the man out of the corner of my eye as I walked toward the kitchen, but the gun was upstairs, with a trigger lock on it. Without letting the intruder know I'd seen him, I walked directly to the kitchen, picked up the phone, and called the police. Only then did I turn to face the young man, all 6 feet 4 inches of him, looming over me, now standing in the middle of the living room.

I have no idea what his intentions were. As soon as I informed him the police were on their way, he acted as if I had insulted him grievously and calmly walked out the front door through which he'd entered. When he hit the sidewalk, he began running. The police came a few minutes later, but never caught him, despite my careful, detailed description.

I sometimes wonder what I would have done if my gun had been nearby. I like to think I would have remained calm -- even with a gun in hand -- and done pretty much what I did without one, which was to summon help from the police. Oddly, even the knowledge that I had a gun upstairs probably emboldened me not to scream when I saw the man lurking in my hall. One of the more careful studies of the subject, by University of Chicago professor John Lott, suggests that some 2 million crimes are averted every year because the potential victim is armed.

Still, the mounting carnage from Wedgewood Baptist Church, the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, Columbine High School, and on and on, begs some response. But what? Al Gore and most of the Democrats in Congress blame Republicans for failing to pass new gun-control legislation, as if the bills they propose could possibly have prevented any of these specific tragedies, even if they had been enacted before the killings.

In fact, most of the killers in these high-profile mass murders obtained their guns illegally, even under current law. The one exception -- Larry Ashbrook, who killed seven people at the Baptist church in Ft. Worth last week before taking his own life -- would not have been prevented from legally purchasing the guns he used by any of the proposed bills.

It would be wonderful if we could pass a law that kept guns out of the hands of murderers and other criminals. But I don't know of one that could -- short of a total ban on all firearms in private possession, which would require repealing the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution and confiscating the more than 200 million guns now in private hands in the United States.

The prospect of more mass shootings is frightening, but so is the idea of the government attempting to seize every privately owned gun. Even if it were possible for the government to commandeer every gun in the country, do we really want the assault on civil liberties such a plan would entail?

Prohibiting guns today would be about as successful as prohibiting alcohol was in the '20s.

I hope I never have to use my gun for self-protection. But living as I now do, in an isolated rural area, I can't count on the police to come to my rescue if I ever encounter another intruder. So long as there are criminals out there, I feel safer knowing that I can protect myself. And until someone can figure out a way to make all guns magically disappear, I'll keep mine, no matter how guilty I may sometimes feel.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate