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Jewish World Review Oct. 1, 2001 / 14 Tishrei, 5762

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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A changed attitude about gun control -- KEEPING up with the changes in the political landscape as America girds for war could give a person whiplash. The old bedrock assumptions about defense and domestic spending, rights to "privacy" and the operation of law enforcement, even opinions on criminal profiling are changing with lightening speed.

So too has there been another, though as yet perhaps little noted shift: our view of guns. I should say the fashionable circle's view of guns. After all, there are some 200 million firearms in the United States, the vast majority of which are legally owned.

Nevertheless, every time there is any kind of an assault with firearms against innocents, we inevitably hear that more gun control is the "answer" because, according to these folks, guns are the root of all crime and mayhem. Usually there's an attempt, often successful, at more gun control initiatives. Those who vote for the measures probably feel better and more safe - until the next time.

Then came the horror of Sept. 11. What few have ventured to point out is that in this entire calamitous crime, throughout this act of war and terrorism like our country has never seen before, not a single gun was used. So much for seeing guns as the problem, and gun control as the solution, to whatever heinous atrocities come our way.

At the same time, Americans also want to feel safer and they want to protect their children - which is why this time they are emptying guns stores, fast. Six eastern states, presumably those with populations who feel most vulnerable as a result of the recent attacks and including several, like New York, which have lead the way in strictly controlling guns, report that gun sales are soaring. And don't you know that more than a few of the purchasers, who would have been aghast at such a thought just a few weeks ago, are sheepishly purchasing them.

No, guns may not exactly protect their carriers against terrorists - then again, they might - but people are voting with their wallets. And they are saying they feel safer with guns than with those who would "protect" them by limiting or ending their ability to get a firearm. In fact, we may be witnessing a change from "gun as menace" to "gun as marvel" mentality. Consider the call for sky marshals on airlines, and now the plea from the Airline Pilots Association that pilots be allowed to pack heat during flights. I'm not exactly sure how the pilots would both fend off hijackers with a firearm and fly the plane, but I think the larger and well-founded point is one of deterrence.

People everywhere, including criminals on the street and even suicidal hijackers, at some level make rational calculations. If the hijackers had thought for a moment that anyone on the plane, captain or otherwise, was at all likely to be armed and ready to use a gun, they almost certainly would not have attempted their deed - not out of a sense of self-preservation in this case, but simply out of knowledge their plot would fail.

In fact, talk of arming pilots and the extent to which we're putting air marshals on planes may be one reason they will almost certainly not attempt this particular route of terrorism again.

Yes, they will likely try other avenues to terrorism against which guns may not protect or even deter. But the larger point is that in times of peace and prosperity, society has the luxury of turning down its collectively turned up nose on those who would protect themselves and their families with firearms. But in time of war reality and a desire for self-preservation surfaces, while fashion goes out the window.

Sure, there are other things to focus on right now. But when the smoke finally clears, we'll notice something else on the new political landscape: that it will be a long, long time before Gun Control Inc. dares to advocate curbs on the Second Amendment again.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2001, Scripps Howard News Service