Alexander: Alcohol, Guns, and Prohibition

A homicide victim is far more likely to be murdered by an assailant using a knife, blunt object, or fists than by a rifle of any type.

“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.” —Patrick Henry (1788)

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the iconoclastic sociologist-turned-senator from New York, once famously remarked, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Equally on point was this similar observation by my fellow Reagan administration Patriot, Bill Bennett: “We all have a right to our opinion, but that doesn’t make all opinions right.”

Their observations bring me to a recent newspaper op-ed in which a local columnist exercised her right to publish an above-the-fold opinion arguing that “assault weapons”1 should only be authorized for military use. (She also objected to handguns2 for self-defense.)

Predictably, her column was published in the wake of the attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

Like all of us, she was horrified by these high-profile mass murders committed by sociopathic assailants using what she called “military style” rifles. But our emotional response should be tempered and informed by the facts, chief among those being that such attacks are extremely rare in a country of 330 million people, representing only a fraction of 1% of our nation’s homicides.

Put another way, a homicide victim is far more likely to be murdered by an assailant using a knife, blunt object, or fists than by a rifle of any type.

Like me, I’m sure that this columnist considers ALL violence against innocents abhorrent, regardless of what weapon is used, particularly the epidemic of murders occurring in the urban poverty centers institutionalized by failed social policies of her Democrat Party. But like most of her demographic, she is predisposed to think violence is a “gun problem” rather than a complex cultural problem. Just take the guns away — problem solved!

So why am I rebutting a local op-ed columnist? For two reasons.

First, because her views reflect those of many influential women in affluent suburban communities. And second, because she began her column alluding to a conversation she had “sitting at the bar,” which, with its expensive boutique whiskeys and wines, is where most “enlightened” gun-control insights originate. I could not pass on the irony of discussing gun control over a glass (or more) of alcohol.

Let me start with the sobering CDC statistic that there were more than 88,000 deaths due to alcohol-related causes last year — including 9,967 traffic fatalities. Many women and children are among the victims. There is also a significant increase in alcohol-related deaths among women. As the Journal of the American Medical Association reports, one in eight Americans is an alcoholic according to the clinical definition of it.

Alcohol, in fact, is the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. after tobacco and heart disease, and just ahead of the 70,000 deaths due to drug overdoses.

By comparison, according to the latest annual FBI crime statistics, 10,982 Americans were killed by assailants using firearms (and I note that many of those likely involved alcohol). Less than 2% of homicides involved rifles and shotguns of any type. There are so few murders with “assault rifles” that the FBI data doesn’t distinguish that type of weapon in its records. Rifles and shotguns are the least likely weapon to be used in a violent crime.

As I’ve noted before, if you’re not associated with criminal enterprises, drugs, or gangs, your chances of becoming a murder victim are very low.

Now, I haven’t used alcohol in any form over my entire adult life. But despite the disproportionate number of those who die from alcohol versus those who die from firearms, I’m not opposed to the legal and responsible sale, possession, and use of alcohol, whether it be beer, wine, or the latest fashionable “hard stuff.” The key words here are “legal and responsible,” and I fully support this columnist’s right to use the hard stuff if she chooses to do so — without an FBI background check.

(For the record, what I do not support is prohibition. That didn’t work with alcohol, and it won’t work with firearms. Only law-abiding citizens abide by the law in its finest print, but alcohol prohibition made a nation of otherwise law-abiding citizens lawless. Gun prohibition would do the same.)

As for how the columnist’s views reflect those of much of her demographic, she mentioned that her husband likes to hunt and has some rifles and shotguns, which she considers acceptable.

But what she and many likeminded suburbanites refuse to accept is that the Second Amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is not about hunting.

As our Founders intended, the restriction against government usurpation of this right is, first and foremost, about defending Liberty and the inalienable Rights of all people, as defined in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in our Constitution — defending Liberty from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

As our Constitution’s author, James Madison, wrote, “The ultimate authority … resides in the people alone. … The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any…” There was no expiration date on maintaining that barrier.

The notion that there are tens of millions of gun-owning Americans devoted to the defense of Liberty is very discomforting to those who are not engaged in the animating contest to preserve that “barrier against the enterprises of [government] ambition.” All Americans enjoy the protections of that invisible barrier, which generations of military and civilian American Patriots have provided since 1776, though many fail to appreciate it.

While this fact may cause some suburban dwellers discomfort, it absolutely terrifies most Beltway Democrats, who are building their political fortunes on “enterprises of ambition.”

But legions of citizen-defenders, today’s Patriot Minutemen who stand on that wall, are owed a great debt of gratitude by those who choose not to exercise their rights to possess a firearm.

I should note here that, as an advocate of gun ownership, I have trained a lot of women on the safe handling and use of handguns in preparation for obtaining their “right to carry” permits. Tennessee mandates proper training regarding the use of handguns — as I think all states should do before issuing permits.

Additionally, I’ve provided many other women who had never before fired one of those “assault rifles” the opportunity to do so. While they were apprehensive at first, to a person they were ultimately thrilled to fire these weapons and generally unable to conceal their smiles.

I have extended that same invitation to our local columnist, if she’s interested. And, regardless, I’ll support and defend her right to her opinion every day.

Footnote 1: Just to be clear, what Democrats and the mainstream media call “assault weapons” are not that. An assault weapon is a select-fire weapon that can cycle rounds in fully automatic fashion. As for “military style” weapons, Bill Clinton banned the sale of those in 1994, but that ban was not renewed 10 years later when it was determined the ban had no effect on crime reduction. According to Rand Research, “We found no qualifying studies showing that bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines decreased any of the eight outcomes we investigated.”

Footnote 2: As for handguns and self-defense, the columnist also enjoys the protection of her neighbors who do own handguns — because criminals don’t know which homeowners have the ability to defend themselves. Convicted violent felons indicate that the number-one deterrent when choosing a victim is that person’s ability to defend himself or herself. However, if she wants criminals to make that distinction, I have offered, free of charge, our “Gun Free Household” sticker, which she can apply to her doors and windows!

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