A-hunting we will go

The small band of terrorists thought that things were going their way.  They had even succeeded in convincing a portion of middle class citizens that they were fighting for a just representation in their country's political process.  This was a significant gain for their cause, because the city had millions of people, and even a small percentage of the mainstream of society who supported the organization gave a certain legitimacy to their actions.  Also, an increasingly nuanced and sophisticated press provided a public relations platform whereby the terms 'militia' and 'revolutionaries' were used in reference to what was, in reality, nothing more than a band of savage criminals.

 

The group's methods were fairly standard for terrorist organizations.  They had already executed the head of a local school system, kidnapped important people in the community, and, when finances dried up from their rich benefactors, a visit to the local bank for an unauthorized withdrawal was usually more than enough to refill their coffers.  They moved amongst the populace, acquiring both semi— and fully—automatic rifles and manufacturing rudimentary explosive devices.  They also had a system of safe houses that they believed were beyond the scrutiny of the local security forces.

 

But this was about to change.

 

The police had analyzed intelligence and had received tips from local citizens to finally determine the location of the band's current safe house; and on a calm spring day, deployed a specially trained police unit along with over 200 regular 'line' police officers.  Their assessment was literally dead on.  The police demand for the group's surrender was answered with a hail of semi— and full—auto rifle fire.  The huge firefight lasted well over an hour.  The police fired more than 5,000 rounds, while the terrorists fired over 3,500 rounds and threw several of the improvised explosive devices (IED) at the security forces.  The battle finally ended when the safe house burned to the ground taking all of the terrorists with it.

 

Given the intensity of the gun battle, it was amazing that no members of the security force were killed, and just as miraculous, no innocent bystanders in the neighborhood lost heir lives.  This was because this fight did not involve Iraqi security forces battling a highly trained terrorist cell led by Abu Musab al—Zarqawi, rather, it was the May 1974 shoot—out and siege between six members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) and the LAPD and SWAT in south—central Los Angeles.  David Klinger and Dave Grossman in The Harvard Law Review summed it up this way:

 

One reason that the [two hundred] police prevailed with no loss of innocent life is that the SLA was a rag—tag group with little training in tactics and weapons use.  An Al Qaeda cell would be substantially more formidable.  They would have spent time developing expertise with the weapons in their arsenal...and preparing for confrontations with law enforcement should they be discovered before they launch their attack plans.  Thus, a replay of the events of May 17, 1974 with Al Qaeda in the role of the SLA likely would not play itself out so strongly in favor of the LAPD. 1

 

Against the backdrop of homeland security concerns since 9—11, and the siege and the resulting carnage at the school in Beslan, North Ossetia, it is stunning that John Kerry and the left continue to complain  about the sunset of the 'assault weapons' ban scheduled to occur Monday, September 13.  Kerry maintains that without the ban, it 'would make it easier for groups like al Qaeda to get the lethal guns.'  Even if one ignores the pure cosmetic nature of the ban, how does the law prevent those seeking to acquire real assault (selectable to fully automatic) weapons in the US, when they have been controlled since 1934?  [The operative word here is controlled, not banned.  The 1934 law simply levied an additional tax on those who wanted to purchase 'sawed off shotguns and submachine guns' in order to track and control these firearms.]

 

Further, Kerry tried to reassure the faithful that he had no intention of fiddling with the 2d Amendment, and that,

 

...as a hunter and outdoorsman he would never try to change the Second Amendment to the Constitution giving Americans the right to bear arms.

 

So there you have it.  In a post 9—11 world with rampant illegal immigration, and civilian facilities around the world coming under frequent terrorist attack, John Kerry wants to make the US safer by making scary—looking guns illegal, while preserving your right to hunt.  However, the issue is much deeper than Kerry's desire to turn us all into bulls—eyes.

 

From a national policy standpoint, the American left has been at this gun control effort for decades, even when war was looming in the 30s and 40s.  The question is, have the American people viewed personal firearm possession an important part of the security equation after 9—11 as compared to say, post—Pearl Harbor?  Studies 2 have indicated that the answer is yes, and for a rather interesting reason.

 

It is very difficult to obtain an estimate of the number of firearms present in the US during the 30's and 40's.  Even though both the pro— and anti—gun control movements were politically active during this time period, most citizens were not in the habit of counting something in their homes that was a cultural mainstay.  Therefore, statistics are hard to come by, since prior to 1938, no federal agency existed to tally the number of firearms, to register dealers, and so forth.  Registration was one of the key points of the gun control debate after all.

 

Congress passed the Federal Firearms Act in 1938 that required manufactures, dealers, and importers to obtain a license and to keep a record of their transactions.  It also prohibited felons from receiving gun shipments and curbed movement of stolen arms or those with altered serial numbers 3.  Many felt the law did not go far enough, especially when compared to Britain's extremely restrictive laws.  This would come back to haunt the British in a few years.  Once war broke out, and later, when the UK became directly threatened by Germany, the kingdom was woefully short of military style rifles.  Also, FDR cut off funds for the National Rifle Practice Program, despite protests from the War Department.  Yet, scanning the literature and major city newspapers of the time, no 'unusual' increases in gun ownership jumps out after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

However, estimating the number of firearms and the pattern of possession before and after 9—11 is another matter.  Given the ongoing and intense debate on gun control, and the actions of citizens after 911, a clearer picture emerged.  According to the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, the number of privately owned firearms in the US was approximately 200 million, including 65—70 million handguns.  There were approximately 60—65 million individual gun owners in the US.

 

After the terrorist attacks of 9—11, the pattern changed dramatically across the nation.  For example, in the state of Texas alone, the weekly average of applications for concealed carry permits doubled from 1,060 to 2,300, as of November 2001.  According to the Association of Firearms Retailers 4, total background checks conducted to sell firearms to private individuals increased by 20 percent from September to November of 2001.  And, according to the NRA, inquiries about gun safety classes more than doubled.

 

So what is the difference between the post—Pearl Harbor time period, when there was apparently a business—as—usual approach when it came to firearms, and the aftermath of 9—11, where the firearms industry had a huge spike in business?  The answer is simply this: the number of men and women in uniform.

 

In September of 1940, after the Selective Training and Service Act was enacted, the Army reached its intended strength of 1.5 million midway through 1941; a full six months prior to Pearl Harbor.  As the war progressed, so did the number of men and women in uniform.  The number of soldiers in the Army peaked at 8 million in May 1945, the month during which the war against Germany ended.  The important point in all of this is the prevalence of the military in everyday life.  One could not go to work or school and not see somebody in uniform during the 40's.  If anyone doubted the relative security if the US mainland, he was either blind, drunk, or both.

 

In contrast, the post—9—11 mobilization of selected reserve component units amounted to a mere 81,926 as of the end of April 2002.  And, while initially visible in airports and at key facilities, their presence was hardly overwhelming compared to the numbers of soldiers in late 1941 and early 1942.  Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, many more Reserve and National Guard units have been mobilized, but these troops are for overseas duty to support the Global War on Terror, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Simply put, there is no homeland military presence visible to the vast majority of Americans.  Therefore, in the perception of the American public, a military presence was rarely observed at selected facilities, and not in great numbers.  For these reasons, US citizens took a reasonable course of action by increasing their firearms possession post—9—11.

 

However, this turns the whole concept of National Guard and local militia on its head.  Without the Guard present, we have to rely on local police units, whose proficiency is suspect, especially if they have to go up against a well—trained al—Qaeda cell.  What are US citizens to do?  Klinger and Grossman recommend two possible methods to establish a US citizen militia based on private ownership of firearms: the Israeli model or the Swiss model.

 

The Israeli model would not likely get out of the starting gate in the US.  Even though Israeli gun ownership rates exceed those of the US, the Israeli government requires a massive gun registration scheme which is not practical in the US because of our much greater population, and our historical opposition to gun registration.

 

Much has been written on the Swiss model, since the tradition of an armed society was the result of the horrendous massacre of Swiss Confederates on the Saint Jacobs River in 1444 5.  Essentially, each able—bodied adult in Switzerland is armed with a modern day assault rifle, and is required to train with the rifle through an extensive series of target shooting competitions on a routine basis.  These weapons at the ready in the homes of Swiss citizens provide an enormous deterrence capability, and, if necessary, a extremely rapid, local response to conventional infantry attacks by terrorist 'shooter cells.'

 

President Bush and the Pentagon have wisely decided to go on the offense in the War on Terror, but border defenses are almost nil.  Over the last 25 years, our National Guard has been configured around combat formations designed to deploy overseas in order to be a vital part of the active forces fulfilling their combat role.  Therefore, we must face up to the fact that the only deterrence in our communities is the 65 million US citizens who have decided to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.

 

The establishment of a formal militia is a discussion for another time, but this much is self—evident:  the constant nibbling away at gun rights by the left will not hurt the terrorists one iota, but the banning of the type of firearms that are the most capable of stopping them will only breed more attacks of the type witnessed in Beslan.  Keep in mind that North Ossetia borders Chechyna, which is the source of Islamo—fascist terror units in the region.  As such, there is a significant Russian military presence in the area. Yet the army's response to the school seizure was ham—handed at best.  In contrast, a similar community in the Southwestern US has no such military presence, and must rely on a 'small—town USA' police force for its response to any terrorist attack.

 

For years John Kerry and the left have wanted an outright ban of the very instruments that are most suitable to help protect our towns from intruders.  Now we are told, don't worry, you can still go hunting.  In a strange way, perhaps Kerry is right about this being about hunting.  If Kerry and the left's plan for gun control succeeds, it will turn our citizens into the hunted, much as we witnessed in LA in 1974 and Beslan just a few weeks ago.  My bet is that the American people would much prefer to be the hunter.

 

 

1.  Klinger, David A., Dave Grossman (2002).  Who should deal with foreign terrorists on U.S. soil?  Socio—legal consequences of September 11 and the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in America.  Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy; Cambridge; Spring 2002.

 

2.  Hanson, Douglas G., (2002).  Explanations for firearm possession levels after major attacks on the US.  An assessment of post—911 and post—Pearl Harbor. Research Study, American Military University; Manassas, VA; Spring 2002.

 

3.  DeConde, Alexander (2001).  Gun Violence In America.  Boston, Massachusetts:  Northeastern University Press.

 

4.  Commerce In Firearms In The United States.  Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (February 2000).  Washington D.C., ATF Office of Liaison and Public Information.

 

5.  Halbrook, Stephen P. (1998).  An Armed Society.  In The American Guardian, (January 1998)

 

Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent

The small band of terrorists thought that things were going their way.  They had even succeeded in convincing a portion of middle class citizens that they were fighting for a just representation in their country's political process.  This was a significant gain for their cause, because the city had millions of people, and even a small percentage of the mainstream of society who supported the organization gave a certain legitimacy to their actions.  Also, an increasingly nuanced and sophisticated press provided a public relations platform whereby the terms 'militia' and 'revolutionaries' were used in reference to what was, in reality, nothing more than a band of savage criminals.

 

The group's methods were fairly standard for terrorist organizations.  They had already executed the head of a local school system, kidnapped important people in the community, and, when finances dried up from their rich benefactors, a visit to the local bank for an unauthorized withdrawal was usually more than enough to refill their coffers.  They moved amongst the populace, acquiring both semi— and fully—automatic rifles and manufacturing rudimentary explosive devices.  They also had a system of safe houses that they believed were beyond the scrutiny of the local security forces.

 

But this was about to change.

 

The police had analyzed intelligence and had received tips from local citizens to finally determine the location of the band's current safe house; and on a calm spring day, deployed a specially trained police unit along with over 200 regular 'line' police officers.  Their assessment was literally dead on.  The police demand for the group's surrender was answered with a hail of semi— and full—auto rifle fire.  The huge firefight lasted well over an hour.  The police fired more than 5,000 rounds, while the terrorists fired over 3,500 rounds and threw several of the improvised explosive devices (IED) at the security forces.  The battle finally ended when the safe house burned to the ground taking all of the terrorists with it.

 

Given the intensity of the gun battle, it was amazing that no members of the security force were killed, and just as miraculous, no innocent bystanders in the neighborhood lost heir lives.  This was because this fight did not involve Iraqi security forces battling a highly trained terrorist cell led by Abu Musab al—Zarqawi, rather, it was the May 1974 shoot—out and siege between six members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) and the LAPD and SWAT in south—central Los Angeles.  David Klinger and Dave Grossman in The Harvard Law Review summed it up this way:

 

One reason that the [two hundred] police prevailed with no loss of innocent life is that the SLA was a rag—tag group with little training in tactics and weapons use.  An Al Qaeda cell would be substantially more formidable.  They would have spent time developing expertise with the weapons in their arsenal...and preparing for confrontations with law enforcement should they be discovered before they launch their attack plans.  Thus, a replay of the events of May 17, 1974 with Al Qaeda in the role of the SLA likely would not play itself out so strongly in favor of the LAPD. 1

 

Against the backdrop of homeland security concerns since 9—11, and the siege and the resulting carnage at the school in Beslan, North Ossetia, it is stunning that John Kerry and the left continue to complain  about the sunset of the 'assault weapons' ban scheduled to occur Monday, September 13.  Kerry maintains that without the ban, it 'would make it easier for groups like al Qaeda to get the lethal guns.'  Even if one ignores the pure cosmetic nature of the ban, how does the law prevent those seeking to acquire real assault (selectable to fully automatic) weapons in the US, when they have been controlled since 1934?  [The operative word here is controlled, not banned.  The 1934 law simply levied an additional tax on those who wanted to purchase 'sawed off shotguns and submachine guns' in order to track and control these firearms.]

 

Further, Kerry tried to reassure the faithful that he had no intention of fiddling with the 2d Amendment, and that,

 

...as a hunter and outdoorsman he would never try to change the Second Amendment to the Constitution giving Americans the right to bear arms.

 

So there you have it.  In a post 9—11 world with rampant illegal immigration, and civilian facilities around the world coming under frequent terrorist attack, John Kerry wants to make the US safer by making scary—looking guns illegal, while preserving your right to hunt.  However, the issue is much deeper than Kerry's desire to turn us all into bulls—eyes.

 

From a national policy standpoint, the American left has been at this gun control effort for decades, even when war was looming in the 30s and 40s.  The question is, have the American people viewed personal firearm possession an important part of the security equation after 9—11 as compared to say, post—Pearl Harbor?  Studies 2 have indicated that the answer is yes, and for a rather interesting reason.

 

It is very difficult to obtain an estimate of the number of firearms present in the US during the 30's and 40's.  Even though both the pro— and anti—gun control movements were politically active during this time period, most citizens were not in the habit of counting something in their homes that was a cultural mainstay.  Therefore, statistics are hard to come by, since prior to 1938, no federal agency existed to tally the number of firearms, to register dealers, and so forth.  Registration was one of the key points of the gun control debate after all.

 

Congress passed the Federal Firearms Act in 1938 that required manufactures, dealers, and importers to obtain a license and to keep a record of their transactions.  It also prohibited felons from receiving gun shipments and curbed movement of stolen arms or those with altered serial numbers 3.  Many felt the law did not go far enough, especially when compared to Britain's extremely restrictive laws.  This would come back to haunt the British in a few years.  Once war broke out, and later, when the UK became directly threatened by Germany, the kingdom was woefully short of military style rifles.  Also, FDR cut off funds for the National Rifle Practice Program, despite protests from the War Department.  Yet, scanning the literature and major city newspapers of the time, no 'unusual' increases in gun ownership jumps out after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

 

However, estimating the number of firearms and the pattern of possession before and after 9—11 is another matter.  Given the ongoing and intense debate on gun control, and the actions of citizens after 911, a clearer picture emerged.  According to the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, the number of privately owned firearms in the US was approximately 200 million, including 65—70 million handguns.  There were approximately 60—65 million individual gun owners in the US.

 

After the terrorist attacks of 9—11, the pattern changed dramatically across the nation.  For example, in the state of Texas alone, the weekly average of applications for concealed carry permits doubled from 1,060 to 2,300, as of November 2001.  According to the Association of Firearms Retailers 4, total background checks conducted to sell firearms to private individuals increased by 20 percent from September to November of 2001.  And, according to the NRA, inquiries about gun safety classes more than doubled.

 

So what is the difference between the post—Pearl Harbor time period, when there was apparently a business—as—usual approach when it came to firearms, and the aftermath of 9—11, where the firearms industry had a huge spike in business?  The answer is simply this: the number of men and women in uniform.

 

In September of 1940, after the Selective Training and Service Act was enacted, the Army reached its intended strength of 1.5 million midway through 1941; a full six months prior to Pearl Harbor.  As the war progressed, so did the number of men and women in uniform.  The number of soldiers in the Army peaked at 8 million in May 1945, the month during which the war against Germany ended.  The important point in all of this is the prevalence of the military in everyday life.  One could not go to work or school and not see somebody in uniform during the 40's.  If anyone doubted the relative security if the US mainland, he was either blind, drunk, or both.

 

In contrast, the post—9—11 mobilization of selected reserve component units amounted to a mere 81,926 as of the end of April 2002.  And, while initially visible in airports and at key facilities, their presence was hardly overwhelming compared to the numbers of soldiers in late 1941 and early 1942.  Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, many more Reserve and National Guard units have been mobilized, but these troops are for overseas duty to support the Global War on Terror, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Simply put, there is no homeland military presence visible to the vast majority of Americans.  Therefore, in the perception of the American public, a military presence was rarely observed at selected facilities, and not in great numbers.  For these reasons, US citizens took a reasonable course of action by increasing their firearms possession post—9—11.

 

However, this turns the whole concept of National Guard and local militia on its head.  Without the Guard present, we have to rely on local police units, whose proficiency is suspect, especially if they have to go up against a well—trained al—Qaeda cell.  What are US citizens to do?  Klinger and Grossman recommend two possible methods to establish a US citizen militia based on private ownership of firearms: the Israeli model or the Swiss model.

 

The Israeli model would not likely get out of the starting gate in the US.  Even though Israeli gun ownership rates exceed those of the US, the Israeli government requires a massive gun registration scheme which is not practical in the US because of our much greater population, and our historical opposition to gun registration.

 

Much has been written on the Swiss model, since the tradition of an armed society was the result of the horrendous massacre of Swiss Confederates on the Saint Jacobs River in 1444 5.  Essentially, each able—bodied adult in Switzerland is armed with a modern day assault rifle, and is required to train with the rifle through an extensive series of target shooting competitions on a routine basis.  These weapons at the ready in the homes of Swiss citizens provide an enormous deterrence capability, and, if necessary, a extremely rapid, local response to conventional infantry attacks by terrorist 'shooter cells.'

 

President Bush and the Pentagon have wisely decided to go on the offense in the War on Terror, but border defenses are almost nil.  Over the last 25 years, our National Guard has been configured around combat formations designed to deploy overseas in order to be a vital part of the active forces fulfilling their combat role.  Therefore, we must face up to the fact that the only deterrence in our communities is the 65 million US citizens who have decided to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights.

 

The establishment of a formal militia is a discussion for another time, but this much is self—evident:  the constant nibbling away at gun rights by the left will not hurt the terrorists one iota, but the banning of the type of firearms that are the most capable of stopping them will only breed more attacks of the type witnessed in Beslan.  Keep in mind that North Ossetia borders Chechyna, which is the source of Islamo—fascist terror units in the region.  As such, there is a significant Russian military presence in the area. Yet the army's response to the school seizure was ham—handed at best.  In contrast, a similar community in the Southwestern US has no such military presence, and must rely on a 'small—town USA' police force for its response to any terrorist attack.

 

For years John Kerry and the left have wanted an outright ban of the very instruments that are most suitable to help protect our towns from intruders.  Now we are told, don't worry, you can still go hunting.  In a strange way, perhaps Kerry is right about this being about hunting.  If Kerry and the left's plan for gun control succeeds, it will turn our citizens into the hunted, much as we witnessed in LA in 1974 and Beslan just a few weeks ago.  My bet is that the American people would much prefer to be the hunter.

 

 

1.  Klinger, David A., Dave Grossman (2002).  Who should deal with foreign terrorists on U.S. soil?  Socio—legal consequences of September 11 and the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in America.  Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy; Cambridge; Spring 2002.

 

2.  Hanson, Douglas G., (2002).  Explanations for firearm possession levels after major attacks on the US.  An assessment of post—911 and post—Pearl Harbor. Research Study, American Military University; Manassas, VA; Spring 2002.

 

3.  DeConde, Alexander (2001).  Gun Violence In America.  Boston, Massachusetts:  Northeastern University Press.

 

4.  Commerce In Firearms In The United States.  Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (February 2000).  Washington D.C., ATF Office of Liaison and Public Information.

 

5.  Halbrook, Stephen P. (1998).  An Armed Society.  In The American Guardian, (January 1998)

 

Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent