Letter to the editor, Baltimore Sun:
The logic of gun control ("Ban assault rifles, save Maryland lives", February 27) is seductive: take away the bad guys' guns and they can't hurt us.
But the hard fact is that gun control laws keep guns away from bad guys
about as well as drug control laws keep heroin away from junkies.
It's easy to turn away from that unpleasant truth into the sort of factual
and logical errors that Mr. Helmke falls into.
First, we must be accurate in our terms. It is unfortunate that advocates
of stronger gun control have consistently obscured the meaning of "assault
rifle". Assault rifles - carbines capable of selective automatic or
semi-automatic fire, such as the M-16 carried by American soldiers - are
already so heavily regulated as to be effectively banned for civilians. The
National Firearms Act of 1934 strictly regulates all automatic weapons, the
only sort capable of anything resembling the "spray" of bullets that Mr.
Second, "military-style" firearms that superficially resemble assault
rifles are used in a very small number of crimes. Someone intent on
robbery, rape, or murder generally wants an easily portable and concealable
weapon - a handgun, not a rifle. Mr. Helmke attempt to scare us by
mentioning the D.C. Beltway "snipers", but Malvo and Muhammad's attacks
were not "spraying bullets"; they could have been been carried out with a
bolt-action or single shot rifle.
Finally, Mr. Helmke asserts that such guns are "terrible self-defense
tools". That depends on whom one is defending oneself against. I would not
grab my rifle to deal with a home intruder; but in case of some disaster or
civil unrest, my rifle would be my tool to let me help defend my home and
As Black History Month draws to a close, we should reflect that civil
rights were won not just by the peaceful actions of Martin Luther King and
his followers, but by armed black men such as the Deacons for Defense and
Justice and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense who stood up to the Ku
Klux Klan, violent segregationists, and brutally racist police.
The founders of this nation recognized the danger in restricting the tools
of effective self-defense to agents of the government. Until humans are
perfect and governments incapable of tyranny and oppression, the right to
keep and bear arms remains relevant, and should not be violated in vain
attempts to disarm the bad guys.