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The Good Guns We Don't Hear About By: Chris Weinkopf
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, July 25, 2000


RACIST TERRORISTS are far more sensational than hard-working liquor-store owners. So when a neo-nazi named Buford Furrow allegedly killed a postal worker, then wounded five people at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in suburban Los Angeles last August, lawmakers and the national media took great interest.

But there were no CNN camera crews or grandstanding politicians at the Mission Hills Liquor Jr. Market eleven days ago, when owner Eui Lee did something that hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of Americans do every year. He used a firearm in self-defense.

Only the Los Angeles Daily News picked up the story. Lee, who had owned the store for 12 years and, according to the article, called it his "life," was doing his job when one of the thugs came in and started making conversation with him.

Moments later, the thug's partner entered the store and brought four cases of beer to the counter. When Lee asked the two teens for ID, they got violent, smacking him with the cold packs of beer and pushing him into a metal rack. They then tried to rob the store. Lee, seeing his life and his livelihood threatened, responded by reaching for an old but seldom-used gun.

He fired, hitting and injuring one suspect, while the other fled. Two days later, for whatever reason, the second suspect turned himself in to the police.

If gun-control advocates had their way, Eui Lee's story probably would have turned out very differently. The two gang members would have continued to beat him up until he could resist no more. Then they would have helped themselves to the contents of his store. Instead of being in police custody, they would still be on the streets, inflicting terror on defenseless businesses and homeowners throughout Los Angeles.

According to the 15 independent studies Yale University Law Professor John Lott examined in More Guns, Less Crime, there are between 760,000 and 3.6 million defensive gun uses in the U.S. each year. In 98 percent of those cases, the weapon is never actually fired. Merely brandishing a gun is enough to scare criminals away.

Stories like Eui Lee's are less grim, yet far more typical, than the bloody rampages of serial killers. They happen so often that they draw little public attention, but they are a powerful reminder of why extreme cases make bad law.

Following the attack on the North Valley Jewish Community Center, Governor Gray Davis, posing in front of a hospital that treated some of the victims, signed three new statewide regulations on gun shows. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a measure barring the sale of firearms and ammunition on county property. Now the Los Angeles City Council hopes to follow suit. It's proposing a ban on all ammo sales within the city.

The purpose of such legislation is not actually to reduce crime, but for politicians to feign concern for public safety. A few new ordinances are not going to deter a Buford Furrow or, for that matter, everyday criminals like the gang members who assaulted Eui Lee. Those who don't mind breaking big laws have no qualms about breaking small ones—they're happy to buy their guns on the black market.

Such regulations do, however, make self-defense more difficult for America's 80 million gun owners—most of whom are law-abiding citizens like Eui Lee, who has seen his store robbed a dozen times in as many years.

Criminals know that all too well. Buford Furrow reportedly chose to attack the North Hills Community Jewish Center instead of the more prominent University of Judaism, the Museum of Tolerance, or the Skirball Cultural Center because he figured it would be less heavily guarded. If the two gang members who tried to rob Eui Lee had known that he was armed, they surely would have picked an easier target. Not surprisingly, Lott's research shows that when cities and states permit citizens to carry concealed weapons, crime rates decline.

Those who use a gun for self defense realize that the police cannot be expected to protect them in every situation. Only a month ago, Los Angeles watched as cops, obeying their superiors' orders, stood back and did nothing as rioters celebrated the Lakers' championship by overturning cars and smashing storefronts. That fiasco came only nine years after the Rodney King riots, when police were impotent to stop violent mobs who had taken control of entire neighborhoods.

Now the Los Angeles Police Department reports that on some days, due to staffing shortages, it has had to eliminate mid-shift patrols in various neighborhoods throughout the city.

For law-abiding citizens like Eui Lee, the threat of crime and the limitations of the police present a difficult choice. They can fight back, or they can passively accept their victimization. When opportunistic politicians tie their hands with gun control, they have no choice at all.


Chris Weinkopf is an editorial writer and columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. To read his weekly Daily News column, click here. E-mail him at chris.weinkopf@dailynews.com.


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