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Think Twice Before Carrying a Gun

Think twice about carrying a gun

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By Larry Stirling
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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A panel of the 9th Federal Circuit Court in Peruta v. County of San Diego (actually the county sheriff) surprised nearly everyone by upholding our Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms."

Writing for the majority, Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain stated: "Because the Second Amendment has always been an individual right to defend oneself ... states may not destroy the right to bear arms in public under the guise of regulating it."

Of course, that is not the final word on the matter.

California State Attorney General Kamala Harris has already announced that her office will appeal the decision.

If the matter were in front the current Supreme Court, it is likely that the local decision would be upheld.

But timing is everything. If Harris can delay until President Obama appoints another liberal to the court, the Second Amendment will become dead-letter law.

This is an especially egregious sin by Harris, who is African-American, because African-Americans are very disproportionately the victims of gun violence.

However, assuming for the moment that the ruling against Sheriff Bill Gore is upheld, what would our community look like?

Would it be like the days in Tombstone, Ariz., when the Earp brothers were called out by the Clantons and their evil buddies and bullets started flying everywhere?

Not likely.

We only need to look at the other 40 states that already comply with the Second Amendment and issue permits to anyone except the criminals and the crazies.

In those states, even though they can, most people do not apply for a permit. And most people that have permits do not carry weapons.

Even better, author John Lott, in his book "More Guns, Less Crime," documents the decline in crime rates in "must-issue" states.

"Must issue" means that absent some reason to deny the person a license to carry a weapon, the government must grant them one.

Criminals are not looking for a fair fight when they rob or rape: They are looking for helpless victims.

In states where people are authorized to carry guns, the criminals are not guaranteed an easy score.

Thus they are less likely to either stay in those states or commit crimes in the first place.

California has long been laissez-faire about this issue with some counties being generous, while San Diego County has a tradition of miserliness in such issuances.

But the primary hurdle to safer gun use and self defense is the preparation of potential gun owners themselves.

At first thought, new gun owners are likely to think in terms of the biggest, baddest weapon they can obtain to be able to withstand, say, a sustained gang attack.

Certainly, if you are attacked by a gang, no doubt a multimagazined M-79 grenade launcher loaded with buckshot rounds would be your best defense.

The problem is that statistically that is not our likely fate.

By far the biggest problem with owning and carrying a gun is its danger to the owner and those around them.

So before anyone buys a gun to carry around, I suggest they think twice about not only their own situation but the safety of their friends, neighbors and grandkids.

First, the reality of carrying a pistol is that it legally can be used only as a last resort for self-defense in a life-threatening situation.

It cannot be pulled and brandished to scare away the bad guys.

In any shooting, it is likely the gun owner will be on trial in both civil and criminal proceedings.

The best way to learn the huge risk one incurs by carrying a gun is to take any of the presently required classes.

Experienced gun owners will give you dozens of examples of where fellow gun owners suffered from not knowing the very limited extent that a gun can be used in self defense.

For example, you can never display the gun in any situation, as displaying the weapon can get you charged with "assault," which is defined as putting another person in apprehension of getting shot.

The only time you can pull out a gun is when you are going to use it and the only time you can use it is when your life is clearly threatened.

Nor can you or should you carry a pistol while drinking alcohol because your judgment is impaired.

Worse, if you pull a gun on someone bigger than you, they are likely to take it away and use on you.

However, the most serious danger is that you leave the gun lying around your house or car and your grandchild picks it up and hurts him or herself or someone else.

How could you ever forgive yourself?

Another risk is dropping the gun and having it discharge. Most likely you will be the victim but then again, it could be a neighbor on the other side of the wall.

"Hair triggers" are a greater threat to you than they are worth in a confrontation.

Before I bought a weapon to carry when necessary, I consulted San Diego Police Department's long-time range master, president of its Pistol Club, and the department's top expert on weapons, Fred Hoyle, now retired.

It was Sgt. Hoyle who clued me in on all of the issues above.

He recommended, and I now fully agree that if you do want to carry a weapon, it should be from the new family of lightweight pistols.

That makes them easier to carry, especially on your belt.

Make sure that the trigger pull is difficult and that the hammer is not only down, but internal to the weapon so that there is no spur to get cocked and fired accidently.

And finally, he recommended the use of "wad cutters" as the ammunition of choice for the reason that the projectile does the job while reducing the risk of "collateral damage," such as going through a wall and hurting an innocent.

The legislature would be wise to repeal its present raft of confusing and unconstitutional anti-gun laws and re-enact those that promote the safe issuance and use of guns to comply with the Second Amendment and to make California a safer place to live.

Stirling, a former U.S. Army officer, has been elected to the San Diego City Council, state Assembly and state Senate. He also served as a municipal and superior court judge in San Diego. Send comments to larry.stirling@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.