Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court for restoring to the citizens of Oak Park our inalienable right to keep and to bear arms. Even as Chicago overreacts with new draconian restrictions, it is well to reflect on facts, and on the value of an armed populace.

In our nation of 305 million Americans, deaths from motor vehicles were 42,031 in 2007 – the most recent year for which data are available per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov. Deaths from firearms in 2007 were 31,224, and 17,361 of those were suicides. Of 13,863 remaining, 1,217 were accidental, leaving 12,646 as homicides, for a murder rate from people using firearms of .0042 percent – less than one one-hundredth of 1 percent.

For cars, we have licenses and safe-driving laws, and we still allow automobiles because their transportation value overall outweighs the cost of human suffering from accidents and misuse. Every automobile fatality is a tragedy, but no one suggests abolishing cars because they kill people. For guns, we have licenses and safe-use laws, and our Constitution allows guns because their value overall (see below) outweighs the cost of human suffering from accidents and misuse. Like cars, guns are not intrinsically evil. To focus narrowly and emotionally on accidents or on the misuse of cars or guns, as an argument for their abolition, is illogical.

Then there is the inconvenient truth that prohibitions are counterproductive. The 13-year Noble Experiment banning alcohol was ended by the 21st Amendment to the Constitution in 1933. Chicago is the only major U.S. city to have banned handguns. By disarming law-abiding citizens, Chicago today has a murder rate nearly three times that of New York and approaching twice that of Los Angeles. Amazing, but true! Go to www.cityrating.com and do the math yourself.

The value of an armed populace is that this militia of the people constitutes the ultimate insurance policy for freedom. Why is that so hard to see? Firstly, this value is invisible. It’s hard to see the value of home insurance – until your home burns down. Secondly, time has slowly erased the collective memory that tyranny (of the left or of the right) can, and will, happen again, as it has countless times in 7,000 years of human history. Thirdly, for some, emotional opinions are more comfortable than facts.

In 1775, we as a people rose up as a common militia to reclaim our freedom by force from an oppressive government. Lexington and Concord were fought to prevent government troops from seizing private firearms. Our founding fathers enshrined the ancient, timeless right of free men to bear arms into our Constitution. Having won freedom at the point of a gun, our founders trustingly passed forward the same ultimate means of guaranteeing it. The silent possibility of a militia of the people rising up again to overthrow a despotic government has contributed to our remaining free for 234 years.

Perhaps the bumper sticker summarizes it best: “Be afraid of that government which is afraid of your gun.”

Joseph A. Wemhoff is a 27-year resident of Oak Park.

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