No household left unarmed

The New York Times is one of the last places I would expect to find an op-ed piece extolling the virtues of private ownership of firearms, much less mandatory private ownership of firearms, but, wonder of wonders, that’s what I found yesterday.

The piece is about communities that pass laws requiring (or at least encouraging) every household to maintain at least one firearm and ammunition. Probably the best known example of this is Kennesaw, Georgia, where such a law was passed in 1982. As the auther, Glenn Reynolds, points out, Kennesaw’s passage of such a law was in response to the passage of a law in Morton Grove, Illinois banning all private handgun ownership. Most interestingly, Kennesaw experienced a significant drop in crime, while Morton Grove residents were not nearly so fortunate.

Reynolds points out that laws like this in Kennesaw, or the new one in Greenleaf, Idaho, are rarely, if ever, enforced (Greenleaf’s version isn’t mandatory, anyway), and probably do little to change firearm ownership numbers (towns that pass them tend to be in areas where firearm ownership is already quite high–80% in the case of Greenleaf). Greenleaf also had already enjoyed a very low crime rate, with the most violent offense in the last two years being a fist fight (hmm–80% gun ownership and almost zero violence–so much for the “guns beget gun violence” myth).

What he also points out, though, is that these laws don’t need to be enforced to have a positive effect. People with bad intentions tend to know that things are likely to go badly for them in a town where the prevailing attitude is such that the law-abiding citizens are expected to have the means to use deadly force to protect themselves and their families.

Other communities would do well to heed the lessons learned by the passage of these ordinances (and the contrasting lessons we can learn from places whose strict gun laws have, at best, no effect on crime, and at worst actually invite it). As Reynolds points out, such a lesson could give a brand new meaning to the term “gun control” (or perhaps a 200 year old meaning–as the concept of the citizen militia is revived).

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