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arm coeds, free speech

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walter block Posted: Fri, Dec 5 2008 9:02 PM

Arm the Coeds, Postscript


            Note to the Loyola Community:


            On November 30, 2001, Professor William Barnett and I published an Op Ed in the Maroon entitled “Required gun possession the answer to attacks.”  In it, we suggested that arming and training Loyola co-eds in weapon use (including guns) would be an efficient means toward their protection from a spate of rapes and attacks that had previously occurred. 


            Professors Julian Wasserman and Marcus Smith replied to our article in their “Campus gun slinging not best solution to crime” (Maroon, January 18, 2002).  As well, the Maroon subsequently published numerous letters to the editor, all but one in support of the Wasserman-Smith position, and that one irrelevant to the gun issue.


            In February 2002 I tried to publish an Op Ed rejoinder to the Wasserman-Smith article in the Maroon, but it was rejected.  Then, I asked that this be published as a letter to the editor.  This, too, was declined.  Whereupon I offered to publish this reply in the Maroon as a paid advertisement, and this, too, was rebuffed.


            The editor of the Maroon for the last academic year (2001-2002) refused to run my reply in any format whatsoever unless I made large cuts to it.  He also insisted that I cite original rather than secondary sources, something unprecedented in such venues, and a requirement he did not impose on any of the people on the other side of this debate.  A similar decision was made by this years’ Maroon editor.


            I am therefore taking the rather unusual step of sending to the Loyola community my reply to Professors Wasserman and Smith’s op ed on guns via this message.  My thought was that the students, faculty and staff deserve to see my reaction to the Wasserman-Smith communiqué, and see it in its entirety.  What bothered me was not so much Wasserman and Smith’s arguments on gun control, although I found what they said on this topic sparse and weak, but rather their resort to slurs, name calling and to the argumentum ad hominem.


            In the interim period between then and now, several events not irrelevant to the substantive debate have occurred.  Please keep these in mind, as a background to the arguments offered in the attached reply:


            1. Louisiana Governor Mike Foster’s reaction to a serial killer murdering women in Baton Rouge was the following: “You have the right to get a gun permit,” he said on his weekly radio show. “Learn to use it.”


            2. Second Amendment Sisters, a feminist group which favors self defense for women, has been actively encouraging women to empower themselves in just this manner.  Here is a quote from their website: “the Justice Department’s annual National Crime Victimization Survey shows that when a woman resists a stranger rape with a gun, the probability of completion was 0.1 percent and of victim injury 0.0 percent, compared to 31 percent and 40 percent, respectively, for all stranger rapes.”


            3. The U.S. Senate has recently voted that pilots on commercial aircraft allowed to be armed. (See on this; September 6, 2002; “Senate says yes to arming air pilots.”)


            4. An interesting debate on this issue has arisen within the black community; for the view that gun control is a racist measure, see


            Here, now, attached, is the material in question, that I was unable to send to the Loyola community in any other way:


            Reply to Wasserman and Smith on self-defense for Loyola students; by Walter Block


            According to that old legal aphorism, “When the facts are against you, argue the law, when the law is against you, argue the facts, and when both are against you, pound the desk and rant and rave.”  Professors Julian Wasserman and Marcus Smith (“Campus gun slinging not best solution to crime,” Maroon, January 18, 2002) have adopted the latter policy, in their reply to “Required gun possession the answer to attacks” (Maroon, November 30, 2001), that I co-authored with Professor William Barnett.


            Both the facts (provided by Dr. John Lott at and the law favor the use of guns and other weaponry in defending against rape, mugging, murder and other crimes of violence, especially on the part of females.  And no amount of obfuscation, misdirection, innuendo, name-calling and ad hominem attacks (“sneer,” “harangue,” “intellectual dishonesty,” “rhetorical cowardice,” “twaddle,” “nuttiness,” lack of “courage,” “cultism,” etc.) should be allowed to hide this elemental truth, as Wasserman and Smith (WS) attempt to do.


            Consider these findings:


                        . The National Crime Victimization Report, done by the U.S. Department of Justice, indicates consistently that women who behave passively are 2.5 times more likely to be seriously injured than women who defend themselves with a gun


                        . Civilians use guns defensively to stop about 2 million crimes a year, five times more often than guns are used to commit crimes


            . In 98% of the cases of defensive gun use, simply brandishing a gun is sufficient to stop a crime


                        . In the U.S., the states with the highest gun ownership rates have by far the lowest violent crime rates. And similarly, over time, states with the largest increases in gun ownership have experienced the biggest drops in violent crime.

            . A study examining homicide rates across 44 countries found those with the strictest gun control laws also tended to have the highest homicide rates.


            . In Britain crimes with guns have risen 40% since handguns were banned in 1997         


                        . Fortunately, accidental gun deaths among children are rare. With almost 35 million children under the age of 10, 48 children died in 1997 from all accidental gunshots, including five from handguns. With over 80 million adults owning at least one gun, the overwhelming majority of gun owners must be extremely careful or the figures would be much higher.


. Only 21 children under age 15 died from accidental handgun deaths in 1996. But about 40 children under the age of 5 drown in 5-gallon water buckets every year, and bathtubs claim 80 lives annually. 


                        . Rosie O'Donnell's bodyguards have applied for permits for concealed handguns. She is a leader of the Million Mom March in Washington, which called for the abolition of the 2nd Amendment 


                        . The movie "Schindler's List," left out how Schindler, an avid gun collector, stockpiled guns and hand grenades in case the Jews he was protecting needed to defend themselves


            Now consider a few of the more egregious errors made by Wasserman and Smith (WS):


            1. Barnett and I did not at all “demand” that the administration institute a gun owning policy; rather, we offered this as a solution, given that we are presently beleaguered by hoodlums, murderers and rapists. Nor need every last person on campus pack heat.  There are, after all, conscientious objectors even during wartime.  But those signs saying that we are a gun free area ought to be torn down; they function as an invitation to aggressors.


            2.  Our core argument was not pistol owning, but rather defense, which includes, among many other responses, the use of “pepper spray, mace, stun gun or electric shock device.”  It also features unarmed combat, and we are delighted that Loyola University continues to offer a Rape Aggression Defense Class (Self Defense for Women). 


            3. WS claim that our suggestions (again, not “demands”) are probably “criminally illegal,” an unexpected redundancy given the source.  These English literature professors urge us to consult La. R.S. 14: 95.2 and R.S. 14: 96.6. (Actually, the correct cite is 95.6, not 96.6). The former specifically exempts “… a firearm contained entirely within a motor vehicle,” as does the latter for “A student who possesses a firearm in his dormitory room or while going to or from his vehicle … with permission of the administration.” WS might well consult: and Further, they might consider the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


            4. WS fear for our future enrollments if word gets out that Loyola University New Orleans will act decisively to quell this outbreak of violence that has engulfed us.  I, in contrast, am concerned for the safety of our students and other members of the university community. I fear for our future enrollments if we keep our heads in the sand, and do not reply forcefully to these dangers.


            5. We are serious about our proposal.  It is no exaggeration to say that a civilized order depends upon a stalwart defense, including police and, yes, privately owned weapons.  The phrase “modest proposal,” has meanings other than the one to which they so intently attach it.  This debate will not be settled by literary allusions, but rather by rational argument.  Nevertheless, any misunderstanding or injury that may have resulted from the use of that term was unintended and is regrettable.  Moreover, WS accused us of making a light of a tragedy, yet that is exactly what they did. The picture of themselves that WS obviously posed for and allowed to grace their article, with them facing back to back holding their hands aloft as if they were going to engage in a duel with index finger pistols, was not unintended; rather, it was obviously intended to be humorous. 


 6. Nowhere do WS dispute our claim that pistols are a causal agent in reducing criminal depredations; that there is an inverse relationship between the danger perceived by the criminal to himself and the amount of such behavior he will engage in.  Indeed, they cannot, for this is only a matter of common sense. Do you think a mugger would rather face an armed or unarmed victim? 


            7. I fail to see how relying only on the police -- who cannot be everywhere --“recognizes the value of ‘the human person.’” Their counsel amounts to turning the other cheek, unilateral disarmament and pacifism. It seems to be consonant with Catholic social tradition but it is not; according to its just war theory: “self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause.”


            8. In attacking Barnett and me for our support of the free enterprise system, WS reveal themselves as ignorant of the fact that this system is responsible, to the extent we have it, for our magnificent standards of living, the envy of most of the rest of the world.  In sharp contrast is the Soviet economy, which lead to starvation and economic disarray.  Surely, after the economic malfunction of the USSR, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, only those blinded by a dirigiste ideology can still denigrate capitalism.


            9. Contrary to our learned friends, we maintain a sharp distinction between human beings and property.  It is a matter of no little surprise that they should interpret our defense of human beings against outrageous attacks as a failure to make this distinction.  If anyone in this debate has disrespect for human rights it is those who would disarm victims of aggression. 


            10. If anyone “owes an apology” to rape victims and their families, it is not those who are using the best evidence provided by social science to help empower them.  It is, rather, those who commit such dastardly deeds and those who act so as to disarm potential victims.


            I have not replied to WS’s obscene, irrelevant and monstrous charge that Barnett and I defend slavery, or are making fun of rape victims.  Their McCarthyite demand that the Dean of the Business School repudiate our position on self defense is also beneath contempt. If there is anyone deserving of censure from academic authorities it is those who resort to charges of guilt by association and who lower debate from a serious consideration of the issues to that befitting a bar room brawl.

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Dr. Block = epic win, and fighting hyperemotive "retorts" with facts since 1968 (or so).

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