September 1999

Aftermath of Atlanta

One of the tough questions that will go unanswered as the result of the recent Atlanta shootings will be this: How would more regulation have prevented this tragedy? The answer is, of course, that more laws wouldn’t have done a darn thing. It has been reported that Mark Barton, 44, who killed his wife, his children, and nine other people in two brokerage offices, left a rambling letter at his home in which he said he suffered unnamed terrors and wanted to kill people who “greedily sought my destruction.” He used a hammer on his family and two as-yet-unidentified handguns in the shootings, which ended when he killed himself in his van surrounded by police. He had another two guns and 200 bullets in the vehicle.

The shootings occurred in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead business district, where I stayed during the SHOT Show earlier this year. It’s disconcerting to see places you have driven by on the news, with ambulances and sheet-covered stretchers out front. It’s even more disconcerting to know that this spree killing will have downstream effects on those of us who aren’t crazed like Mr. Barton. Atlanta’s notoriously anti-gun mayor, Bill Campbell, will certainly use this to push for further regulations of law-abiding people, who had they been armed, might have been able to stop Mark Barton’s rampage.

Certainly, the statistics buttressing such an assertion are there for anyone who cares to read about them. University of Chicago economist John Lott has demonstrated that the higher the incidence of firearms legally carried by citizens, the lower the rates of mass killings. He also points out that overwhelmingly, spree or mass murders occur where people are unarmed. The now-mythic California McDonald’s shooting, school shootings in Colorado and elsewhere, mass murders in Scotland and Australia, have in common the presence of evil and the inability of the good to protect themselves.

It really boils down to a simple argument: Those who wish to deny us our gun civil rights believe, ultimately, that it’s safer for all of us if none of us have guns (except the police and military, which is a chilling thought in itself). Those of us who believe we all have the right and responsibility to defend ourselves, and not to wait passively while a madman shoots at us with a gun or swings at us with a hammer, have no trouble knowing that our neighbors, friends, and relatives carry firearms.

In fact, it helps us sleep at night.

-Todd Woodard