Residents of a neighbourhood in Moncton, NB were shaken earlier this month when a gunman rampaged through their neighbourhood and shot police officers. One family tried to alert an officer that the gunman was approaching from behind, to no avail. As information about the gunman became public, the news media revealed that the 24-year-old man had been homeschooled, perhaps attempting to suggest some kind of a link between homeschooling and the events at Moncton. Assuming that his homeschooling program had been successful, he would have completed the equivalent of a high school diploma at the age of 17 or 18. Neighbours revealed that the shooter had previously been peaceful, and had been so for several years.
Local citizens had a clear view of him as he walked through the neighbourhood, knowing that they were unarmed and unable to take a shot at him. Prior to the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, in which the shooter’s mother had planned to have him committed to a psychiatric institute, another gun incident had occurred at a college in that state. But some people on the campus had guns, which resulted in that incident having concluded without loss of life.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks, dictator Saddam Hussein had allowed men to carry guns, including male students on the campus of the University of Baghdad. While gunmen had previously opened fire at students at high schools and other North American educational institutions, such shootings had never occurred at Iraq’s leading university. Perhaps the presence of other armed men on the campus discouraged potential shooters. There are in fact numerous yet little-known examples from the USA involving peaceful armed citizens successfully defending themselves against felons.
Several years ago, 60 Minutes aired a documentary about otherwise peaceful American citizens who carry guns, including women who carry concealed weapons, as is allowed by law in states such as Florida. When Florida allowed women to carry concealed weapons, incidents of rape declined. Morley Safer interviewed a woman who carried a concealed weapon that she used to thwart a rape, the perpetrator being a repeat offender. That was just one of many incidents involving armed private citizens thwarting a crime long before the arrival of police.
While mainstream news media rarely mention such incidents, the American pro-gun lobby keeps records of them. There are many examples of peaceful, armed private citizens who successfully protected their families during home invasions. When Australia banned private citizens from owning guns, the crime of home invasions did not appear on any Australian law books. Unarmed and defenceless Australian homeowners subsequently began to experience the horror of armed intruders forcibly entering their homes.
During World War II, the German leadership knew that Swiss men over the age of 18 not only did military training, but were all armed. They kept guns at home, including in homes located in the Swiss mountains. German archives have revealed that their army leadership evaluated the risks of annexing Switzerland during WWII. The mere presence of multiple small groups of armed, trained men spread across the Swiss mountains suggested that a German army would have suffered severe losses during a possible invasion. German leadership chose instead to recognize Swiss neutrality throughout the duration of WWII. It was a lesson that the Soviet army leadership ignored when they ordered their army to march across the border into Afghanistan, where they repeatedly encountered small groups of elusive armed men without any central command, spread across that nation’s mountain regions where entire Soviet battalions disappeared and were never heard from again.
While nations may pass laws banning or restricting peaceful private citizens from owning guns, or requiring them to register their weapons, a majority of gun-related crime involves criminals using unregistered weapons. Even laws that seek to prevent weapons from crossing international borders have had little effect, similar to laws that ban the importation of intoxicating substances. Such laws merely challenge people who engage in such trade to seek more innovative and ingenious methods by which to move their products across such borders.
With gun laws in effect over the years, lone gunmen visited two schools in Montreal and shot unarmed citizens. While the Moncton and Newtown shooters had been homeschooled, their homeschool studies were long complete before they went on their fatal rampages. Other commentators have suggested that a majority of the school shooters in the USA had been on some form of prescription antidepressant medication. Some 14 million school-age children across the USA and Canada are believed to be on prescription antidepressants.
There have also been incidents of well-liked teenagers on prescription antidepressants who ended their own lives. An Internet search of the name of popular antidepressants followed by the words “teenage suicide” yields much information on this subject. However, public health and education officials have repeatedly declared the safety of such medications. While it is presently unknown whether the Moncton shooter was taking an antidepressant or using a mind-altering substance, what’s clear is that the presence of other armed citizens might have interrupted his shooting rampage soon after it had begun, thereby saving lives.
* Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario.