First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the shootings at Northern Illinois University in the midst of unspeakable tragedy. But, every time I hear of one of these incidents, I am reminded of how flawed the idea of ‘gun control’ is. The campus of Northern Illinois University, like Virginia Tech’s and many other campuses across the country, is a ‘gun-free zone’. This simply means that law abiding gun owners leave their weapons at home (weapons that might have been used to cut short these massacres with return-fire) while the criminals, who care little for laws, continue to carry and use their weapons. We see the same pattern in Washington, DC, where guns are essentially illegal so only the gang members and criminals carry while the law-abiding citizens go unarmed (and are 688 percent more likely to be murdered than citizens of neighboring Virginia [US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004]).

I am not a gun owner [yet ;-)], but this is another example of why gun ownership and—more importantly—gun possession by responsible, law-abiding citizens is not a problem. On the contrary, it is a potential solution and deterrent to gun violence. As the old saying goes, ‘an armed society is a polite society.’

I am not opposed to reasonable limitations to our gun rights. In both the Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois massacres, the murderers had a history of mental illness and should not have been permitted to obtain weapons in the first place. Also, my strong support of the Second Amendment right to bear arms goes hand-in-hand with a responsibility (as rights usually do): gun owners should be well-trained, safe, proficient users of their weapons. Owners must keep their weapons secured from children, and—if they ever have to be used defensively—they must be used judiciously, carefully, and accurately.

But, no matter how much we improve the background check procedures and encourage the responsible use of firearms, gun violence will still occur. Period. The mentally ill do not always have a documented history of mental illness. Guns are available through numerous black market sources. Ultimately, the only reliable protection against these kinds of massacres is the increased likelihood of accurate return-fire minimizing their success. An armed citizen with decent aim might have ended these massacres after the perpetrators killed 1 or 2 innocent bystanders, rather than 5 [Northern Illinois] or 32 [Virginia Tech].

Scott Bradford has been building web sites and using them to say what he thinks since 1995, which tended to get him in trouble with power-tripping assistant principals at the time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from George Mason University, but has spent most of his career (so far) working on public- and private-sector web sites. He is not a member of any political party, and brands himself an ‘independent constitutional conservative.’ In addition to holding down a day job and blogging about challenging subjects like politics, religion, and technology, Scott is also a devout Catholic, gun-owner, bike rider, and music lover with a wife, two cats, and a dog.