Arming against bad guys fits American tradition

October 04, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

Here's a tip for those Northeast Baltimore store owners who tote firearms to protect themselves from would-be robbers: Keep your guns close to you. Don't listen to those voices that have shrilly denounced you within the last week.

Ever since liquor store owner Sung Kim fatally shot a man attempting to rob his store on Tuesday, we have heard a litany of doomsday prophecies from the bleeding heart liberal horde. Store owners carrying guns would only make things worse and return us to the days of the Wild West. We heard moans that the problem is not with criminals robbing honest, hard-working merchants, but handgun violence.

A caller from Carroll County 6once suggested that such reasoning be taken to its illogical conclusion. If guns are (P responsible for gun violence, then it isn't Michelangelo who should be given credit for painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. His paint brushes should. Babe Ruth should not be given credit for all those home runs he hit. His bats should.

Let's apply this foolishness to what happened in Northeast Baltimore last week and the traditional sniveling liberal response to it. Gun-toting robbers are not really a problem. Their guns are. So if store owners simply toss away their firearms, the city would be much safer. Thugs would then throw away their arms and start robbing stores with pea-shooters.

The liberal mind lives in a world quite different from our own,

does it not? But the thinking is spreading, even to nonliberals. C. Miles, WOLB's afternoon talk radio show host, took up the Wild West theme, saying that store owners packing guns would return us to those days when the guy faster on the draw won the gunfight. Such talk from Miles distressed me. The guy knows he's my hero. But let's look at that Wild West thing a little closer. It seems some of those Wild West folks had the right idea in arming themselves for self-defense.

In 1877, the Jesse James-Cole Younger gang rode into #i Northfield, Minn., on a bank robbery raid. American legend and folklore have depicted the James-Younger gang as heroes, veritable Robin Hoods robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. The fact is they were a bunch of murderous cutthroats, no different than they were when Frank James and Cole Younger rode with psychopathic Bill Quantrill in the Civil War and when Jesse James rode with the appropriately named Bloody Bill Anderson in the same era.

The gang rode into Northfield thinking they would have to deal with a bunch of wimpy Yankees who didn't have the guts to defend themselves. Instead, they rode into the combined firepower of a Northfield citizenry determined to meet firepower with firepower. Several members of the gang were killed, Cole Younger was captured, and Frank and Jesse James fled back into Missouri with their tails tucked snugly between their legs.

In 1892, members of the Dalton Gang tried the same thing in Coffeyville, Kan. The results were nearly identical: outraged Coffeyville citizens killing and/or capturing gang members, bringing an end to their reign of terror. Thank goodness neither the people of Northfield nor Coffeyville had the thinking of today's liberal anti-gun crowd, who no doubt would have urged these folks to disarm and meekly stand by while the bank robbers shot everything in sight.

No doubt there are folks who will claim Northfield and Coffeyville happened more than 100 years ago and that today's America has changed. It hasn't changed so much that armed thugs are no longer a menace to honest citizens. And if it's more current examples they want, we can go back as recently as 40 years ago, in North Carolina.

There, in Fayetteville, Ku Klux Klan nightriders who had a nasty habit of shooting up the black community. Robert Williams, head of the local NAACP branch, urged blacks to arm and defend themselves. "Convict your attackers on the spot," Williams urged his followers, to the dismay of black and white civil rights leaders committed to nonviolence.

Sung Kim convicted his attacker on the spot and thereby continued an honorable American tradition. Rather than make the problem worse, he saw to it that police have one less robbery to investigate, probably prevented more robberies by the same man and might well have kept him from killing one of his robbery victims in the future. Sung Kim, as the saying goes, handled his business.

In the wake of the shooting, some Korean leaders wondered what could be done to solve the problem of robbers victimizing merchants. It looks like Sung Kim found a way to solve the problem.

Pub Date: 10/04/97

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