Editorial ignored the right of self-protection

October 11, 1997

The Sun's latest anti-gun editorial, ''Armed against crime'' (Oct. 2), begins with the premise that ''Gun-toting city shopkeepers make a bad situation even worse.'' The editorial then criticizes and second-guesses a liquor store owner who shot and killed an armed robber.

The Sun next alleges that the Northeast Police District, where the store is located, ''is served daily by more than 230 police officers.'' Citing a string of criminal shootings, The Sun goes on -- to warn shopkeepers against arming themselves.

It finishes by claiming that armed merchants contribute to Baltimore's ''culture of violence,'' and accuses them of trying to take the place of police.

L Frankly, this sort of illogical claptrap demands a response.

Human beings have a natural right and a moral obligation to protect themselves, and to defend against criminal attack. To suggest that people who are threatened daily by crime forgo self-defense is to ask that we delegate responsibility for the protection of our very lives to other people. That is not a leap of faith many of us wish to make.

As the recent liquor store robbery clearly illustrated, police simply cannot be everywhere at all times. Contrary to the editorial's outlandish assertion, the Northeast Police District -- one of Baltimore's largest -- has, at any one time, approximately two dozen police cars patrolling its streets. And as a matter of law, police departments have no obligation to protect an individual citizen.

Just as the responsibility for feeding, clothing and sheltering oneself cannot, or at least should not, be delegated away, the principal responsibility for ensuring one's safety belongs with the individual, not the state. That is, in this country, as it should be.

Consider: In order for The Sun's utopian vision -- unarmed citizens protected only by agents of the government -- to become a reality, we would have to create a literal police state, an official presence in our midst so massive, so intrusive, and so costly as to render meaningless the phrase ''free society.'' Is that really preferable to citizens' having the right to defend themselves?

Where violent crime is common, prudent and thoughtful citizens might very well conclude they can best ensure their safety by acquiring and learning to use firearms. That decision does not make them cowboys or vigilantes. Nor does it make them, as the editorial implies, the moral equivalent of the criminals they fear, any more than owning a car makes one equivalent to a drunk driver.

Armed merchants are reacting to a situation which has been thrust upon them. They have no desire to replace the police, nor are they eager to kill criminals. They are simply trying, in increasingly difficult circumstances, to earn a living. They are a vital part of what makes any city livable, and their refusal to lie down and surrender to evil thugs ought to be applauded. That The Sun would prefer to see them victimized reveals not a concern about violence, but the depth of the paper's anti-gun extremism.

Furthermore, for a Sun editorial writer -- ensconced in a controlled-access building protected by private security guards -- to preach that other citizens should trust in the police for their protection is the very height of hypocritical liberal arrogance.

Giffen B. Nickol

Bel Air

Pub Date: 10/11/97

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