Quote of the Day

“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

— Thomas Jefferson, from his “Commonplace Book,” a scrapbook of ideas and expressions. Jefferson’s quote is a paraphrase from the English translation of an Italian book written in 1764. The original quote from a 1767 English translation is as follows:

The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator? And does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons.

— From On Crimes and Punishments, by Cesare Baccaria (1738-1794).

The latter quote appears today in Norway and Gun Controlby Charlie Cooke. Cooke’s article was inspired by the mass shooting on Utøya Island in Norway where Anders Breivik was able to shoot people at will for an hour and a half before police arrived to stop him. If Norway did not have such strict gun laws there might have been others on the island who were armed and could have denied Breivik his monopoly on violence. Notwithstanding this commonplace knowledge, rattlebrains like Dennis Hennigan, president of Handgun Control, Inc. [euphemistically renamed “the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence”], are reflexively calling for more gun control laws. Cooke compares Hennigan’s senseless notion that gun control laws might deter murderers to the likelihood of a truck bomber obeying parking control laws

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