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When hate-filled, militant Islamic extremists attacked a cartoon contest in the Dallas suburb of Garland, Texas Sunday, intent on killing, to punish those who had offended them, they failed in that mission. What they succeeded in doing instead is to prove (once again) that the best way by far to stop bad guys with guns is with good guys with guns. They also proved (once again) that rights, including the right to free speech, have no power unless they can be defended against all who would violate them.
The attackers, identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, both of Phoenix, Arizona, were outraged by a contest being held there, in which cartoons lampooning the Muslim Prophet Muhammad were compared and judged. Islamic tradition forbids even respectful depictions of the image of Muhammad, and as one can imagine, the cartoons were anything but respectful.
The appropriateness of such cartoons, and such contests, is certainly a subject worthy of debate, but it is not the subject of this article. Whether or not the cartoonists and event organizers were right is irrelevant for purposes of this discussion. The fact remains that they have a fundamental right to express disapproval of Islam--or any other religion--and these violent predators tried to trump that right by force. They would have succeeded, if not met with countering force.
And so it is with all rights. The Constitution of the United States, as brilliant a document as it is, does not, cannot defend the rights it guarantees all by itself. The pen may indeed be mightier than the sword, but the sword is a great deal more effective for hacking people to death. One retains only the rights one can defend.
The first line of defense at the Garland event was an unarmed "security guard"--whose difficult job, apparently, was to "secure" the event with nothing stronger than harsh language. Not surprisingly, that proved inadequate. Also not surprisingly, he was the only innocent injured (thankfully, a gunshot wound only to the ankle).
The attackers (dare we say "terrorists"?) were only stopped when an off-duty police officer, also working security (but real security--armed security), shot them. Later reports indicate that S.W.A.T officers also engaged the attackers, and as of this writing, it is not known who fired the shots that ended the attack (by ending the attackers).
And that brings up yet another lesson delivered Sunday. The attackers are reported to have been armed with semi-automatic, detachable magazine-fed rifles--the very "assault weapons" we are told have no place "on our streets," and only on the battlefield, because with them, a monster can mow down innocent victims by the dozens or scores . . . except they couldn't here. They are also reported to have been wearing body armor, something we are told dooms any endeavor by a citizen with a handgun to stop a mass shooting, as the U.S. News and World Report cites Violence Policy Center executive director Josh Sugarmann:
Except for the fact that if it was the cop with his handgun who stopped them, that argument is put to rest. Even if his shots are not the ones that ended the fight, they certainly must have contributed to some degree, if only in the sense that while the attackers were trying to deal him, they were not effectively dealing with the S.W.A.T. officers.
If, on the other hand, it eventually turns out that only the superior firepower carried by a S.W.A.T. team was enough to avert tragedy Sunday, what does that say about those who want to ban such "assault weapons," "high capacity" magazines, and "armor-piercing" ammunition for private citizens?
A former paratrooper, Kurt Hofmann was paralyzed in a car accident in 2002. The helplessness inherent to confinement to a wheelchair prompted him to explore armed self-defense, only to discover that Illinois denies that right, inspiring him to become active in gun rights advocacy. He also writes the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner column. Kurt Hofmann Archive.