The killers stalking the Columbine High School cafeteria

Compare those, says Coulter to thwarted massacres in which the shooter was stopped by an armed member of the crowd. “Winnemucca, Nevada, 2008: Ernesto Villagomez opens fire in a crowded restaurant; a concealed carry permit-holder shoots him dead. Total dead: Two.

“Appalachian School of Law, 2002: Crazed immigrant shoots the dean and a professor, then begins shooting students; as he goes for more ammunition, two armed students point their guns at him, allowing a third to tackle him. Total dead: Three.

“Santee, California, 2001: Student begins shooting his classmates; an off-duty cop who happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day points his gun at the shooter, holding him until more police arrive. Total dead: Two.

“Edinboro, Pennsylvania, 1998: A student shoots up a junior high school dance being held at a restaurant; restaurant owner pulls out his shotgun and stops the gunman. Total dead: One.”

“If what we care about,” continues Coulter, “is saving the lives of innocent human beings by reducing the number of mass public shootings and the deaths they cause, only one policy has ever been shown to work: concealed-carry laws.”

But aren’t guns the enemy? That was the lesson New York’s Westchester Journal News attempted to convey December 22 when it published the names and addresses of gun owners in its community complete with an interactive map on its website showing who owned legally-registered guns. The story prompted a bitter backlash by local gun advocates, who took to the Internet to publish the names and home addresses of the newspaper’s staff.

A screenshot of the Westchester interactive map

In response, on December 28, the newspaper brought in armed guards to stand outside its offices – apparently missing the irony of first lamenting the existence of legal gun owners, then taking refuge behind the same.

Are we foolish to live in fear? No, vigilance is wise, advises Stanislav Mishin in the Russian news outlet Pravda (formerly the official press of the USSR). “Americans, never give up your guns,” he wrote shortly after the Connecticut shootings. “One of the first things [the Soviets] did was to disarm the population,” he noted. “From that point, mass repression, mass arrests, mass deportations, mass murder and mass starvation were all a safe game” for the government.

Even today, the Russian government is not to be trusted, he warned: “While President Putin pushes through reforms, the local authorities, especially in our vast hinterland, do not feel they need to act like they work for the people. They do as they please, a tyrannical class who knows they have absolutely nothing to fear from a relatively unarmed

population. This in turn breeds not respect but absolute contempt and often enough, criminal abuse.”

John Whitehead

Civil rights lawyer John Whitehead, writing in the liberal Huffington Post quotes America’s second president, John Adams: “Fear is the foundation of most governments” and says it is no wonder that Americans are afraid today. “Turn on the TV or flip open the newspaper on any given day, and you will find yourself accosted by reports of government corruption, corporate malfeasance, militarized police and marauding SWAT teams,” writes Whitehead. “America is entering a new phase, one in which children are arrested in schools, military veterans are forcibly detained by government agents because of the content of their Facebook posts, and law-abiding Americans are being subjected to the latest in government spy technology.

“These threats to our freedoms are not to be underestimated. Yet even more dangerous than these violations of our basic rights is the language they are couched in — the language of fear. It is a language spoken effectively by politicians on both sides of the aisle, shouted by media pundits from their cable TV pulpits, marketed by corporations, and codified into bureaucratic laws that do little to make our lives safer or more secure.

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