The video recording of a Sunday afternoon anniversary celebration being interrupted by a gang of adrenaline-fueled bikers was disturbing. What made it so terrifying is that we could all imagine it happening to us. If a family driving in in broad daylight in a major city can be attacked without a police response, what are the chances of a timely response by law enforcement on an isolated side street or country road at night?
Our country has a problem with gun violence. And gun violence is what our gun-control laws should target. Instead, our laws target lawful self-defense. Gun violence is not a uniform plague. According to the CDC, gun violence occurs most frequently in poorer areas where drugs are far too common and upward mobility and hope are desperately lacking. The problem is that our federal laws focus on the broad issue, when the problem is narrow. Sweeping, one-size-fits-all federal laws prohibit law-abiding citizens like Alexian Lien from defending themselves, instead of addressing the reality that gun violence is narrowly concentrated.
Once Alexian Lien stopped his car, he was surrounded and his tires slashed, while his wife frantically called the police pleading for help. Had this been a city with concealed carry laws, perhaps the bikers would have had second thoughts about cornering a frightened family. However, with Manhattan’s gun-control laws among the strictest in the country, New York City eliminated the deterrent effects such laws have on assailants, emboldening a biker gang to terrorize a family with impunity.
Taking the life of another is a burden that no one wants to have to live with, however, it is undoubtedly preferable to placing your life at the mercy of your attacker. Guns can be and are misused. So are cars and motorcycles. However, historically, guns have been an equalizer for the weak. Dr. Gary Kleck’s study found that guns are used 800,000 to 2.5 million times in self-defense each year. A Wright-Rossi survey of incarcerated felons indicated that 57 percent were more concerned with encountering an armed victim than a law enforcement officer and 34 percent said they had been “scared off” by a victim with a firearm.
While I support each person’s right to self-defense, I also believe in selective gun-control. The mass shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, the Aurora movie theater, the Newtown Connecticut school and at Virginia Tech were all perpetrated by those who were disturbed but not “mentally ill” enough to restrict them from buying a gun. Since 1991, 100 percent of the non-terrorist, mass shooting involving more than 10 fatalities involved individuals with mental illness issues. Removing guns from the mentally unstable should be a priority.
While most state laws prohibit the mentally unfit from owning guns, the unreasonably high standard requires an individual to be unable to distinguish fantasy from reality and/or be involuntarily committed to a mental institution. As executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center states, “We’re protecting civil liberties at the expense of health and safety.” Our healthcare system has become reactionary rather than preventative, leaving our healthcare professionals more fearful of lawsuits than taking the initiative as our first line of defense.
The political alternative to creating reasonable restrictions on the mentally ill is to broadly eliminate the right to self-defense from the population at-large, a situation that is evident in cities across the U.S., such as Manhattan. Some cities like Boston even require police registration of pepper spray. Guns ownership demands personal responsibility, just like car ownership, and concealed carry permits should include similarly reasonable restrictions.
As new details emerge that an off-duty police officer may have taken part in the beating of Mr. Lien, while other bikers attempted to drag Mr. Lien’s wife from the car, a bystander, Sergio Consuegra, who is a father of 10, put his own safety at risk to stop the mob attack and summarized the situation best, saying, “At that moment I said, ‘Oh I gotta do something, there’s a family in danger here. And they’re gonna get killed, nobody intervened in this situation and nobody stepping in.’”
In the video, the gang doesn’t seem concerned about the victim fighting back or the police arriving and, not surprisingly, they disappear well before the police arrive. With greater burdens and overstretched resources, the police have less time to stop crimes in progress and spend more time solving crimes after they have happened.
Mr. Lien’s case is a direct product of the failure of our gun laws, as well as the unwillingness of our politicians to address the weak link of our mental health system that leads to mass shootings. Our gun control-oriented lawmakers need a reminder that our laws are supposed to be narrowly tailored to target gun criminals, and not the right of responsible citizens to defend themselves.