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Disarmed at the Empire State Building


Not surprisingly, in the wake of the recent shooting in front of the Empire State Building, the gun-control crowd has surfaced again. After Jeffrey Johnson shot and killed former co-worker Steven Ercolino, gun controllers trotted out their old familiar mantra, “This shows, once again, how badly we need gun control.”


Somebody needs to inform these people of a very basic fact that might prove quite discomforting to them. We have already have gun control! Or, to be more precise, New York City already has gun control. Yes, that’s right — it’s illegal for people to possess handguns in New York City. In fact, it’s a felony offense.


Don’t believe me?

Just ask 39-year-old Meredith Graves, a Tennessean who was visiting New York City as a tourist when she got busted for carrying a 22-caliber pistol in her purse. Why, it didn’t even matter to New York City officials that she had a concealed-carry permit issued by the state of Tennessee. This is New York City, not Tennessee! It’s illegal for anyone to bring handguns into New York City. Graves was lucky. Even though she was clearly guilty of a felony offense, they let her off with a misdemeanor, which still might affect her plans to become a doctor.

Also lucky was Ryan Jerome, a former Marine who is now a jeweler in Indiana. He also had a concealed-carry permit, one issued by the state of Indiana. He didn’t know that it would be illegal for him to have his gun in New York City. But ignorance of the law is no excuse. Like Meredith Graves, he was clearly guilty of a felony offense and facing 3 ½ years in jail. He too was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense.

Alas, former Super Bowl star Plaxico Burress wasn’t so lucky. Caught with a handgun in New York City, he faced the same felony charges that Graves and Jerome faced, only he was more famous. So, New York City officials decided to throw the book at him. The most they would offer him was a guilty plea to a felony and a 2-year jail sentence. He decided to accept the deal given that he, like Meredith and Jerome, had no defense to the charge.

So, that should be enough to clear things up for the gun-control crowd. Surely after learning of the travails of Graves, Jerome, and Burress, those people will no longer say that gun control is needed in New York City. They will understand that there already is gun control in New York City — serious gun control, punishable with a felony conviction and a 3 ½ year jail sentence.

So, what about that recent shooting in front of the Empire State Building? Well, it must be lie. It cannot possibly be true. Why? Because they have gun control in New York City! It’s a felony to possess a gun there. And they put people in jail for violating the law. Therefore, how is it possible for that shooting in front of the Empire State Building to have taken place if it’s illegal to possess a gun in New York City?

Well, the answer is an easy one, one that any first-grader can understand but one that the gun-control crowd, for some reason, has tremendous difficulty understanding. A person who intends to murder someone isn’t going to give a hoot about violating some gun-control law. Duh!

The killing in front of the Empire State Building confirms this phenomenon once again. It’s against the law to murder someone in New York. That law obviously didn’t stop Jeffrey Johnson from murdering Steven Ercolino. And neither did the New York City law that made it a felony for Johnson to possess the handgun with which he murdered Ercolino.

What about Ercolino himself? Well, we don’t know whether he would have been carrying a handgun if it wasn’t illegal to do so. But what we do know is that the law might have dissuaded him from doing so. After all, most peaceful and law-abiding people are going to comply with a gun-control law, especially one that makes it a felony offense, punishable by 3 ½ years in jail.

So, what New York City’s gun-control law did was prevent Ercolino from defending himself with a gun against a guy who came after him with a gun. That’s what gun control does — it disarms the victim while telling the murderer that he has nothing to worry about with respect to self-defense by the victim. That’s why mass murderers usually choose gun-free zones to murder people rather than, say, gun shows.

An interesting question is whether the gun-control crowd is morally co-responsible for Ercolino’s death, given that their law was useless to prevent the murder while, at the same time, depriving Ercolino of his fundamental right of self-defense. Of course, we know what the gun control crowd would say: “Of course we’re not morally co-responsible for his death because we should be judged by our good intentions rather than the actual results of our policies.”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.