Will Gun Grabbers Exploit Thousand Oaks to Disarm Still More Americans, like Its Victims?

By John Zmirak Published on November 9, 2018

To explain the legal and Constitutional implications of the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, The Stream interviewed attorney and Second Amendment expert Mark V. Smith.


You wrote the book Duped about how opponents of Americans’ Second Amendment rights exploited the Parkland tragedy. Can you see them already trying to do this in the wake of the Thousand Oaks massacre?

America’s left does not want to see individuals own firearms of any sort. They want a disarmed American populace. You see, it is far easier to bully an unarmed population than an armed citizenry. The left will take advantage of any opportunity to argue for more gun control. Their simple argument is always something like “bad guy kills person with a gun. Gun use is bad. Therefore, law-abiding Americans should be denied their right to bear arms.” While the argument is illogical, it has a certain appeal to emotion. As you know, that’s a logical fallacy. Today is no different.

An unarmed population is much easier to bully and, yes, murder, than an armed population.

Before any facts were known, many leftists cited this crime as a reason for gun control. Of course, they conveniently ignored the fact that, yet again, the government failed to protect those bar patrons. The police had previously responded and interviewed the killer before. But nobody tried to civilly commit him. Instead, the murderer was allowed to roam free and kill innocents.

As in so many of these cases, the state apparently had ample opportunity to protect the public and failed to do so. There’s only one proper defense for stopping these kinds of events involving crazy people with guns, machetes or any other implement of destruction. That’s armed security or armed citizens able to fight back with more than bar stools.

California already has virtually every imaginable gun control law that their liberal, anti-gun legislators could invent. Yet they still could not protect innocent Americans from evil. Americans should heed the critical lesson of these shootings: You are your own first responder. Your life depends on you, and not the government.

What About the Killer’s Weapon?

What can you tell us about the gun the shooter used? Apparently it was legal, but he had an extra capacity magazine that’s illegal in California…. Should we expect a big push to outlaw such magazines nationwide? Why is that a good or a bad idea?

Right now, it is unclear what type of magazine the shooter used in his gun. California has passed laws stating that magazines cannot hold more than 10 bullets at a time. But realistically, anyone who wishes to kill many people just needs to carry several magazines. And reload them quickly. So-called high-capacity magazine bans are like all other gun control laws. They will be followed by law-abiding citizens. And only by them. They’ll be ignored by psychos and criminals.

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The right answer was for there to have been armed Americans in the bar who could have fired back on the criminal yesterday. Rather than ducking, or bravely serving as human shields for other helpless patrons. It took several long, bloody minutes before a single police officer appeared. Unfortunately, he was shot and killed. The officer was obviously a hero and acted courageously, unlike the sheriff’s department in Parkland, Florida earlier this year.

It wasn’t even the police who stopped this shooting. By the time multiple police officers finally entered the building, the murderer had already committed suicide. This illustrates a recurring tragedy. In most of these mass shooting situations, when seconds count, the police are minutes away. This is not a knock on police. The reality is that by the time police are able to show up, it is usually only after many people have already been shot.

Leaving Unhinged People to Roam the Streets

The shooter was interviewed by law enforcement some months ago for erratic behavior. But he escaped civil commitment. Are authorities letting too many such people slip through the net?

In the 1950s, the United States had approximately 500,000 people in civil confinement in mental institutions. Today, that number is about 30,000. You can’t deny it: severely mentally ill people, who are dangerous to society, are walking the streets. Yet, our government agencies are too frequently willing to skip over attempting to civilly commit mentally ill people. They find it too hard to prove the case. So, we let mentally ill people wander among us, when they should be receiving professional treatment in institutions.


Were any of the bar patrons armed themselves? Or does California law preclude that?

California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States. It is possible to receive a conceal carry permit to carry a handgun in California. But that mostly depends on the discretion of the local sheriff. As of now, there is no evidence that anyone in the bar carried a firearm other than the murderer himself.


Is there any gun law short of total confiscation of all private firearms that would have prevented this tragedy?

I would ask a different question. Is there any perfectly drafted law that would successfully prevent evil people from engaging in acts of evil? Obviously there is no law that would prevent criminals and crazies from engaging in criminal violent acts if they choose to do so.

The best lesson from the California shooting is the same lesson that can be gleaned from virtually all prior mass shootings. You are your own best line of defense. Do not count on the police or your government to protect your life or the lives of others. You must be prepared to do it for yourself.

Remember, the law-abiding citizen almost always encounters the violent criminal first, and then calls the police. The police show up with lots of guns. But that does you little good during the time between your encounter with the criminal and the time the cops show up. You should be allowed to have at least as much fire power as the police do when they show up, often too late. The police are really second responders. The citizen comes first.

What Happens When Antifa Tries to Break Down Your Door

To shift gears, I assume you read about the violent mob that attacked conservative commentator Tucker Carlson’s private home. They shattered the oak door, terrorized his wife, and threatened him that “We know where you live” and “You’re not safe.” Vox’s Matthew Yglesias actually defends this attack as justified. What conclusions do you draw about the importance of private firearms from the upsurge in such leftist violence ?

You are your own best line of defense. Do not count on the police or your government to protect your life or the lives of others. You must be prepared to do it for yourself.

It is yet further proof of the importance of an armed citizenry. These mobs gain strength in numbers and in their anonymity. They act to intimidate. One never knows when one of these mobs will become full blown violent and strike someone. It could be the target or the target’s children. Someone could easily get hit in the head with a tire iron, a pipe or a brick or some other instrument of violence.

We all have a duty to protect law and order. Not just to wait for the police to show up and do it for us. And there is little doubt that the left would love it if conservatives could be unarmed. Conservatives would quickly go from being American citizens to mere subjects dependent upon the government for their protection. As we see time and again, including in that shooting in California, the State’s agents usually come too late to save lives.

Self-Defense Against Tyranny

We’re observing the 80th anniversary of the Nazi assault on Jews, Kristallnacht. Wasn’t that preceded by a targeted effort to disarm Jews and other “opposition” groups, so they’d be helpless?

Yes. Constitutional historical Stephen Halbrook has written extensively about how it was the democratically-elected Weimar Republic in Germany that created the government lists and registries of gun owners and guns. Unfortunately, it was the Nazi regime that subsequently came to power. It then used those lists to confiscate firearms from all Germans, especially from the Jews. And we know the ending to that story. Winston Churchill taught us that “The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.” Well, I think all Americans should know history and we certainly show know the history of civilian disarmament by totalitarian regimes such as the Nazis and the Soviet Union, among others.


The statistics offered by genocide scholar R.J. Rummel state that governments murdered 169.2 million civilians in the 20th century. Almost all of those people died in nations that had disarmed their citizens. Care to comment on that, in light of this appalling but still exceptional massacre?

It is very simple. An unarmed population is much easier to bully and, yes, murder, than an armed population. The Founding Fathers of the American Republic understood fully that firearms in civilian hands was a check on governmental power and tyranny. The American Revolution was started over gun control. The British Red Coats seized citizens’ gun powder and eventually trying to march on the American colonialists’ armories. That led to the “shot heard ‘round the world” on Lexington Green. Let Americans today remember our history. Let’s not allow anyone to ever take away our means of self-defense against violent thugs, mentally ill killers and even a potentially tyrannical government.


Mark Smith is author of Duped, among other books.

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