Until this week, I'd never heard of Nick Freitas, an Iraq war veteran and a Republican member of Virginia's House of Delegates. But several people have sent me the clip below of his floor speech from earlier this month, in which he strenuously defends the Second Amendment in the wake of the Parkland massacre. He also calls out the anti-gun Left over some of their policy preferences, and especially over their 'end of discussion'-style debating tactics -- which prevent the sort of "open and honest" debate lawmakers on both sides often claim to desire. One doesn't need to find every one of his points entirely compelling in order to share his palpable frustration with the opposition party's incessant impugning of motives in these discussions. And one doesn't need to be an unwavering opponent of any and all new gun regulations to at least partially relate to his candidly-stated concern that Second Amendment supporters do not trust their counterparts to limit proposed restrictions to a handful of relatively small changes. Watch:
He begins with a number of familiar arguments about the inefficacy of gun free zones, societal ills he attributes to the breakdown of the nuclear family, and high gun crime rates in cities with strict gun laws. He then cites data like this, suggesting that a number of gun control 'solutions' do not and would not achieve their stated goals. Next, he comes to an important point about self-defense: A prime anti-gun claim is that documented incidents of firearms being used to fend off crime are swamped by actual gun crime. Essentially, we are told that the self-defense effect is overblown and overrated by Second Amendment supporters who rely on an emotionally-appealing argument that doesn't comport with statistics. But as Freitas highlights, many of the studies on which that case rests only count examples in which would-be perpetrators are actually shot by innocent armed civilians. The problem with that framing is that the large majority of self-defense comes through deterrence and the credible threat of a gun (untold numbers of which are never reported) -- not by bullets flying. By narrowly tabulating the number of legally-justifiable shootings that are committed for self protection, it's easy for advocates to claim that "good" gunshots are vastly outnumbered by criminal ones.
A broader review is necessary for a more accurate picture. One government study (the National Crime Victimization Survey) found that guns are used or brandished in self-defense approximately 100,000 times per year. By comparison, in 2017, roughly 15,500 people were killed with guns in America, excluding suicides. That ratio looks healthier. A 2013 CDC study commissioned by the Obama administration confirmed that defensive gun uses outnumber gun crimes:
"Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals," says the report, which was completed in June and ignored in the mainstream press. The study, which was farmed out by the CDC to the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, also revealed that while there were "about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008," the estimated number of defensive uses of guns ranges "from about 500,000 to more than 3 million per year."
Freitas goes on to question some Democrats' ardent opposition to the idea of arming some -- not all -- teachers, especially those with law enforcement or military backgrounds. He quotes one colleague dismissing the proposal "ridiculous," asking, "why? Is it because the other side of this debate will only accept one 'solution' to this problem, and that is tearing apart or gutting the Second Amendment?" After mentioning Democratic bills on background checks and bump stocks, Freitas speaks to a deeply-held suspicion (boosted by evidence like this and this) that many gun rights supporters harbor about the ultimate intentions of incrementalist gun control advocates: "If you're wanting the other reason why we can't have an honest debate over this one, it's because quite frankly, I don't think any of us on this side of the aisle believe you when you say [small changes are] all you want to do." When politicians like Barack Obama positively cite Australia's confiscatory regime (the effectiveness of which is hotly disputed), that level of suspicion escalates.
The conservative lawmaker continues his remarks by expressing profound resentment over being compared to Nazis and segregationists (he goes after the Democratic Party's own history regarding the latter charge, hastening to add that he doesn't believe any of his present-day opponents share Democrats' previous stances on civil rights) during the course of heated gun debates. He also seethes over being stuck at the wrong end of a "false dilemma" that posits he can only care about either guns or innocent lives. "If we want to have an open and honest debate, I am all for that. Let's do that," he says. "But it does start with a certain degree of mutual respect. It starts with a certain degree of not assuming that the only reason that we believe in the Second Amendment is that the NRA paid us off." He argues that if the Left believes conservative politicians are 'bought off' by the NRA, they should look at their own donations from groups like Planned Parenthood. "When I get up here and talk about abortion, I don't assume you're all bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood. I don't assume you're horrible people because I disagree with you on a policy position," he says, gesturing across the aisle. "I assume that you have deep convictions, and we can have an argument and debate about it."
He closes by warning that if Democrats are unwilling to "reciprocate that respect," they shouldn't be surprised when constructive compromise becomes more difficult to achieve (especially when good-faith efforts are ignored). His final point: "We are going to have a problem with so-called solutions which infringe on people's liberty under the promise the government will provide for their security," pointing out that in Parkland, the government failed over and over again to address the threat posed by the eventual shooter. And Freitas advanced that point before he had a chance to see this video footage:
Footage of the Parkland shooting shows Scot Peterson standing outside of the Florida high school as the gunman kills 17 people inside. https://t.co/BK9zyg46gp— The Federalist (@FDRLST) March 15, 2018
As I intimated at the onset, I don't agree with every single argument Delegate Freitas references or amplifies during those seven impactful minutes; some contentions were stronger and more persuasive than others. But as a 'non-guns person' who nevertheless supports the Second Amendment and is consistently repulsed by the Left's ugly rhetoric and demonization during "debates" over gun policy, I completely understand why Freitas received an ovation when he put down the microphone and yielded the floor.