The Patriot’s Guide to Freedom and Firearms

Published April 18, 2018

Preface by Heartland Institute President Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D.:

School shootings in Florida, Kentucky, and Maryland have focused the media’s attention on gun violence in America’s high schools. As the father of four children, I understand that nothing is more important for moms and dads than the safety of their children.

Many people assume the way to prevent school shootings is to restrict access to firearms, but extensive research shows this often-repeated claim is false. What is the solution to these horrific shootings? The evidence suggests additional guns and defensive gun training are much better deterrents to those who threaten our children. It certainly was to Austin Rollins, the perpetrator of the Great Mills, Maryland murders, who was shot by his school’s resource officer as he searched for more victims.

Another solution is to enable parents to move their children to schools they believe provide a safer environment. That’s exactly what happened in March 2018 in Florida: The state’s legislature passed and Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law a bill to provide financial assistance to Florida families who want to move children into another school, either private or public, in which their children feel safe.

The essay in this booklet outlines 10 principles concerning firearms in America, each covering a key topic in the national debate on gun violence and gun control. Together, they provide a framework for understanding and promoting sound policies regarding this profoundly important issue.

This essay originally appeared as a chapter in the fourth edition of The Patriot’s Toolbox, published by The Heartland Institute in late 2017. It was written by Joseph Bast—at the time, the CEO of The Heartland Institute and now a director and senior fellow—and “Publius,” the nom de plume of a professor at a U.S. university whose work on gun control and other topics has appeared in many scholarly journals.

The Heartland Institute has published in-depth research and commentary on the issues surrounding the Second Amendment and school reform. These materials, like nearly all Heartland publications, are available for free on our website. Heartland’s Center for Transforming Education has its own page on that site, and Heartland’s unique database and search engine, PolicyBot, contains hundreds of articles by leading think tanks addressing gun control. I urge you to take a few minutes to visit these sites to learn more about the gun rights debate.

Tragically, it may be impossible to prevent all school shootings, but public policies informed by data and real-world experience—which can be implemented only when policymakers are unclouded by emotion, fear, and partisan political agendas—can reduce how often shootings occur and limit the number of lives lost and the families destroyed. We ask you to join us in our mission to promote such policies, and we hope this booklet will be a tool you can use in that effort.

10 Principles of Firearms Policy

1. Americans have an individual right to keep and bear arms.

2. Bans on “assault weapons” are incoherent and self-defeating.

3. An increase in the number of guns does not lead directly to more gun crime.

4. Firearms possession among law-abiding citizens deters crime.

5. Defensive gun use saves lives.

6. Right to carry laws do not increase crime and may generate social benefits.

7. “Stand Your Ground” laws have been the historical norm in the United States.

8. The risk of firearms accidents is small and falling.

9. Large-scale illegal gun-running is a myth.

10. International experience does not support gun control in the United States.