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Picture this: Your city is in virtual ruins because of a natural disaster.

You’re trying to gather your family and stay with your belongings and what’s left of your home or business. You have no electricity, water or food. Your main goal is to stay safe, stay together and stay alive.

Think Haiti. Chile. New Orleans.

As hours pass, you realize there’s no police or firefighter protection for you, and there’s no military in sight.

What is in sight is the specter of looters – people suddenly freed from the restraints of law and order – who are pillaging homes and businesses to steal whatever isn’t nailed down.

At this point, because of the disaster, nothing is nailed down and the looters have free rein because you and your family have no way to protect yourself.

It’s ironic that while the Haitian and Chilean earthquake survivors face just such situations, the U.S. Supreme Court is deciding whether there is a nationwide right for Americans to own guns.

Civilians in Chile don’t have guns, and despite the immediate declaration of a state of emergency, it didn’t help.

The Los Angeles Times quoted a mother of three who described roving bands of vandals terrorizing neighborhoods. Marlene Franco said, “It feels like we are living in a war zone.” She said the only protection her family and others had came from sticks and clubs used against “thieves and vandals with pistols.”

She wanted police and army on the streets, and she wasn’t alone. Finally, the president ordered troops in. As the military patrolled with M-16s and pulled looters from buildings, people cheered, applauded and shouted thanks.

One man was so pleased, he said, “If they need to, they should shoot to kill.”

Clearly the soldiers weren’t being politically correct. The front-page picture in the Contra Costa Times showed a looter face down in the street, one soldier cuffing his hands behind his back and another standing with his foot on the guy’s neck as his rifle was pointed at the looter’s head.

Hmmmm. In a modern city in a modern country in 2010, residents only had sticks and clubs to protect themselves.

The same looting chaos plagues Haiti with Port Au Prince hardest hit, but wherever there’s something worth stealing, there are thieves willing to grab and run.

The victims are the honest people, often who are suffering both physically and emotionally from the ravages of the earthquake and the continuing powerful aftershocks.

There are efforts to use police and troops to contain the violence on the innocents, but it’s almost a losing battle because the government is so weak.

However, when a looter is shot, as I saw in another news picture of a thief lying dead in the street, there’s no visible sympathy for him. Apparently, most people thought the SOB deserved what he got.

Of course, things would have been different if Haitians had a way to protect themselves, but they also are not allowed to have guns.

The case before the Supreme Court is a challenge to Chicago laws restricting citizens from having guns. Otis McDonald sued, saying he wants to protect himself from drug gangs and needs a handgun to do that.

The court ruled in 2008, in a similar case in Washington, D.C., that the gun restrictions could not stand. But, D.C. is a federal jurisdiction; Chicago is in a state. The basic issue is if the right to guns applies there as well. Indications are the court will rule that way.

Consider New Orleans, a modern city in a modern country. Then, it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and massive flooding. People faced the same problems as residents of Haiti and Chile but with a twist.

In New Orleans, many people owned weapons for protection, but the city officials had their own ideas. They exist in the naïve world of the politically correct and sent police door to door, confiscating weapons, effectively leaving citizens helpless against looters – and there were many.

There are always those who live on the edge, and when there’s a loss of law and order after a disaster, they loose a rampage of thievery, destruction and often mayhem. It’s
particularly terrible in a country as poor as Haiti, but it can and does happen anywhere.

We have mobs rampaging and looting after sporting events. What would happen if a major earthquake ravaged one of our major cities?

Californians are regularly told to expect no city services or police/fire protection for days or weeks after such a quake.

Is there anyone so naïve as to believe that looting wouldn’t be a problem?

I believe in the Bill of Rights and the freedoms of this country, and I’m not alone.

A recent CNN poll showed that 56 percent of those surveyed believe that the government has grown so big and powerful that it’s an “immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.”

With all the world conflicts that threaten the very existence of civilization, the Supreme Court is embroiled in the issue of guns. Who should own them, what kind, when, how and why. It’s all part of the issue of whether any level of government should, could or does have the right to control that ownership.

As far as I’m concerned, I have the right to defend myself.

We have the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Note: life comes first.

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