California Kidnapping

Did California gun laws make kidnapping of teens more likely? Libertarians ask

WASHINGTON, DC -- Now that two California teenagers are safe after the horrific "lovers' lane" kidnapping, here is the question that Americans should be asking, Libertarians say: Could this crime have been prevented if the state allowed residents to carry concealed weapons?

"This incident illustrates how vulnerable all of us are to random, violent crime," said Steve Dasbach, Libertarian Party executive director. "The best defense against such criminals is to allow people in all 50 states the freedom to own a gun -- and carry it wherever they like."

Lancaster, California teenagers Jacqueline Marris and Tamara Brooks were "minutes from being killed," police say, when they were rescued by sheriff's deputies who shot and killed the fugitive who had abducted them. The girls had been sitting with their boyfriends in parked cars at a popular teen hangout on Thursday when Roy Ratliff, who was wanted on rape charges, tied up the young men at gunpoint and drove away with the girls in a white Ford Bronco owned by 18-year-old Eric Joshua Brown.

But in the aftermath of that kidnapping, rape, and near-murder, Libertarians say, Americans have an obligation to ask if gun prohibition makes such crimes more likely.

"No one will ever be able to say with certainty that this crime could have been prevented if a concealed-carry law had been in effect," Dasbach said. "After all, these individuals may have chosen not to exercise their right to have a gun, or they may have been unable to use it under such traumatic circumstances.

"But we do know that thanks to California politicians, it would have been illegal for the victims to have been armed. In all probability, Ratliff knew his victims were defenseless, a fact that made his crime spree that much easier.

"Americans are understandably outraged at what happened to Jacqueline Marris and Tamara Brooks. Shouldn't they also be outraged at the California politicians who have guaranteed that all crime victims will be totally defenseless?"

And although it's too late to help these teenagers, it's not too late to try to deter other criminals, Libertarians say.

Currently, 31 states have "shall-issue" concealed-carry laws, which require the state government to issue a gun permit to any resident who is not disqualified by a felony conviction, mental illness, or similar objection.

"According to a 1996 study by criminologists John Lott and David Mustard at the University of Chicago, concealed-carry handgun laws reduced murder rates by about 8.5% and rape rates by about 5%," he said. "Had such right-to-carry laws been in effect all 50 states since 1992, there would have been about 1,600 fewer murders 4,000 fewer rapes every year, the researchers found.

"No, passing a concealed-carry law won't stop every kidnapping, rape, or murder -- and may not even have stopped the tragedy in Lancaster, California. But a future Roy Ratliff will be far less likely to attack if he knows that sheriff's deputies aren't the only ones who can send him to his grave."

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For release: August 6, 2002

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