In “An Aroused Populace—With Guns” (Sins of Omission, August), Roger D. McGrath tells of the reaction of the townsfolk in Northfield, Minnesota, to an attempted robbery of the local bank.  His thesis is that a well-armed community, and only a well-armed community, has the immediate power to react to criminal invasions of any kind.

In McGrath’s second-by-second recitation of what each man did, both defender and bank robber, we see very clearly that each defender was what we would classify today as not just an excellent marksman, but one having the skills and reaction times of our current military snipers.  Anyone familiar with firearms training sees immediately what monumental skills each of the townspeople possessed.

I think McGrath’s message is that every honest, law-abiding citizen must be armed and very ready, at all times, to protect himself and others.  Having firing arms in your home and a license to carry is only the very beginning.  McGrath makes it very clear that we must also seriously set aside time to perfect the skills really necessary for dangerous confrontations.

        —Edmund Levine
via email

Dr. McGrath Replies:

Edmund Levine has captured the essence of my column precisely, although I might qualify a couple points in his third paragraph.  I’m not certain it’s necessary to have every honest, law-abiding citizen armed and ready at all times, but it is important to have a good proportion of such citizens armed and ready.  Criminals make a simple calculation: Is the person, home, business, bank a soft target, or am I likely to get myself “shot all to Hell”? (as the members of the James-Younger gang said after their Northfield raid).  The same calculation goes for governments and for invaders.  An armed citizenry not only militates against the development of a tyrannical government but can cause an invader no end of grief.