The Second Amendment being a popular topic among columnists this week (both Wendy McElroy and Glenn Harlan Reynolds addressed the issue in their columns), the response from readers showed unequivocally that the gun control debate has not cooled down.

Reynold's exposure of the false data in Michael Bellesiles book, Arming America: The Origins of the National Gun Culture, ignited a particularly heated response. Many readers also felt that the four hijackings of Sept. 11 could have been prevented, and that in order to guarantee a feeling of security among the citizens of the United States, everyone from pilots to normal civilians should have the immediate right to bear arms and protect their communities. The few that opposed this view believed that too many armed citizens would pose a greater threat than terrorism itself.

Here's a sample of this week's e-mail:

— As you state, terrorists prey on fear and uncertainty — which is what a well-armed society creates for the terrorists...The war on terrorism, like other crimes, may at times be fought on foreign soil, but must be won at home. It will only be won when a critical mass of citizens are willing to protect themselves and their neighbors creating fear, uncertainty and doubt for the perpetrators.

—I have never been able to accept, in any form, the argument that having armed citizenry leads to less violence and there is essentially no evidence that supports your claims. If I were to believe your claim that a more armed public was to lead to more security, then why should we stop at handguns? Why not M-16's and heavy artillery? Surely they would allow the public to better protect themselves and their homes. It amazes me that that educated; intelligent people can come to these conclusions when all logical arguments, empirical evidence and common sense clearly indicate that your position is absurd.

—Let’s begin with your example of Israel. You fail to mention that the percentage of armed citizens is primarily due to the fact that all Israeli citizens, when they turn 18, must serve in the armed services. As well, can you honestly sit there and tell me that you believe Israel is safer because of all the weapons that are there? When almost every day now we hear of more killings on both sides?

—What about England, a country where the police don't even carry guns? Have you ever checked out the violent crime statistics in England? You should! They are among the lowest in the world. Why do you think that is? It stuns me that something so obvious can be dismissed.

—These terrorists entered the country and learned how to fly here, lived here, and presumably bought the knives/ box cutters in America. Now, can you honestly sit there and tell me you think it would be less dangerous in a world where everyone was packing? THINK ABOUT IT.

—I never thought I would hear a "feminist" be pro-gun ownership. My how times have changed! I salute you for having a common sense attitude on the issue instead of the usual politically correct "blinders-on" attitude espoused by the majority of your fellow "feminists".

—Had the government not intervened on the individuals right to keep and bear arms, then the World Trade Center disaster would not have happened. At the worst, all four planes would have crashed without reaching their intended targets. If we still had the right to self-defense, someone (more likely several someone’s) would have been armed on those planes, taken action to diffuse or stop the hijacking and saved thousands of lives. We should all be prepared to die for what we believe, but to be attacked from the rear, with our hands "governmentally tied" is inexcusable.

—In your article you write that some advocate stricter measures for combating terrorism here in the U.S. and advocate "bounty hunting," and some say that we should vastly increase the number of Americans with concealed weapon permits.  But do you also think it would be a good idea to have tens of millions of American civilians carrying around weapons? The Israeli situation that you cite seems to me to be quite different from our own. Although Americans have a right to be outraged and afraid, and in fact at war with the perpetrators of the terrorist acts of Sept 11, we are not like Israel, a tiny state surrounded by hostile peoples. You write that you "believe in using force in self defense." I do too. But do you believe that we should have tens of millions of civilian Americans with concealed weapons?

—Wendy, you hit this one just right. I agree on all accounts. Neighborhood watches are other prime examples of civilians protecting themselves and these watches could be expanded to protect against terrorism. Most Americans will defend themselves when the time comes. On the opposite side of the fence are the pathetic Hollywood cry babies. While most Americans are back flying and going to ball games, Hollywood is scared to have their Emmy award show without military support. These same idiots who are normally toting the liberal anti-gun/hunting flag and whining about money spent on defense are afraid to stick their head out of their body-guarded window.

—If passengers with concealed weapons permits were allowed to carry their weapons on commercial airplanes, the hijackings would never have occurred... Now is a very important time for citizens to become aware of the importance of the Second Amendment. Utilizing our right to bear arms may be the best defense this country has to defend itself against terrorism.

—Where is a bullhorn when you need one? This is just a prime example of the self appointed intelligentsia patting each other on the back for things that are not true. Many of the people in our universities teaching are there only because of tenure and politics rather some ability to think deep thoughts. As far as the media goes, many of their claims to fame are based on their ability to speak, read and look pretty.
When is America going to wake up and think for themselves? This goes double for some of the people in Congress but we have no one to blame but ourselves for them.

—Does Bellesiles wish us to believe that the thousands of settlers went west armed only with a knife or axe and repelled grizzly bears from their farms with homemade spears?... If his thesis is correct, how does he account for all those who "went west unarmed" and somehow survived...There is ample documentation to show that numerous firearm manufacturers existed in the New England region and they were prolific in their output...This man is apparently part of that gang of abberants who wish to re-write history to suit their own foolish political ideology.

—Hooray for exposing a bald faced liar...this text will probably be snatched up and used as an historical text to be taught in schools. It must be exposed and stopped.

—I want to thank you for...bringing to greater light in the public forum the intentional errors and misleading conclusions of the book by Mr. Bellesiles...It is disappointing to me that more thorough investigation of his work was not done by the main media reviewers; that it was accepted on face value and not checked out, most likely because it supported their stance on the issue. I hope this will demonstrate to the American public how the gun control movement in America is not interested in getting at the truth about gun control and the risks presented by disarming law abiding American citizens.

—The first thing that dictators and despots do in taking control of a country is to disarm the populace; just ask the German people and the Cuban people...We, as a free people, cannot afford to assume that it would not happen here