In the wake of yet another slaughter of innocent victims – this time the most innocent of victims – many Americans are more galvanized than ever behind efforts for stricter gun controls. The response was predictable and understandable. We don’t yet know what evil possessed this killer, but we all know that he could not have inflicted such extensive destruction without the effective killing machines he had at his disposal. In the aftermath, many are questioning the need for such weapons in a civilized society, and though we all understand the reflexive outcry for tougher gun laws, we also must understand that impulsive and emotional responses do not always address the root of the problem.
While many equate the availability of guns to violence in America, they ignore the fact that guns have always been a part of America’s culture. British colonists depended on firearms for their very survival. They could not have won our independence without an armed citizenry. Guns also played an important role in the growth of our country. Early settlers of our western expansion had only themselves to depend on in a mostly lawless society, and during that period, nearly everyone was armed. Yet even with that proliferation of guns, lawlessness, and widespread killings, there were no mindless massacres of school children. These are contemporary evils – spawned, not by guns, but by something else.
And while many now question the need for assault weapons, others have always viewed all firearms as the greatest evil in our society. When hundreds of thousands of innocent lives are snuffed out each year, they hypocritically shrug their shoulders and call it “a woman’s right to choose.” Yet when a crazed killer shows that same disregard for innocent young lives, they see an opportunity to attack guns and gun owners. There are no firearms in their Utopian society, except perhaps for the armed security protecting their elite. They truly believe they can eliminate all other guns in a piece-meal approach, through legislation, and don’t understand that universal laws restricting the sale or possession of firearms mean nothing to those operating outside the law. Even if they could somehow dismantle the Second Amendment and shut down all U.S. gun manufacturers, they can never disarm the criminal element. After all, if our government can’t prevent drugs from crossing our borders, how can we expect it to be any more effective with regard to guns?
In fact, this administration seems more adept at supplying guns to killers than disarming them. That was the result of the Fast and Furious debacle, that many believe was intended to generate public outcry against guns. Similarly, another half-baked plan by anti-gun zealots resulted in the public disclosure of local handgun permit holders by a New York newspaper this week. The Journal News clearly intended to intimidate these lawful gun owners, but its action made them prime targets of gun thieves. If any of those weapons are later stolen and used in a crime, The Journal News can share in the culpability.
No one wants to live in an armed camp, a country awash with weapons of war, and most of us recognize the need for some sort of regulation for guns. But before our government starts disarming law-abiding citizens, it should first show some meaningful success in disarming the criminal element. It can start by imposing significantly tougher penalties for criminals using firearms in the commission of a crime. Since their actions demonstrate they are prepared to take a human life, they should face tougher sentences, commensurate with those actions.
But that would not prevent another massacre by a psychopath who somehow sees mass murder as a solution to his personal problems. To do that, we have to address the real cause of these senseless killings – the culture of violence in America. The Newtown killer did not originate the concept of mass murder. He learned it from the psychotic killers before him, all perverted by the violence and malevolence that enveloped them.
It is our culture of violence that must be dealt with, and it can’t be eliminated by punishing six-year-old kids caught drawing a picture of a gun, or by assigning “R” ratings to films because they depict smoking. It requires a complete overhaul of our value system and the restoration of our national conscience – a conscience that we used to learn through close-knit families and through the teachings of our churches and synagogues. And it requires a renewed respect for innocent life and the rejection of the widespread graphic violence euphemistically called “entertainment.”
If we’re not willing to do those things, with or without gun laws, we should be prepared for more unconscionable acts of violence and senseless murders.
So let’s have that debate on mass murder and gun control. But let’s also consider our culture of violence and its many contributing factors – the gratuitous brutality and callousness portrayed in films, video games, and the internet, the breakdown of the family structure, and the rejection of religious values. Let’s try to understand why these mass killers see no worth in human life, and what prompts them to vent their anger on children and other innocent victims. And during that debate, let’s not for a moment forget the Second Amendment and the right to self-protection it guarantees to all citizens.
Peter Lemiska is a military veteran and former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service. He holds a BA in psychology, and his commentaries can be found at renewamerica.com and various other political websites. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org