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More gun laws won't solve the problem

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I wrote a column in 1999 about gun control and gun laws. It appears the opinions back then are identical to those today and when I wrote the piece there had been a mass shooting of some kind. Some of the statistics I quoted back then are valid today, especially in light of the Newtown, Conn., incident.

For instance, back then I said, “total firearms deaths for all ages accounted for less than 2 percent (39,000) out of 2,269,000 for the year 1993 (I couldn’t locate 1992), well behind heart disease, cancer and other unintentional injuries (accidents). For all ages, the number of suicides comprised 42 percent of the 39,000. For children ages 0 to 14, firearm deaths only numbered 957. The next statistical category is 14 to 24. In this age group, violent gun deaths in 1993 jumped to around 7,000, which is still less than 1 percent (.03 percent) of the total deaths for that year. However, the increase from 957 to 7,000 is staggering and reflects the overall problems in our society today.” Statistics today are almost identical.

It is a hard fact accidental gun deaths among children (ages 0 to 14) have declined over 50 percent in nearly 25 years (from 530 in 1970 to 227 in 1991 and 205 in 1993), even though the population (and the number of guns) has continued to increase. In 1993, children were five times more likely to be killed in swimming pools than by firearms: 1,023 children died of drowning compared with 205 by all types of firearms. More children died of ingesting food or foreign objects, and 10 times more died in motor vehicle crashes than died because of guns. Children are at a greater risk of being injured in an automobile on the way home from soccer practice than by a firearm.

So, what has changed between the 1950s and 60s and now? Why do illegal guns make their way onto school grounds today, even though federal gun control laws have grown to comprise more than 70,000 words of restrictions and requirements? 

I submit the following: Lax punishment of juvenile offenders. We all know many juvenile offenders will make several journeys through the legal system before doing any time in a juvenile facility. This problem is not strictly limited to young offenders; a murderer of any age could expect to serve only 1.8 years in prison after one considers the risk of capture and the length of the sentence, according to researcher David B. Kopel. Many juvenile offenders do not suffer the consequences of their actions. They receive a “slap on the wrist” and are given a clean record when they reach majority. We live in an age where problems are always “someone else’s fault” and there is very little accountability and hardly any acceptance of responsibility for their actions.

Imitation of TV violence. The average American child will see 8,000 homicides and 100,000 acts of violence on television before completing the sixth grade, according to various estimates. David B. Kopel states in two surveys of young American males that 22 to 34 percent had tried to perform crime techniques they had witnessed on TV.

We have a morality shift in this country. Judge Gaylord Finch; chief judge of juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in Washington, D.C., stated in the Washington Post: “The kids have changed. The values have just become so relative, and it sometimes seems we have no values in common anymore.” Values have become much more secular and religion relegated to derision and ridicule. Our public school system turns out the next generation of nihilists at a rapid pace and hedonism has replaced the old morality-based system on which our country was founded.

There is a tendency in this country to subscribe to the conventional wisdom of the 1990s. Kids who kill are in great distress; they’ve been neglected, rejected, abused, their self esteem is low, they are crying out for help. It’s always someone else’s fault. The parents, someone, anyone. We seem unable to fix blame on the one most responsible -- the individuals themselves. We seem unable to admit to raising a generation of narcissists: ones to whom others have no intrinsic worth beyond a usefulness to satisfy the desires or enhance the self-esteem of the narcissist. Others then become as disposable as bottle caps when they don’t.

We have become a nation of death. America’s Judeo-Christian heritage is rooted in an ancient belief in the sanctity of all human life, including the life of the pre-born. How far we have come from the pro-life teachings of our forebears and their worldview that has served us so well for so long. We have gone from the procreation generation to the termination generation in a matter of decades. 

We have rejected the inalienable right to life and replaced it with the right or the obligation to die. But that right is not for all; rather it is for the strong to exercise on the weak for the purported benefit of all, including the weak, who have no real choice in the matter. Suicide is glorified in music and on TV while euthanasia is proclaimed a benefit and we have put a happy face on killing off the mentally and physically disabled, the elderly, the depressed and the despairing

In view of the Newtown, Connecticut, rampage there can be no doubt we are facing a very bad situation in our schools today; I do not believe the answer lies in passage of more laws. Laws are only meant to punish offenders and offer little or no prevention. Dr. Thomas Sowell had it exactly right when he said, “If we are going to give the government more power over our lives every time we discover a flaw in our society, then we may as well vote in totalitarianism all at once, with our eyes open, rather than have it steal upon us little by little while we are hypnotized by the rhetoric of each individual crisis.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


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