Hey, I'm back from a self-imposed exile from my blog and politics. Well, at least I am back to my blog. There have been many times I wanted to add to the social discourse over the last year and a half, but I restrained myself. Why my silence and disengagement? I'll save that for another blog. I will now just dig into the topic of the day: the latest mass killing of innocents by a deranged shooter.
Our hearts break for the families and friends of the victims. You feel for the young people that had to go through that horrifying experience. They are forever scarred. In any tragedy the victims and society in general search for answers. They ask "how could this happen?" and "why would this happen?" They are understandably both sad and angry. You've probably felt this way in a personal tragedy or a huge injustice; it's profoundly not fair and your anger wells up.
The high school students in Parkland, FL need time to grieve, but anger has overtaken them. Their anger is being encouraged and channeled by national, local and social media. Again it is understandable to hear students express their fear and anger, and at this time to focus their anger on guns. After all, they have been told their whole lives how evil guns are and now they have experienced personally what guns can do in the hands of a deranged person. As part of their trying to make sense of the insanity they want and need to blame someone or something.
Their natural anger and need to blame is being channeled into an anti-gun movement. Instead of adults trying to emotionally support the vulnerable victims the students are given platforms to vent and to blame gun laws, adults, politicians, the NRA and government in general. As a society we usually do not condone young, inexperienced people setting the agenda or lecturing adults who have a lifetime of experience and knowledge. Further, do even experienced adults make good decisions when they are overcome by emotions? Usually not; reason does not prevail. But now adults are encouraging children who have been through an unbelievable tragedy to speak in the heat of the moment on a topic (gun rights) that is enshrined in our Bill of Rights and has been debated for decades.
So in the aftermath of another tragic school shooting there is a stampede to have government do something. "Can't the government protect our children?," we hear. Certainly a role of government is law and order and to protect innocent life. In this mass shooting apparently law enforcement personnel did not act on overwhelming danger signs. Laws and protocols were in place, but they were not followed. It is probably accurate to place some blame on the FBI and local law enforcement for not acting on their intelligence. However, we don't know for sure if they could have prevented it, and don't forget that the ultimate blame goes on the deranged shooter.
In the public discussion to tighten gun laws in the U.S. some people want to compare the gun crime statistics in other countries. The U.S, we're told, has many more guns per person. (However, the percentage of households with guns has declined about 20% since the 1970s according to the General Social Survey and CBS News, 2016) We're told that other countries do not have these school shootings or other mass shootings. (Well, that is not entirely true and some countries are plagued by other horrific acts of violence.) For sake of argument let's say that it is true. Is it the quantity of guns - resulting from laws that allow guns to be purchased - that make these shootings more likely? That is the argument I hear. So if we only had less guns, criminals and deranged people would not shoot and kill others in America. Really?
We're fooling ourselves if we fall for that reasoning. School shootings and these other heinous mass shootings are a relatively modern phenomenon. Yet we have had high percentages of gun ownership since our founding (and as stated above, households with guns have actually declined in modern times). Why didn't we see these school shootings, say, in the 1950's? I believe it is cultural. Society overall has become less moral and more violent.
Yet our system of government in America requires a moral people for it to function smoothly and peacefully. John Adams famously said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Our civil government requires self-government. The genius of our founders was to recognize fundamental rights of the people - God given rights, not Government instituted privileges. Freedom in America meant each person was at liberty to express these rights without government interference.
But what was to constrain individuals expressing their liberty from violating another person's liberty? See, in all other forms of civil government it was assumed that citizens were creatures of the State, and the State could control them with intricate laws and rules (see even European democracies today). Without the heavy hand of the State wouldn't there be anarchy?
Man in search of societal peace and tranquility can go to the one extreme. That is, the State can enforce order by instituting a police state, even with an immoral people. It is not very efficient, and while citizens may feel some security, individual freedom is nil. Opportunity for individual and societal creativity is strangled.
The American experiment went in the other extreme. In America, the State was of and by the people and the citizen was to govern himself. America's Constitution beautifully recognizes our freedoms, but, it assumes the people will self-govern, or have self restraint. Or, as John Adams points out, that they will be a moral people.
I believe America's citizenry has largely lost the desire and discipline to govern themselves. Things that were once considered vices are now virtues. Political correctness masquerades as morality. People have no shame. Public discourse is crude and combative, and with social media it is amplified and turned into mob behavior. People have abused their liberty. In this milieu, bad actors, taking advantage of the given freedoms in America, such as the Right to Bear Arms, commit atrocities on their fellow citizens.
Are the Rights to be blamed? Are the laws meant to restrain and regulate to blame? Is the NRA, Donald Trump or evil Republicans to blame? No, the breakdown of our culture is to blame and it is where we should focus our concerns and efforts for remedy.
(Now, I am not naive enough to think if we go back to 1950's morality that deranged people will stop committing atrocities. Let's realize even the police state has limited capacity to control all behavior, particularly of the committed criminal or deranged wacko. We live in a fallen world and no amount of clever civil government intervention will reverse that.)
The clamor for more restrictive laws in general and for the federal government to do something about guns laws is a misplaced "solution" and will ultimately lead to loss of freedom. Let's reason during this tragic time and not flail about emotionally demanding government solutions. We need to restore self-government and a moral society.