On the Issues: Gun Violence

In the wake of all-too-common mass shootings, many members of our society have pleaded that we need to do something to control gun violence. As a conservative, I agree. But, as a conservative, I also realize that we shouldn’t let our emotions run away with us in the present situation. We need a well-reasoned response, not an emotional reaction. (Click on the above title to continue if necessary.)

Illinois recently passed the Protect Illinois Communities Act (Public Act 102-1116). Starting October 1, the Illinois State Police began registering so-called “assault weapons,” guns variously described as instruments of war, along with ammunition magazines that carry more than ten rounds. The registration process has not been going well, with an estimated 1% of such gun owners registering their weapons. Many question the constitutionality as well as the wisdom of registering their firearms. Others see it as a precursor to illegal search and seizure, which is unconstitutional. It’s no wonder that otherwise law-abiding citizens are resisting the registration process. The situation has become all the more complicated now that the U.S. Supreme Court has turned down an immediate stay of the implementation date pending future appeal.

 Supporting a belief that the Safe Communities Gun Control Act is indeed unconstitutional, a majority of Illinois sheriffs have gone on record saying that they will not enforce this law because of the questionable constitutionality of the law in relation to the Second Amendment. This law – passed as a knee-jerk reaction to the July 4, 2022, Highland Park shooting – will probably turn out to be just another useless effort at gun control, given these complications.

 In Illinois as elsewhere, as soon as a mass shooting ends, groups begin clambering for new gun laws or offering their favored panaceas to control gun violence. First, Illinois instituted the FOID card with its criminal background check. Guess what? It doesn’t work to curtain crime because background history is not a good predictor of future actions. Now, in light of Highland Park, the Democrat-controlled legislature of Illinois is requiring anyone with a so-called assault rifle to register it. Registering guns, let alone banning them, isn’t going to stop such senseless gun violence. Even a cursory review of the history of mass shootings shows that they all have three crucial elements: the weapon, the killer, and the culture. If we want to get serious about stopping gun-based violence, we must take all three aspects into account and not just pursue simplistic solutions.

The weapon: Weapon registration and owner identification cards are a knee-jerk reaction to the complex problem of gun violence. Evidence from across the USA shows that gun and owner registration fail to stop such violence. For instance, the 1994 federal Assault Weapons Ban requires owner I.D. and a criminal background check before purchasing any gun, but this did little to nothing to stem gun violence.

Unless the government is willing to confiscate all existing firearms and stop the acquisition of all such weapons, gun bans simply won’t work. Grandfathered firearms are still part of the system. It could take a hundred years or more to cycle through the existing stockpile of such guns. Gun bans will do little to reduce gun violence in the here and now.

 Still, even if guns are eliminated from among the law-abiding citizenry, only criminals will have guns, and the citizenry will be at their mercy. Even without guns, however, criminals could turn to knives, box cutters, axes, garrotes, explosives, and other blood-letting devices to perform their dastardly deeds, and more will die unpreventably.

Heaven forbid that our country should be attacked by the likes of Hamas, who swept away 1,400 unarmed Israeli citizens on October 7. With open borders, who knows what sort of people have entered among the three million illegal entrants since the beginning of the Biden administration that can attack us from within? Remember, it took only eleven terrorists to kill nearly 3,000 defenseless Americans on 9/11. The Islamic terrorists used only box cutters to perpetrate their crimes against humanity. Ergo, a standing militia can benefit this country in ways we cannot dismiss.

The Killer: Those with murderous tendencies always have been and always will be part of society. Today, potential killers – many mentally ill – roam the streets freely in ways they did not in the past. People who were a danger to themselves and others used to be committed by doctors and judges to mental institutions for their benefit and that of society. Since the 1970s, legal issues and constraints have made involuntary commitment very difficult. Money needed to help those with mental illness has been significantly reduced as well, and now many needy people wander the streets homeless. Some are ticking time bombs.

While only a tiny percentage of people experiencing homelessness will become mass shooters, many more are the members of the general population who are often known to be dangerous. How many times have we heard that a mass murderer indicated they were a clear and present danger, and no one did anything about it? We must become more aware of these dangerous individuals and share that information with law enforcement. Laws that allow society to put dangerous people away must be placed on the books. We also need to pass Good Samaritan laws to protect those who point out others they believe are troubled individuals to the appropriate authorities, even if they do so mistakenly. We shouldn’t have to wait until troubled individuals kill before they can be institutionalized and treated for their good and the good of society. (We also need to strengthen the laws associated with swatting where someone calls the police on an innocent person with a false claim of criminal activity.)

Not only are mentally ill adults problematical, but so are many school students who have been bullied, abused, and ostracized from their school communities. These alienated individuals often harbor extreme anger that erupts into school violence. We need to put rules in place and hold accountable school administrators and teachers for not stopping school-based bullying when it is repeatedly pointed out to them. The same must be done for the parents of the abusers. Abused children are known to have stuck out against their parents as well.

The Culture: A third element of gun-based mass murders is undoubtedly the lack of respect for life shown in society. This lack of respect ranges from abortion to murderous video games. Pope St. John Paul II called the Western culture a “culture of death.” Ours is a culture of growing disrespect for life in all its stages. Child, spousal, and elder abuse are familiar. Abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia are becoming more and more ingrained in our society. Maiming and killing are seen as nearly a universal way of solving problems.

Many television shows, movies, and video games revolve around gratuitous violence, with gamers pulling their triggers on victims without concern or consequence. They, in effect, become callow murderers. Should we be at all surprised when a deranged individual nurtured on a diet of such violence acts out what is seen on the screen on a near-daily basis? We aren’t serious about protecting life until we protect the weakest among us and move away from the violence we call entertainment.

 A Final Word:

Controlling, outlawing, or registering guns, institutionalizing those persons most likely to commit crimes of violence, and restricting what we see or do as a society comes at a very considerable cost. Every time we act to increase public safety, we do so at the expense of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Registering and restricting guns infringes upon the Second Amendment; institutionalizing those most prone to commit acts of violence to themselves or others infringes upon the Fifth Amendment. Controlling what people do or see infringes upon First Amendment rights. How many rights are you willing to give up for safety?

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