Curbing violence in America: Heeding our Founders or Big Brother

The siren calls for gun control continue. Today in Minneapolis, President Obama made plain his view. Photo: Big brother is watching

NEW YORK,  February 4, 2013. –The siren calls for gun control continue. Today in Minneapolis, President Obama made plain his view:

“It’s time to do something about gun violence….We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it is time to do something….If there is just one thing we can do, one life we can save, then we have an obligation to try.”

Last summer, four blocks away from where the President renewed his plea for “common-sense solutions”, Nizzei Anthony George, just five years old, was shot and killed.

Compared to the relentless attention heaped upon the twenty youthful flames and their six would-be protectors snuffed in Newtown, Nizzei’s tragic end received just passing national note in 2011.

How sad is it that one awful death in an urban city has become so commonplace?

Separate as these horrible incidents are, the mainstream media has woven a common thread into the public narrative: guns are the problem and gun control must be the answer. Somehow, the theory goes, if government controlled guns more effectively, gun violence would decline, axiomatically.

Showing wise and resolute concern, the President strenuously re-iterated his recent proposals, including limiting the size of magazines, banning the purchase and sale of “assault weapons”, instituting universal background checks and assessing the mental health of potential purchasers.

Perhaps some of the President’s proposals may eventually become legislation that realistically works to reduce gun violence.

However, now we know that a 17 year old or a 15 year old or both of them fired bullets from guns that were instruments in the death of Nizzei George. Neither of these young adults could ever lawfully obtain the guns or the ammunition used in this horrible crime.

To many, the President’s thoughts today are as soothing as these words, weeks ago from James Taylor—one of the great modern American composers and singers:

“I think the nation is very divided on gun control, but I think the majority of us feel strongly—even the majority of gun owners feel strongly—that we need to make some sacrifice[s] to our freedoms, if that’s the way to put it….We need to make some sacrifices to what we might want to have, in order to safeguard our children.”

Hold on Mr. President, hold on “Sweet Baby James”, and hold on members of the Greek Chorus currently known as the mainstream press corps—not so fast.

There is no doubt violence remains a problem in America. Before we rush and adopt quick and convenient “solutions” to address a portion of the violence that manifests itself in gun-related crimes, all of us who wish to forge lasting solutions would be wise to catch our collective breath and remember history lessons etched in blood.

For one, James Madison deserves to be heard distinctly over the roaring din. Concerning his experience with the Fourth Estate, Madison once noted:

“To the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.”

Especially now, at least someone in the press corps needs to remember how to apply informed, critical reasoning to help solve the most vexing of our continuing common problems.

A writer at The New York Times was recently quick to notice the discordant reality in Chicago that strict gun control laws in the President’s adopted home city have manifestly failed to reduce gun violence.

At first, I wondered whether Chinese hackers had gone further than originally reported to manipulate the text of one of their prominently published stories.

Then I decided to take a closer look myself at available statistics concerning gun crimes and violence against young children in America during the recent past.

In 2011, 581 infants and children through age eight were murdered in America. Of these, 89 or 15% were murdered using a firearm. In contrast, 243 or 42% were murdered using hands or feet while 204 or 35% were murdered using blunt objects, knives or other weapons.

The distribution experienced in 2011 was similar to that seen in 2008, 2009 and 2010. All told, just 14% (324 out of 2,357) were murdered using a firearm in the four year period 2008 through 2011.

No one is suggesting that we regulate instruments other than firearms used in the murder of too many young American children.

Nor are we giving enough attention to the damage that verbal abuse can wreak on the emotional well-being of children and the dread effects that this kind of malfeasance can have as verbally abused children age, mature and gain access to instruments of physical destruction.

Overall, the good news found in annual reports on “Crime in the United States” produced by The Federal Bureau of Investigation is that reported crimes have been on the decline in America for years. No doubt some of this decline is due to the fact that lawful gun-owners stand as stark deterrents to those who might commit crimes of violence.

Admittedly, how many crimes are stopped in advance will always be a question that can never be answered.

The reality that should tamp down a rush to concentrate primarily upon crimes committed using a firearm is that these constitute a minority of all violent crimes: murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

James Madison, the father of America’s Bill of Rights would certainly be surprised today at the rush to surrender constitutionally protected rights in the face of rising domestic threats.

Madison viewed the “right to bear arms” as bulwark against tyrannical government. Madison and the Founders were steeped in history, right back to the earliest experiments with democracies and with republics. These men were creatures of their time but some thought they saw the future clearly.

In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin cautioned:

“Those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

At root, the Founders grasped that individuals bear ultimate responsibility for each one of their acts and that laws only operate after individuals commit deeds.

There is a radically different view of ordered life.

George Orwell’s 1984 arrived in bookstores in 1949, when the thought that America could constrict itself into a centrally controlled totalitarian state was preposterous. Back then, Orwell’s fictional portrayal suggested:

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stepping on a human face-forever.”

Since events of September 11, 2001, Americans have allowed substantial erosions in our personal liberties in face of opaque foreign and domestic threats.

In recent days, distinguished voices call into question the applicability of ancient founding principles in the 21st Century. For example, a Georgetown professor of law penned an op-ed in The New York Times suggesting it was finally time to “give up on the Constitution”.

We modern folk remain sure that only our present lives hold relevance. Lessons from the past are tainted, some claim, and cannot be meaningful today.

Yet, Marcus Tullius Cicero cautioned many centuries ago:

“Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system”.

America’s Constitution is not perfect, but it is the highest law in our land.

As Americans evaluate our realistic, Constitutional options, all would do well to heed these sober words from the father of one Sandy Hook student who managed to survive and never will rush to surrender our hard won liberties, willy-nilly, facts be damned.


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Charles Ortel

Charles Ortel became a lapsed member of the silent majority in August 2007 when he began alerting the public to dangers posed by structural changes in the global economy. Since then, Charles has appeared in the print, radio and television media with increasing frequency. Brass Tacks will attempt to offer non-partisan perspective on factors contributing to the unresolved, burgeoning crisis and discuss potential solutions. Graduated from Horace Mann School, Yale College and Harvard Business School, Charles tries to learn each day.  

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