Why a federal response will not prevent gun violence

Any answer to gun violence, especially by the mentally ill, demands that we start by recognizing that there are really and truly right and wrong solutions to social problems. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, December 20, 2012 ― Christmas is just days away, but gun violence and a slaughter of innocents has made it hard to think about peace on earth, good will to men. Newtown was even more unthinkable and more devastating than the tragedy in Aurora.

At a time like this, it would be nice if our leaders focused on the truth and showed their confidence in the wisdom and good will of the American people. Instead, this tragedy has elicited the same response as every other tragedy: more Washington centered “answers” and the tighter embrace of our federal parents.

Joe Biden is on the job to “coordinate government agencies and develop policies to address growing concerns across the nation about guns and gun violence,” reported the New York Daily News. This is code for taking more money and personal responsibility from the people and turning it over to an already swollen federal bureaucracy.

There is no single, centralized answer to violence at the hands of the mentally ill. How to deal with complex situations such as the mentally ill, education, health care, and many others begins with three steps:

1. We must agree that there is such a thing as absolute right and wrong, that these problems aren’t all just a matter of perspective.

2. Let the states and local communities tackle issues, without heavy strings attached, that are not otherwise tasked to the federal government by the Constitution. The fact that a problem is complex or widespread is not enough to make it federal. 

3. Return to the principle of individual and local responsibility. So many of us have lived for so long in our federal “parents’” house that it may be hard to find a sense of responsibility, but it must be there, somewhere.

Shouldn’t the government do something?

Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing (if it’s the right nothing), but governments exist to do something. The idea that problems are so vast and intractable that no one can do anything is a cornerstone of modern liberalism. It leads logically to ever increasing levels of government “help” and intervention (this is also known as Progressivism or statism). We’re trained to worship the cult of the “expert” (how many experts are telling us what went wrong in Newtown and how we must fix it?), and thus trust the federal government, which can afford to hire almost unlimited expertise. It has the brains, the training, and the managerial skill to manage all aspects of society and solve all problems.

In theory, government expertise should produce a society of equal men, free of want and ignorance and crime. Liberals believe that humans are infinitely plastic and perfectable. They don’t admit that no matter how we change the laws, humans will always be human, frail, ready to surprise us with acts of savage cruelty and malice or with astonishing wisdom and love. Tehy don’t see the U.S. Constitution and the laws as a framework for a government by and for the imperfect, but as instruments to make us good.

In a 1912 speech Woodrow Wilson, the father of American Progressivism, said that government and constitutions are living and accountable not to Newton (inflexible, unchanging laws of motion) but to Darwin (infinitely variable, always changing, and, in the pseudoscientific understanding of the day, tending to “progress”).

Since the Wilson Administration, and in a tradition vigorously pursued by presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and even George W. Bush, the government has done more and more, often to no effect. Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, behind only Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Those laws didn’t help last week.

If there is no absolute right or wrong, if there are no bedrock principles, if instead government follows the laws of Darwin and does what’s relatively good for the here and now, then what it does about anything at any time is left to the whim of whomever has the power to make decisions.

Again in the words of Woodrow Wilson, “…His office [the President of the United States] is anything he has the sagacity and force to make it.”

Mr. President, was the shooting in Connecticut evil or not?

In his 2000 memoir, The Audacity of Hope, Barak Obama wrote “…the very idea of ordered liberty is a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or ‘ism,’ any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single unalterable course…”

This statement is a blatant rejection of the core American founding principle: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, …”

The blood shed during the Civil War over slavery was about right and wrong. Would Obama and modern liberals rail against the “tyrannical consistency” imposed by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution?

Lincoln’s argument, restated by Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, in a recent radio interview, was that either slavery is right or freedom is right, and that the country couldn’t long stand if it was divided on which was so.

In the days when America grappled with this issue, many believed they had found some moral high ground above this basic question that rationalized the continuation and even spread of human possession. It was a lie. Freedom is always right.

Today we might say, it is wrong for the mentally ill or anyone else not mature or sane enough to handle the responsibility of gun ownership. Is the rational response to ban all weapons?

It is wrong to leave children playing violent video games for hours on end. Is the rational response to outlaw violent games?

It was wrong to warehouse the mentally ill in state institutions the served to control, not cure them. Was the rational response to take away state mental hospital options for families with children unable to function in society without hurting themselves or others? That is what federal policy has done.

To agree with these statements is a contradiction of the liberal core belief that anything goes, there is no absolute truth, that no idea is infallible. And so for the liberal, the subsequent questions about “rational response” are meaningless. There is no rational response. Policy does what you want it to do.

The liberal “truth” is whatever the speaker wants it to be at any given moment in time. This is why liberal leaders and their positions are ultimately weak. Democrats in the 1860s vehemently argued for the continuation of slavery on moral grounds.

Honest thinkers will recognize that a federal, centralized answer to any one of those statements above would immediately set-off a chain reaction of unintended consequences. Yet that does not preclude the moral responsibility to call something wrong. This is the starting point.

Let the states and people decide.

In the midst of hurt and tragedy, it’s easy to turn responsibility over to a distant authority. Federal intervention and centralization does not solve problems. It complicates them for the states, communities and families dealing with real lives, real situations.

Any form of violence against children is evil; it is wrong. Individuals responsible for the violence should be dealt with justly and severely. Spending more with tax induced and borrowed money to make up contorted rules and hire more bureaucrats will not stop or most likely even curb violence.

Carla Garrison follows current events with one eye on history and the other on the future. As a follower of Christ, her goal is to encourage people to know the truth and use it as a call to personal action. Read more at Truth be Told.

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Carla Garrison

Carla writes about current issues and events with an aim toward telling the truth, using the writings of great thinkers, dead and living, as well as common sense.

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