Tuesday, February 26, 2013

“Guns – One Last Time”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Guns – One Last Time”
February 27, 2013

If you are sick of reading the tripe that passes for criticism and/or support for gun control legislation, read no further. However, in my opinion and despite my ambivalent feelings on the whole issue, as well as my promise to leave the issue alone, there is more to be said.

Those who favor gun control recognize a political opportunity; though they know it will raise the ire of gun supporters, of whom there are more than there are opponents. Nevertheless, it seems to me that anyone who owns a couple of assault rifles and who feels his Second Amendment rights are being threatened is smoking something. In writing the Constitution, those in Philadelphia that summer of 1787 could not conceive what weapons would be developed in two hundred years, or the multiple cartridges that accompany them. At that time gun barrels had not been rifled. With no standing army in 1787, the concept of a “well regulated Militia” was deemed necessary for the “security of a free state.” It was determined, therefore, that the “right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” So ends the Second Amendment.

But today we live in a different time. While we do have a standing army, states have abrogated much of their authority to the central government, in contravention to the concept of a republic. Many of those who met in Philadelphia that long ago summer were skeptical of a strong central government. They had recently fought and defeated the greatest power on earth for taxing without representation. So, while the need for a militia, in the sense understood by those men who met that summer, is no longer necessary, they were concerned about the risk of authoritarianism. And, it is my guess that today they would be concerned with the decline of federalism and the increased power that has accrued to the executive branch. That shift would be considered reason enough to support the right to bear arms. Why, they would ask, does the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) feel the need to purchase 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition over the next five years? To put that number in perspective, during the height of active battle operations in Iraq, U.S. soldiers used 5.5 million rounds per month. They would have been bothered by the fact that last year the Social Security Administration posted a notice that it was buying 174,000 hollow point bullets. While we think of Social Security recipients as being nice elderly people (like me), there are those who cheat. The agency employs 295 agents who investigate fraud and other crimes. But do they need almost 600 rounds per agent – and hollow point bullets, at that?

The explanation for the purchase by the DHS is that they want the ammunition for law enforcement training centers they operate, for example the ones in Glynco, Georgia and Artesia, New Mexico. According to reports, 750 million rounds would be used for training over the next five years. In 2012, 70,000 agents and officers fired 15 million rounds at those training facilities. Over five years, that would account for about 75 million bullets. Why do they need an additional 675 million rounds? The balance of the 1.6 billion rounds of ammo (850 million rounds) would be assigned to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE employs between 15,000 and 20,000 people. That means immigration officials have enough ammunition to provision 42,000 rounds per employee. Why? Like Pogo, the Founders would likely have concluded, “We have found the enemy and it is us.”

Even before Newtown, gun advocates were nervous about the intentions of the Administration. Five years ago in Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama patronizingly described such rural citizens as “clinging to guns and religion.” A study funded by the DHS (and leaked last year) found that Americans who are “suspicious of centralized federal authority” and “reverent of individual liberty” were described as “extreme right-wing” terrorists. I am certainly skeptical of a strong central government and am “reverent” of individual liberty, but I know of no one who sees me as an extreme right-wing terrorist. Further, I would suggest that any American who is not skeptical of centralized government is lacking knowledge of history and an understanding of human nature.

As I have written before, I am not a gun guy, but I am a believer in our rights as individuals; the rule of law, not men; the importance of the separation and balance between the three branches of government, and I am instinctively untrusting of any government entity attempting to garner control and power. That has been the direction we have been headed for the past eight decades and we are now moving at an increasing rate. It suggests more dependency, and less personal responsibility and personal freedom.

Sadly, gun violence is higher in the U.S. than in most other western nations. The good thing is that the murder rate in the U.S., according to the Department of Justice, is about half of what it was in 1980. Nevertheless, gang related violence has quadrupled over that same time. Despite the recent hoopla, there does not appear to be a discernable trend in terms of mass murders in the United States. Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and who has written on mass murders in America, provided the following estimates for mass murders (more than four people) by decade: 1980s – 32; 1990s – 42; 2000s – 26.

While mass murders garner publicity and allow politicians to moralize against guns, most gun-related killings take place in inner cities, especially among minorities and the poor. In most cases, they are unreported by the Press. Mass murders, such as the one in Newtown, are horrific, especially when they involve young children, are widely reported. However, they are almost impossible to predict and thus difficult to prevent. Time and money would be better spent on the far greater incidence of killings in our inner cities. Those are more predictable and therefore more preventable. When President Obama went to Chicago to promote his gun violence initiatives, he spoke to the core of the problem: “There is no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families, which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood.” Amen.

Unfortunately such talk flies in the face of the Leftist agenda that sees government as a necessary component in the solution to every problem. Disappointingly, the President didn’t stop with the above comments. He went on about “Promise Zones” that have been around for years, yet have done very little to stop violence. And how could Hollywood endorse a suggestion as conventional as marriage between a man and a woman? Homicides in Chicago in 2012 were equal to nineteen and a half Newtowns, yet received none of the press. Those of us who live on the coasts, and who are white and affluent could identify with the families in Newtown, whereas we cannot with the killings in the poverty stricken areas like inner-city Chicago. But neither can the Press nor politicians. Most of the latter were gang related and most involved minorities from broken families racked with poverty. According to the Department of Justice, 93% of African-American murders are intraracial. Those killings are a world apart from where most of us live. Understandably, we are drawn to that with which we identify.

We must also keep in mind that bans on assault rifles in Connecticut did not deter Adam Lanza from carrying one that awful day in Newtown. Nor should we ignore the fact that Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, yet had more killings in 2012 than any other city.

All of this talk has brought out the absurd as well as the sensible. Vice President Joe Biden suggested he would arm his wife with a shotgun, with which she should fire out the window and into the air if she hears a disturbance. His comments were was not only ridiculous, they were dangerous. I cannot imagine giving my wife similar instructions, an opinion I share, I am sure, with most Americans. What I hope the country does is take heed of those words the President spoke about in Chicago this week – the stability of families, the role of fathers, and the importance of marriage. That is by far the best way to reduce violence. And it doesn’t involve government, but it does require leadership.

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