Now, I don’t mean to start your week off on a bad note. I don’t want to shock you or upset you. But I’m afraid I have some “news.”
You know the Boston bombers? The ones from Chechnya? The ones who turned pressure cookers into sophisticated people killing machines and morphed the streets of Boston into the set of 24?
Well…are you sitting down?
Okay. Here it goes. Neither had a permit to own a gun. That’s right. The firearms they used to kill police officers weren’t registered.
I know. Your world is spinning. It’s like learning Santa Claus doesn’t exist all over again. Game changing and utterly up-ending.
Go ahead and take a minute if you need one. I understand this can be upsetting.
At times like this, therapy can be mighty helpful. Or, you could try to see this moment, not as a challenge, but as an opportunity—the chance to bring good from evil.
Perhaps you could even use this revelation as an excuse to resurrect the gun control legislation that went down in flames last week.
The news that the suspects were not authorized to own firearms will likely add fuel to calls for tougher gun laws – an issue that was put on the back-burner last week after the Senate blocked the central elements of a gun-control package backed by President Obama.
That makes sense doesn’t it? If only we’d thought of it sooner. I’m sure background checks and limits on magazine capacity totally would have stopped two mentally unbalanced young men, hell bent on creating mayhem and destruction, from illegally obtaining weapons and dropping homemade bombs at the feet of eight-year-olds.
Such laws wouldn’t have been as effective as more people sporting “Co-exist” bumper stickers on their SUVs, but hey, it would have been a start.
Please forgive the sarcasm. It’s either that or beat my head against a wall out of sheer frustration. You see, I had quite the weekend.
It started, when, at 2:00 on Friday afternoon, about a hundred yards or so from my front door, some kid with as much respect for human life as the Boston bombers, shot two other young men, killing one, critically wounding the other. And he didn’t do it behind closed doors. He did it in the middle of the street, a busy neighborhood street. Then he left the bodies and drove away, which meant the moms driving carpool and the homeschooled kids playing with their friends could get an eye-full.
The next afternoon, this time two blocks over, another kid attempted to rob a woman at gunpoint. When the police showed up, he ran. Then, what the newspapers described as a “running gun battle” commenced. Again, in a busy residential neighborhood. On a sunny Saturday afternoon.
So, given that I spent most of my weekend indoors, keeping an ear out for gunfire, you’ll have to pardon me if I approach gun control legislation with more than a modicum of skepticism today.
To restate the totally and completely obvious: Criminals don’t care about laws. That’s why they’re criminals. Nor do laws stop the mentally unbalanced or deranged from acting mentally unbalanced or deranged.
Accordingly, no background check, in no known universe, could have stopped the murder on my street Friday afternoon. No assault weapons ban could have prevented the shoot-out two blocks over. And no amount of limiting magazine capacity would have done one iota of good in Boston.
Nor could any of those measures have done a darn thing to prevent Adam Lanza from shooting up a kindergarten classroom in Newtown, Connecticut.
None of these guys are playing by the rules to begin with. They’re not buying their guns at Dick’s Sporting Goods, registering them with the state, or working hard to earn that concealed carry permit.
Making the rules harder for those who do play by the rules won’t change that. In fact, the evidence suggests just the opposite.
Look, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a gun person. I’m a vintage dresses, pink tulips, and fine French wine person. I don’t own a gun, and I don’t want to own a gun. I don’t even like guns. I actually do think the world would be a far better place with far fewer of them.
But until people come up with a way to take the guns away from the baddies and the crazies, not the responsible, law-abiding citizens, color me beyond unconvinced that better background checks are going to put a crimp in the style of Steubenville gangsters, Islamic terrorists, or murderous psychopaths.
So what will make people safer? What can the federal government do, that local governments can’t, to help end gun violence?
Well, as one silly man once said to me when I asked him what I’d done to upset him: “I have a list.”
1. Reform the commitment laws for the mentally ill, making it easier for family members to get their loved ones the help they need before it’s too late.
2. Increase federal funding for institutions that serve the mentally ill, so more people who are a danger to themselves and others are kept off the streets.
3. Make a concerted effort to promote marriage and fatherhood, especially in urban areas and particularly among African-Americans. Recent studies show that only 30 percent of African American children are born into a two-parent family, while only 17 percent grow up in a two-parent family.
4. Reform a welfare system that keeps entire generations trapped in a cycle of poverty, dependency, and entitlement.
5. Promote a culture of life, a culture where all life—from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death—is treated as a gift to be treasured, not an inconvenience to be drowned in toilets or tossed into trash bins.
That, of course, is just a start. There’s more, much more, that could be done—from stricter sentencing laws to closer monitoring of potential jihadists. The violence in our culture is a many-layered problem that requires a many-layered solution.
But laws that make us feel good without actually doing good? That purport to keep us safe while actually making us less safe?
They aren’t one of those layers.