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Blame fatherlessness, not guns

Today America struggles to answer one question: Why?! Early reports indicate that Adam Lanza’s mental health deteriorated rapidly following the departure of his father. If there is one theme common to school killings that is precisely it: the absence of a strong father-son bond.

There was an unintended consequence of the feminist movement – as women became more independent, alongside this grew a prevailing sentiment that “we don’t need men.” Men, being the fallible creatures they are, have always suffered from a tendency to shirk their duties as father and husband anyway. They were all too willing to oblige. And this has opened up the floodgate.

The results are staggering. Children from fatherless homes are: five times more likely to commit suicide; 15 times more likely to have behavioral disorders; 10 times more likely to commit rape; 15 times more likely to be jailed; 11 times more likely to exhibit violent behavior at school. Roughly one out of three children has an absentee father, yet this accounts for 90 percent of adolescent repeat arsonists and 72 percent of adolescent murderers.

Children from fatherless homes have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles, are more likely to suffer from mood disorders, show higher instances of depression, higher levels of anger and aggression, lower impulse control, lower self-confidence, less empathy and higher anxiety. The trend holds for both fatherless families and children with a poor father-child bond.

The profiles of most school killers share common traits: depressed, angry young men with horrible self-esteem getting revenge on a world that has hurt them – diabolical, misguided attempts to forge an identity and feel power, be meaningful; an identity that usually forms based largely on one’s father. They lack the feeling of acceptance and “I have value, I’m all right” that comes first and foremost from male role models. The message is clear: America needs dads.

The lives of the victims’ parents, and everyone in Newtown, Conn., are forever altered. These are wounds that will never heal, and our hearts go out to them. In an attempt to appear proactive, lawmakers will bring forth new gun-control legislation. It is unlikely that there is any law that would have prevented this horrible act. No more so than banning Big Macs would end obesity. They’re missing the point.

In China last week a man slashed 22 children inside a school with a knife. The same week three 13- and 14-year-olds fatally shot a 22-year-old woman near Pittsburgh because she refused to give them a cigarette. In the first case we have an alternative weapon, and in the second instance we have an illegal gun. If legislation can’t keep guns out of the hands of 13-year-olds, how do we expect it to keep us safe from drug cartels, terrorists and suicidal maniacs?

The real question is not how we keep killers away from guns – we can’t – it is how we have come to a society that can produce such callous, alienated, angry individuals with such regularity? Guns are an all-too-simple boogeyman. What we should be questioning is the nature of the family in post-modern America. The way to prevent murders is to stop producing murderers. And to do that we need to be producing fathers and husbands. The solution is not an ever-growing police state, Orwellian school systems and squads of droning psychologists; it is role models – full-time dads who provide healthy self-confidence, identity and support to young men.

If we doubt the importance of a father in a developing child’s life – especially that of boys – we are not doing America’s youth any favors. Bo Jackson, professional football and baseball legend, said this about growing up without a father figure. “I had a father but I never had a dad.. Up until I was 11 I thought having a dad meant a man who came by every month and left 20 bucks. I missed out. That haunted me all the way up to pro sports. Here was Bo Jackson, all-star baseball player, football player, top of the world in my profession. But I was envious of my teammates, because they’d fly in their dad to have beers in the locker room after games. In all other aspects my teammates envied me for my athletic ability. But for a dad I would have traded all that in. Just like that.”

Mr. Jackson spoke recently on an ESPN documentary about the anger he felt growing up and how it led him to fight with other children. He has dealt with his demons and become a wonderful father in his own right. But mothers deserve equal partners in child-raising, and children deserve fathers. Let’s keep that in mind as we listen to what Ronald Reagan called the nine most terrifying words in the English language: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.

Geoffrey Mull