Like every American, especially moms and dads, the Newtown shootings were a punch in the gut. I have prayed for the families. It's just unthinkable what they are suffering.
I share the outrage of gun-control advocates and all of those seeking to find answers and do something. Yet, in our effort to find a solution, we must not lose sight of the primary goal – to keep our children safe and give families in America the peace of mind they deserve. We must do this in a way that preserves our freedom to protect ourselves – a freedom enshrined in the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
As we all know, no constitutional right is unlimited, but any limits on constitutional rights must be justified by a compelling state interest – not ideological preference – and they must be done in the least restrictive manner possible. The gun restrictions proposed are nothing new and have proven not to keep the public safer where they have been tried. In fact, they limit freedoms and make us less safe.
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The most disconcerting proposal under consideration has ramifications beyond the Second Amendment, and that is the "universal background check." The Obama administration and advocates of this proposal say it would close loopholes. But an Obama administration memo obtained by the NRA said for such a background check to be successful, a database of private guns sales would need to be created, in other words, a national gun registry. This would be a gross invasion of privacy, as we saw recently when names and addresses of law-abiding gun owners were made public.
As for background checks, around 200,000 firearms are stolen each year. Criminals will continue to acquire guns without having to submit to background checks. Instead of ineffective new laws, we instead need to focus on strengthening existing systems and cracking down on those who commit crimes with guns.
Creating more laws, more rules and more regulations doesn't prevent criminal behavior. And more guns does not mean more violence, either. Consider these points:
- The rate of gun ownership is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but the murder rate is higher in urban areas.
- Gun ownership is roughly three times as high in Switzerland as it is in Germany, yet the Swiss have had lower murder rates. Other countries with high rates of gun ownership and low murder rates include Israel, New Zealand and Finland.
- Between 1940 and the early 1960s in America, people could buy guns, ammunition and dynamite from hardware stores; the Sears Christmas catalog had page upon page of rifles and shotguns that could be ordered through the mail. Some high schools and Boy Scout groups had shooting teams. Many high school students on those teams kept their rifles in their school lockers. All of this was before the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 was enacted and before background checks and waiting periods were implemented in the 1990s.
- Gun control laws do not correlate with decreased violence. If gun control worked, then Washington, D.C., Oakland and Chicago – all of which have very strict gun control laws – would be among the safest places to live or visit. Based on what you know about those cities, do you think they are the safest places to get lost late at night? They are, of course, among the most dangerous places, and criminal gun activity is very common.
- Countries, such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico, have stricter gun control laws but higher per capita rates of violence through the criminal use of guns than the U.S.
- During the decade that the assault weapons ban was in place, our nation's public schools were subjected to more than two dozen incidents of violence through the criminal use of guns.
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We need to challenge ourselves to focus on what will work to keep our kids safe. We need stronger communities and families that can provide love and support to those most in need – to those who suffer from mental illnesses. We need to encourage fathers to be more active in the lives of their children and to take more responsibility for their children as they struggle through adolescence. Isolated and alienated young men need special attention and outreach that comes best from a father, family and strong community.
We need to highlight the effective community and faith-based organizations that work with young people and show them the path. We need to challenge Hollywood and the video game industry's fixation and glorification of indiscriminate violence and rejection of the values and principles that made this country great. These are not the images we want our children exposed to. President Obama needs to step up and tell his friends in Hollywood that Americans won't tolerate their glorification of violence any longer.
Violence in America, including gun violence, is not going to be solved in Washington. The people committing these heinous crimes have already broken numerous laws passed by Congress. We need to stop looking to Washington, and look to our families, communities and ourselves to help those who are struggling in our society. Instead of seeing this as someone else's problem, we need to act to create a more positive culture and better community through our own daily works.