I, like all Americans, was heartbroken at the news last week from Aurora, Colorado, that a deranged gunman opened fire on innocent folks in a movie theatre. At an opening night showing of The Dark Knight Rises, gunman James Holmes stormed through an emergency exit and began indiscriminately shooting into the audience, killing 12 and injuring over 70. Such senseless acts of rage and violence are becoming an all-too-familiar theme in modern American life, and Americans are rightly concerned about what this means for our country. In every sector of society folks are asking how this has happened in the land of the free, and are proposing solutions that run the gambit. The problem with most of these so-called solutions, however, is that they miss the heart of the matter; they would only to treat the symptoms and never hit the syndrome.
On my evening show “Common Cents,” we recently concluded a series called “10 vs. 10,000,” in which we examined the role of private morality in limited government. What we concluded from our study is that, absent societal acceptance of consensus values and absolutes, we cannot build a society based on freedom and liberty. That’s because, absent personal governance based on ethical standards, the behavior of otherwise free individuals has to be checked by an ever-increasing set of rules and regulations. Benjamin Franklin warned us of this trend at the very founding of our Republic, concluding that “as nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” This ought to ring in our ears louder than ever, as our freedoms are being constantly eroded by the rise of big government, which is the result of the deconstruction of citizenship as a calling of character.
The quintessential aspect of American freedom is private morality. The reason that our founders rightly believed America was capable of self-government is that most Americans accepted commonly held beliefs about right and wrong, which were rooted in the Judeo-Christian Ethic. That ethic formed the founding ethos of our free nation, and has been the sustaining set of values throughout her history. As a tide of moral relativism has swept our nation, however, these firm foundations of freedom have been severely eroded. Instead of extolling the virtues of our founders, our national leaders have belittled concepts of justice, truth and honor as tired, stale ideas of an age-gone-by. They do so at the peril of the American people. A nation that does not value life will experience an ever-increasing tide of domestic terrorism, such as we saw Thursday night in Colorado. This is because, absent absolute truth, the souls of men are troubled with dark and dangerous tendencies.
This is why proposals by liberal politicians that the Second Amendment be undermined are shortsighted, ideologically driven and hopelessly incapable of correcting this cultural cancer. On the Sunday morning talk shows, Senators and Congressman from the Democratic Party proposed a labyrinth of gun control regulations, which would be applied against law-abiding citizens. Criminals and domestic terrorists like James Holmes couldn’t care less if Congress passes a new law making it harder for them to get a handgun; they will simply buy one on the black market or create weapons of other kinds. The only people that will abide by new gun control measures are those who respect the rule of law in the first place. Thus, the end result of all such “solutions” will be the disarmament of innocent Americans, placing them at the mercy of the likes of the Colorado movie theatre gunman.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I, too, am absolutely heartbroken when I read of gunmen in movie theatres and shootings on college campuses. But, statistics indicate that the usurpation of the right to keep and bear arms makes innocent Americans all the more vulnerable. In a study included in the 2007 Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, titled “Would banning firearms reduce murder and suicide,” the authors Gary A. Mauser and Don B. Kates concluded that it would not. One of the most startling pieces of evidence they provided was a national study which indicated that the US murder rate from 1973-1997 dropped nearly 28%, while, at the same time, national gun ownership in general increased 103% and handgun ownership in particular increased 163%. This is irrefutable hard evidence that Americans’ access to guns isn’t the driving force behind violent crimes and shooting rampages.
I would propose that the solution to shootings like we saw last Thursday evening is a national conversation about ethics and values. Instead of belittling the values of our founders, and treating truth as a relative concept, we ought to restore moral education to the classroom and in American civic life. Rebuilding a cultural ethos on consensus values would go much further in restoring peace and tranquility than forcing law-abiding, innocent Americans into a unilateral disarmament that would shift the balance of power in favor of the bad guys. Additionally, we should provide a serious incentive for potential mass murders and domestic terrorists to forgo their evil designs, by increasing penalties on such actions and leaving the death penalty on the table. The liberal solution of disarming innocent Americans, while removing the death penalty for domestic terrorists, is a recipe for making America the murder capital of the world.