After writing Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers, I received a number of comments on the blog, by Facebook, Twitter, and email. While the comments varied, the majority of questions could be summarized as follows:
“Yes, I like the Founding Fathers too, but they wrote 200 years ago and times have changed. Don’t just tell us that the problem lies in the heart of man.We want a solution.”
So, here I would like to discuss solutions, but I would like to do so within the Founders’ framework. Please allow me set up the discussion with a few of their own words:
“They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
“We have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Robert Winthrop (Patron of Winthrop University)
“All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet. It may do for other countries and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.”
Winthrop was not a “Founding Father” but a member of the next generation. I included his statement because it summarized the type of thinking I have been talking about. If we are internally controlled, we do not need external control. If, on the other hand, we do not control ourselves, we will lose liberty and demand that the government control us.
On the floor of the Virginia Ratification Convention, James Madison asked:
“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure.”
Let’s begin with suggestions that would not work (or are 180 degrees from the thinking of the Founders). These include:
- Gun-free school zones (Sandy Hook Elementary was already a gun-free school zone. Criminals tend not to follow the rules).
- Expand gun-free areas to all public spaces (see comments above).
- Additional gun control legislation (20 or more laws were broken at Colombine. It is yet to be determined how many laws were broken in Newtown, CT, but let’s assume criminals have little respect for the law. Do we believe that another law will help or is this an effort to feel like we have done something?)
Here are the most workable solutions I have heard:
- Moral and religious revival (a bit difficult to implement, admittedly).
- Cultural shift that does not glorify guns and violence (unlikely while Hollywood and Rappers exist).
- Focus on moral and ethical training of our children (which will be difficult in a society that can no longer agree on what is right and what is wrong).
- “Resource officers” – More police stationed at schools (please reread the Winthrop quote above).
- We have Air Marshals–why not have School Marshals too? (or armed administrators).
- More armed auxiliary police (e.g. deputized civilians who can be called on in crises–expanding this number is cost-effective compared to the other models. We have a lot of vets who already have training).
- Adopt a Swiss Model (There is a reason the Nazis did not invade Switzerland–they realized it would be too costly).
The first two suggestions are internal. The latter are external and somewhat expensive, but if we are unwilling to do the real work of dealing with the root of the matter (the heart), we will be required to vigilantly monitor an ever-growing number of bad guy.
A colleague that I deeply respect emailed and privately wrote this about the Gun Control: How to Think Like the Founding Fathers article :
“I’m not sure how to improve [your argument]. Fact is, there is no way to remove all exigencies. Liberty requires character because it means taking responsibility for your own actions. Unfortunately, it also means bearing the cost of others misusing it.”
President Obama described the school shooting as his “compass moment.” If it is, this may be the political leadership issue of our time. I am convinced that a departure from the Founders’ thinking will not lead us to the promised peace and security that we crave.
What Are Your Suggestions? I’ll add them to the list.
-Darin Gerdes, Ph.D.
December 18, 2012
Dr. Gerdes is the Director of the MBA Program at Charleston Southern University