By Christopher Hunt
Across our country we suffer thousands of violent deaths per year. The supermajority comes from the use of guns. I know, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. It is a people problem, not a gun problem. OK. I get that, and I agree. But… the most successful tool used by people to kill themselves or another human being is a gun, as well as accidental gun deaths while cleaning, hunting, or when a child gets a hold of an adult’s firearm. In these discussions we need to play the story all the way through. We need to look at what the foreseeable consequences of our actions and inactions will be.
Violent murders and gang killings, suicides, and accidental deaths are all fruits of an invasive and aggressive plant. These aren’t the only fruits of this plant, but they are ones that need to be dealt with now. We need to dispose of the fruits with immediate, superficial means, and work arduously to eradicate the roots over time to keep the fruit from finding another outlet to plant it’s seed. Most people are only talking about tackling the problem of the fruits, while ignoring the roots. We are going to take both on, together, in this essay.
What can we do to stop the gun deaths from happening? Let’s start with the violence at schools, as it is so fresh in our minds. There are many steps that can be taken, some more controversial than others.
This violence has been going on for decades now, and we should already have a sufficiently staffed and well-trained counseling department in our schools to help children who are dealing with trauma, abuse, bullying, mental health issues, and chemical imbalances. As we are all paying taxes, these offices should be available for charter and private school students as well as homeschool students. We could have a regional psychiatrist and medical doctor oversee a cluster of schools. This is already done in many clinics where there is no on-site doctor, but there is a doctor available for further consultation. A nurse practitioner, with a doctor’s approval, can write prescriptions. This could give our children with the need for professional care easy access. The staff can also confer with parents, teachers and law enforcement whenever appropriate. Such offices do not yet exist. Let’s get it done.
While we are on the subject of mental health, why don’t we step back and look at the problem on a grander scale. Suicide, especially suicide by gun, is a growing problem. We need mental healthcare available to those who have had traumas, whether it be from going to war, losing family members, abuse, or neurological issues. Those at risk and those suffering from PTSD need access to care, and many do need institutionalization as well. In the past, asylums were often places of dread. In order to serve the needs of our fellows that require full time care, we must proceed with love and compassion, as well as the best modern psychiatric care. For our fellows that need outpatient care we need to have professionals available for counseling and psychiatric treatment.
We should already be implementing x-ray machines and metal detectors at all entrances to schools, and monitored cameras at all entrances and exits. A silent alarm can call attention to an opened exit door to those monitoring the cameras. This will dissuade many would-be violent offenders immediately. At the least, they would find it very difficult to get into the buildings with ill-intent. This still leaves the playgrounds and parking lots open for devastating action.
It would be extremely effective to have armed guards and/or staff at our public schools. Many of our teachers are competent and can wield a gun well. A simple gun course will not be effective training. A three or four week intensive-training course on gun safety and use, with much practical application, followed by stringent testing could help us locate the most appropriate members of a staff to take on this responsibility.
An untrained but armed teacher or staff member can possibly cause a crossfire during a mass shooting incident magnifying the death and injury toll. If the armed teacher has poor marksmanship or panics, accidentally killing a student or fellow staff member, they may become the victim of accidentally shooting, and maybe killing (A) student(s) or (B) fellow staff member(s).
A mix of armed teachers with proven competence through training and seasoned veterans working together would be the best choice. Those who are battle-tested and have fought for our freedoms can act under fire and eliminate the threat. Many of our veterans would jump at the opportunity to continue serving their country in this manner.
Another very controversial (and unconstitutional) means would be a ban on guns, or stronger restrictions on gun ownership. This would be difficult on many fronts. There are so many unregistered guns throughout the country, and so many criminals with guns that it would take decades to get the gun count down to a manageable number. Criminals do not care about the laws, and will not obey any new laws that are put in place.
There is also the constitutional battle. After all, this is in the Bill of Rights. It would be quite a task to get the Second Amendment overturned. Many law-abiding citizens would be willing to be branded criminals rather than giving their guns to the government. And this means of prevention just gets messier and messier; “cold dead hands,” anyone?
There are calls for banning so-called “assault weapons”. If by “assault weapon” we mean a fully-automatic, or a three-round burst gun, those are virtually banned. Only dealers and very highly trained individuals with very expensive tax stamps can even own them. The general public cannot access such firearms. They are extremely regulated.
Many hunting rifles and pistols are semi-automatic (every time you squeeze the trigger, a round fires), and a magazine can be changed in a split second. So round capacity of a magazine is not very relevant. The gun demonized so often in the media, the AR-15, is less powerful, has a smaller caliber, and a shorter range than most other hunting guns. There are some made with larger calibers, but the general caliber is .223 and .556. These two are almost if not impossible to tell apart. The .223 has a stronger load, and lower quality AR-15s cannot shoot a .223 bullet, which happens to be the military round. These calibers are so weak that most states will not allow you to hunt anything but small game with them. They are great varmint guns. Many people own them in order to kill pests around their property or hunt rabbit and squirrel.
Background checks: everyone seems to think this is a good idea and it has been offered lip service for years. I do not know why this has not been integrated into our society nation-wide. Perhaps it is the cost of doing it. Background checks do not mean that the guns must be registered, only that the person buying the gun must be able to pass a background check to purchase the gun. We need an integrated system that connects in real time to criminal records and other pertinent records that are in existence. This system does not exist.
As mariners we have TWIC cards and Merchant Mariner Credentials. They both require background checks. One is an NSA check, the other a military check. These two systems are not integrated. State records are not in an integrated system. What we do need to have an integrated system that draws from state, federal, FBI, NSA and every other system in use by our community to vet people, and track their records. Big brother: I know. None of us wants the government in our business, or at least many of us do not. But, these records are already out there, they are just not connected or in a single system. They should be.
Sometimes the system will fail. The Pulse shooter, for instance, was very strongly vetted. He beat the system because he was clean. The Texas church shooter would have been denied the sale of the gun had his dishonorable discharge been properly reported and recorded. So even if we get background checks up to the highest standard, bad guys will still legally get guns. Just a lot less bad guys than before.
There is an idea that I had long balked at: insurance. I still balk at that, but I have been thinking and reading a lot. Rather than an insurance, perhaps a $1 per month per gun tax would be appropriate. This tax could fund training courses in gun safety and use, as well as gun safety advertisement and media. These taxes can be used to help fund the armed guards, metal detectors and x-ray machines at the schools. These funds can also be used to aid those affected by gun violence.
A gun tax of this variety could only be realized if all guns were to be registered. This is another idea I do not like. Regimes in the past have disarmed citizens and then subdued them through state-inflicted violence. Many of us do not want the government to know what we have: it truly is not their business. But what is the reality today? We have a society rife with immoral and amoral people. Many of them own guns. Legally. Many will not violate the law of man, or not get caught. (the law of man? -TT)
The fact is our society no longer values virtue and morality, and those who are virtuous and moral are often derided. Look at Vice President Pence. The man will not be alone with any woman other than his wife. There were many articles written to humiliate him because of his commitment to virtue and morality. He does what every married man should do; or, rather, he does not do what every married man should not do. He refuses to put himself in temptations way, he chooses to have the utmost respect for his wife, and he chooses to be a good example and refuses to cause scandal. Yet for this, he was attacked.
With this in mind we should contemplate the reality we live in. We live in a reality where background checks are not just a good idea, but a necessity. We live in a society where many of our fellow gun owners are not of sound mind or moral character. This is a dilemma. We risk losing our arms if we opt for the tax/registration means of stopping gun violence, but it seems to me to be a just option worthy of consideration. I do not trust the government any more than you do, maybe less, but there are a lot of bad guys out there. This would slowly but surely help remove guns from the hands of violent people and others who should not have guns. Also, if a person commits an act of violence, and they have guns, it is easier to remove their guns if they are known through a registry.
Our government has proven itself dishonest over and over again. Our government has repeatedly acted nefariously: it has helped overthrow legitimate governments since the early 1800s (Mexico), not to mention how it has treated Native Americans. I had once incorrectly believed that such actions were contained within the Cold War. Many of our rights are disappearing. So, to give them access to a gun registry may well be an act equal to digging our own graves, or putting handcuffs on ourselves. Honestly, I would personally have a very hard time registering my firearms. If compelled to do so, I would be strongly tempted to bundle some up, and bury them for safe keeping. I am very torn on this one. It is worth contemplating and talking about at least rather than dismissing it off hand. Perhaps a sales tax on arms, ammunition, and accessories would be a better route.
We have a Constitutional right to bear arms. Many of us choose to do so, though there is always the risk of accidental gun deaths associated with legally owned guns. These deaths come in the form of hunting accidents, gun cleaning accidents, general negligence, and children getting ahold of guns not properly stored.
In many states, if you wish to carry a concealed firearm, you must go through a course. When I got my first concealed carry permit in Alabama, it took me less than 10 minutes to walk out of the sheriff office with my permit and a free gun lock. I do not find this acceptable. We need real, substantive gun courses.
My father and I have discussed gun safety courses many times. I have never spoken to a fellow gun owner that was against the idea of good, extensive gun training courses. There can be created a standardized gun course for hunting, a standardized course for open and concealed carry and a course that covers both. There can be permit requirements put in place for buying guns. The course should cover safety, good practice and practical application. I suspect that a thorough 20-40 hour course with a 4-8 hour refresher every 5 years would stop a lot of accidental deaths. Instructors can also be trained to notice when they notice red flags among course-takers.
After creating and implementing this course it should have full State reciprocity. This means, that if one passes this course, and receives the proper permits, the permits should be accepted in whatever state they are standing in. This is just and it should already be in place. It is ridiculous that I am law abiding on one stretch of the interstate, but acting criminally on the next stretch because I crossed an invisible line into a different state. Sufficient courses that meet or exceed a set of standards should allow those that complete it to carry wherever they are in the country.
Now that we have gone through the superficial means of dealing with the fruits of the problem, let us dig deeper, to the roots of the problem. It is not a head problem, but a heart problem. What has changed our society into a producer of such violence? Why has the value of human life been so devalued among so many of our fellow citizens? Where has the notion of true human dignity gone?
The foundation of these roots, the deepest root as it were, is the atheistic philosophies that began to take root a few hundred years ago during the Enlightenment. Following the Enlightenment there were many big name philosophers leading up to the positivism of Comte; then Nietzsche followed by some of the most influential people that have shaped our contemporary intelligentsia: Darwin, Marx and Freud.
Marx was extremely prolific, writing books and pamphlets in many languages, and writing for newspapers in many countries. Karl Marx even wrote for a newspaper here in the USA for 11 years. He was a master propagandist. He and Engels began a voyage of historical revisionism with the intent to rewrite history from a purely materialistic point of view. Their success is evident in the course books in our schools and universities. The more of these atheist philosophers you take the time to read, the more you will stand in awe of their effectiveness.
Materialism is the bedrock of atheism, and materialism is what capitalism, socialism and communism grew from. Materialism is the philosophy that asserts that there is nothing in the universe but matter. There is no soul or spirit. Everything is matter. In a materialist society, matter is to be exploited by those in power, whether it be corporations (capitalism) or the state (socialism, communism) or a mixture of the two.
Raw materials are made into other useful tools and materials, and just as a brick is a piece of material used to build a building, so other humans are used as reasoning material to build a state or corporation. Being that everything is simply matter, it is just for the more powerful reasoning matter to exploit the less powerful reasoning matter, (the general population). In other words, because we are all simply matter, we simply do not matter. This is the philosophy which governs capitalism, socialism and communism.
This is why so many of us can slave away for over 80 hours a week and still have a hard time supporting our families. This is why a corporation can lay an employee off who is about to have a baby with their spouse after they have paid the entire deductible and a $500 a month insurance bill, and have their insurance immediately cut off as well. Sure, they offer COBRA at $1900 per month, but unemployment doesn’t even break $1000. Insurance that costs up to 50% of your gross annual pay if you use it, medicine that costs several thousand percent over the cost of production: this is atheistic materialism in action. We must combat these evil and false philosophies.
The most glaring root in our society is abortion. We, as a nation, are murdering our children by the thousands as well as permitting the murder and suicide of our parents and ill through euthanasia. We cloak it with innocent words such as “choice,” “fetus,” “Death with Dignity,” “Mercy Killing.” We are killing our children to make life comfortable, we are doing it out of fear, we are forced to by others, we do it for career, we do it as a form of birth control… we are killing our ill and elderly because they are a “burden” to our life, because they are suffering, because it is hard to afford care. These two things that are legal and made normal in contemporary society preach a gospel of death. They preach a gospel of self gratification, self-centeredness and selfishness. Abortion and euthanasia tell our children that life is of little value. If it is ok to kill babies, sick people, and old people, why not anyone in between?
Parental absenteeism is a big issue in the rearing of children. There are many single parent families out there. A large portion of them are heroic in their efforts. My mother was one of those people. She cleaned houses and put herself through nursing school to take care of my 3 brothers and I. We were the janitors of a small private Catholic school in order to pay half the tuition, the other half was paid by an anonymous donor. We were blessed. But, we also did not have our father around, and our mother was working and going to school, so we did not get very much time with her either. That is harmful to children.
Many children are devastated by the divorce of their parents, incarceration or death of a parent, or a deadbeat parent, and it creates lifelong wounds that spill over into society as a whole, sometimes taking a violent form. The Florida shooter became fatherless at the age of 5, and his mother died last November. There is no doubt that these losses had an enormous affect on him, effectively carrying him over the edge. His story was a tragedy from page one. Of the 7 worst mass shootings in our country since 2005, Cruz was the 6th shooter from a fatherless home.
To dissuade the breakup of families a divorce tax could be implemented. But we must play that story through to the end. There are many abused people that get divorced for personal safety and the safety of their children. A tax can be written in a way that if one of the spouses is abusive, that spouse is responsible for 100% of the divorce tax, while there is no tax responsibility on the abused. Otherwise both parties must pay the divorce tax. This will incentivize parents to stay together and work out their differences. Families with both parents have much healthier and successful children. This may help curb parental absenteeism, and keep children from going down a path that will lead to violence.
This crisis also calls for the action of our churches and religious institutions. We need to call for our churches to start getting involved deeply in family ministry, and spousal counseling. This can be coupled with a government media campaign to promote healthy families.
Pornography cannot be overlooked either. Pornography makes people into objects of mere pleasure. It turns other humans into nothing but a tool to please. Pornography leads to all sorts of sexual perversion. It leads to violent sex crimes, to abuse of children and to human trafficking. Pornography dehumanizes people and makes it easier to overlook the personhood of persons. It also promotes promiscuity, which promotes absentee fatherhood as well as abortion, which further steals the dignity of human life.
Atheistic philosophy is a leading cause of the moral breakdown of society. Without God, man has no special place in creation. If man is simply an iteration of matter, it is of no consequence to end a human life in infancy, illness or old age. if life is not sacred, dignity is a falsehood. If we are only matter, there is no wrong in objectifying other humans through pornography, promiscuity, violence or the like. Our society, our corporations, and our laws tell us that humans do not matter. They tell us that materialism is our reality. In materialism there is no hope. In materialism, there is no love. Although you will rarely hear the overt claim of atheism, you see every day in our laws, in our workplaces, and in our schools the philosophies of atheism lived out and practiced. Society tells us that there is no God, and human life has no dignity. This makes mass shootings and other senseless acts of violence ok. “If you can murder a baby, and she can kill her parents, and he can have his ill brother euthanized, what is really wrong if I slaughter these people that cause me pain and anguish?”
Away from Teaching Materialism
A classical education that is based deeply in literature with the Trivium (study of grammar, rhetoric and logic) and Quadrivium (the study of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music) is a long term, more permanent solution to the violence problem. The literature could be mainly drawn from the Good Book (for pre-school through junior high) and Great Book (for high school) programs.
Although the Good Books and Great Books draw from many cultures, ages, and civilizations, some find it to be to Eurocentric for our times. This can easily be remedied by supplementing some of the Eastern classics such as the writings of Confucius, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, the Bhagavad Gita (a very popular excerpt from an enormous book of ancient Indian lore) and selections from the Murty Classical Library of India. There are many choices that would fit superbly in such an educational outline drawn from other classical texts.
Such curricula fosters growth in virtue and helps to form a moral character while remaining secular in nature. Further, it truly teaches one how to learn. I know of at least one homeschool curriculum that has partnered with a university, and the students can even earn their bachelor degree in liberal arts by adding an extra year to the high school (Angelicum). If this became the framework of education in America, our children can start graduating with a bachelors degree, and this would go a long way to solve another problem as well: skyrocketing student loan debt.
Implementing this would be made much easier through decentralizing of school. More community charter schools, private schools, religious and secular, online public schools, and more widely used homeschooling through established homeschool curriculums, or family made curriculums. These are real means of fostering virtue and morals while growing communal bonds. Constructive relationships help people to be healthy. This is a garden for healthy relationships.
A good education is only an aid to what is learned in the home. As parents, how do we do our part? Pray with your family every morning and every night. Make attendance at your church with your children a priority. Skip the fishing and the football, don’t skip church. Fathers, studies have shown that children whose fathers practiced religion with the family stay faithful to their religion at a significantly higher rate. Give a tithe to your church and donate money to organizations that promote your faith, your values and your morals, as well as to the political causes you champion. Vote. go to political functions, attend pro-life rallies and events, get involved in charity. The most important thing that you can do, is be a role model and mentor to your children. Bring them with you to the functions you go to involving charity, religion, politics and activism.
In order to eradicate these societal evils, and to get our children to heaven, we should raise our children with the goal of forming them into holy politicians, journalists, artists, teachers, professors, actors, producers of film and TV… raise them to be our priests and preachers, our nuns and our mothers. Do not make it abstract. Talk to your children about the war that we are in. Form them into soldiers of change. Make them warriors for justice and morality. As we Catholics say concerning the sacrament of confirmation, make your children Soldiers of Christ. If we want good education, good media, good literature, good religious formation, we need to form our children into the leaders of these areas. This is what will stop the violence. This is what will bring sanity back to our society. Let’s do this together.