The conventional wisdom on the "Amish shootings" and other recent school violence maintains that the "real" problem is just too many guns. "When are your legislators going to realize that gun control saves lives?" asked David Hourigan of Melbourne, Australia, in a letter published by the Washington Post on October 7.
On October 2, a disturbed 32-year-old truck-driver named Charles Carl Roberts IV murdered five Amish girls in their school, near Paradise, Pennsylvania. Roberts burst into the school armed with a shotgun, a semi-automatic pistol, a rifle, and 600 rounds of ammunition. Police later said he appeared equipped for a long siege. He released fifteen schoolboys, a pregnant woman, and three adult women with young children, but kept eleven girls captive. As police stormed the school, Roberts shot five of the girls fatally before killing himself. (Police believe he intended to molest and kill all of them.) In notes left at his home, Roberts said an incident that occurred 20 years earlier had motivated the crime.
Mr. Hourigan is not alone in believing that this horrible crime could have been prevented by stricter gun-control laws. One hundred big-city mayors, including New York’s Michael Bloomberg and Boston’s Thomas Menino, have formed a coalition to get illegal guns off the streets of their cities where violent crime is on the rise. The mayors want to increase gun control and impose stiffer penalties on illegal weapons traffickers.
Students of gun-control’s effect on violent crime differ with the mayors’ premise, however. In his article "Does gun control equal crime control?", Dr. Jeremy D. Blanks – a Senior Research Scientist with a leading R&D firm – writes:
"A review of the areas in the U.S. with the most restrictive firearm laws, including…Washington, DC, Chicago, New York, and California, shows that these areas have some of the highest… violent crime rates in the U.S. The crime rates in all of these areas exceed the national average, and they all have enacted in depth restrictions on firearm ownership that include licensing and registration schemes, various taxes, testing, and even bans on firearms."
Other experts acknowledge that no current laws would have prevented the crime Roberts’ twisted mind had planned. Some say Pennsylvania being a "shall-issue" state – where any law-abiding citizen without a prior felony conviction can obtain a concealed weapon permit – enabled the crime. But there is no evidence that Roberts had a permit for his pistol. His other two weapons required no permits, as they were not handguns. Had guns and knives been banned so effectively that he couldn’t obtain them, he could have used a pitchfork to kill his victims just as effectively.
Most political responses to this and other shooting crimes center on the weapons, not on their users. Missing from reports I have seen (or heard) on Roberts’ pitiless slaughter of those girls was any mention of the word "evil". In fact, he was a wicked man who for two decades – by his own account – nursed some crack-brained grudge and plotted how he would despoil and kill young girls. This was not about law or guns, but about evil in a man’s heart.
In a 2000 review of Christina Hoff Sommers’ book, The War Against Boys, How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men, Dr. Kelley Ross wrote:
"Where children are not raised in a morally appropriate fashion, they will behave impolitely, imprudently, or illegally – [or] all three… The criminality of the young, especially the sociopathic and even psychopathic behavior evident in recent school shootings and massacres, let alone the criminal slaughter found in inner cities, …is a matter of frequent sensational headlines. That the public debate over such incidents is typically diverted into controversy over firearms is one of the most disturbing and damaging misdirections in all of recent politics… The outrageous crimes of virtually feral children are adopted as a pretext to restrict the autonomy of adults by limiting general access to arms."
When I was growing up, we had some child-molesters and killers, but we dealt with them decisively when we caught them. Animals like Roberts – who kidnapped and/or killed children – got the Chair or rotted in mental hospitals for the rest of their sick lives. Would Pennsylvania have sentenced Roberts to die? Maybe. But probably not. (PA has executed only two men since 1977.) Luckily, he executed himself, thus saving Pennsylvania citizens the expense of paying for his meals, accommodations, and cable TV for 20 years, until some liberal judge gave him a new trial because a police officer called him an insulting name.
Contemporary society nurses a delusion that every criminal can be "reformed" – that no one is beyond reclaim. We can’t see "evil" because we don’t believe in it any more. This extends to religious people, of whom large numbers no longer even believe in Hell. Where do we think people like Hitler and Himmler ended up. (Maybe in that great Mental Hospital in the Sky.)
The delusion goes beyond defining evil down. We can’t even recognize danger when we see it. Today, disturbed homeless people live among us instead of in institutions where they would pose no threat to society and could be properly cared for. Once we kept them there, but do-gooders like Rosalyn Carter got thousands of them released so they could sleep in our parks and defecate in parking garage stairwells. We know little about their criminal records. When one commits a violent crime, we are shocked – shocked! – that such a person managed to obtain a weapon. We demand more laws. We want someone held accountable. But we’re the responsible party. Our indifference to danger is befouling our culture and costing our children their lives and futures.
Eventually we’ll wake up and put things right. When the pendulum swings back it will be a time of reckoning and severe punishments. This isn’t about guns. It’s about recognizing danger, understanding evil, and punishing wicked people. We need to quit fooling around with this. It’s our responsibility.