There have been at least 46 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in the first six months of 2018. No one challenges the assertion that gun violence on our school campuses is out of control and beyond anything we have ever seen in America. But the question that divides is, “Are guns the problem?” And, “Is gun control the solution?” Surprisingly, history – in our lifetimes – provided an indisputable answer to these questions. In fact, if you are over 50 and have any semblance of an open mind, you will almost have to agree with these conclusions – based on your own personal experience.
Let me ask you a few questions, so you can resolve the gun debate from your own experience. If you are over 50 years of age, think back to your own experience, growing up in public schools in the 1960s and 70s.
Do you recall any discussions about the need to hire armed guards to protect teachers and students from school shootings? Do you remember policemen strolling the halls of your elementary school? How many students were shot in your high school?
So what’s the difference between then and now?
Walter Williams offers sage counsel.
“The logic of the argument for those calling for stricter gun control laws, in the wake of recent school shootings, is that something has happened to guns. Guns have started behaving more poorly and become evil. Guns themselves are the problem. The job for those of us who are 65 or older is to relay the fact that guns were more available and less controlled in years past, when there was far less mayhem. Something else is the problem. Guns haven’t changed. People have changed.”
Williams concludes, “Behavior that is accepted from today’s young people was not accepted yesteryear.”
The data is clear. In Baltimore, for example, an average of four teachers and staff members were assaulted each school day in 2010. In Philadelphia, 690 teachers were assaulted in 2010. Over the last five years that already terrifying number has swelled to 4,000.
Yale University legal scholar John Lott argues that gun accessibility in our country has never been as restricted as it is now. He reports that until the 1960s, New York City public high schools had shooting clubs. Students actually carried their loaded rifles to school on the subway in the morning and then turned them over to their homeroom teacher or a gym teacher for the day. The rifles were retrieved after school for target practice.
In my childhood days, you could simply walk into a hardware store and buy a rifle. Guns were available through a mail-order catalog such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. Many of my friends got a .22-caliber rifle for their 12th or 13th birthday.
Our past confronts our present with a simple question. With greater accessibility to guns in the past, why wasn’t there the kind of violence we see today, when there is so much more restricted access to guns?
Williams offers this analogy. When a murderer uses a bomb, truck, or car to kill people, we don’t blame the bomb, truck, or car. We don’t call for control over the instrument of death. We seem to fully recognize that such objects are inanimate and incapable of acting on their own. We actually blame the perpetrator. But when the murder is done using a gun, there is outrage. We call for control over the inanimate object of death – the gun.
Clearly, guns have not changed – but people have. And until we confront the cultural and moral decline of America, we will just be kidding ourselves by pretending that we can control people by controlling their guns. Pacifying ourselves with new laws for the bad guys to break will do no more to protect us than the thousands of laws that have already been passed – and broken.
Walter Williams is right. When we were kids, guns were more available and less restricted. And there were far fewer shootings. So what’s with the constant outcry against guns in 2018?
I smell an anti-gun agenda.