Youth Violence--Are Guns Really The Cause?

By Bob Culver

The following is MCSM's response to Julie Elseroad's gun violence article in the Montgomery County Journal where she lays all the blame for youth violence on guns and gun owners. Following the response is another article written by Georgie Anne Geyer, a British commentator who is an outspoken gun control advocate. Ms. Geyer seems to be willing to admit that youth violence is caused by something far more complicated than some neutral object--like a gun. We disagree with Ms. Geyer's position on gun control, but applaud her comments about the root cause of youth violence.

May 31, 1998

Mr. Jim Farrell, Senior Editor
The Montgomery Journal
One Research Court
Rockville, MD 20850

Dear Mr. Farrell:

I hope you will consider this item as a counter "viewpoint" in response to the article by Julie A Elseroad titled, "Beyond human dimension, guns kill the spirit of this nation".

Last week, Friday May 29, I read the Viewpoint ariticle by Julie A. Elseroad titled, "Beyond human dimension, guns kill the spirit of this nation." In the title and first sentence I found the expected reference to guns and "gun violence". As I read on though, I found a different idea emerging, that individuals might learn to use nonviolent means to resolve conflicts.

But alas, the old false idea that guns cause violence arose and smothered the reason and sensibility that was attempting to grow. Ms. Elseroad speaks of children resorting to gun violence and cites some of the national media's frenzied accounts of children attacking children and adults. But again the focus is on gun violence, not violence of all types. If an incident does not involve firearms, it does not appear worth mentioning. If a group of children hang and bludgeon to death another child, it gets scant comment. If school children hit, kick and spit upon a teacher for not showing a midday television talk shock program, rather than instructional programing, it goes mostly unreported. Are these children not in need of correction? Are those they attack not worthy of protection? Yes, they need help but Ms. Elseroad opts for an easier excuse, blame the gun.

Ms. Elseroad and others who fall into the trap find it easier to blame an object for social problems, not the individuals. The object does not have a complicated psyche to be understood. It does not learn its behavior, good or bad, over years of exposure to others and society. Least of all, it does not protest if accused of unacceptable behavior. It is hard to deal with individuals as a cause of violence. It is easier to focus on an object. It is easy to demonize the object, and by extension the people who are associated with it. In the middle of this century many individuals were treated as objects, as being subhuman. They suffered greatly for it.

The firearms, the inanimate objects of Ms. Elseroad's passion, begin to take on mystical powers. Over and over "gun violence" is repeated as if the gun had a mind and will of its own to contemplate and commit violence on an individual. It is more than just bad logic to tie an inanimate object to the commission of a wilful act of violence. It is an untruthful condemnation to demonize people who associate with firearms as themselves being inherently violent. Is that what Ms. Elseroad means by her statement, "Yet, we have children in the United States who are being taught how to kill people with guns." Please Ms. Elseroad, explain what you mean by this.

Perhaps this teaching has to do with the comments she made regarding the Constitution of the United States and her reference to the part known as the Second Amendment, a part of the Bill of Rights. Quick now, Ms. Elseroad, what rights are granted to the citizens of the United States by the Bill of rights? The answer of course is none, the Bill of Rights enumerates inherent natural rights of all individuals.

Have we gotten to the "Spirit of this Nation" yet? Not quite. Ms. Elseroad succumbs to more easy fixes and accepts convenient talking points, at least those that support her view of the evil gun and its owner. She does not bother to check the facts or even consider dissenting points of view. For example, the bit about, "The Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment does not apply to the individual rights of Americans to bear arms" is an oft repeated lie. But a lie, no matter how often it is repeated, will not be made true by repetition, but will only tarnish the true Spirit of this Nation. Let me shed some truth on that lie. There have been no cases before the Supreme Court dealing directly with the individual interpretation of the Second Amendment.

There have, however, been a few cases on related or ancillary opinions which have touched on the Second Amendment. Some appear to comment negatively regarding the idea of an enumeration of the right of an individual, but the vast majority support such a right. For example in U.S. vs. Verdugo-Urguidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990) Chief Justice Rehnquist defines the people thus, "...while this (explanation) is by no means conclusive, it suggests that "The People" protected by the Fourth Amendment, and by the First and Second Amendments, and to whom the rights and powers are reserved by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, refers to a class of persons who are part of a national community, or who have otherwise developed sufficient connection with this country to be considered part of that community." Dozens more Supreme Court, as well as other court case citation could follow, all supporting the individual interpretation of the Second Amendment. See for example Tennessee Law Review, vol. 62, spring 1995, No.3, The Second Amendment Symposium Issue. Please Ms. Elseroad, tell us the basis for your claim.

On and on it goes, convenient but incorrect talking points like, "A gun in your home is 43 times more likely to kill someone you love than an intruder". This bit of misinformation flows from a series of studies that are described as, "Nonsense Ratio: An Exercise in Ingenious Speciousness" (see Kleck, Targeting Guns, page 177). The 43 times ratio is presented as if it were a risk-benefit ratio, but it is not. The studies in which this bit of misinformation was fabricated fail to count the cases of intruders not killed, not fired at and merely warned off, all actions which are benefits and account for a far higher number than those killed. To complete the misinformation, none of the thousands of lives saved are considered in the 43 times ratio.

Now we are close to the end of Ms. Elseroad's viewpoint, perhaps the Spirit of the Nation lives here. Is her spirit the pledge, "I am willing to be part of the solution, I will not own--nor will I carry--a gun". Excellent, a personal philosophy and commitment to stand by it, who could fault one for that? Perhaps Ms. Elseroad will achieve the "Gandhian/King" style of non violence she espoused at the beginning of the viewpoint. If she is truly, "willing to work with students to explore nonviolent ways to effect change", and by this she means ways to deal with differences and potential conflict, who could oppose her! But there it is again, the easy way out. She plans instead," stand up against the powerful and shameful lies perpetuated by the National Rifle Association and the gun industry...".

A person may choose to do, or not do, an action so long as that decision and action does no harm to others. A person may choose to be a pacifist in his actions or just hold the belief that they do not have, "...the right to kill another person." This belief may be at odds with many moral and religious teachings, that it is the moral duty of an individual to protect life, even though to do so he may use life threatening actions in defense of himself, his loved ones and community and Nation. However, a person may not impose his will on others such as to say, "No one has the right to kill another person." Protection of onself and others less capable of self defense, even when faced with the ultimate sacrifice, is the Spirit of this Nation that Ms. Elseroad and others may kill by imposing their will on others. The possible loss of this Spirit follows far too closely our Memorial Day to be considered.

It has taken about 50 years to get where we are today, to an age of degraded social, ethical and moral condition. We have bred several generations of "Super Predator" youths and young adults by constantly exposing our children to examples of unacceptable behavior. That exposure has not been accompanied by the full lesson of the unacceptability of such actions or the true consequences of them. Common actions seen in visual entertainment, described in the lyrics of music or witnessed in our associates or parents (or lack of them) or public leaders, all reinforce in children and youths that it is all right to act in the same unacceptable manner.

If Ms. Elseroad were to drop the gun from "gun violence" in her campaigns, then she would be focusing on the right target. We all must face up to the hard task of teaching children and young adults, not attacking what has been chosen to symbolize the problem, guns and gun owners. Focus on this hard task in your job as aid to Councilman Isiah Leggett and you will approach a long term solution. If the short term fix of banning the citizens from owning firearms were ever to come about the long term consequences would be disastrous and the Spirit of this Nation may well have been killed.


Robert Culver, co-chairperson MCSM
14008 Crest Hill Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20905 day 301-776-4488
Montgomery Citizens for a Safer Maryland (MCSM) is a grass roots group formed to discuss issues of citizen safety, law enforcement and self defense by all means. Our meetings and discussion are open to all interested parties.

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