Are Guns the Problem?

When I attended primary and secondary school — during the 1940s and ’50s — one didn’t hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that’s become routine today. Why? It surely wasn’t because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.

Dr. John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” reports that until the 1960s, some New York City public high schools had shooting clubs where students competed in citywide shooting contests for university scholarships. They carried their rifles to school on the subways and, upon arrival, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved their rifles after school for target practice. Virginia’s rural areas had a long tradition of high-school students going hunting in the morning before school and sometimes storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars that were parked on school grounds. Often a youngster’s 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.

Today’s level of civility can’t match yesteryear’s. Many of today’s youngsters begin the school day passing through metal detectors. Guards patrol school hallways, and police cars patrol outside. Despite these measures, assaults, knifings and shootings occur. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010 there were 828,000 nonfatal criminal incidents in schools. There were 470,000 thefts and 359,000 violent attacks, of which 91,400 were serious. In the same year, 145,100 public-school teachers were physically attacked, and 276,700 were threatened.

What explains today’s behavior versus yesteryear’s? For well over a half-century, the nation’s liberals and progressives — along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts — have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. These people taught their vision, that there are no moral absolutes, to our young people. To them, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of convenience, personal opinion or a consensus.

During the ’50s and ’60s, the education establishment launched its agenda to undermine lessons children learned from their parents and the church with fads such as “values clarification.” So-called sex education classes are simply indoctrination that sought to undermine family and church strictures against premarital sex.

Lessons of abstinence were ridiculed and considered passé and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortions. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions with neither parental knowledge nor consent.

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society. These behavioral norms — transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works. The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the police and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. The more uncivilized we become the more laws that are needed to regulate behavior.

Many customs, traditions and moral values have been discarded without an appreciation for the role they played in creating a civilized society, and now we’re paying the price. What’s worse is that instead of a return to what worked, people want to replace what worked with what sounds good, such as zero-tolerance policies in which bringing a water pistol, drawing a picture of a pistol, or pointing a finger and shouting “bang-bang” produces a school suspension or arrest. Seeing as we’ve decided that we should rely on gun laws to control behavior, what should be done to regulate clubs and hammers? After all, FBI crime statistics show that more people are murdered by clubs and hammers than rifles and shotguns.

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  • AdinaK

    The left's war on traditional values is a means to their end – the reconstruction of society into a mish mash of non-cohesive structures, plus aggrieved "victims".

    It is nearly impossible to capture the "hearts and minds" of the next generation when family values are at the center. But once this edifice crumbles, all bets are off. This is why gunning for the kiddies is paramount –

    Evidenced here too –

    It is hardly the case that metal detectors in schools can fix the real ailment; a society whereby the left has the children in its grip. A society where Kevin Jennings, a pedophile, is touted as an acceptable choice (by the Radical-in-Chief) as a safe school czar! Hyper-sexual kindergarteners is their starting point, as they enter the schools through leftist teachers unions, fully out of control.

    Case closed.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel –

  • Michael Copeland

    The single most fatal incident of Workplace Violence was committed with mega-powerful assault airliners. Obvioulsy these have to be banned.

    • dickymo johnston


    • Asher

      True, and violence can be committed with cars, hammers, ball bats, and other machines…Do we start banning them too? How rediculous the Left's solutions are.

      • Paul Blase

        Politicians in the U.K. (which, after banning all handguns has seen an 89% rise in violent assault) have proposed banning all kitchen knives larger than a paring knife – even for professional chefs.

    • Mo_


  • pierce

    The problem is not guns, the problem is mental illness, and the inability to recognize it, or more to the point, the unwillingness to recognize it. To make matters worse, it comes in many different forms, and the so called experts, the psychologists, and the psychiatrists, some times, can't put their finger on it. The fact remains, there are a lot of sickos out there. Who knows, may be I am one of them?

    • Mo_

      Why don't we stop calling this mental illness and start calling it what it is: EVIL.

  • davarino

    Ya every thing is up for grabs until the Totalitarians take over, then its strict controls. There will be no more questioning authority. There will be no more speaking your mind. There will be no more freedom, only oppression. Then you'll be longing for the days of the 60's

    Thanks Walter

  • Asher

    Guns in the hands of sane, competent, law abiding citizens is not the problem…the problem is that the left loves to blame the wrong people for the violence, their values and rationality are really screwed up. Evil is evil, most of the crimes are committed by stollen guns, and psychos who want to committ suicide by taking many innocent victims with them!!!!

  • tagalog

    I think the problem, as it pertains to guns and their use, is worse than Mr. Williams says: in addition to all the cultural degradation that we've undergone (kidding ourselves that we're making things better), we've also abandoned common sense, digging a hole where we can place our heads, thinking that doing so will protect us, like an ostrich.

    In my youth, I was one of those (upstate) New York high school rifle team kids carrying my rfile in a case on the public bus to school, where I stored it in my locker, not having to check it in with anyone. I was trusted with possession of my rifle in my school and in transit because it was routinely accepted as a social norm that I was trained both by my father and the authorities on the rifle team to be safe with firearms. As I had been. Every kid who wanted a hunting license in New York had to pass a formal gun safety course. If a kid was interested in guns, it was expected that his father would teach him how to use them. Fathers routinely lived up to that expectation.

    Today, we have deceived ourselves into believing that we are safe from firearms if we ignore them and have nothing to do with them; as a result, they of course continue to exist and many of us don't know the first thing about how to treat them with respect and protect the safety of ourselves and those around us from an accidental discharge. If you asked the average high school student today what an "accidental discharge" is, he'd probably have been socialized to think it has something to with unsafe sex.

    I saw on the TV news this morning yet another report about a school that has authorized its guards to carry concealed firearms. They reported how the parents of the kids at the school have mixed feelings about that. How strangely dense such an attitude is. I ask, "Why?" Why in Heaven's name would anyone have a single negative feeling about armed guards at school protecting their kids in this day and age? My only concern would be that the guards have training so they will be both safe and accurate with their firearms.

    • Jim_C

      You mention common sense; so why is it that guns have nothing to do with the "gun problem?"

      The fact is, you grew up in a more wholesome, relatively homogenous time, but those same families exist, teach safety and responsibility. They are not the problem and have never been accused (by anyone sane) of being the problem. They are what's right with the world.

      But since that time our population has exploded, technology has expanded and come to dominate our lives, immigration legal and illegal has proliferated, drugs legal and illegal have proliferated, guns legal and illegal have proliferated, the economy fluctuates unpredictably (from an everyday person's pov) and we've suffered major schisms in our political culture, to the point where an Eisenhower Republican like Barack Obama is seen as our own Chavez. Home life for kids entails two working parents at best, divorce or single parenthood in great number, and all the challenges to child-rearing that entails. Respect for life is low–even among conservatives, I'm sorry to say. Where you and I grew up in a country that felt stable and "given," we now have one where there is deep insecurity, paranoia, violence, and/or unhappiness.

      So guns are not THE problem, but just given statistics, they are symptomatic of the problem in that they "express" these violent undercurrents in a graphic way. Like most conservatives, I think enforcing existing regulations and closing loopholes is the best way to address guns. The hard work is in addressing the mega-changes we've undergone over the last century, but there has to be a way to at least deal with, say, illegal gun trafficking.

      • tagalog

        Certainly the AVAILABILITY of guns plays a role.

        However, if there were ten guns available to every man, women, and child in the U.S., it would still be true that a gun is just a piece of metal that can't do a blessed thing until someone pulls the trigger on one that is loaded. The availabilty of guns to the "bad guys" is going to go on unless somehow all guns are confiscated -which will never happen-, and in the meantime, only the law-abiding are going to be deprived of guns, which they are entilted to own as a matter of right. So the upshot of the gun control movement is simply to take the guns away from the "good guys" and to establish that the "bad guys" who are armed will be able to satisfy their desires without interference.

      • tagalog

        Our Founding Fathers thought possession of arms in the hands of the people was so fundamental that it should be a right enshrined in our Constitution.

        Despite the gang bangers and the shoot-'em-up nut cases in the world, the value of firearms in the hands of the common people is important enough that it trumps the gun control initiatives we've seen during the last century or so in our country, and the gun control that's going on right now.

        The main advantage of the current gun control activity is that it's very revealing of just how little our President and his political party understand the way things work in our government, and how easily they are persuaded to flout that balance. We're going to have conceptual trouble getting our government to deal with illegal firearms when our government is acting to pressure gun dealers to engage in the illegal firearms traffic.

        I agree that some firearms (namely, full auto firearms) are better to be regulated as to ownership but I also agree that once the principle is established that we can define one kind of firearm as too dangerous to be unregulated, we can define all firearms out of existence. The problem is that we can have all sorts of confiscatory laws, and firearms will continue to be available to those who want them badly enough. It's like freedom of speech; the more the better.

        Establishing the potential for danger among mentally ill and disturbed people by involuntarily incarcerating them temporarily (typically 48 to 72 hours) in a mental facility where they can be observed and diagnosed is a far less sweeping violation of peoples' rights than the kind of gun control that some people want. There are several thousand potentially dangerous disturbed people and 350 million potential gun owners. Balancing the 5th Amendment rights of a few thousand against the 2d Amendment rights of hundreds of millions strikes me as a pretty one-sided evaluation.

        • Jim_C

          Given recent events, I think even a Republican in office right now would be making "gun control" noises; that's just politics.

          You draw a parallel to freedom of speech and I take your point. Freedom comes with a price, however, and where 1st amendment freedom's price is the presence of controversial, unpopular, and even inflammatory speech, we are currently paying the 2nd Amendment freedom's price in innocent blood.

          As you rightly point out, it wasn't always thus, and it takes a person to pull that trigger. I think your last paragraph about mentally ill people is a great assessment of a better balance to strike between social safety and creator-derived freedoms.

          • tagalog

            Personally, it seems to me that the conservative politicians are tending to cluster on the side of supporting the right to bear arms without regulation.

            The price of the Second Amendment may occasionally include innocent blood, but there's no gun control that I've seen in my lifetime that will stop nuts from stealing weapons and shooting people. The only way to stop that is total outlawing of firearms. If that's done, firearms will still be around because there will be a black market in them, and guns will be obtained predominantly by the "bad guys."

      • tagalog

        My home town was not all that homogeneous; there was considerable friction between the Eastern Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, and the Protestants. We were all on the low end of the socio-financial scale. Our fathers were mostly factory workers, our mothers either stayed home or worked in secretarial jobs. Many of us were poor, most of us were working poor lower middle class, and I never knew anyone in my childhood and high school years who was upper middle class, much less well-to-do. My town was a working-class town, not a suburb or like one of those Valley towns like you see in the old movies. We were a tough bunch, the kids fought all the time and so, from time to time, did the adults. The girls were kept indoors a lot, and they went out in groups, not alone. All the men were veterans of World War II or Korea, so they knew guns and the worst they can do. When my generation went to Vietnam, they pooh-poohed "our" war. At the time, the VFW didn't take Vietnam vets as members because it wasn't a declared war. One of my buddies, a Vietnam vet, was hot about that. They were all, nearly to a man, gun rights supporters. We had Irish, English (conflict there all right), Poles, Ukrainians, Armenians, and three or four black families. There was plenty of diversity, I can assure you.

        Some diversity was not tolerated. Gays in our town tended to leave as soon as they could. No one beat them up, but they took a lot of verbal abuse. Nobody had to "come out" or stay in the closet; people just got tagged as whatever the common perception happened to be. We had lots of Eastern Europeans who had lived under Soviet Communism and therefore hated left-wing politics, having seen the evil it is capable of. They also didn't like the far right, having put their lives on the line to defeat fascism. They DID believe in Americanism and would give you the business if you didn't act like a patriot.

  • Spider

    "What explains today’s behavior versus yesteryear’s?"
    What explains it is simple: We have replaced a Judeo Christian Moral Code and work ethic with a Secular Progressive Relativistic Multicultural Welfare State. Before the Mid 60s most Blacks grew up in good Christian families now they are just Disfunctional Cash Cows for Welfare Queens. Before the mid 70s we also didn't have millions of illegals many of which work for gangs and drug cartels or live on public assistance. Now our government insists we create a police state just to keep order. Was this the Leftists plan all along?

  • Loyal Achates

    And yet, every other Western culture gleefully consumes sex, drugs and ‘degenerate’ art, but their citizens have much less enthusiasm for large public massacres. Guns are a factor but not the whole story.

    • Mary Sue

      in case you didn't know, there have been large public massacres in other countries. Some we hear about (Anders Breivik in Norway), some we don't.

  • Johnconrad


    You're kidding, right?

    "Families have not been accused of being the problem?"

    Did you miss the entire last 50 years?

    Left-wingers have a deep abiding hatred for their parents. And, they take it out on the rest of us.

    • Jim_C

      You are dealing in stereotypes and broad-brush fallacies. You can't show me a mainstream, credible source who blames law-abiding families.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    Happy New Year Dr. Williams!

    Re: "Are Guns the Problem?"

    ~ Guns are no more responsible for causing violent crime,.
    ~ than spoons are responsible for causing Michael Moore to be PORCINE!

    ~ nor are spoons responsible for making Michael Moore profoundly stoopid.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Here's a zinger for Mr. Williams and all who are following this thread, on the matter of sexuality: It was the liberal intellectual element that wanted for there to be a sexual revolution, who wanted us to relax and let our hair down regarding the whole matter of sex, sexuality, marriage, family, women, et cetera. But then, when some women began complaining about how some men got too familiar with them in workplace situations, it was the same liberal intellectual element that began screaming about sexual harrassment.

    • Jim_C

      Wouldn't you want your daughters to have the same opportunities you had? Do you think the price to pay for that is being groped and propositioned at work?

      • Mary Sue

        who says that's not still going on, despite the "liberation" (or perhaps because of it?)

        • Jim_C

          Who is saying it doesn't?

          • Mary Sue

            the point being the 'liberation' didn't necessarily get rid of all that.

      • Alex Kovnat

        Some behaviors (i.e, deliberate contact with any part of a woman's physical person, any part of her clothing or any item she's using or imminently about to use) are definitely not acceptable. But women do themselves a disservice when they use the term "sexual harrassment" as a broad catch-all for anything and everything they find annoying about men.

        • Jim_C

          But you are positing that liberal = "bad," here.

          What liberals wanted: equal opportunity and treatment for women and the ability for the woman to control her own destiny, independent of a man. That's freedom.

          Those two things are not bad. There aren't many women who would trade those two things back. But is there a social price we've paid? Absolutely. As I mention above, freedom always comes at a price.

  • drivesguy

    My wife is a teacher's aide working with special needs children. One of her co-workers was a policewoman at one time. She said that all these mass murderers had one thing in common. An addiction to violent video games. My son works at Walmart and sells electronics. The company requires him to get parents permission before he can sell a violent video game to a minor. When he asks the parents if it is ok, they say sure, why not. Walter Williams is correct about our culture having a problem. Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

    • Jim_C

      As a parent in the midst of this culture I am routinely amazed at the permissiveness and cluelessness of other parents in the types of games being allowed and media being consumed. Too many parents are either looking to be cool or just oblivious to the content of these games.

      • Mary Sue

        the obliviousness is the problem, not the games themselves. Oblivious, clueless, underinvolved parents are a bigger problem than anything else.

        Notice nobody's saying much about Adam Lanza's FATHER? I bet he was underinvolved as HELL.

        • Jim_C

          Well, and the mother allowing a boy she knew to be mentally ill access to firearms.

          Come on, Mary Sue, fatherhood is sooo last century. Now you deposit your sperm wherever you can, and you move on….

          • Mary Sue

            I'm the depository, not the depositor.

    • Mary Sue

      I don't agree that "violent video games" are any kind of a factor. There's something else at work here. Many children play violent video games and haven't so much as hurt a fly.

      • drivesguy

        You are correct in that not everyone who plays violent video games becomes a mass murderer, however, everyone who was part of a mass shooting was also addicted to violent video gaming be it Call of Duty, Halo, or Dungeons and dragons. The Columbine perpetrators were involved in violent video games and their parents did little if anything to curtail that behavior. We can all see the result of that. Cassie Pernell who looked into the eyes of Dillon Clebold and said Yes I do believe in God when quizzed by the shooter just before he executed her, he asked why? When a culture says it is cool to butcher a child in the womb and at the same time says its permissible for homosexual couples to marry is a sick perverted society and God will not tolerate a nation that embraces such behavior to prosper. In fact, He will execute his righteous indignation upon such a people.

        • Mary Sue

          I think the "addiction" was coincidental. Correlative, perhaps. Causative? NO WAY.

          There's more likely a problem if a person can't separate fantasy from reality. Identifying such people should be a priority.

  • GUS Gianello

    to all those people who commented before me, two words–

    Google it!

    GUS Gianello

  • Puc Canada

    Thanks drivesguy for the reminder of something that is certainly indicative of what is fundamentally wrong. You are not suggesting videos are the cause. However your observation does raise the question. What healthy normal intellectual and emotional development is being missed by our young people while they spend countless hours on Video games. Of course it's not the games in themselves. It's a delusional game to talk of causes as if the right fix can be found if we just agree on it, come to some sort of compromise that seems further and further away as the horrors grow in magnitude and frequency. Your observations point to more fundamental causes. Yes a society that pretends abortion is a good thing when everyone knows in their gut that it is not, is incapable of solving these problems.

  • polnick

    Chicago drug dealers are giving their Heroin customers guns knowing that they will return with cash. The average junky with a gun is a one man crime wave; they are responsible for thousands of unreported muggings and 564 murders in 2012 Chicago. Generous rewards should be given for shooting muggers or home invaders, but first free guns must be distributed to all residents of the windy city.

  • CurmudgyOneJr

    Guns are NOT, and NEVER WERE, the problem! Blaming them just fits into the Leftist agenda to eliminate the US Constitution completely. They are pushing their one-sided nose under the tent bit by bit. At some point, if they are not stopped, we will wake up one morning with only laughter in our faces when we appeal to the Constitution.

    … Just like Nancy Pelosi laughed and said "Are you Serious? Are you Serious?" when a journalist asked her about the Constitutionality of the horrid Obamacare takeover of so-called "health care."

  • Seth Bullock

    Part of the problem is a system where a killer's name will be published, hour after hour, year after year, giving the killer fame (infamy) forever. This is a huge incentive to kill as many people as possible…knowing that everyone will know who you are/were.

    I wish all media outlets, both print and screen, would voluntarily withhold killers' names as a matter of course. This would result in a virtual electronic banishment whereby no one would gain fame by doing horrible acts. (Laws to this effect exist in Scandinavia.) I'm not saying this is the only reason these sicks bastards murder en masse, but I think it's a big factor, and mitigating the factor would lessen the number of mass shootings.

    Furthermore, why do anti-gunners think more laws will fix anything when the myriad laws that already exist on the books (including laws against murder) don't stop the deaths?

  • edward

    a every thing is up for grabs until the Totalitarians take over.good criminal justice schools