Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Turning Around a Culture of Violence

Jul 24, 2012

I have already penned a piece on the Denver shootings, seeking to look at some of the major issues concerning yet another atrocious crime which has again rocked America:

But it seems more thoughts can be offered here. As usual, a chorus of lefties and secularists have insisted that greater gun control will solve our problems. Before the blood had even dried in the theatre, we had all the usual suspects offering the same old mantra: get rid of guns and we will eliminate such massacres.

These folks seem to think that if we just disarm the population all these mass shootings will be a thing of the past. But they are wrong on just so many counts. The evidence itself does not confirm their thesis. All that such laws do is take guns away from the innocent, while allowing the criminals to run riot with their weapons.

Thomas Sowell does a good job of laying out some of the data here – for those with ears to hear: “As for gun control advocates, I have no hope whatever that any facts whatever will make the slightest dent in their thinking  – or lack of thinking. New York’s Mayor Bloomberg and CNN’s Piers Morgan were on the air within hours of the shooting, pushing the case for gun control laws.

“You might never know, from what they and other gun control advocates have said, that there is a mountain of evidence that gun control laws not only fail to control guns but are often counterproductive. However, for those other people who still think facts matter, it is worth presenting some of those facts. Do countries with strong gun control laws have lower murder rates? Only if you cherry-pick the data.

“Britain is a country with stronger gun control laws than the United States, and lower murder rates. But Mexico, Russia and Brazil are also countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States – and their murder rates are much higher than ours. Israel and Switzerland have even higher rates of gun ownership than the United States, and much lower murder rates than ours.

“Even the British example does not stand up very well under scrutiny. The murder rate in New York has been several times that in London for more than two centuries – and, for most of that time, neither place had strong gun control laws. New York had strong gun control laws years before London did, but New York still had several times the murder rate of London.

“It was in the later decades of the 20th century that the British government clamped down with severe gun control laws, disarming virtually the entire law-abiding citizenry. Gun crimes, including murder, rose as the public was disarmed. Meanwhile, murder rates in the United States declined during the same years when murder rates in Britain were rising, which were also years when Americans were buying millions more guns per year.

“The real problem, both in discussions of mass shootings and in discussions of gun control, is that too many people are too committed to a vision to allow mere facts to interfere with their beliefs, and the sense of superiority that those beliefs give them. Any discussion of facts is futile when directed at such people. All anyone can do is warn others about the propaganda.”

Or as Michael Medved notes, “The incidence of homicidal violence in the United States has dramatically declined over the last 30 years, even as gun ownership has soared in every segment of society. According the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the overall murder rate peaked in 1980 at 10.7 per 100,000 people and then fell by more than half to 4.8 in 2010—a much more substantial drop in the murder rate than in tightly gun-controlled Canada, by the way.”

But the gun control debate is not what I really want to focus on here. Instead I wish to look at the bigger picture. It is not the reduction of arms that should concern us so much as the reduction in values. It is our moral decline that is the real issue here.

And I believe this is directly tied in with the secularisation of culture, and our foolish notion that we can do a better job of governing ourselves without God than with God. This is folly, and we are seeing the results all around us of trying to live as if God does not exist.

Many commentators have spoken to this theme already. A few choice quotes from some of them might be in order here. As Cal Thomas notes, “What is always left out of this familiar scenario is an in-depth discussion of evil. Politicians and commentators almost never speak of evil as something that resides deep inside the human heart. All humans possess the capacity for evil. While it rarely rises to the level of mass murder, the capacity for doing great harm to other human beings lurks within each of us. This is what theologians mean when they speak of a ‘fallen’ humanity.”

Sin is our real problem here, not weak gun control laws. The problem is, we have bought the naturalist worldview that matter is all that matters, and in such a reductionistic climate values and morality have taken a back seat. At best, they turn on whatever happens to be expedient.

In such an ethically-rarefied atmosphere, the solutions then turn to more and more government involvement. Instead of concentrating on making men better, we concentrate on making government bigger, as if that will solve all our problems.

As Chuck Norris rightly points out, “as with most societies’ ills, the key to curbing crime is not more government expansion and spending. Nor is the answer dissolving our Second Amendment rights; countries with super-strict gun ownership laws have equally violent crimes and also proved that taking guns from good guys doesn’t prohibit bad guys from obtaining them. Our Founding Fathers had a far better solution than more government and taking away guns from law-abiding citizens.

“Though our founders initiated our government, they didn’t expect it or the law of the land to establish and maintain civility. As proud as they were of their newfound republic, they would turn to and trust in God and ‘We the People’ to usher in life, liberty, happiness, decency, respect, morality, honesty and restraint, to name a few. George Washington warned us in his Farewell Address about a time in America’s future in which we might be tempted to discard the pillars of civility:

“‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’

“Curbing violent crime is still more about what we do than it is about what government does. The answer is still more about nature’s law within us than it is about man’s law outside of us.” Quite so. Our real focus of change must be on the internal rather than the external.

As Michael L. Brown has written, “Shortly before Jerusalem’s fall 2,700 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah heard the Lord say these words, which could easily apply to our country today: ‘Violence and destruction are heard in her; her sickness and wounds are ever before me’ (Jer 6:7). Yes, America, a nation with so much potential and such a rich history, finds itself in the spiraling death grip of violence. How do we turn the tide?

“Talk of gun control or media censorship is hardly the solution. The fact is that we have lost the consciousness of God and the fear of God, and without a heartfelt, genuine turning to the Lord, our future looks more bloody than blessed. The hour is as late as it is urgent.”

It certainly is. Unless we address the fundamental issues, such violence will only escalate – even with stricter gun control legislation. It is the human heart that needs fixing here, not the American Second Amendment.

[1461 words]

6 Responses to Turning Around a Culture of Violence

  • Norway’s strict gun laws didn’t stop the Breivik massacre of 77 people as even the Guardian points out in ‘Norway’s Gun Laws Prove Easy to Ignore’;

    Specifically on massacres (multiple victim shootings), see John Lott’s paper;

    Think Tough Gun Laws Keep Europeans Safe? Think Again…

    Read more:

    Damien Spillane

  • Many thanks for the helpful links Damien.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill
    It’s true these people are happy with a single bolt action gun, rather than a semi-automatic gun. This has always baffled me. Mainly because, well lets see.Eg; Im a lunatic and want to shoot some people somewhere, but all I can get my hands on is a single shot rifle. I will have to reload after each shot by moving the bolt mechanism back and forth. So if I’m quick I can shoot maybe 4 or 5 people but if I had a semi-automatic gun, maybe 10 or 12 are possible. I don’t see how this makes anyone feel any better. Also pistols are semi-automatic much easier to conceal and more readily available on the black market.
    But still they will push – safe Abortions/ gun control/ safe sex/ seat belts/ etc etc.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Mike Huckabee, speaking on his Fox News Show said America doesn’t have a gun problem or a crime problem, but a “sin problem”. He further stated that the shooting “is impossible to understand except that we live in a world where there is evil”. Since we ordered God out of our schools and communities, the military and public conversations, we shouldn’t really act so surprised when all hell breaks loose.
    On 24/7 an ambulance was called to the Aurora Planned Parenthood clinic as a woman suffered injuries from an abortion. Earlier in the day a women was taken from a P.P abortion clinic in Chicago to hospital but died from hemorrhaging.
    Is this death world news! If not, why not?

    Madge Fahy

  • Have any studies been done on what a nation watches or reads in relation with the crime rate?
    To tighten censorship on what people can watch might be a partial answer to the problem.
    As to the public perception of how well Christianity has served us in keeping our society harmonious and peaceful, it seems that those who advocate the public removal of God’s influence always site the crusades and in Australia the early penal settlements, treatment of aboriginals by “christian white mail society” etc. How can we dig up those reports which I am sure ar there of the people like Caroline Chisolm, who in spite her appearance on an Australia note seems to be largely forgotten in Australia’s collective memory. Those who want to receive the Christian channels have to have a satellite dish on their roof while Al jazeera is broadcasting with great accessibility. How can we establish a “good news” channel where the only guideline to broadcasting is truth – just in the interest of choice mind you…

    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Bill, what you say about the main problem being sin, is of course absolutely right, but in a fallen sinful world, we have to have laws which take the sin factor into account. I was raised on a farm, and rejoiced in owning and using many firearms. Every home has many potential murder weapons, from sharp knives to hammers etc., but only with a gun can I kill multiple people (normally) from some distance. All the other weapons need to be in close (except poisons and bombs). 60% of the murders in the US are with firearms, while 20% of the murders here involve firearms. If people want to kill, they will use whatever is available, but guns just allow us to do it quicker and at greater distances. At least, when guns are harder to get, murders are not so convenient. And violent entertainment surely has to be to blame for a percentage of the problem. Good laws would surely help a bit with both of these.
    Ian Brearley

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