McClaughry: Diminishing the culture of violence

By John McClaughry

Every time a disturbed or hate-filled individual embarks on a murderous shooting spree, as at the Covenant School in Nashville last month, politicians rush to the media to urgently announce “we’ve got to do something” to stop “gun violence.” When pressed, they either propose that the government somehow “keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” or ban the private possession of some or all types of guns altogether.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Over the years I have written half a dozen columns assessing the merits of such proposed remedies. At the risk of repeating myself, here are the most important insights.

First, Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The U.S. Supreme Court has strongly affirmed that individual right in the Heller (2008), McDonald (2010), and Bruen (2022) cases. The McDonald Court noted that that right is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” but together the three rulings erect a high hurdle for the gun control advocates.

Vermonters have an even more explicit constitutional right “to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the state” (Ch I, Art 16), clearly and unanimously affirmed by our Supreme Court in 1903.

So who can the government disallow from acquiring and possessing firearms? Certainly minors, illegal immigrants, felons, fugitives, and persons involuntarily committed to psychiatric treatment.

How about millions of angry or resentful people who were ever treated for depression or low self-esteem, or issued threats to their significant other, or screamed at their kid’s soccer coach, or were mugged by a person of another race, or profess a religious faith whose Holy Book instructs the faithful to “slay the idolators,” or believe themselves thwarted by high taxes and overreaching regulations, or associate with an unsavory peer group, or spend hours a day playing violent video games, or who defiantly announce on social media that “very soon everyone will know my name”? These people are eligible to purchase and possess firearms, and it’s hard to find an incontestable way to screen them out.

Banning sales of certain classes of firearms because they can be used in mass shootings — the so-called “assault weapons” ban — was tried for 10 years with approximately zero positive results. Individuals in this country own around 400 million firearms, and every criminal and potential shooter knows that one can buy, swap or steal every kind of weapon (except actual full-auto machine guns) regardless of regulations or prohibitions. Attempting to buy a firearm when you’re not eligible is itself a felony, but it is rarely prosecuted unless connected with a subsequent crime.

The most promising — albeit not perfect — legal way to deal with possible shooters before they start shooting is a “red flag “law. These laws invite concerned persons to alert mental health and law enforcement when there is reason to believe that an individual is preparing to commit a violent crime. In 2018 the Vermont Legislature unanimously enacted a red flag law authorizing a court to issue an extreme risk protection order.

Commendably, Act 97 includes due process protections, including penalties for false and malicious reporting. So far Vermont has been spared a Columbine, Newtown, Parkland, or Covenant School shooting. Most of our happily few shootings seem to occur among criminals engaged in illicit drug trafficking.

The most vexing factor in the epidemic of “violence involving deadly weapons” is also the most difficult to deal with. That is a culture of violent assaults succinctly described last year by columnist Mark Alexander of Patriot Post: “The Highland Park (Illinois parade) assailant was a poster child for dysfunctional families and the lost tribal legions of faithless, empty-souled sociopaths roaming our streets. They are sponges bloated with toxic culture poisoning, who embrace a cult of violence.”

How does our society diminish such a culture of violence? As I wrote after the Florida Parkland school shooting, “Passing more laws aimed at further restricting firearms ownership offers little prospect of preventing more gun violence and it threatens the constitutionally protected right of self-defense by law-abiding citizens. Schools need to make it difficult for an armed assault to succeed, stamp out bullying, and by well-conceived interventions provide the support that potentially dangerous youths badly need.”

“And finally, the institutions of civil society need to multiply their efforts to help disturbed, alienated, hopeless young people overcome their demons, while their lives can still be turned around.”

That’s easy to say, difficult to achieve. At the time I cited three examples of inspired civil society responses from a Heritage Foundation report (“Focusing on School Safety After Parkland”, Backgrounder #3295): The Return to Civility Fund, Elevate Phoenix, and Sandy Hook Promise. We need many more.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Images courtesy of Public domain and John McClaughry

10 thoughts on “McClaughry: Diminishing the culture of violence

  1. The 2nd Amendment was created by the founding fathers to give “We the People” the means to protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights from those who would take them from us. You can’t take away someone’s right to free speech, freedom of assembly or freedom of religion without first taking away their ability to resist. The 2nd Amendment does not grant us the right to keep and bear arms. The 2nd Amendment denies the government the authority to infringe upon our right to keep and bear arms -PERIOD.

    . Abraham Lincoln: “We the people are the rightful master of the Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution”.

  2. 3 steps could reduce the violent use of guns. 1 bring back automatic death penalty for the shooters not killed by cops, 2 fortified school entrances with armed guards (proven by the last shooting at the religious school, the mental unstable “trans” bypassed those) and 3 do away with the FBI
    who is grooming killers while saying they had eyes on all of them they stopped none. A optional 4th would be declare “Trans” a mental unstable group as having a 40% suicide rate would medically remove their gun rights. (they have been responsible for 5 of the most recent mass shootings)

  3. Umm, you would think that looking at gun ownership rates in the more civilized countries, we’d draw a better conclusion that “we have to turn our schools into military camps protected by even more guns.”

    I say, let’s go back to the Second Amendment and emphasize the first part: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the defense…”

    Switzerland is known as a country where average citizens show up with their combat weapons to check in at a hotel or restaurant– but the number of hoops they have to jump through in order to lay their hands on a weapon starts with their being inducted into the Swiss Army. We do not hear of them– or the militias which defend France, Germany, Poland, et al.– killing school kids and shoppers.

    As our National Guard is made up of our friends, neighbors and family members, it’s time to restrict non-hunting gun ownership to the National Guard and buy and destroy all the rest. Note I said “non-hunting” firearms…

    • Shooter incidents’ in America are orchestrated/propogandized by those in power. I don’t trust any of it. ‘They’ want to take our guns away. It’s really that simple. BTW: As a candidate for the House, I debated Theresa Wood in October ’22. When asked about 2nd-amendment-related, her reply was that we should have gun control on account of suicide. Lo and behold, that’s exactly the angle she/the legislature adopted in ’23 as it relates to mental health. Remember: it wasn’t that long ago when husbands could have their wives committed to mental institutions…

    • You obviously know very little about the 2nd amendment. The militia is the body of the people. The national Guard is an extension of the government. At the time of the radification of the constitution the newly formed country did not trust standing armies as they had just defeated the world power.

      Switzerland is a small, neutral country and has a very small military. The government issues adult males fully automatic rifles to defend the country. The USA has 330 million people. We have every ethnic representation from around the world. We have a powerful military, but if this country was invaded say by Russia and China combined we also have armed citizens that would join the defense of our homeland.

      Should our government turn on it’s citizens they know that we can muster an army of millions to fight a tyranny should they bring it. We arm and protect everything except our school children. Your answer is to disarm people who aren’t the problem and never have been. We have a country that’s sick in the head. We have lost our morals, our decency and our compassion. Our schools are sick and turn out indoctrinated empty skulls other than racial, inclusion, transgender and climate hysteria. We have a mental health problem not a gun problem and we have rights. The 2nd amendment is not going anywhere. If you don’t like guns, don’t get one. That’s your right but my rights don’t end where your’s start.

      • Dano, as I watch these Lefties try to make it harder and harder for the people to get, sell/trade firearms using more and more complex “Red Flag Laws”, this seems to me to be treading into the “Shall Not Be Infringed” area.

        I’d also like to remind readers that there are a whole lot of seniors still here that are saying that they knew this would all happen when The Left took God out of the schools.
        Countries fall as they move from God.. read a history book and learn this- it’s quite clear.
        And Further, John Adams himself stated : “This Constitution was written for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”.

        This is very simple; we need to be well behaved and moral people to enjoy such freedoms.. which is about the same thing as any good parent says to a child as they mature and test their boundaries: “I’ll let you do this- but if you blow it, it’s done!”

        We are here because we are not creating the people that the Founders told us that they created the Constitution for..
        This is all not rocket science at all.
        The social rot in this nation is staggering today.
        AND this social rot has been created, nurtured, and grown- in fact.
        THEN they complain about *the results* of the social rot they created..

        Close to home, these would be the people that say, and celebrate “Keep Vermont Weird”. They are the very people also freaked out right now and want guns taken. They also fight tax dollars going to religious schools. They seemingly have an inability to connect dots.

        • Only liberals themselves believe they are the brightest, however examining how they destroy everything they touch, tells a different story. Look at our liberal run inner cities destroyed, look at California that has lost 500,000 people who moved out. Look at Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and other liberal run states where crime and debauchery has ski rocketed. Vermont isn’t far behind. The liberal agenda is like a cult you can’t reason with. It’s a hive mind and individual thought is not allowed or censored. This is Vermont. I think I may be too old to see the needed change. Liberals will run this state into the ground, bankrupt it and blame it on republicans who refuse to fight them in the courts and at the podium. Vermont’s new motto: Vermont, Keep It Weird! Keep voting for a liberal and kill this state! Almost there now, RIP VT in about 4 years. Thank a Dem/Prog voter at Vermont’s funeral.

    • There are over 450 million guns in the United States. One in six own a Modern Sports Rifle or as you like to call an “assault rifle”. Then really there should be more killing and shootings than there really are. So, who are the people doing the shootings?

      Colorado Springs – Shooter: Nonbinary
      Denver – Shooter: Transgender
      Aberdeen – Shooter: Transgender
      Nashville – Shooter: Transgender

      Gun Control does not work. Each and every one of the above shooters purchased their gun legally. They passed the NCIS background check. No Red Flag law stopped them.

      Robert A. Heinlein: “There are no dangerous weapons. There are only dangerous men”.

      Edward Paul Abbey (1927-1989), American author, Abbey’s Road, 1979: The tank, the B-52, the fighter-bomber, the state-controlled police and military are the weapons of dictatorship. The rifle is the weapon of democracy. Not for nothing was the revolver called an “equalizer.” Egalité implies liberté. And always will. Let us hope our weapons are never needed – but do not forget what the common people of this nation knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny.

  4. What gets me on the lefts scenario about gun violence, it’s always the ” Guns ” fault,
    and not the perpetrator………………. fools with an agenda !!

    Hey ” libs” who are you going to call when you take all the guns, all though that will
    never happen, and you also want to defund and hate the police ??

    Don’t worry when you hear a knock on your door or the sound of broken glass, it will
    be the same old criminal or crazy that still has a gun, they don’t care about your foolish
    laws or demands, they are criminals or crazy and they really don’t care about you or your
    family and they know you’ll be helpless………… just like the kids in a gun-free school zone
    you promote….. heads in the sand fools.

    Oh yeah, we have a Constitution and the second amendment says it all, and as all law-
    abiding citizens, we take that amendment seriously.

    What’s wrong in Vermont, it’s all the liberal ” flatlanders” but don’t worry real Vermonters
    will protect you when the time comes, and it will trust me !!

    Fools with Power, now that’s scary.

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