Our hearts go out to the families of the 17 victims who, just two weeks ago, were murdered in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. The shooter, nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had several guns in his possession, including an AR-15 which he used in the attack. Questions surrounding the shooting abound and many people are demanding to have stricter controls placed upon the purchase of firearms, with many desiring to ban assault weapons altogether. This demand may sound reasonable enough, especially in light of the horrible tragedy Mr. Cruz is responsible for. After all, 17 families will never be the same. This prompts me to ask you, the reader, a question: in light of the tragic loss of life that was carried out by one young man, would stricter controls placed on guns or banning assault rifles altogether really result in less gun related crime? How could any sane human being not want to take measures to prevent future crimes of this nature from being committed? However, before we march off to Washington or walk out of school protesting for stricter gun legislation, maybe we would do well to learn what history has to teach us on the subject of passing laws which focus on the instrument instead of the individual.
Take for example the eighteenth amendment. Now, I realize that some may cry “foul!” at comparing outlawing alcohol to restricting firearms or banning assault rifles, but I believe a correlation exists. They are both instruments that have negative effects when used unlawfully in the hands of individuals who lack morals and self-control. So, if you will grant me some latitude, I will make my point. The eighteenth amendment to the United States Constitution successfully established the prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. by proclaiming the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol illegal. The only exclusion from this amendment was the consumption of alcohol for medical and religious purposes. The nationwide prohibition began January 17, 1920, and remained in effect for the next 13 years. This amendment was the result of years of effort on the part of temperance movements around the United States, including the Anti-Saloon League which was founded in 1893. The ASL believed that a ban on the selling and consuming of alcohol would result in the elimination of poverty, disreputable behavior, and a reduction in violence.
They further believed that social equality would improve, families would be happier and the economy and industry would boom. Simply put, the world would be a better place if only the instrument of evil, in this case, alcohol, were to be banned. After all, no alcohol, no alcohol-related crimes—right?
Let’s take a brief look at the actual result of this amendment. Supporters of the amendment were greatly encouraged during the first few years of the ban. Hospitalization for alcoholism decreased and there were fewer liver-related medical problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Arrests for drunkenness also decreased. It seemed as if a happier America, free of the corruptible influence of alcohol, loomed bright on the horizon. However, it wasn’t long before the true impacts of the law began to show. After only a few years of being in effect, instead of dropping crime, it rose 24%. Private distillation of alcohol rose to meet the large demand, and as a result of careless brewing techniques upwards of 10,000 people died. The illegal sale and production of alcohol attracted criminal organizations who amassed large profits by brewing and distributing alcohol. When competition between these criminal organizations naturally ensued, in opposition to the amendment’s true intent, murder and burglary rates rose. The prisons became full and law enforcement became overtaxed and unable to meet the threat. “So what is the conclusion to all this?” you might ask? It is that passing laws against an instrument used to commit a crime can have the opposite effect of what is desired.
You see, the instrument is not to blame. The individual is responsible. As the Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Mankind is the problem. Without God’s redemptive grace working in the heart of man a nation can pass all the laws it wants, but nothing will really change. History is clear and speaks for itself. As we saw earlier, ban alcohol and only the law abiding citizens will do without. Similarly, if we restrict guns, only law abiding citizens will be deprived of their use. There will always be ways for the lawless to get guns. As the following quote from Ronald Reagan says so perfectly; “I don’t think that making it difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns will lower the crime rate—not when the criminals will always find ways to get them.” Furthermore, by restricting gun ownership without aiming to actually decrease crime, the results will prove counter-productive. If law-abiding citizens are deprived of the right granted in the Second Amendment to defend themselves, the lawless will be even more emboldened to carry out violent actions, and atrocities such as the Florida shooting will not be deterred from happening again and again.
As is often the case, the solution is just the opposite of the emotional response in a given situation, such as in the recent shooting. Guns are not the problem. Guns may be the solution! Let’s assume for a moment that one of the teachers in the Florida shooting was lawfully carrying a concealed weapon. What if upon hearing the first shots fired, instead of bravely jumping in front of students to shield them from the spray of bullets, the teacher skillfully shot and killed Mr. Cruz? How many lives possibly could have been saved? Unfortunately, we will never know. However, there are already schools which have taken this approach to preventing gun violence. Argyle High School in Texas is allowing their teachers to exercise legitimate “concealed carry” on school grounds. I believe this is a step in the right direction. The absence of guns did not prevent Cain from killing his brother Abel, and will not keep evil men from doing evil things. Men will always find a way to commit their evil actions. The absence of guns will never fix the problem, as almost anything can be turned into a weapon; i.e., rocks, knives, pens, ropes, baseball bats, plastic bags. We could ban anything we wanted to—when will it stop? The following quote from Ronald Reagan sums up this argument: “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
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