Just as an intellectual exercise, let’s imagine for a moment that you weren’t happy about the level of crime in America, and you wished there was more of it.
I know, sounds ridiculous, even impossible. But just for the moment, let’s consider what one might do – what policies one might further, what positions a political party might adopt – in pursuit of such a goal.
Freedom for the Guilty
You might want to start by making sure that criminals are free to commit crimes longer, rather than being locked away or executed. It’s hard to commit crimes when you’re locked up, right? Harder still to commit crimes when you’ve been terminated through the efficiency of an executioner’s noose, a firing squad, or an electric chair.
What has America done since the 1950s?
Oh, people may blame the change on a variety of causes – the imagined immorality of imposing capital punishment for the commission of a capital crime, the financial burden of paying for incarceration at $50,000 to $100,000 per prisoner per year, the naïve hope that most prisoners can be rehabilitated (some certainly are, but most are not). But whatever we blame for the choice, it is indisputable that we simply don’t remove proven criminals from society the way that we once did. Even once caught, we release them back into the community, to rob, rape, and kill, again and again, to keep their communities suffering in a reign of violence and fear.
Shifting the Odds
What else might empower criminals and put the law-abiding at risk?
The Napoleonic Code of justice is famously harsh, largely placing the assumption of guilt on the defendant and making convictions too easy. The American system, on the contrary, was designed to give a benefit of the doubt to the defendant, as our Founders were conscious of the risks that a corrupt government might unfairly prosecute the innocent for political purposes. Our system was therefore designed already to be more than fair in our treatment of suspected criminals.
But over the past half century, in decision after decision, the American judiciary has shifted the odds too far. With Gideon v. Wainwright, we forced states to provide taxpayer-funded counsel to defendants… with Miranda v. Arizona, we forced the criminal justice system to disregard confessions, often freely offered, if the slightest police error could be found in the arrest or prosecution.
Such decisions were often well-intended and meant to be limited, but the actual result has been that technicality acquittals now rule the day. Obviously guilty parties walk free because a policeman or clerk made a mistake. People can plea down to lesser crimes because technicalities might jeopardize the prosecution for the real crime that would net them a more appropriate sentence. The fear of the technicality acquittal interferes with police practice and prosecutorial processes. Not to say that the police shouldn’t respect the rights of the accused; of course they should. But the pendulum has swung so far on the side of the accused, it’s difficult to prosecute, more difficult still to convict, and usually almost impossible to sentence appropriately for the real crime committed by the villain.
And the end result is that more known criminals are released back into the population, to rob, rape and kill, again and again.
Another thing one might do, if one’s goal were to increase crime, would be to simply open the prisons and let criminals go free before their hard-earned sentences were up. What have we seen on this front?
Government has one principal purpose, above and beyond all others: to attend to the security of law-abiding citizens through a criminal justice system that seeks to remove proven dangers (proven by having already committed serious crimes) from society, through deportation and exile, through prisons and the death penalty, as appropriate.
Well, deportation and exile are anachronistic in an era of easy world transport by plane, ship, or car, so we are left with prisons and the death penalty. Once the court determines the defendant’s guilt, the judge’s job is to remove the villain from society so that he can terrorize the law-abiding no more.
But in recent years, discomfort about overcrowding the poor prisoners has led to judges issuing mandatory capacity orders on jails and state prisons, even the extent of many left-wing judges issuing blanket release orders by the hundreds or thousands!
Budget-challenged states make the penny-wise and pound-foolish choice to underbuild their prisons so they can’t hold the full number of prisoners that ought to be locked up. Short of cells, or banned from doubling up by misguided judges (if they criminals wanted to be comfy, they shouldn’t have committed their crimes), states have turned to a combination of written and unwritten codes to undersentence their convicts, to allow early release to the undeserving, to sentence “time served” when it’s clearly insufficient.
Such penny-pinching isn’t even a net savings anyway, since the cost to society of maintaining this revolving door system – with more police and more courts, continually catching and prosecuting the same criminals over and over again – is actually far higher than the cost of incarceration would have been.
The result is simple: this hesitancy to spend the money on enough cells and guards has led the nation to release known and proven criminals back into the community by the millions, people who should by no means be free again for decades, if ever, people who now can, because of pound-foolish legislators and misguided judges, rob, rape, and kill with impunity, again and again.
The Context of the Second Amendment
America’s Founding Fathers ensured that law-abiding American citizens would always have full firearms rights for a number of very different reasons, each of which was sufficient in its own right to justify the 2nd Amendment, including for example:
- The right of people to own their own possessions and tools without needing government’s permission (cf. the 4th and 5th amendments as well),
- the right of people to pursue sports such as target practice or hunting,
- the right of people to protect themselves from human villains or animal attackers,
- the right of people to defend themselves against a tyrannical government,
- the public need for citizens to be able to rely on their fellow civilians for such defenses.
Let’s concentrate here on the matter of self-defense. In the Founding era, even in those distant days, America was constituted much as it is today. There were big cities for their time (Philadelphia, Boston)… there were small towns (Quincy, Alexandria), and there were rural areas. Homes could be literally on top of each other in the cities, or miles apart in the countryside – minutes, hours, or even days away from official law enforcement.
Our Founders knew that an adequate criminal justice system could never be anything but reactive. The government can not – must not – punish their own law-abiding citizens in anticipation of a crime; it can only hope to apprehend, try, convict, and sentence people after the crime is over.
They knew that we can never expect to have enough police handy to interrupt crimes in process; we have to dissuade criminals through a combination of swift and severe punishment when caught, and the likelihood that their victims will often be able to overpower them.
This is the key. A nation as tiny as Singapore, San Marino, Hong Kong or Monaco might indeed be able to have enough police that one is always within a few hundred feet. But a nation as large as America was at its founding never could. Part of the brilliance of our Founding Fathers was the fact that practical reality coincided so well with philosophical libertarian positions.
In practice, a nation of this size would need each individual citizen to be fully empowered to defend himself, and that’s exactly the morally correct position for a society to take anyway! America was, in so very many different ways, a perfect alignment of both principle and pragmatism.
The Context of the Firearm Debate Today
The statists – whether you call them socialists, communists, Democrats, fascists, Nazis, Khmer Rouge, leftists, liberals, or progressives is immaterial; they’re all statists – all of them today campaign for the disempowerment of the private citizen.
They do this in many ways.:
- Disempower the citizen in preparing for his retirement, by mandating a pitiful Ponzi scheme of a Social Security program, funded by confiscating 15% of his earnings as FICA and Medicare…
- Disempower the citizen in providing for his healthcare needs, by mandating an incredibly expensive and crippling Obamacare program, funded by doubling or trebling the insurance payments, and burying hidden extra Obamacare taxes in home sales, in medical device manufacturing, in state and federal budgeting, in permits and licensing fees…
- Disempower the citizen in providing for his own education, by mandating an incredibly costly public school infrastructure that chews up half or more of many states’ budgets, through property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, and even lotteries and other gaming designed to contribute to the government education sinkhole.
And so too in the matter of personal security, the statists have campaigned to disempower the individual in his own critical ability to provide for the security of his person, his family, his home and his neighborhood.
The statists declare that guns in private hands pose a risk, a statement which twisted statistics can appear to justify. Tiny percentages of decent, law-abiding people per year certainly do injure themselves or others with firearms, through accidental discharges, hunting accidents, or depression-fueled suicide. Such statistics, per-capita, pale in comparison to the injuries suffered with trampolines, automobiles, motorcycles, sports, or a dozen other common bedrocks of modern life, but the statists don’t allow such comparisons.
The statists also disallow the recognition of the practical reality that private firearm ownership is a critical part of crime control. There is a reason why the murder rate of Chicago, Illinois is four and half times that of Austin, Texas. There is a reason why some neighborhoods with no police patrols are still far safer than many neighborhoods with frequent police patrols. It is that the broad distribution of firearms in private hands is the key element of crime prevention in America.
The criminal knows that his odds of being caught by a policeman during commission of a crime are one in twenty in the city, one in a thousand in the country. But he also knows that his odds of not surviving the crime uninjured if his victim is armed are more like one in three. This is the only thing that keeps the Chicago criminal out of many suburbs, the only thing that keeps many low-lifes in Texas from taking up crime at all! At a certain point, even the least intelligent potential criminal can understand that breaking-and-entering in a community with a high population of gun owners is not a winning career choice. Better a job that makes you work longer hours than a “job” that results in maiming or death.
But the statist doesn’t read The Armed Citizen blog to learn of such instances; the statist hasn’t read “More Guns, Less Crime” by John Lott. The statist isn’t interested in incontrovertible proof that firearms (ANY firearms, regardless of caliber, magazine count, color, or grip style!) in the hands of the populace make a neighborhood safer. The statist doesn’t want to believe it – doesn’t even care if it’s true – because it conflicts with his worldview.
The statist’s position is – and has been, ever since Hitler, ever since Sanger, ever since Marx – that the elite should run things, and individuals must serve at the pleasure of the state. Even though removal of guns from law-abiding citizens will cause an increase in crime – of course it will! – they don’t care, because their goal isn’t the security of the public anyway; it’s the empowerment of the elite.
The Challenge of the Gun Control Debate
Gun Control is itself a misnomer. The statists do not seek to control guns; you do that with your hand, and with practice at the range. They seek to control the gun owner.
The statists use fear of mass shootings, which, while too many, are still rare in a nation of 300 million, to terrify the public into shortsighted decisions… into giving up their rights and jeopardizing their way of life in a momentary public frenzy. They tried after Columbine, again after Aurora, but Sandy Hook was their favorite, because it happened after their president’s reelection; the time was finally ripe, in their mind.
So they display images of black metal guns, which look especially scary to the non-gun-enthusiast crowd, though they’re really no more or less dangerous than another gun with a wood stock that fires the same bullet. They display images of grieving parents, politicizing their grief and using them as lobbyists in their time of impaired judgment. They dismiss all rational argument about law enforcement by shouting “It’s for the CHILDREN” in an often-successful effort to shame opponents as heartless.
The statists do not want less crime. If they did, they’d be shouting to the rooftops about the need to build more prisons, execute more killers, mandate stiffer sentences. But they resist all these measures, and continue to weaken the criminal justice system any way they can.
The statists do not want to protect your children. If they did, they’d be the loudest to call for security guards in schools, or for simply arming and training teachers. Many districts, and many private schools, do arm and train their staffs. You don’t need every teacher to pack heat; but if just a percentage does, they’ll be able to stop the rare attack if it should happen on their watch. But the statists scream that they don’t even want guns in the hands of the good guys; their only interest is in ensuring that the only person in the school who ever has a gun is the one who wants to use it for murder.
The statists are dishonest with their statistics. Democrats delight in quoting the numbers of bullets in a gun, the numbers of children wounded or killed at Sandy Hook, the numbers of theatergoers killed at Aurora. But quote to them the numbers of known, convicted killers, rapists, and armed robbers whom they release from prison every day, and they’ll change the subject. Quote to them the difference in murder rates between cities with gun control and cities with gun rights (Chicago saw 506 murders in 2012; Austin, TX just 35, a per-capita ratio less than a quarter as bad), and they’ll deny that it matters. Quote to them the thousands of crimes known to be averted by armed civilians every year, and they’ll cite the one or two famous mass shootings as if they were comparable. The statistics are on the side of the individual, and the statist has no love for that side of any argument.
Today, we face a hostile government, a government more inclined to protect its own power than to look out for the safety of its citizens. Every measure that the statists propose, from gun registration to restrictions on weapon size, design, and ownership, is designed to restrict the ability of the individual American to contribute to his own security and the security of his nation.
Make no mistake about it: if they were interested in preventing another Sandy Hook killing, they would be calling for more funds for school security, and for relaxation of the restrictions on committing the dangerously mentally ill. Their silence on these matters, and their full-tilt effort to instead diminish the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves, proves their true intentions.
Add up the different policies of the Left over the past century, and you see a very different picture than one would ever expect any political activist to advocate. We assume that they want what the rest of us want – safer streets, safer schools, safer malls, safer neighborhoods – but the evidence shows the exact opposite.
The Democrats have spent decades consciously releasing known criminals into the population when a sane government would have kept them locked up… and they have spent the same decades tying the hands of law enforcement while banning productive civilians from making up the difference.
The American left has acted exactly as statists always act: disempower the individual; make life harder, make freedom harder, make home and work harder… so that the individual must turn desperately to the state for every need.
The statists have focused on making people – ever more people, every year – dependent on government for their education, their retirement, their healthcare, their food and shelter, and now their security as well.
To save our great nation from destruction, we must stop looking at political issues independently, each in its own vacuum. The statists view it in sum, and so must a nation that needs to save itself from such internal enemies. As government has encroached on every field of human endeavor, our chances for success, for prosperity, for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are all diminished.
We must return to the intentions of our Founding Fathers, the right and moral positions that built this greatest nation on God’s green earth.
We were meant to be a nation of sovereign individuals; we must cease this erosion of rights today, and set our nation back on the right path… that we may unleash, once again, the limitless potential of limited government!
Copyright 2013 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based international trade compliance lecturer. A former county chairman of the Milwaukee Republican Party, he has now been a recovering politician for over sixteen years. His columns appear regularly in Illinois Review.
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