The murder of 20 innocent children and 7 adults in Newtown, Connecticut, horrifies all Americans. President Obama eloquently expressed our collective feelings of “overwhelming grief” and our response to “hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another.”
Progressives now are arguing for stricter gun control. America, however, is founded on the “consent of the governed.” Americans’ sympathy for gun control, when polled by Pew after the Aurora atrocity, was about equally split between the restrictionists and those favoring the protection of the right to bear arms.
Restrictionist sentiment is down from almost 2 – 1 in favor of gun control in 2000. This isn’t irrational. Empirically, at12.1 victims per 100,000 the firearms death rate in ultra-restrictionist Maryland, home of this columnist, is higher than that of gun-friendly Texas’s 10.9 per 100,000.
Many conservatives have their own unfounded proclivities: “Lock every felon up and throw away the key.” Yet as noted last summer by The Economist, “America continues to lock up a scandalously large number of its people: around 1% of the adult population is behind bars at any time. But, says Mr Levin, ‘the relationship between the incarceration rate and the violent-crime rate is not very strong.’ New York has not followed the national mania for imprisonment, and yet the decline in its crime has been among the most impressive.”
At base the social consensus against institutionalizing the mentally ill makes it virtually impossible to remove potentially dangerous psychotics from society. Although it increases the possibility of tragedies such as Newtown, most feel that should not be reversed. Most psychotics are harmless.
Deinstitutionalization was a reaction to widespread, and egregious, abuses of the mentally ill and of inmates — including hideous violations of civil liberties. Most oppose, on humanitarian and civil liberties grounds, a return to the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest era. Newtown may force a change in this consensus as a more intelligent approach than gun control. If so, this absolutely must be handled with integrity and with impeccable safeguards for the mentally ill.
There is nothing wrong with Progressives making their case for restricting gun rights. They are passionate about it and, although America’s homicide rate (4.8 per 100,000 in 2010) has plunged by over half since its 1991 peak (9.8 per 100,000) — with no clear correlation with stricter gun control (and some evidence to the contrary) — America still has many more firearm homicides than other developed countries.
It’s a free country. Progressives rightly are free to make their case. Progressives, however, show shocking recklessness in their willingness to implement their policies by overriding popular will and the letter and spirit of the Constitution. There is a disconcerting trend in Progressive circles toward a willful disregard of the Declaration of Independence’s axiom that government legitimacy is based on the consent of the governed … and toward a perverse ignoring of key segments of the Bill of Rights.
The essence of the Declaration — one we were taught in grammar school and, most of us, consigned to the same trashcan as sentence diagrams — may be found here:…………