Editor’s Note: Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr. is a lifelong resident of Milwaukee. He received the 2013 Sheriff of the Year Award from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association for “staying true to his oath, true to his badge, and true to the people he has promised to serve and protect.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
The CNN Guns Project explores the role of guns in the United States
Clarke says many gun restrictions aren't directly associated with gun violence
We shouldn't view criminals as victims who need to be treated leniently, he says
We also need to stop conditioning society that guns are evil, Clarke says
No other instrument or object in American society is more vilified and maligned – or evokes more emotion and passionate debate – than the firearm. Any category of death by unnatural causes should get attention. However, when that death occurs as the result of a gun being illegally used, reason and logic are marginalized, myths become facts and emotion drives the conversation.
The problem with the gun in America is that the left has politicized it. An entire advocacy has been developed and is part of their political platform. Their call for gun control is deceptively wrapped around a theme of reducing street violence and mass killings. The flaw in their argument is that none of the remedies they offer to reduce these senseless acts has anything to do with why this violence occurs. For the anti-gun cabal, this is more about defeating a political adversary, the influential National Rifle Association, than it is about reducing gun violence.
Universal background checks and limiting magazine capacity are offered as reasonable approaches to reducing violence. Neither of these suggestions is directly associated with gun violence. Instead, these technical fixes frustrate the overwhelming number of law-abiding American gun owners.
Our system of jurisprudence is predicated on punishing those individuals directly involved in committing crime, not those who are not. Gun control has never worked to eradicate violence. The cities of Chicago and Washington have had some of the strictest gun laws in America, yet they continue to experience high levels of gun-related, violent crime.
A little-talked-about truth is that gun control in America has its roots in racism.
Leading causes of death
Unintentional fall deaths
Its original intent was to keep firearms out of the hands of black people, more specifically, newly-freed slaves. As Charles C.W. Cooke noted in his article “The Great Equalizer,” civil rights champion Ida B. Wells said this about the value of bearing arms, “…the only case where the proposed lynching (of a Black man) did not occur was where the men armed themselves.”
She went on to say that the “lesson that teaches, and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.”
In a recent New York Times article, Charles W. Cooke quoted civil rights champion Ida B. Wells on the value of bearing arms: “’…the only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense.’” And, quoting her further: “’… a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.’”
Abolitionist Frederick Douglass also supported the right of blacks to arm themselves to guard against mob violence. As noted in Stephen P. Halbrook’s book, “That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right,” Douglass believed that “slaves without arms” could never attain freedom. Even the U.S. Congress at the time recognized the key role that arming blacks played in the ending of slavery.
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Otis McDonald, a Chicago resident, that same protection by validating his right to keep and bear arms when they struck down the city’s unreasonable gun control ordinance. McDonald sued Chicago, claiming that the restriction prevented him from protecting himself and his home from gang violence.
Preventing private citizens the right to arm themselves for their own defense is a de facto death sentence.
Here are more effective ways to reduce gun violence:
First, let’s rid ourselves of the fantasy that strict gun control is even achievable. In his blog for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Marquette University law professor Rick Esenberg said that “such a conversation about gun violence should be tempered by constitutional, political and practical realities. We are not about to ban the private ownership of guns in the United States.”
Second, end social engineering experiments in the criminal justice system that see criminal perpetrators in a warped view as victims of society to be treated leniently. Punishment, when applied early in a criminal’s career, is an effective deterrent to crime.
Finally, stop conditioning society that guns are evil. They save many more lives than they take. Instead, start providing gun safety education that teaches people to respect firearms, not fear them.