In the wake of the brutal, senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the gun control debate is once again aflame in Washington, D.C. Advocates of strict gun control laws are taking advantage of the visceral, emotional nature of the event to push their agenda, while the NRA and their adherents have been put on the defensive. As frustrating as it is for supporters of responsible gun ownership to witness the irresponsible politicization of this issue, we are seeing how government reacts when free men cease to govern themselves with virtue and restraint. When the social consensus unravels and each person becomes a law unto himself, government must intervene to restore order. In the process, men become less free and the law becomes more and more repressive.
At America’s founding, there was a broad social consensus about how to behave in society. Social norms – derived largely from Judeo-Christian traditions and mores – were widely shared and adhered to. Men largely governed themselves, and consequently only limited government was needed in the civil sphere. Over time, society has moved away from the notion of moral absolutes. People have embraced moral relativism, the importance of community has been forgotten and society is now reoriented to a new dynamic – that of the isolated, unaccountable individual. With the rejection of a universal moral authority, man is his own judge left to determine his own personal definitions of “right” and “wrong,” and society pays the price as culture becomes increasingly coarsened. Man’s inhumanity to man increases: If if feels good, do it. If the baby’s inconvenient, kill it. If your parents make you angry or don’t give you enough attention, kill them and everyone they care about more than you. Blow up a movie theater to get the attention you feel you deserve from the world. In the face of such senseless chaos, government has to intervene to protect its citizens and restore order to the republic.
In recent weeks it’s been said over and over by the pundits that America’s “gun culture is the problem, that the NRA’s glorification of guns along with the gun manufacturing industry’s powerful lobbying is responsible for these brutal mass shootings. Not only is this a political red herring, it’s simply not true. Our cousins across the Atlantic banned the ownership of handguns after the terrible Dunblane massacre, and since then crimes committed with illegal firearms has risen. Our problems are not guns; our problems are moral and spiritual. Unless we learn to govern ourselves, we will continue to experience an unraveling of the social fabric, and tragedies like Sandy Hook will continue to plague us.
In February 1994, Mother Teresa was the guest speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington attended by President Clinton and the First Lady. She took the opportunity to speak about what she believed to be the greatest destroyer of peace in America – abortion:
“By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, that father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. The father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.
Many people are very, very concerned with the children of India, with the children of Africa where quite a few die of hunger, and so on. Many people are also concerned about all the violence in this great country of the United States. These concerns are very good. But often these same people are not concerned with the millions who are being killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers. And this is what is the greatest destroyer of peace today – abortion which brings people to such blindness.”
This week will mark the 40 years since the highest court in the land deemed the willful destruction of unborn human life a matter of “privacy” protected by the First Amendment. In that time, 56 million children have been lost to abortion. That’s 4000 children every day for forty years. And we wonder how a tragedy like Sandy Hook could happen in America. Perhaps if the mothers of those children who died had come to the classroom wielding guns instead of Adam Lanza we’d be less horrified. Enlightened bioethicists would call it “post-birth abortion” and not bat an eye.
The sad fact is, when society as a whole begins to reject the sanctity of human life the consequences are grave. America shouldn’t be confused over why these kinds of tragedies are happening, but we are. Our politicians will continue to wring their hands and assemble task forces and convene committee meetings, while our culture continues to crumble and children continue to die.
This article originally appeared at Center For a Just Society.