Anti-gun violence not the same thing as anti-gun

Reasonable efforts at curbing gun violence cannot simply be rejected as “anti-gun.”

People who endorse gun ownership also know that a virtue such as “liberty” must be limited when it compromises another’s freedom, or her very right to live.

I first visited Chicago in the 1970’s as a young prosecutor attending a conference on the prevention of child abuse. I was hooked on the city as a great place to go for a weekend retreat of blues, jazz and theater. But America’s Second City is under internal siege. In January, 42 Chicago residents lost their lives to gun violence.

Only one of these victims made headlines: 15-year-old Hadita Pendleton. She was the victim of gang cross-fire while playing in a city park. Her death was notable because she had played in a band that performed for President Obama’s Inauguration. She died one mile from the Obama home on the south side of Chicago.

It is right to call gun violence a national health crisis. It is right to say that in urban areas, the slaughter is almost genocidal. And, it is embarrassing when politicians ignore the suffering of innocents and maintain arming school teachers is an effective and civilized solution to the carnage.

When a former Los Angeles Police Department Officer recently went “rogue” and declared war on his department, police, under the stress of this uniquely frightening situation, twice shot up pick-up trucks containing innocent women. Why would we expect armed school teachers to perform better in an emergency?

Even more strange, in Spring City, Utah, that City Commission is considering a law requiring the presence of a gun in every home. Never mind that studies show that guns in homes means violence against household members. A gun in the home is 18 times more likely to be used against a family member rather than, heroically, against an intruder.

Although 30,000 people per year die by gun violence, there are only 200 plus justifiable homicides per year, indicating the proportional rarity of a gun being used in self-defense.

While the Supreme Court declared that the Second Amendment applies to more than the right of the people to maintain a militia, they also declared that the right is not absolute and that dangerous and unusual weapons could be banned or controlled.

John Stuart Mill wrote the definitive essay “On Liberty,” maintaining government may only exercise its power against a member of society to prevent harm to others.

But who bears the price of universal gun ownership? The adherents of the proliferation of guns, or children? Children in America are 13 times more likely to be killed by firearms than those in any other industrial society.

Semiautomatic guns and large capacity clips give the mentally ill and homicidal a disproportionate ability to kill, without reloading.

We know that on the very day that the Newtown, Conn., homicides occurred, a deranged man in China entered a school and stabbed dozens of children. No one died.

In the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960’s and 1970’s, Black Panthers armed themselves with guns and at one point, 30 armed individuals read a manifesto on the steps of the legislature in Sacramento, Calif.

They then entered the building with weapons. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Ronald Reagan sweeping gun control measures. A suggestion that we all be armed, is one that might be endorsed until we saw people who didn’t quite look like us or have our values, armed with semiautomatic rifles with loaded banana clips.

While some have a mystical reverence for the culture of the Old West-where every man had to take care of himself because law enforcement might be a hundred miles away-how is an armed society, a civilized society?

Do other rights, like free speech, implicitly give way to the power of the gun? Guns silence discourse just as, in ancient times, The Inquisition caused Galileo to recant what he believed.

Why, do we, who value guns for hunting, allow semiautomatic military style weapons, the weapons of choice of drug dealers and gang members, to have such wide circulation?

Are we, who live in relative safety and peace when it comes to guns in our midst, incapable of saying, we are not resigned to the plight of our brothers and sisters in the inner city and, for the good of all, increased gun control is overdue.

Editor’s note: Steve Pence of Marquette is a former county prosecutor in Michigan and attorney with a prtactice in Marquette.