Declining an award because a constitutional right is not sufficiently infringed does not a heroic martyr make

I’m certain that Mr. Arne Duncan, Chicago Schools CEO, had his heart in the right place when he refused to accept this anti-gun group award . I’m certain that he considers himself a champion of children’s safety. I’m also certain that the laws he fights for will endanger our children and their future rather than make them safer.

That last statement is one that people of intelligence may debate. But in any case I wonder how Mr. Duncan finds it morally acceptable to position the 3 – 4 million NRA members in the same category as “gang bangers and everyone else” who dare to disagree with him on the subject of the 2nd amendment and firearms. And I wonder if he remembers the adage that “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”

Perhaps, Mr. Duncan, you would take a moment to read the below. And just perhaps you might realize there are intelligent people who also love children but disagree with you, and in fact think your goals will do more harm than good:

I am an NRA member, Sir. I’m a father of two beautiful children who mean more to me than my guns or ANY material thing in my life. As a live near Littleton I drive by Columbine High School on an almost daily basis. And I never cease to be reminded of that horrendous day in 1999 when two young men took so many lives, maimed others, and then committed suicide. Making that nightmare memory even more real in my mind is the realization that my beautiful girls may very well attend High School in that very building.

I’m aware of the dangers of the world, and if I could make the world safer for my children and the children of others by giving up my guns and supporting the anti-gun groups and their supposed “sensible gun laws” I would do so in a heartbeat. There is nothing more important to me than my girls, and destroying a couple of rifles and sending checks to the Brady Campaign would certainly be an easy and “feel good” solution.

But I think, Mr. Duncan, you have made some serious mistakes in your views; and that your political goals will make my girls’ world, and the country in general, more endangered, not less. And if we, as two adults who love children could converse intelligently for a moment, perhaps you might at least understand why some do not agree with your “common sense” stand, and argue that history reveals your stance to be naïve and short sighted.

I wish we could stand here today and declare victory over gun violence.

I would love to salute elected officials across the State of Illinois for having the political courage to pass common sense gun laws that would keep our children safe.

I share that wish. But I would point out that Illinois already has extremely strict “common sense” / “naïve and shortsighted” gun laws compared to the rest of the nation. And Chicago has an absolute handgun ban in place (which doesn’t seem to have reduced the murder rate).

The anti-gun groups would love to get the rest of the states aligned with Illinois, and Chicago’s laws are a dream come true. But increasing the laws in Illinois will have no effect on the laws in Indiana, a couple hours drive away. Or Arizona, a couple of days drive away. Or Afghanistan, a couple of weeks away (which already has a smuggling route to the US in place for heroin and could certainly expand it to include firearms if there was a marekt).

Even if we banned all guns in the US (after we revoke the 2nd amendment) could we ban guns smuggled in from abroad? I would remind you of another illegal item that we have been waging a war against for decades, outlawed not just in Chicago or Illinois but nationwide – drugs. And yet I don’t believe you can identify for me a single place in America where drugs are not easily available. To criminals, anyway. And with a violent criminal underworld flush with money and desirous of weapons, what makes you think that need would not be filled?

I want to look in the eyes of our children and promise them that they will be safe – and that their only concern is whether they did their homework not whether they can walk to school.

I wish we could preserve their innocence long enough to foster a love of learning instead of a fear of death.

Again, this is a dream I share – a dream of all parents throughout history. I wish I could look in the eyes of my children and tell them that as college coeds living away from home for the first time they can walk around campus after dark and not be afraid of an assault, or live in an inexpensive (economically depressed) part of town and not have to lock the doors, or board an airplane and not be afraid an Islamic radical will use it as a weapon to destroy an office building; yes, that would be a wonderful dream.

And I wish I could go back in time to young German Jewish children watching their parents, who were unarmed a year earlier by “common sense gun laws,” being brutally beaten by mobs during Kristallnacht in 1939 and tell them that it wasn’t really happening. I wish I could tell them that there wasn’t going to be a holocaust to come that would leave so many of them dead. That even after the Jewish community realized the danger they were unarmed and incapable of fighting back, though they certainly tried (as in the Warsaw Ghetto). But I cannot.

I wish I could tell the children of Darfur that the murdering bands of thugs who kill and rape their parents right in front of them, parents unarmed by common sense gun laws, are just a bad dream. But I cannot.

I wish I could make all the children of the world safe from harm and shield them from danger. I wish I could change the world so that wars cease to happen and ethnic / religious / cultural / sectarian hatred disappears. I cannot. Neither can you. Neither has anyone in history been able to. Even going back to the thousands of years before guns were invented.

I wish that our society valued children more than it values violent rituals and traditions that might have been at home in a frontier society two centuries ago but make absolutely no sense today.

I’m not sure what violent ritual and traditions you are talking about. What kind of violence is it that made sense in frontier society two centuries ago that doesn’t make sense now? What has changed? Is it not still legitimate for people to protect themselves and their children, as we see chronicled on this website about armed citizen stories, which are just a fraction of the whole (which brings up the question why, with so many criminals carrying guns, would you stop law abiding people being armed to defend themselves)?

Were those afternoons my brother and I spent shooting tin cans with my father a violent ritual? I thought it was a father bonding with his children and passing on to them respect and knowledge of the hunting and self defense tools he grew up with. Not to mention sharing the enjoyment of a constitutional right/American tradition.

It makes me sick with sadness to see young lives destroyed in a moment of stupidity and confusion.

If they fought with fists and words like we did — they would be alive today.

It makes me sick too. But while I don’t know your biography, I imagine you grew up in a neighborhood like I did – a suburban or upscale neighborhood (in my case a very blue collar neighborhood, but still not “inner city”) where to this day disputes are generally handled with with “fists and words” (and zero-tolerance school violence policies try to stop even that). The violence you are talking about is not a result of owning guns, but a result of a culture that has grown around the drug trade and sucked too many promising youths into making mistakes that last a lifetime.

In your speech you detail horrific stories of young lives cut short. And I mourn with you, not only for their lives and families but for how much potential we lost in these senseless acts. For each murder we lost as least 2 people who could have grown up to be beneficial members of our society; the victim and the shooter — for while the shooter may live on, s/he is almost certainly lost to civilized society.

But we differ as to what causes the violence. In my neighborhood there are many legal gun owners and many children, but no shootouts in the streets. It’s not a “gun culture” that is causing the problem, but a “violence culture.” And outlawing civilian ownership of guns will have no effect on the criminal population, it will only disarm the many people who use guns for self defense. Take away a gun from a violent man ready to murder, and you still have a violent man ready to commit murder. Only the tool is in question. But with 1/3 of American murders committed without a firearm it is clear there are plenty of other tools available.

And for a mass murderer, if a gun is unavailable there are still the options of driving a speeding car into a crowd, creating a truck bomb with fertilizer to destroy a government building, or using boxcutters and commercial aircraft to murder thousands.

But instead our children are dying and no one can stop it. Not the police, the community, the parents, the kids, the courts, the jails or the legislature.

But we MUST stop it. As parents, community leaders, citizens of an otherwise great nation … we must find the answer to the culture of violence that kills so many. But as has been proven in other countries, such as the UK where the murder rate has actually risen since a gun ban was put in place, we have to recognize that an “easy” gun ban is not the answer.

Gun control laws are easy; real answers are hard. They have to do with removing the most violent people from society and giving the rest the tools to make their lives prosperous and worthwhile. Some answers will be social programs to take away the sense of social injustice that exists in some quarters, and the belief that criminal careers are the only ones available. There is much to debate there as to what can be done/should be done in a free market society, of course.

But instead of having that discussion and moving forward with a unified effort to change our culture, you insist on fighting over guns, which are tools of self defense as well of murder, of freedom fighters as well as oppressors, and have empowered so many individuals over the years to defend their lives, families and cultures.

Look again at at this website about armed citizen stories, and tell me which of these people you would disarm. Look at my beautiful daughters, and tell them you know it’s a dangerous world, but their Daddy should be limited as to how he can protect them – even though the criminals that endanger them care nothing about such limits.

We’ll keep fighting the NRA, the gun makers, the gun dealers, the gang bangers and everyone else who refuses to accept the undeniable fact that guns and kids don’t mix.

We’ll fight for as long as it takes and when that fight is over – I will gladly accept this award. I will display it with pride.

But as I said, even if you succeed in your goals and accomplish some miniscule short term increase in safety, and that is debatable, making sure a civilian population is disarmed and powerless has historically tragic and far reaching implications. Implications our children, our grandchildren, or our great grandchildren may have to deal with no matter how much we wish they didn’t.

As much as Columbine was horrific in it’s proportions and impact, does it compare to another Kristallnacht/holocaust, religious Pogrom, or wholesale slaughter by paramilitary groups against a disarmed minority (which may include your children or mine) as we have seen in Darfur? And if you think they cannot happen here, I would ask what makes you say that? What makes us intrinsically better than the people of Darfur/Sudan/Germany/Russia — especially given our KKK and other hate group history.

By fighting against law abiding people like myself instead of trying to fix the root of the problem you are expending your energy trying to take away tools from law abiding citizens and forcing us to expend our energy to protect our tools and traditions – because we will not surrender our constitutional right and tradition. And we believe in doing so we ARE protecting our children and their future.

In fact, we will defend you or your children. And we will do so with effective tools if you help expand the laws in Illinois (as in 40 other states) to allow trained civilians to carry firearms for self defense; because as is proven by the high murder rates in Chicago, your anti-gun policies DEFINITELY not diminished violence one whit.

Because when I look at the history of the world, and even recent events, Sir, some things are very clear:

1. When you have a group of criminals with a strong money supply (i.e.drug dealers) who don’t care about the law, someone will find a means to supply that need. Be it guns or drugs. Always.

2. Human history makes it evident it’s not the presence or lack of tools that spawns violence, but human nature itself. We are a predator species only one step removed from the jungle, and taking away specific tools does not change that.

3. As many as 2.5 million Americans utilize a weapon for self defense every year, though they rarely fire that weapon. A gun ban, which would only affect law abiding people for the reasons given above, could easily result in a net of more innocent deaths. Certainly it would dis empower millions of Americans.

4. Gun Ban’s have not reduced murder rates in other countries; there is no reason to believe they would here.

5. History does tell us, Mr. Duncan, that societies break down from time to time and some group finds themselves the target of violence and rage. The gun laws you promote do more to disarm victims than attackers, as attackers will often have the tacit approval of the government or simply not care about the laws in place. Will your children be in the group Targeted by the next Kristallnacht? Will mine?

6. 911 calls more often bring the police after the fact, not in time to stop a crime. I
know that I have a very professional and quick responding local police force, and for that I am grateful. But I also know that in the unlikely event I wake up to hear my door being kicked in at 3:00 a.m. I want more than a phone in my hand.

7. Civilian gun ownership is as much a necessity to civilians today as a final balance to our powerful government as it was 200 years ago. Think this balance is no longer important because our current government is stable and responsive? Remember Adolf Hitler and how he as actually elected to a democratic government that he turned into a dictatorship in a matter of a few years?

8. Firearms ownership is not just a tradition in America, but a constitutional right. We should take as much pride in this right as we do in the rest our constitution protects, such as freedom of speech. Because like freedom of speech it is not always safe (as in the protected speech/marches of hate groups like the KKK) but it is always empowering. And as with all freedoms, we need to remember the words of a great man, Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

These are some truths, Mr. Duncan, and I would like to hear how you will dispute them. Because we are both men of some intelligence, we are both fathers who love our children, and we both care more about the safety of our children and ALL children than our personal biases.

And as I’ve said before, perhaps our energies are better spent not on arguing between us what tools we should/should not be allowed to own, because neither of us are the problem.

Let’s focus instead on how to make our country better. Let’s focus on how to make young people who have lost their way redirect their desire for violence and murder to something else, perhaps even sport shooting. Something positive.

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