Politics & Policy

Conscience, Not Guns

We no longer teach right and wrong.

From the moment Americans learned of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last Friday, the entire Left — editorialists, columnists, broadcasters, politicians — used the occasion to promote one idea: gun control.

For the Left, the primary reason for just about all American gun murders is the availability of guns.

I have no interest in debating gun control here. I only wish to ask the Left one question: We have a massive system of drug control laws. Yet, the Left is the first to argue that the war on drugs has been a failure. And whether or not one deems it a failure, the war on drugs surely hasn’t prevented tens of millions of Americans, including teenagers, from obtaining drugs illegally. Why, then, does the Left believe that a war on guns would be any more effective than the war on drugs?

That question aside, what matters most here is the Left’s preoccupation with guns as the root of the murder problem in America.

It explains a great deal about the Left’s worldview. The moral values and the conscience of nations as well as individuals seem to play almost no role in the Left’s understanding of human behavior.

That is why the Left wants all nations, including the United States, to destroy their nuclear weapons. The problem for the Left is not the moral values nations hold, it is the weapons nations hold. American nuclear weapons were just as troubling to the Left as Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and just as troubling as Iran having nuclear weapons today. So, too, the problem of gun violence in America is not the product of the moral values of gun owners but of gun ownership.

And because leftist thinking dominates American society — from elementary through graduate school and in virtually all the print and electronic news media — there is one view that almost never gets a hearing: that the primary reason for gun violence in America is not gun ownership, but the lack of a functioning moral conscience.

Lack of conscience is the problem both for individuals and for nations. Among nations the problem is nuclear (and all other) weapons in the hands of bad regimes. And among Americans the problem is guns in the hands of bad people.

This is so obvious that one has to be propagandized his whole life by leftism not to immediately understand it. But leftism is the religion of the West, and the most dynamic religion in the world for the last century. It is as hard to reject leftism in the West as it was to reject Christianity in Europe during the Middle Ages or Islam in the Arab world today.

Does one reader of this column — including individuals on the Left — fear being massacred by a decent person? Of course not.

Then why isn’t our emphasis on character development and the teaching of right and wrong?

Why is this never mentioned on the Left? Why are guns, not conscience, the root issue for the Left?

We are led to believe after almost every massacre that the murderer “snapped” or had mental problems. Why? Because it implies that the murderer was not morally responsible for what he did. We are told, for example, that Adam Lanza — who by all accounts was a brilliant student — suffered from a form of autism. Even if true, why is that important? Statistically, I would bet that those with autism commit far fewer violent crimes than the rest of population. Autistic people, like everyone else, can be taught the difference between right and wrong. My stepson is autistic, and is not capable of attending regular school (much less honors classes) or driving a car, things that Adam Lanza did fully normally. But my stepson is keenly aware of right and wrong, and believes that God punishes people who commit evil.

On some rare occasions mental illness may be the only possible explanation for evil. But when American schools emphasized character development, and when nearly all Americans believed that there is a God who forbids and punishes murder, such massacres rarely took place. When people “snapped” during the Great Depression some of them did kill . . . themselves. Surely some European Jews who survived the Holocaust “snapped” after seeing their families murdered. Yet I know of no survivor of the Holocaust who massacred innocent Germans or Poles or Hungarians, or Frenchmen — let alone Americans. Why not?

Because until the contemporary period, religion and/or conscience development were ubiquitous.

Instead of teaching young Americans self-control, thanks to leftist influence, we now teach them self-esteem — which has been worse than morally useless. It has been morally destructive. According to professor of psychology Roy Baumeister, one of the leading criminologists in America, few Americans have the high self-esteem that violent criminals have.

Want to know a major cause of criminal violence in America? Try leftism’s denial of the importance of moral values among nations and individuals; its systematic destruction of character education; and its elimination of God as the source of moral law.

Not guns.

— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of PragerUniversity and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.

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