Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

June 14, 1999

Tragedy begets tragedy
Violence in schools doesn't justify violence against liberty

Tragedy begets tragedy, and rarely is this more clear than when politicians take it upon themselves to legislatively address heartbreaking situations with feel-good reactions.
Americans have been rightly shocked by recent violent incidents in public schools. While most Americans have used these tragedies as an opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of morality and individual responsibility, some have seized upon these senseless incidents as a way to further political agendas.
We must recognize an important historical point. There are more restrictions on the sale, ownership and use of firearms today than at any time in history. Just fifty years ago, anyone could purchase weapons from most store catalogues for home delivery by US Mail. And yet fifty years ago we did not have school shootings. In fact, the number of incidents involving at-school violence with firearms has increased as the number of federal laws and regulations have increased.
It should also be noted that in each "sensational" case, the violence has occurred in government-run schools where the virtues of gun control and federal law enforcement are extolled daily. This is at a time when increasing numbers of people, and especially those of (some might say) the "pro-gun" political persuasion, are choosing private or home schools. Yet we do not hear of kids slaughtering 12 peers and a teacher at a church school.
However, one must never allow reality to interfere with the goals of big government advocates. The choir of statists has been singing the hymn of more federal regulations, laws, and control. Some, like Sara Brady and fellow traveler Bill Clinton, unabashedly call for the ban of handguns, or at least the federal registration of all gun owners. This, despite the fact no such law would have saved a single young life. Again, reality is not an issue.
Lest anyone incorrectly assume assaults on our Constitution are limited to Democrats striking the Second Amendment, there is an equally strong move from some congressional Republicans to wipe away the First Amendment.
Very soon, Congress will take up HR 1501, the Consequences for Juvenile Offenders Act. The measure not only continues the federalization of law enforcement, it undermines the Bill of Rights. While our founding fathers wisely left the enforcement of crime to local and state leaders, federal legislators assume they are wiser not only than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and George Mason, but everyone not in DC.
People who are ordinarily our allies in the defense of liberty have been mislead into supporting HR1501 and amendments that turn federalism and the Constitution on its head. These conservatives are promoting several new "gun control" measures, such as mandatory trigger locks, expanding the background checks, and more.
One measure would require every music store to provide, free of charge, the lyrics to any song upon the demand of a parent. While perhaps a good service for a store to provide on its own, to mandate this from Washington is nothing short of immoral, and an unfunded mandate of the highest order. It is also an infringement on the rights of the free-market musician. After all, he profits by the sale of his music -- lyrics and all. For as revolting as his "art" may be, it remains true that never is a second wrong justified by a first.
Still another provision would ban the sale of "violent" or "sexual" materials (including movies, books, sculptures, games, etc.) to young persons. But how does one reconcile such action with the freedom of press and religion? With difficulty, since "Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…" though perhaps states could. One might easily imagine a parent taking umbrage at their child being allowed to purchase such scandalous materials as those found in Genesis 19, Joshua 6 or the Samuels. What might prevent a federal judge from banning the sale of Bibles to youth at local bookstores? Or classic literature, such as the "Iliad" or "Hamlet"? All in the name of limiting violent images, right? Chipping away at the First Amendment, in a misguided attempt to protect children by usurping parental responsibility with new federal laws and bureaucracies, is nothing short of dangerous.
In rushing to "do something," even good people are tempted to promote a very bad idea, presenting Americans with a false choice: give up the precious liberties of Bill of Rights and cede greater power to the federal government, or face more youth violence. Reality, of course, demonstrates something very different.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, anyone who would "give up essential liberty for temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security."