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Valley Perspective

Tighter Controls--and More Carnage

We make acquisition of firearms more difficult but safety is not served. Perhaps it is true that we have lost the culture war.

May 02, 1999|TOM McCLINTOCK | Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Granada Hills) represents portions of the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County

Editor's note: The following is adapted from a speech by McClintock on the state Assembly floor during the debate over the Wally Knox bill limiting gun purchases.

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I rise to make a confession to this house. When I was in the sixth grade I brought a gun to school, as did a group of my friends. Nobody thought anything of it at the time--it was for a National Rifle Assn. safety course.

That was just a generation ago. Today SWAT teams would have surrounded the school in an instant. A generation ago, guns were far more prevalent and far easier to obtain than they are today. There was no waiting period, no background check, no mandatory education course, no licensing requirements.

And yet a generation ago nobody thought twice about a group of sixth-graders bringing firearms to a safety course at a public school and incidents like Columbine High School were unthinkable.

A generation later, we have made the acquisition of firearms much more difficult and yet have come to expect a school massacre every year or so.

What has happened? I suggest, as many philosophers of our day are now concluding, that perhaps it is true that we have lost the culture war. There is no question that something fundamental has changed in the American spirit.

What George Washington called the salutary effect of religious faith on national morality has been aggressively attacked and discouraged by government at all levels, and nowhere more aggressively than in the public schools.

Today, any expression of religious faith by a student is brutally ridiculed and instantly disciplined by school officials. The traditions of individual responsibility that are a pillar of self-government have been derided by the practitioners of the welfare state.

A radical ideology has arisen in this nation, that we as individuals are not answerable to moral standards of conduct, but rather that we are all victims of our surroundings. We have adopted policies encouraging the fragmentation of families, undermining the sanctity of marriage and the stability of two-parent households.

In his farewell address to the nation in 1796, George Washington offered these words of warning to future generations: "Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens."

Self-government is predicated on a tradition of civilized behavior, passed from one generation to the next. It is based on individual responsibility and individual practice of morality, a tradition that has been an object of unrelenting attack by the left for a generation. In its place we are offered a vision of moral neutrality and authoritarianism, moving us inexorably toward a society in which law-abiding citizens are stripped of the means of defending themselves, while those who live outside the law are as well-armed as ever.

It is said that this bill is just a small, reasonable step. In fact, we have already taken many such steps. And after every step we take, incidents like Columbine repeat themselves while we continue to encourage intolerance against the very tradition of moral behavior and personal responsibility.

That is a highly unstable condition that can only be sustained by an all-powerful state, which these same authoritarians are quite happy to serve up to us one course at a time.

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