Attack the systemic problem, not constitutionally protected liberties
Houston Community Newspapers
Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 4:00 am
By Rep. Pete Olson
The tragedy in Newtown was every parent's worst nightmare. We all held our children a little tighter when we heard the news. It is normal to now feel a little nervous sending our children to what we thought to be a safe place - school. It is incomprehensible why anyone would target innocent children. Our prayers are with all of the victims and families that were touched by this tragic event.
How we respond to this tragedy will tell a lot about us as a nation. Do we resurrect failed policies of the past â€“ like the assault weapons ban â€“ so that some politicians can score quick political points, hiding behind the false claim that they have done something to prevent another Newtown incident, or do we truthfully work to understand the forces behind these tragedies and tackle them. If the latter is the case, then first and foremost, we must address the serious mental health issues facing our nation and develop a plan to implement needed solutions. In the Houston area, the largest mental health facility is the Harris County jail. That's wrong. The criminal justice system is not the proper place to treat the mentally ill.
It would be ignorant to not consider that these horrible events are driven to some degree by a shift in our societyâ€™s values over the decades. Firearms have always been present in our society - what's changed is our society. Decades ago, there were fewer gun laws and certainly fewer bizarre, horrible mass killings. Unfortunately, over time our society has shifted to where it glorifies violence and has an increasingly morbid fascination with death.
Try to watch a football game without seeing violent ads for brutal video games. Itâ€™s hard to do. When brutal messages are repeatedly thrust upon young impressionable minds, it clearly has an impact. We accomplish nothing if we do not address the unraveling of our social fabric. The lack of respect for life and the culture of violence that permeate our society can and must be dealt with â€“ not by laws - but by leadership and social pressure. President Obama could achieve something meaningful by challenging his Hollywood friends and supporters â€“ many who make violent movies and hypocritically call for strong gun control - to ensure their actions reflect their words.
Equally troubling are recent comments made by President Obama hinting at circumventing Congress on gun control measures. At a recent press conference Obama said, "...there are some steps that we can take that don't require legislation and that are within my authority as President." The Second Amendment of the Constitution is not something the President can alter through Executive Order. Rest assured that House Republicans will watch the Presidentâ€™s actions closely and we will not stand by and allow our constitutional rights to be diminished.
Vice President Biden ran a highly publicized task force that delivered promises to make recommendations on how to reduce gun violence. Everyone is for reducing gun violence, from the National Rifle Association to the Brady Campaign. We all share a common goal of reducing gun violence. The ultimate question is how do we get there?
What we cannot do is attack the constitutionally protected liberties of law abiding gun owners. It's a red herring disguised as a quick solution to the problems plaguing our nation. Restricting the right of law abiding citizens to defend themselves or their property against violent intruders threatens the very foundation upon which this nation was built. It dismisses the bigger issues of mental health and our societyâ€™s acceptance of gratuitous violence that, at an early age, begins to harmfully influence our children. It would be criminal to take America down a dead-end path that restricts our constitutional rights.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, on which I serve, will hold hearings to thoroughly review the systemic problems that are causing this kind of violence. We will examine mental health problems and explore solutions. And we will explore the impacts of violent video games on children. As painful as this tragedy is, we must remember that the problem is not the firearm, but the person behind the trigger. Finally, we will develop solutions to address these problems to protect our children and keep our communities safe.