The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 20, 2013

Violence, period, needs to top every American’s agenda

The Back Porch

By Nerissa Young

— Gun control legislation would not have stopped the Oklahoma City bombing, which happened 18 years ago Friday.

Nor would it have stopped the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Nor the Boston Marathon bombings.

One is left to wonder whether Congress will try now to enact legislation to ban pressure cookers.

Wednesday’s U.S. Senate defeat of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin’s amendment to the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act bill by six votes leaves those supporting some form of gun control rather disgusted. The blame naturally goes to the National Rifle Association, one of the more — if not THE most — powerful lobbies in Washington.

It’s a shame that Manchin and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey’s amendment did not pass because it included the provisions this writer called for after December’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The bill would have required courts and law enforcement agencies to share criminal and mental health records that could be entered and accessed in a national background check database. It provided due process for those who wanted to appeal a finding that they were mentally incompetent to possess a firearm.

The bill would have exempted from a background check requirement the giving and trading of guns among family members and for individuals to privately show and sell guns in their homes.

It would have established the National Commission on Mass Violence to look at every facet of American society and the role each plays in leading or contributing to violence.

In short, it would have done what Manchin said it would. At least on paper that’s how the bill reads.

Democrats and Republicans got squishy as the vote approached and went against what some say is the will of the American people. Since everybody in America hasn’t been surveyed in one grand, glorious poll, that’s a bit of a stretch. Many people are justifiably nervous about civil rights protections any time the government gets interested in civil rights.

Those six votes are probably about as close as it’s going to get.

Preventing gun violence — or any kind of violence — isn’t up to Congress. It’s not the responsibility of law enforcement or a national database. It’s not even up to the president.

It is the responsibility of every American, and Congress doesn’t have to do a dang thing but sit back and watch.

Every American has a responsibility to teach others that problems should be solved with smarts and compromise. That means parents should refrain from cussing umpires at little league games or even — as was witnessed in Alderson a few years ago — throwing a brick at one.

While liberal hand wringers are gnashing their teeth at the rural gun culture and NRA crazies, they better check the chickens on their own front porches.

That means the powerful Hollywood lobby to which liberal Democrats like to cozy up to needs to stop making films and video games that promote senseless, gratuitous violence. The First Amendment is a two-edged sword: Just because you have the freedom doesn’t mean you have to use it.

That means parents whose children are violent and out of control need to get them psychological help and/or turn them into law enforcement instead of enabling the violence through inaction and apathy.

That means the U.S. Department of Education needs to realize that violent children do not have a right to be mainstreamed into classrooms with other children to receive an education.

That means every American reaches out to children who are alone, ignored and abused to show them that love does, indeed, overcome hate and that they have value as human beings. That means they reach out to children who seem to be well adjusted, too. People will do horrific things to get noticed. American society seems to notice only the aberrant.

When was the last time a quiet kid who does what he is supposed to do received a round of applause?

For too long, American society has glorified and elevated the fighters while deriding the meek ones who show greater courage through their self-control.

Americans learned that lesson too well. The country can’t manufacture body bags fast enough.

This isn’t the end. It’s the best beginning the nation has had in a long time.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. Email:

© Nerissa Young 2013