Some people who have known me for a long time feel like it is a sudden surprise that I am so strongly in support of the second amendment. I attended a liberal arts program at a liberal public university, after all. Shouldn’t I understand that guns are the opiate of the uneducated and disempowered, the paranoid and the hateful?
“You are an anomaly among concealed weapon permit holders,” a friend from England told me. “My wife’s relative in Texas has a permit, and most of them lack access to resources and are extremely bitter.”
In my experience, that has not been the case. The people that I know who hold permits or who have taken concealed firearms permit classes with me have ranged from teachers to entrepreneurs, and yes, some working class people, but not those that fit the stereotype held by my friend. Most have had experience with crime, being victimized at some point within their lives. Many have lived the experience that when they need it most, they are the only person who can provide an effective response for their own defense.
I have written several essays about my own experience with crime and crime fighting, most notably my long essay posted to TheGunTutor about facing a felon that was released through the intervention of a community justice and offender reintegration program in Iowa. My essay has received positive feedback from people who understand the experience, but the groups involved in freeing the offender, after repeated notice, continue to remain silent. 30 years later, I am still the only person who is willing to create a proper response. I am doing that through telling my story. Liberal offender reintegration groups, bent on reducing penalties for offenders, and who use the word “accountability” throughout their literature, are unwilling to be accountable for their part in covering up and facilitating crime.
Many groups highlight the rise in incarceration rates and suggest that this is an example of injustice in America. At the same time, America is unique among countries – with a massive population, America is the only country of its size committed to stopping the perpetuation of crime within its borders. Lower incarceration rates of other countries can be indicative of turning a blind eye.
The criminal reentry programs sponsored by the American Baptists take such a position. On their website the program indicates a number of statistics about the justice system: 1.6 million people were reported behind bars in 2009 (1.5 million in prison and 780,000 in jail), over four million are on probation, over 800,000 are on parole. They indicate that one in 31 adults is under correctional supervision in the United States.
What they don’t indicate is why there are so many people in prison or under supervision of the justice system. What are these people under supervision for? If we were to go case by case through each of these 1.6 million cases, which would we be willing to overturn? I propose that one possibility for these numbers is that in America we are willing to take cases to trial. In many cases we don’t act soon enough, penalties are too lenient, and courts and police are overburdened with cases to the point they are unable to act when they should. Crime is a reality. The countries that have low prison and probation rates have these rates because they do not pursue prosecution aggressively. They simply accept crime as part of everyday activity.
According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, America has 716 people per 100,000 in prison as compared to Cambodia with 101 people per 100,000 in prison. (2) The American Baptists would celebrate such a reduction. It would be a physical representation of the metaphor “setting all the captives free,” but what would the cost of such a reduction be?
In 2005 Dateline NBC ran a powerful special on child sex prostitution and slavery in which reporter Chris Hansen visited Cambodia and walked the streets to see who would approach him and what criminal services they would sell. (3) Approached almost immediately by child pimps selling sex with even younger children, it is clear Thailand has an insufficient rate of imprisonment to reduce harm to its citizens.
The American Baptist Church takes a position that would decrease sanctions against offenders and would allow the country to decline to a similar condition as depicted in Dateline’s report. In several publications downloadable as PDF documents from their website, the American Baptist Church articulates its position toward criminal justice.
But is it a bad thing to reduce criminal penalties? A single conviction can follow a person for years, decades, even a lifetime, reducing their employability, social acceptance and more. One benefit of incarceration is that offenders who are likely to offend again are separated from the community, theoretically sparing the public from offenses the person may commit during that time. I know in my experience, placing my offender behind bars would have spared me from facing several crimes at an early age.
If offenders are released to the public, how do we provide protection for the public? The Supreme Court has indicated that it is not the responsibility of the police or the state to provide protection for the general public. A 2005 case in New York supported earlier precedents when police failed to stop an estranged husband, with a protective order issued against him, from murdering her children, abducted from the yard as they played.
Should police and municipalities be held responsible to stop such crime? In fact, I would say, “no.” They do not have such a responsibility – as long as citizens are not infringed in preparing for and performing their own defense.
The proposals, both local and national, to ban guns and concealed firearms fail to take these realities into account. Organizations are actively working to reduce incarceration, police and governmental agencies are not held accountable for individual’s protection, and groups are agitating for a ban on reasonable self-defense.
Who will receive lifetime armed protection? Presidents, for one. Again, I think that is generally a good thing. I want my countries’ Presidents protected, but I also want the right, and the tools, to protect myself and my family.