It’s All About Personal Responsibility

The Vacaville Reporter just ran this great letter to the editor by a California Bay Area resident named Tom Leary. His argument is that preventative laws and weapon control laws are “nonsensical” because individuals determined to do harm will not be stopped by a ban on weapons or anything for that matter. Here it is:

Tuscon Cacti

Unbelievable. In the wake of the contemptible murders in Tucson, Ariz., there are those who would place the blame on anyone or anything but the killer himself. It takes me back to my college days and the sociology classes that purported to explain deviant human behavior by citing environmental reasons that contributed to such behavior. The professors cited family issues, work environments and disrupted relationships. Today, political discourse is cited as a contributing factor to the killer’s deviant behavior.

Of course, once I began my career, I quickly learned that all of those explanations were nonsense. I quickly learned that people who choose to do what they do make those choices themselves. They, and they alone, are responsible for their actions.

Yet, if one goes to a courthouse anywhere in this country and listens to arguments being made, one will walk away with an earful of reasons, excuses, explanations and motivations for a defendant’s criminal behavior. What will be missing is the truth: The defendant did what he did because he chose to do so.

Our society today is such that people want to identify the trigger that causes others to engage in behavior that is not acceptable. The reason people do that is to make themselves feel better — about themselves and about others around them. They want to feel better about the society in which they live.

Members of Congress are talking about enacting laws that would restrict the language one can use in the midst of political discourse. Blaming the use of metaphors and outlawing such language will not prevent a person from going out and killing people. Such legislation will not stop a person who has purposed to take the lives of others. Such thinking is nonsensical. We already have laws prohibiting murder, robbery, rape and theft. Those laws do not stop those who decide to do what they want to do.

What about the husband who lies to his wife as to his whereabouts? Would it be accurate to blame his wife for his lie, because the husband was worried his wife might yell at him?

In addition to those who want to introduce legislation limiting metaphors in political discourse, others want to limit what can be said on the radio. Passing legislation in the midst of national hysteria would be grossly irresponsible. Not only that, but one of our most cherished rights, that of free speech, would be set on the proverbial slippery slope to flagrant restrictions on what any of us could say. Setting that ball in motion would be irrational.

The Tucson killer killed because he wanted to kill. On the last day, the responsibility for what he did will be his and his alone.

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