What is it about guns that causes liberals to go berserk and blame inanimate objects for human behavior? Are liberals that much more emotional and less rational than the rest of us, or have liberals made guns the scapegoat for the consequences of liberal policies that trashed our culture?

Guns have been around for a long time, but “gun violence” has not. As a kid in Atlanta, I grew up in what today’s liberals would call a strong “gun culture.” Every one of my friends had an air rifle. Many also had a .22 rifle and a single-barrel .410 shotgun. Both weapons were common presents under the Christmas tree for 12-year-old boys.

If guns were the cause of violence, school shootings would have been an everyday occurrence, but we never shot anyone. If a kid had taken a gun to school, it would have been for our version of “show and tell.” Teachers would not have panicked and called the police.

In those days, a person could purchase a gun in the local hardware store without showing any ID, and no one thought anything of it. Criminals were associated with crime — robbery, burglary, murder — not with guns. We might have heard of criminal violence, but never of gun violence.

Today, there is still a lot of criminal violence, but the deaths and injuries from firearms that liberals call gun violence have nothing to do with robbery or traditional motives for murder. The liberal outcry against guns isn’t provoked by the use of weapons in traditional crimes.

It is not the shooting of a clerk by a bank robber that sets off demands for “gun control,” but the senseless shootings when a rampaging gunman shoots co-workers or strangers, or students decide to “take out” their classmates and teachers, as at Columbine High.

Such shootings lack the traditional motives of criminal violence. The perpetrators of these acts of violence are not motivated by financial gain or even by a drug habit. Their crimes are senseless in as much as they were unthinkable 30 years ago.

Why did shootings unrelated to criminal gain become both thinkable and doable? Deranged, frustrated, disappointed and bitter people have been around forever, but motiveless killings are a new phenomenon in our culture.

In order for a person to take out his frustrations and disappointments on innocents, he must escape a culture that inculcates traditional ideas of right and wrong, and thus be “liberated” from a sense of personal responsibility and morality. The result is the “liberated” modern person whose self-esteem is unaffected by his dishonorable and irresponsible actions.

What other than the influence of liberal ideas produced this person?

Liberals reject personal responsibility, instead teaching collective responsibility (“it takes a village”). Liberals believe that [morality] is of anthropological interest, but not a guide to living a life. Liberals teach that right and wrong are judgmental concepts espoused by people with authoritarian personalities.

In a recent issue of “Academic Questions,” a journal of the National Association of Scholars, Gertrude Himmelfarb notes the liberals’ success in dethroning society’s morals. She cites reports from professors about students who can no longer bring themselves to pass judgment against the Holocaust, slavery, apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Students learn from liberals that everything is relative. In the liberals’ view, to pass judgment is to be an intolerant “moral absolutist,” whereas the desired norm is to be an open, tolerant, nonjudgmental person. Even though students don’t approve of such things as slavery and human sacrifice, they have learned to see moral judgments as arbitrary, ethnocentric and politically incorrect.

The cause of violence is not guns but people who grow up in a culture that knows no right or wrong. (Nonjudgmentalism is forsaken only when it comes to animal rights, “minority” rights, and environmentalism. In these three arenas students are permitted moral absolutism.)

In the days before people’s sense of self became narcissistic, bad behavior could destroy a person’s self esteem, ruin his reputation, and harm the reputation of his family and hometown. Today bad behavior is rewarded with book contracts and stardom.

It is the change in culture that explains the shootings. Liberals changed our culture. Finding no fault in themselves, liberals blame guns.

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Paul Craig Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts is the John M. Olin fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, research fellow at the Independent Institute and senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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