The Surge of Violence: Who's to Blame

James H. Lilley

The year 2007 was welcomed with the usual grandeur and celebration we've grown accustomed to witnessing on our TV screens, or for the truly adventurous, in person. Champagne flowed, hugs and kisses were exchanged and for a few brief moments everyone was at peace with the world. But with the rising sun came the tragic news that Denver Broncos Corner Back Darrent Williams had been gunned down after leaving a New Year's party.

That was national news because of his position within the National Football League, but other lesser-known persons were being killed across the nation as well. In fact, it looked as though Baltimore and New Orleans were engaged in head to head competition for the dubious honor of the city holding the number one position for murders during the first week of the New Year.

And in Baltimore, Detective Troy Chesley was shot and killed when Brandon Grimes attempted to rob him. Grimes, a young thug with 17 prior arrests, was out casually strolling the streets of Baltimore plying his trade as a career criminal while awaiting trial on weapons charges.

Back in Denver friends of Darrent Williams were calling for stricter gun laws and taking guns off the streets while Baltimore and New Orleans went about their business. Granted, our politicians and anti-gun lobbyists beat their chests and scream for more laws, tighter gun control mandates and/or banning guns altogether when it serves their current purpose. Let's stop and face blunt reality.

MORE LAWS, TIGHTER GUN CONTROL MANDATES AND/OR BANNING GUNS ALTOGETHER WILL HAVE NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER ON VIOLENT CRIME. Why is it that people can't seem to understand that laws effect only those who obey the law in the first place? Does anybody really believe that passing a law to ban ownership of firearms would cause the criminals around the nation to run to their local police station and hand over their weapons? Wake up.

That's why they're criminals-they don't believe the laws are meant for them and therefore choose to break them whenever they please. To take this matter a step farther I'd like to point out that Australia passed a law, at a cost of 500 million dollars to the taxpayers, requiring everyone to turn in their firearms.

Over 640,000 personal firearms were collected and destroyed, but according to police crimes involving the use of firearms went up. I doubt that it was law-abiding citizens using firearms to commit crime-the government had already destroyed their handguns, shotguns and rifles. For those having difficulty reading between the lines and comprehending what happened; the criminals kept their weapons.

An article appeared in the Washington Post about four years ago, and was entombed as usual about 22 pages deep, stating "Gun Laws Not Shown to Reduce Violence." That was the heading. The article went on to say, "A broad federal review of the nation's gun control laws-including mandatory waiting periods and bans on certain weapons-has found no proof they reduce firearm violence."

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which released the information based on 51 independent published studies, said it didn't plan to spend more money on firearms studies. Eight types of laws were reviewed, including those with specific bans on certain weapons and ammunition, mandatory waiting periods, firearm registration and measures barring felons from buying and/or owning guns. And wouldn't you know it, gun control advocates called for more studies and wanted the government (taxpayers) to fund them.

If banning firearms and passing more laws hasn't and/or won't control violence in our streets, what's wrong? What happened in this, and so many other countries to cause such a jump in violent deaths, brutal sexual assaults against women and children and an almost carefree attitude regarding these acts? Well, a carefree attitude until the violence snuffs out the life of a celebrity, one who has star status in sports, or a head of state.

When someone of notoriety falls victim everyone takes up the cry for action and certainly this is when politicians are at their very best. That's the time for those already in public office, or those seeking offices to begin spouting a string of promises in hope of luring voters to cast a ballot in their favor. The media swoops down on everyone holding office, with star status or willing to offer a mainstream point of view and stuffs a microphone in his or her face.

The clamor for immediate and swift action by law enforcement is demanded and the call again goes out for new laws, stricter laws and bans. Yet, we're not addressing the real problem. And what is the real problem? A complete lack of respect for those around us-or as I prefer to call it the death of respect, courtesy and plain old, every day human decency. Guns and gun laws have absolutely nothing to do with the daily violence that surrounds us. It's us, the human race that's the root and cause of our problems. Yes, it's us. We truly are our own worst enemy.

Respect, courtesy and human decency was executed and unceremoniously laid to rest years ago. Their execution began in the 1960s when parents began taking Doctor Benjamin Spock's theories a little too seriously and went overboard with the pampering and coddling of their children. It also marked the beginning of the end for respect and courtesy. I was raised to treat everyone with respect-no exceptions. From as far back as I can remember I was taught to say "Yes, sir and No, sir and Yes, ma'am and no, ma'am."

And it didn't matter if I was addressing an aunt or uncle, waiter in a restaurant, store clerk, or the man picking up our trash; I gave them the respect I had been taught was due them. But there was a time in this country when being polite and respectful was the rule and not the exception. It was also a time when there were fewer murders and rapes and the words "road rage" and "politically correct" hadn't been thought of.

There was order and discipline in our classrooms and students who didn't abide by the rules were suspended or expelled. Teachers didn't fear being assaulted by their students or the parent of a student who'd been given a failing grade or suspended for misbehavior.

Drivers on our city streets and highways were far more courteous. Tailgating, cutting off your fellow driver, flipping the finger to everybody nearby for one reason or another and challenging someone to pull over and fight was unheard of.

Most often a neighborhood dispute, be it in the city or suburbs, was settled with a round of fisticuffs instead of a gun. A woman could walk down a street, or browse in a shopping district without someone spouting a string of sexual comments at her to amuse himself or impress his friends. And she didn't have to worry about being surrounded by a group of young thugs and fondled and groped.

The age of permissiveness opened the door for everything from day to day disrespect to brazen sexual misconduct and murder. The age of permissiveness began when too many parents decided to believe that disciplining their children would damage their fragile self-esteem. They thought they should follow the guidelines pointed out in the books hitting the shelves and allow their children to freely express themselves.

The more the parents looked the other way, the more the children took advantage of them. The breakdown in the home was followed by the collapse of discipline in the schools. Teachers were told to back off and let the students speak their minds. So what if they didn't pay attention in the classroom and were disruptive. They were expressing themselves. And if they didn't work and achieve a passing grade, not to worry-the new system would just pass them along.

So what if they couldn't read or write, the principal wouldn't dare have a nasty mark on his or her record because of a failure. Just push them ahead and let it become someone else's problem. And God help the teacher who tried to stand up for what was right and hold a failing student back, or have a problem child expelled.

Suddenly their job security was at stake and they either abided by the demands of the principal or found themselves in the unemployment line. And I assure you this is true because I know teachers who have been placed "under the gun" for daring to speak out against this trend and trying to do what's in the best interest of everyone.

Then too we don't have the number of dedicated teachers today as we once had in our schools. Not many are willing to spend time after hours helping students who are struggling. In fact, some are out the door and off school grounds quicker than the students when the bell sounds marking the end of classes for the day.

The combined actions of parents and teachers only helped the children and students believe they could get away with whatever they damn well pleased. I've seen parents hosting beer and wine parties for high school aged children and to be safe invited their "Know everything there is to know about the law" attorney neighbor. When police were called because neighbors had enough of the kids trashing the neighborhood, racing their cars up and down the street and urinating on their lawns and cars, the attorney jumped right in.

He informed police they had no right to intervene in the activity since it was "a private party, held at a private residence." When the "all knowing God of Law" was informed that what was taking place was a violation of the law and he'd be one of the first arrested, he suddenly found other things to do.

Here's a case where parents openly defied the law, allowed children as young as 15 to consume alcohol and then said it was nothing more than a harmless party. It was just another way of telling our youth that they can do whatever they want. Some parents allow drug use in the home and entire families have been arrested for possession and sale of drugs.

Some years ago a number of parents brought their children to me and asked if they could have them take karate lessons. I agreed and began by teaching them to show respect to not only their elders but also to each other. It wasn't long before they were saying "Yes, sir and no, sir. Yes, ma'am and no ma'am." Their parents were pleased to see the change in them and commented that even others were noticing their transformation to very polite young men and women.

Then the Howard County school year began and the first time one of them addressed a teacher as "sir" the era of politeness ended. The teacher went into a tirade telling him and every student in the classroom that they didn't have to say "sir or ma'am" to anybody. What I spent nearly three months building, he destroyed in a few minutes. But he sent a very clear message to his students-it wasn't necessary to show respect to anyone or anything, including the law.

If you'd like to see what a farce the school system has become, stop by unannounced and look things over. But don't be surprised if you see students sleeping in the classrooms while the teacher continues a lecture, hoping that those who aren't asleep might be learning.

Try not to be shocked if you find them having sex in the auditorium, gymnasium or locker rooms, because it does happen and I know several eyewitnesses to the various sexual performances. And if you really want a first rate eye opening experience, you should volunteer as a chaperone for an after school function. That way you can witness first hand the bumping, humping and grinding gyrations your 13 and 14 year olds are doing while dancing, sitting, kneeling, standing against a wall or lying on the floor.

And to learn that they truly don't give a damn about your presence or your perceived authority, tell them to cease their sexual game. You'll be treated to an obscenity-laced outburst and maybe even threatened with physical violence for interfering with their right to perform their sexual dance. Again, I know those who have been subjected to these outbursts and threats.

With the age of permissiveness the judicial system wasn't to be outdone. Thus the revolving doors of justice came to the forefront and those arrested for various offenses were often back on the streets committing yet another crime before the police officer completed his or her paperwork. And believe me, the offender was very quick to point this out to the arresting officer, usually with a smug laugh.

The cries of give them a second chance was the order of the day. But just how many second chances should one criminal get? There are people on the streets with 12, 18 and 20 second chances already showing on their records. And I'm not talking about petty offenses.

To make my case a little stronger, I'll give just one example. I was alerted to a car wanted in connection with a shoplifting at the Columbia Mall and in a matter of just a few minutes I saw the car on Route 40 headed toward Baltimore. I stopped the car in Baltimore County and found four people occupied it, two of whom were hiding on the floor.

The driver was more than willing to cooperate and told me he'd open the trunk so I could search it. A moment later the trunk went up and he promptly reached under a pile of clothing that had been stolen from a store at the Columbia Mall. I drew my weapon and ordered him to step back; a second later I pulled a snub-nosed .38 caliber revolver from under the clothing.

Three of the four occupants had prior arrests and convictions and served time for murder. But more surprising was the fact that they had actually been convicted of multiple murders on different occasions and were still out on the street. The weapon I recovered from the car had been stolen from its rightful and lawful owner only days before. And I know this is a shock, but Baltimore City Homicide Detectives told me that these same men were suspects in a string of recent murders in the city.

There seems to be no fear of punishment or retribution for impolite conduct in the home, brazen misconduct in our schools or even murder on our streets. Yet, I can still vividly recall paying the price in my youthful days for my misdeeds and often times I paid twice for the same offense. This was especially true when I repeated what I thought were a few rather colorful words uttered by a relative.

My mother promptly gave me an Ivory Soap mouth washing and when my father arrived home and was told about the addition to my vocabulary, I got to eat the rest of the soap. Ivory Soap could float and do a superb job of cleaning hands, but it wasn't all that tasty. Still, I learned that certain words were not worth the penalty for their uttering. The same held true in the classroom, not only for me, but also every student.

There was no tolerance of unruly behavior, arguing with a teacher or failing to complete class or homework assignments. Punishment was quick and sometimes severe, but it kept order throughout the school. Those rules do not apply in today's homes or schools.

Please don't forget that it's not only Middle Eastern or other foreign cultures that teach their children to hate from birth, but also our very our own. The teaching of hatred in this country isn't separated by race, religion or ethnic origin. It's a part of society regardless of the color of one's skin or religious beliefs.

The violence that's happening around us is a result of a complete breakdown of discipline and respect in our homes and schools, and the failure of our judicial system to crack down with an iron hand on those who break the law. The wave of violence that's sweeping our streets across the nation won't end overnight. Surely it won't end until each and every one of us stands up and accepts responsibility for our actions. We are the cause of our problems and only we can stop them.

Ending the epidemic of violence has to begin in our homes and spread to the schools and our judicial system. Even if we begin tonight, it could take generations to put a stop to the hate and violence that surrounds us. As human beings we call ourselves superior to all other creatures, but there are animals living on this earth that are far more civilized than we are. We could learn much about kindness, love, caring, loyalty and even discipline by simply taking time to study the wolf.

A certain protocol is demanded within their hierarchy and strictly adhered to. Yet, not a single member of the pack goes hungry, there is love and affection for each member and the loss of one of their own is mourned. The wolf survived thousands of years by living obediently within the pack and without revolting against the authority of its leaders.

As it turned out the worst enemy to the wolf was and still is the human race. If we continue on our present course, in time it might well be the wolf that sits high atop a hill on a cold winter's night and sees a new emptiness in the world below because the human race has finally hunted itself to extinction.