How the Government Creates Shooters (And Other Criminals)

Stephen Baskerville | Professor, Patrick Henry College

Another deadly shooting gives the radicals, and the government officials who can increase their power, another opportunity to ban guns and turn law-abiding citizens into criminals.  But as is often, the occasion is provided because the state created the problem – the real criminals – in the first place.  

Access to guns is not a predictor of criminality; neither is a disadvantaged background.  And lest conservatives think that liberals alone propose futile solutions that expand government power, more police and harsher criminal penalties will also not stop shootings.

As many are coming to realize, by far the main predictor of shooting rampages – along with all other criminality and virtually every social pathology among young males – is a home without a father.  This has long been established by so much research (and refuted by none) that it is becoming tedious to have to repeat it.  Indeed, one wonders why, with the huge acknowledgement this fact now enjoys, does that problem continue?  After all, we promoted perfunctory “responsible fatherhood” programs back in the Clinton administration, later relabeled as “healthy marriage” initiatives during the Bush years.  They had zero impact, and since then the problem has only become worse.

Identifying the problem in fatherlessness is only the start.  Going further, we will find that it is readily preventable and remediable – provided that we summon the political will to confront it honestly. Fatherlessness and single-parent homes are not created by impersonal forces; nor only by selfish single mothers.  They are created by government policy – an unconstitutional government policy at that.  

The first step was the creation of the welfare state, which provided financial and bureaucratic incentives to create fatherless homes.

More serious however is the role of the divorce courts:  judges, lawyers, social workers, forensic psychotherapists, and a massive entourage of hangers-on who routinely collude to forcibly remove perfectly fit, willing, and legally unimpeachable fathers from their homes and their children, usually in violation of their basic constitutional rights.  These law-abiding citizens themselves become candidates for criminal incarceration (without trial) if they 1) associate with their children without government authorization, 2) become the targets of trumped-up accusations of domestic violence or child abuse that are rampant in divorce courts, 3) fail to pay the crushing and often impossible “child support” payments that can easily consume their entire income, or even 4) cannot pay the fees of lawyers they have not hired.

In some circumstances, the criminalization even crosses over into criminality of its own.  Fifteen years ago, the “Beltway Sniper” and similar incidents unleashed similar outcries.  There we saw the corollary phenomenon:  A previously respectable and law-abiding businessman went on a deadly shooting spree (eerily, the number of dead was 17) after the divorce courts took away his children without any legal wrongdoing on his part.  Then, too, we heard strident demands to ban guns, while his lawyer quietly pointed out, “If you look through his divorce files, there’s a fairly clear explanation.”

Divorce-related violence is itself epidemic to this day.  Indeed, the divorce courts themselves are dangerous places even to be. Metal detectors were installed in American courthouses not because of criminals and terrorists but because of otherwise law-abiding fathers.  Prosecutors readily testify that “People in family court…pose a greater risk than the criminal defendants.”

At one time it would have been considered common sense that taking away people’s children is a pretty obvious prescription for creating killers – both the fathers and the sons.

So, thanks the radical agenda, we have three categories of otherwise normal, productive citizens, all made candidates for either criminality or criminalization or both:  the 25 million or so children deprived of their fathers by the family courts; the fathers stripped of their children and evicted from their homes by the same methods; and now gun owners guilty of no legal transgression.  And we wonder why the prisons are exploding.  Who will be next?  Perhaps the government should simply criminalize all of us and be done with it.

Indeed, to see the latest campaigns by the radical sexual lobby, this seems to be precisely where we are going.  The sexual radicals have devised not only a campaign of vilification against masculinity, but also such a smorgasbord of mechanisms for turning men and boys into criminals that there is hardly a male in the Western world who has not been threatened with at least one.  

We can begin to get a grip on the enormity of what is now taking place in our society when we realize that the epidemic of sexualized quasi-criminal accusations we have been seeing for months openly displays the methods of accusation pioneered in the divorce courts – including knowingly false accusations of child abuse, domestic violence, and other vague quasi-crimes that have no fixed definition.  (And men simply accused of domestic violence, without proof, automatically lose their right to have a gun, including policemen and others whose livelihoods depend on it.)  

This is where the sexual radicals developed and tested the legal methods they are now using on public figures: marshaling judicial proceedings against citizens accused of no legal wrongdoing, either criminal or civil; vague and nebulous grievances, involving no legal transgressions; treating an accuser’s subjective “feelings” as if they are evidence; a presumption of guilt; allowing accusers and lawyers to loot the accused through civil procedures that require no proof; “civil” suits that end in jail without trial.

After all, knowingly false criminal accusations and other legal chicanery work so effortlessly and effectively against fathers in the family courts.  Why not use them to enact the rest of the radical political agenda?

Stephen Baskerville is Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College.  His books include Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family (Cumberland House, 2007) and The New Politics of Sex:  The Sexual Revolution Civil Liberties, and the Growth of Governmental Power (Angelico, 2017).


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