Printed on: December 24, 2012

The fix is in the family

Steve Roos
Guest columnist

Passing gun control laws won't get at the heart of what is truly causing incidents like the recent murders in Connecticut, writes Steve Roos.

As police chief, what I'm going to say may sound controversial, but here it goes:

I don't like the idea of criminals and the mentally ill having guns, but knowing that the police response will take minutes when seconds count, I do like the idea of responsible citizens having guns -- people like school principals.

Where you stand philosophically on the Second Amendment doesn't change the reality that there are already millions of guns in America. If there is an effective way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, I'm all for it. But the belief that we'll reduce violence by keeping guns from the general public seems naive and even counterproductive.

OK, now for the controversial part:

The whole gun control argument seems to be missing the point. As a society, we're reaping what we've sown. Our moral compass is spinning. We seem to want personal freedom without the corresponding personal responsibility. We want to enjoy now and pay later, overeat but not gain weight, have random sex but still experience true love, cheat in school but have a successful career, feed our children violent movies and expect no bullying, abdicate parenting to mindless video games and expect our children to be socially healthy. Then when things go wrong, we hack at the leaves of outward behavior rather than go to the root of the problem -- societal moral decay.

Right and wrong really are absolute. While the application of morality can be challenging, the underlying principles are not. We should teach that and in my view, the fix is in the family. Children are best taught right and wrong by a loving father and mother. When that ideal cannot be met, extended family and the community can help.

We should start with ourselves by striving to live a life of honesty, service and love. We should then accept responsibility for teaching these principles to our children and extended family. Finally, we should reach out to our community, country and the world as we can.

Immoral behavior can be contagious, but so can virtuous behavior.

Finally, we need a more effective way to handle the mentally ill. Institutionalization seemed cruel, but abandoning them to the streets isn't working.

In the meantime, as police officers we'll continue to work closely with the schools to make them as safe as we possibly can.

Roos is chief of the Idaho Falls Police Department.