Like many other parents across Indiana and across the country, I was shocked and saddened to hear about the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. As a father of two young boys, the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., hit especially close to home, because when I drop my children off at school each morning, I want nothing more than for them to be safe. Since Newtown, I have heard from many Americans who are wondering how we can work to prevent similar tragedies from happening again, and I share their concern.
In the wake of so many news reports of terrible shootings and evil acts, it can be tempting to search for simple answers. A few weeks ago, President Obama announced several executive actions and legislative recommendations in response to the Newtown shootings. Unfortunately, among those proposals were gun control measures that threaten our Second Amendment rights and which would not have prevented the Sandy Hook tragedy even if they had been in place.
In response to the president’s proposals, I led 42 of my House colleagues in sending a letter to the president stating our clear opposition to any infringement on the Second Amendment. As we wrote in our letter, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment means what it says, and we will not sit idly by and allow an overreaching federal government to strip Americans’ constitutional rights.
Not only do the president’s proposed actions trample on our right to bear arms, they fail to address the true underlying issues. Unfortunately, as our nation has learned, there is no magic solution to the tragedy of gun violence, and no amount of gun control regulations or legislation handed down from Washington, D.C., can prevent senseless evil like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Only strong families and communities can.
The difficult truth we must face is that there is evil in the world. Our families and culture are disintegrating before our eyes because we’ve come to expect government to do things for us and to us. What happened to personal accountability and community leadership? That’s where our focus as individuals and as Americans needs to be as we continue this national conversation about gun violence.
No law will correct this condition or do the work we must do to be our brother’s keeper, nor can our government mandate that we fill that role. Instead, as individuals and as responsible citizens, we must choose to accept our responsibility to “keep the republic,” and to strengthen our families and communities.
What does that mean for us? It means that we have to take responsibility for the communities we live in. It means investing time by volunteering at our children’s schools. It means caring for our neighbors, and reaching out to those who are isolated, lonely and cut off from society. It means taking the time to talk to our children about the movies and video games they’re watching, and making sure young minds aren’t being warped by the worst of our entertainment culture. Moreover, it means giving our time and money to churches and charities that serve broken families and at-risk youth. The actions of millions of involved, concerned citizens across this country can have infinitely more power to heal our violent, broken culture than the decisions of a few government bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
All Americans want our schools, churches, movie theaters and shopping malls to be safe. We are a free people, and we should not have to live in fear. As citizens who have been blessed with extraordinary freedoms, we bear a great responsibility to fight for the health of our communities, to strengthen our families and care for our neighbors, and to push back against a decaying and violent culture. We cannot simply look to Washington and demand an illusory solution to the problem of violence. We must look in the mirror and renew our commitment to keeping this republic.
Rep. Todd Rokita is an Indiana Republican.