According to the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago had 542 murders in 2018. The Chicago Tribune reports that from January through August of 2019, 330 Chicago murders have been committed. Ponder the act of murder. Consider how calloused and desensitized one can become from hearing crime reports every evening on television.

For the last decade I have taught male arsonists, armed robbers and murderers. Repentant and sorrowful for their crimes, not blaming anyone for their own actions and incredibly studious, the inmates I’ve taught are receptive and teachable. Unlike hundreds of other inmates who walk the same prison grounds, those who chose to enroll and take college classes display a healthy and necessary measure of submission. They understood and acknowledged that college work would require listening, reading, writing, studying, communicating and, in a sense, “obeying” their college instructors. The same is true for female inmates I now teach at a women’s prison.

Instructors are not to pry into the lives of inmates, but when at break time an inmate engages you, you listen. Several months ago, an inmate said to me, “A gun is just an instrument.” Pin this comment on your mental pegboard and let’s return to it momentarily.

Chicago’s crime rate has for some time been stratospheric. It outstrips both LA and New York City. Like LA, New York, Baltimore and other cities, Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. Why then, their high gun crime rate? Why is the media silent when tough gun law cities are so crime ridden? Alas, what is Walmart thinking?

Perhaps you’ve heard that Walmart, in order to curb the extremely high number of automobile accident deaths, will no longer sell auto parts. Also, the National Grocers Association has decided to discourage its members from selling alcohol since alcohol kills three times more Americans yearly than do guns.

OK, no joking matter, but you get the point. Neither Walmart nor the National Grocers Association is doing any such thing; however, no joke about alcohol killing three times more people than guns. Why, then, aren’t we concerned about what our pet drug is doing? Death is death, sorrow is sorrow, whether from a gun or a glass. Walmart actually is stopping ammunition sales for handguns. Pressure is being placed on gun and ammunition sellers because of recent mass shootings. Let’s not hold our breath waiting for pressure on the alcohol industry and on drinkers to acknowledge their role in so many deaths.

Having destroyed many a small town, Walmart is now disregarding a large percentage of its customers, giving them moral lecturing to boot. Maybe Walmart will soon remove all alcohol from its grocery stores.

Socially as well as scientifically, every effect has a cause. Currently, our nation is beset by violence. More and more cities are becoming dirty, unsightly crime zones. Those are effects. What is the cause? Can such sociological ills be caused by a mere instrument? No, such conditions are the effects of the human heart and of the absence of training. My inmate student was right. Guns are objects. If a particular object or instrument is made unavailable, a different one will take its place. Evil hearts will find a way to do evil. Aggressive gun control is not a fix. The fix was stated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, who recently claimed we must address character and morality and teach youth better than we are teaching them now about right and wrong. His political enemies scoffed at him for being simple-minded.

Yet, character and morality are the issue, not guns. But character and morality are “religious” issues and we can’t have that in schools. I think we had better, and real fast.

The NRA isn’t to blame for gun violence. Parents, schools and communities are. Weakened homes are. The NRA isn’t shooting up schools. One of its chief endeavors has always been promotion of gun safety and gun training.

As for our cities, which ones have the most murderous, deadliest weekends? Who runs them? Which political party are their mayors from? Just asking.

If I’m lying beside the bride of my youth at 3 a.m. and learn that an intruder is in my house, my first impulse will not be to call law enforcement, but to protect my bride myself. Yet, if because of wrongheaded gun control laws I can’t actualize my freedom provided by the Second Amendment, I don’t actually have the freedom.

My mind is settled. I’m with Charlton Heston: “Over my cold fingers!”

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Roger Hines is a retired English teacher and state legislator in Kennesaw.