In 1936, Sir Austin Chamberlain, brother of the British prime minister, wrote to a friend: “Many years ago, I learned from one of our diplomats in China that one of the principal Chinese curses heaped upon an enemy is, ‘May you live in an interesting age.'”
Given the severity and depth of the economic crisis in which our country is enmeshed, it is safe to say that we are living in an interesting age. Our great depression is already having an impact on the crime rate in the nation. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) reports that certain crimes are up across the nation due to the financial crisis. At the same time, our state and local law enforcement agencies are facing severe budget cuts and hiring freezes. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has pointed out to the Washington Post that cities may have to curtail successful programs that have flooded crime hot spots with officers.
An added factor is the recent upturn in gun sales. As one Forth Worth firearms dealer described it: The volume is 10 times what we ever expected. It started with assault rifles, but at this point, people are buying ammunition, high capacity magazines, Glocks-it s all flying off the shelf. With the economy the way it is, people are worried about instability. They are scared of civil unrest.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), of course, is exacerbating these fears by telling gun owners that the Obama Administration plans to ban all firearms. In a recent editorial, NRA Board Member Ted Nugent described President Barack Obama as a gun control zealot-typical of the loony, anti-freedom wing of the Democratic Party and new Attorney General Eric Holder as a Fedzilla ratfink (no, I m not making this up). In Nugent s words, they know the first thing that needs to be done to turn us from citizens to subjects is to disarm us.
The Administration s actual gun violence prevention plans are far more modest, and have been laid out publicly in their recent Urban Policy Agenda statement. The only ban being contemplated is a renewal of the widely popular 1994-2004 ban on assault weapons. The Administration will also undoubtedly be watching Congressional debate over a proposal to use a portion of Homeland Security grants to help state and local law enforcement agencies.
Reflecting back on Sir Austin Chamberlain s words, let us pray that that the interesting days ahead turn out to be a blessing and not a curse. I have great confidence that the current crisis will provide our country s leaders with tremendous opportunities to move forward and better the lives of all Americans.