Should There Be a Universal Background Check on Parents?

January 18th, 2013

With President Obama’s Executive Orders issued this past week on gun control, the nation is currently engaged once again in a debate about the use of universal background checks as a means of curbing gun violence.

This post will not debate the merits of that proposal.  Instead, I’d like to throw out another idea for curbing gun violence—universal background checks for parents.

As we all know, anyone can have a child these days.  That doesn’t mean we all should have children because a lot of us seem pretty irresponsible when we have them.

Sadly, the most obvious example is Nancy Lanza, the mother of shooter Adam Lanza who paid with her life and the lives of 26 innocent women and children because of some very poor parenting decisions regarding her son.  Obviously, I didn’t know the woman, so it’s not for me to judge all her actions, but based on news reports and the deadly carnage in Newtown, I personally question her decision to teach her son to shoot guns and allow him access to a deadly arsenal of weapons.

Reportedly, she also permitted Adam to spend countless hours in the basement of their home playing violent video games.  It would stand to reason that nothing good could come from such a cocktail of circumstances.

President Obama asserts that all the proposals and Executive Orders he offered this week were designed not to trample on anyone’s rights but instead to assure that nothing like the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary can happen again.  Yet, in making his proposals, he focused almost entirely on guns.  His suggestion that the CDC study the causes of gun violence, including the mental health component, almost seemed like an afterthought in his presentation.  He mentioned violent video games, but he seemed hesitant to address any criticism that could be directed at his friends and supporters in Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

In fact, the irony to me is that just a couple of weeks ago, the fiscal cliff solution he endorsed included enormous tax breaks for Hollywood producers to make movies in the United States.  It will be interesting to see how many of those films taking advantage of those tax breaks will feature violence as the major theme.

I believe that if we implemented everything President Obama suggested, we’d still have more of this kind of violence because we’re missing a big part of the problem.

I’m a strong believer that good parenting is a powerful anecdote to society’s ills. It’s not a cure all, but it’s a start.  As parents, when we allow our kids to watch violent movies and play violent video games at a younger and younger age, we shouldn’t be terribly surprised when a few of them participate in some very harmful behavior themselves.

When it comes to parenting, in many respects, we don’t have it easy so I don’t want to seem too judgmental.  With the cost of even basic necessities rising every day and wages decreasing, most families need both parents to work, sometimes at multiple jobs.  Unfortunately, this by necessity leaves lots of kids to be raised more by the television and video games and even by each other than by their parents who are struggling to keep food on the table.

Nevertheless, we’re kidding ourselves if we think that good parenting isn’t important.  Without it, all the government regulations and background checks in the world will make little difference in making things better.