Heritage's Response to Newtown

Jan 17, 2013

Today, the Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell expounds on Heritage's response to the tragedy that occurred in Newtown and the careful consideration Heritage experts John Malcolm, a senior legal fellow, and Jennifer Marshall, the director of domestic policy studies, put into the "serious work" of moving forward.

They produced a report explaining three key principles:

Constitutional concerns. Malcolm and Marshall write: "The constitutional right to keep and bear arms is an individual right that is fundamental to a free society, which depends, ultimately, on personal responsibility." The Second Amendment is a safeguard for liberty and security, and Americans' right to keep and bear arms has been upheld by the Supreme Court. Any policy must be consistent with the Constitution.

Complex cultural factors. All individuals need to be known and cared for in relationships-a family, a neighborhood, a circle of friends, a house of worship or other community group. This is essential to thriving as a human being. The family especially shapes a person's experience deeply. If that first community of security breaks down, it is important that others in these circles of support step in to help. Malcolm and Marshall point to transformative programs led by community leaders who are directly impacting gang violence, at-risk adolescents, and struggling families.

Federal policy responses to such intensely personal issues would be unwise. A national, one-size-fits-all prescription is not the answer. From school security to mental illness, these issues are best handled at the most local and personalized level possible.

Policy based on evidence. Any policy response should be based on factual research. As Malcolm and Marshall note, gun control laws do not correlate with decreased violence, and gun ownership does not correlate with increased violence. "If gun control were a panacea, then Washington, D.C., Oakland, and Chicago, which have very strict gun control laws, would be among the safest places to live rather than among the most dangerous.


As the White House continues to roll out details of its plans, it is important to remember, as Malcolm and Marshall put it, that "Not all problems can be solved with government action, and if government action is required, any federal action, including executive orders, should be consistent with our federal system of government, respect for state sovereignty, and the separation of powers.