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since June 19, 2001


Another Nut with a Gun?

Another Nut with a Gun?

By Stephen Baskerville
CNSNews.com Commentary
November 15, 2002

[This article was published at Freecongress.org and at CNSNews.com.]

A sniper terrorizes Washington, killing eleven people. A Texas lawyer opens fire in a courtroom, killing two. A Denver doctor dies in a gun battle with police. An Arkansas boy shoots his classmates and teachers. A man blows his brains out at a San Diego courthouse.

What do these seemingly senseless acts of violence have in common? Access to guns or disadvantaged backgrounds? No, the perpetrators all had either their children or their fathers taken away in divorce court.

In the case of the Beltway sniper we seem to have both: a fatherless boy and a childless father, each filling the other's void in a morose symbiosis of violence. The two called each other father and son, according to a neighbor.

The experts feign perplexity about motive. But as Bob Keefe of the Cox News Service discovered, there is a plain explanation. John Muhammad's apparent descent into criminality was rapid after the courts took his children. His lawyer, John Mills, says, "If you look through his divorce files, "there's a fairly clear explanation."

Muhammad seems to have had no reason to be in the Washington area except to see his children. Despite media efforts to suggest otherwise, he apparently had no record of violence prior to the removal of his children.

We are told his ex-wife "won a restraining order," the implication being that he was already violent. Yet there is no evidence that he was.

Orders to vacate are doled out with no evidence or history of violence. They are a favorite tool for removing fathers and winning custody. Nor does Muhammad's subsequent behavior vindicate the restraining order.

Far from preventing violence, restraining orders almost certainly cause it, as one seems to have done here, since forcing parents to stay away from their children can provoke precisely the violence it claims to prevent. As one judge writes in the Western Massachusetts Law Tribune, "Few lives, if any, have been saved, but much harm, and possibly loss of lives, has come from the issuance of restraining orders."

After the divorce, "Muhammad would try to visit his kids regularly," writes Keefe. "John was a fun person," said an aunt. "He was the type who was good with the kids."

It is difficult to explain such atrocities without seeming to excuse them. It goes without saying that if convicted, Muhammad must pay for his crimes. Plenty of men have lived his ordeal without preying on the innocent. But John Muhammad is far from alone, and he won't be the last.

Divorce-related violence is now an epidemic. Sometimes fathers take vengeance on lawyers and judges, far more often on themselves.

Metal detectors were installed in American courthouses not because of criminals and terrorists but because of fathers. Prosecutors testify that family court produces far more violence than criminal court. One says, "People in family court . . . pose a greater risk than the criminal defendants."

At one time it would have been considered common sense that taking away people's children is a pretty obvious prescription for creating killers.

But political correctness now prevents us from saying even that.

If the sniper is executed, I for one will raise no objection. But let us be sure our government is eliminating criminals and not creating them.

(Stephen Baskerville teaches political science at Howard University and is a contributor to Free Congress Foundation's News on Demand.)

Copyright 2002, Free Congress Foundation

Index to more of Stephen Baskerville's articles

Stephen Baskerville's website

See also:

whiterose.gif (6796 bytes)The White Rose
Thoughts are Free

Posted 2002 11 24
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)