Opinion: Renewed draft could curb gun violence

January 2, 2013


In the light of the massacre at Newtown, Conn., and the murder of two firemen in Webster, N.Y., national attention has again turned to how we can reduce gun violence in America. The responses have been predictable.

Once again, advocates for increased gun controls have raised their voices and argued that bans on semi-automatic weapons and large ammunition clips are the only way to reduce the number of tragic killings in this country. Those who oppose gun controls, particularly the NRA, have argued, as they have in the past, that we need more guns, not fewer, and that the best way to reduce school shootings is to have armed guards in every school and even consider arming teachers.

Both sides seem to agree on one thing: Those who carry out these horrific attacks on innocent school children and first responders are obviously mentally ill. Both sides agree that we must, as a nation, do more to identify, treat and, if necessary, isolate those individuals who wish to carry out such horrors.

While virtually everyone agrees that the identification and treatment of individuals whose mental illness may drive them to violence such as occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School is essential, politics and budgetary constraints have made this goal extremely difficult to achieve. Since the Reagan administration threw its support behind the process of “deinstitutionalization” of the mentally ill, there has been a shift from keeping individuals institutionalized to having them cared for by community mental health agencies. Unfortunately, the very agencies that now bear the burden of treating the mentally ill have been decimated by budgetary cuts. Many individuals now slip through the safety nets these agencies should provide because they no longer have the funds they need. 

Early identification of troubled individuals also has become far more difficult. Fifty years ago, such individuals often would have been identified by their schools and sent for treatment. Today, teachers and school administrators are less likely to do this both from fear of lawsuits and because their own budgets have been slashed so severely that the trained personnel needed to evaluate these students are no longer on staff.  Family members and friends also are less likely to identify these troubled individuals both from fear of scandal and legal liability.

While there can be no doubt that our schools and social services agencies need more funding if they are to identify and treat potentially dangerous individuals, I doubt that this will be enough, given our current legal system and the current policy of deinstitutionalization. How then can we identify and help these men and women who may pose significant danger to the public? My answer is simple: Reinstitute the draft and require that all young people, both men and women, serve two years. 

I realize that this proposal will upset many people. The draft has been a controversial institution since it began during the Civil War. But, to my mind, there would be multiple benefits gained from its reinstitution. A universal draft would help us to reinforce in our young people all of the values that we as a nation prize: honor, valor, patriotism and a sense of each individual’s obligation to serve the nation and the public good.

More to the point of this article, the draft would provide a screening opportunity by which troubled young men and women could be identified and, if necessary, sent for treatment. For those who were fit to serve, it would also teach draftees about weapons and, hopefully, educate them about how to use guns properly and to understand the dangers of random gun violence. In an era when schools and families can no longer adequately socialize our youth to be good citizens, the military could serve that purpose. Indeed, the military is expert in training young people and teaching them discipline and self-control.

While reinstituting the draft will not be a complete solution to our current problems with gun violence, it would, in my opinion, be a major step on the road to a solution.

— Mike Hoeflich, a distinguished professor in the Kansas University School of Law, writes a regular column for the Journal-World.


thuja 1 year, 3 months ago

Human existence is pointless.


AlexFenton2 1 year, 3 months ago

Sadly, even a short amount of time spent researching the recent suicide rates for those in the military, including those who have served overseas and those who have not, will show that a draft would probably be a poor form of mental health screening, unless something changes significantly. We already fail to provide the necessary help for those who make important sacrifices on our behalf. Making that sacrifice mandatory would not be the panacea you imagine.


Crazy_Larry 1 year, 3 months ago

I like the professor's idea. If everyone had skin in the game they might think twice before lying the country into an endless war. Joining the military turned my life around 540-degrees. I learned a few skills, saw some of the world, and got money for college too. After 5-and-a-half years active duty, I was ready to go on to college and learn something. No more making money by brawn... Licensed professional now... Disabled veteran (I love my government health care)... Spank you very much, Uncle Sam!


Uncle_Jerry 1 year, 3 months ago

The problem with a "renewed" draft is that our Government and Military have a habit of getting our military men and women killed for no good reason. We haven't won a war since WWII and I don't have faith that the current or future administrations will offer up the lives of our sons and daughters w/o a proper declaration of war.

Currently we have witnessed Obama commit the US to military action in the event that Iran possesses a nuclear weapon. How can one go about making the "red line" commitment without asking congress first?


Gandalf 1 year, 3 months ago

Compulsorily service is far to close to abject slavery to my liking! I find it ironic that a law professor should even consider such contempt for our constitution and the American way of life. I can support the draft (barely) in times of war, when it can be justified under the war powers act. Didn’t hitler have youth indoctrination camps? And yes I served 5 years in the military and in Viet Nam, voluntarily.

After just a few minutes of thought I came up with a few objections.

Every person entering military service is required to list any physical defects including inheritable ones. I’m sure insurance companies would love that information. Unreasonable search and seizure? Invasion of privacy?

Asked to list any religious affiliations. Invasion of privacy?

Forced to forego any educational pursuits for two years. Right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?

Military personnel are told not to contact politicians with grievances. Right to petition.

That’s just a few of the more obvious problems. In fact constitutional rights are replaced by the UCMJ during enlistment.

Another problem is a 2 year enlistment is actually six. 2 active, 2 active reserve and 2 inactive reserve.

How about unwed mothers with children? Required to serve? Or the rich (don’t make me laugh)?! How about the cost involved? Talk about a budget buster!

This reminds me of a line from the movie Vigilante with Charles Bronson. “What this city needs is more police than people! You’ll have to find another option Samuel. . .no one could afford the taxes.”


bd 1 year, 3 months ago

Lets see?? welfare, military & lawrence new homeless shelter, what do they have in common?? Free money, food or shelter, or all three! Ain't life grand!


tomatogrower 1 year, 3 months ago

I used to be against the draft, but now I see how it has turned out. There are a lot of "me, me, me" people out there who are all for war, but don't ask them to pay for it. They are all for putting armed guards in schools, but don't ask them to pay for it. I think it would be a great idea. And no deferments. If you are unable to handle the physical part of the military there are plenty of other things that need to be done. Get rid of the Haliburton. Those kids that aren't good for the physical side could cook, clean, do clerical work. Those who don't shoot well, even though all should be taught how to shoot and gun safety, should work cleaning parks, helping burn off or clear out areas in forests, so they don't burn, providing safety in schools, helping with natural disasters, running after school programs for kids, etc. And especially no deferments or special privileges to the kids of the rich and influential. That's what went wrong before.

Yes, there have recently been some nutcases who were in the military, like Tim McVeigh, who have done some horrible things, but in an all voluntary military you often end up with a "club". That means there are pockets of people who think alike, including anti-Americans, who hang out together. In a draft, and not just military, you will end up with a lot of different view points, and people like McVeigh will either be identified as dangerous or not pass a series of psych evaluations.

It's also time for those who supported getting rid of institutionalizing people to step up to the plate and explain why they now don't want to support the community care of these people. It was the libertarians who wanted to shut down these institutions. They claimed that the rights of the mentally ill were being violated, that they should be free to live on the streets if they wanted too. But conservatives and libertarians also don't want to pay for the community care either. I guess we are all paying now, with many dead children, and a possibility of having armed guards wherever we go. Libertarian, or police state?


Crazy_Larry 1 year, 3 months ago

What Is the Draft and How Does It Work?

The draft is a lottery system whereby all eligible draftees are assigned a number and numbers are randomly selected. This system would not have everyone enlisted in the military. I think the author is wanting a system of conscription (compulsory service) for every able bodied person in the country such as in Greece, Austria, Finland, Egypt, Germany (until last year), Israel, Switzerland, etc. No one will slip through the cracks that way.


50YearResident 1 year, 3 months ago

When I was in the military if they found someone with mental problems or with other problems that made them unfit for military service they simply discharged them. This included, low IQ, overweight, mental issues and physical issues. There was no attempt to correct the deficiency, they got rid of the non-conformer. What makes Mike think they will now fix the problems that they find, instead of just eliminating them by discharging the weak and unfit? It will not work.


FlintlockRifle 1 year, 3 months ago

Mike has his opinions just like most of us who respond to the writtings here in the LJW. I do agaree with him on the draft part. most ,not all people are better people after they learn patience , selt esteem and respect for there fellow country man. Likw wise I didn't like the letter I received in the mail from Uncle wanting my services, but that was probably the best three years of my like, well maybe not the best but memorable three years


juma 1 year, 3 months ago

Please tell me this fool does not have tenure! The recent few years have seen how many mass killings by military personnel? Ft Hood, the sniper in the DC area, the men in uniform going on shooting spree. This article has to be a joke.


Bruce Springsteen 1 year, 3 months ago

Please tell me this is satire. Involuntary servitude as a way to identify the mentally unstable, and build character in the rest? People shouldn't be drafted for military duty any more than for any other line of work, and the idea that they should belongs in the Victorian era, when life was cheaper and rights were what you could afford to buy. The high-tech armed forces are not potato peelers and cannon fodder these days, and the idea of using military service as a way to scoop up dangerous psychopaths and make citizens out of slackers is insulting to the professionals who voluntarily serve, in and out of the military.

What reinstituting the draft would accomplish is increasing the number of walking wounded and prematurely dead, but with many more who never bargained for that possibility; trivializing "patriotism" and "character" as a matter of blind obedience, gun skills and a readiness to kill; resurrecting the corrupt system of dodges and deferments that socioeconomically perverted our last draft; saddling our career military professionals with a steady stream of unmotivated, angry draftees to train and fight beside. Nobody needs or wants this, and it is a fundamental violation of human rights to boot, a giant step backwards into a bad old world. What an appallingly illiberal suggestion for an ostensibly liberal commentator.


Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 3 months ago

Instead of the army, children should go through a mandatory psych evaluation same as current manadatory shots required before being admitted to school.


Laus_Deo 1 year, 3 months ago

Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.” (The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.) — Tacitus, Annals

More Than 400 New Laws Take Effect Tuesday

Published: Monday, 31 Dec 2012 | 10:34 AM ET By: Yamiche Alcindor, USA Today

On Jan. 1, as crowds of people toast to a new year, more than 400 news laws across the country will take effect...

In addition to the new laws of 2013, more than 29,000 lawswere passed by state legislatures this year, Kuhl said. Many dealt with healthcare, education, gay rights, child safety and the Internet.

...and Mike wants a law to force people to learn how to kill effectively.


Liberty275 1 year, 3 months ago

While the professor is correct that a draft will give the government a chance to take a peek at a person's mental health and military service generally builds character, conscription is too similar to slavery to be reinstated.

A draft is the last thing you do to defend American soil from foreign invaders. It isn't something we should ever consider to cure domestic issues.

That solution is a thousand times worse than the problem.

"Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.” (The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.) — Tacitus, Annals"

Thank you for posting that.


Laus_Deo 1 year, 3 months ago

Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.” (The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.) — Tacitus, Annals

Some types of people should not: drive, have firearms, procreate,... Mike. People like you, should not have firearms.

You are amazingly stating that government people, that have firearms, should restrict non-government people from having firearms.

You, and people like you, should not have firearms.


grammaddy 1 year, 3 months ago

Pffft. Timothy McVeigh and his sidekick were military and so was the shooter at Fort Hood. I would think the military might be more responsible for creating some of this mess than uncovering it..


Lawrence Morgan 1 year, 3 months ago

Mike, I'm a veteran. You have raised many good points. How many people who make comments here have experienced 2, 4 or more years with the Army?

When I came back from the Army, all my friends had gone to graduate school or already had good jobs. It was very difficult for me.

I do not think, however, that mental illness is necessarily the chief cause of using a gun. A lot of what takes place today is simply the lack of opportunity to make friends with others and see their points of view. Although I didn't like the Army, this is one thing that really helped me. Instead of seeing myself as "KU" and "someone special," I benefited from these different points of view, and exchanges of opinions - and this made a great deal of difference for me later in life. (See my blogs, for example.)

I found the Army far broader in terms of the people I met, who were from all over the country and from many different backgrounds, than the people I had previously met at KU. It was as though the world was expanding, greatly; and that did not take place during my time at KU. I went to Germany, eventually all over Western and Eastern Europe, Turkey and Morocco, and everywhere, I met new people that changed my perspective forever.

I learned tolerance and really pursuing topics in detail, and I met my first friends from so many different countries- from Tunisia, to Serbia and Morocco. I learned that I could tolerate and learn from differences. There was no need to use a gun.

Today, people at KU for the most part don't learn these things, and we are much the worse for it.

And it's multiplied by the fact that there is almost no room or accommodation at KU for people of all ages, so that the range of possible friends is very small.


kansasdaughter 1 year, 3 months ago

Was this piece lifted from The Onion?


Gandalf 1 year, 3 months ago

Leaving aside the fact that I now think you are nuts mike. If the governments are now underfunding the current programs, where in the world do you think they would get the money to hire every teenager in america for two years?


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