An editorial in the Review and Outlook section of the July 21st Wall Street Journal included these paragraphs:
The much harder question is how a free society protects itself from a twisted mind. Families, educators and medical professionals need to be aware of the behavior that might signal psychotic breaks of the kind that tormented Loughner. In the case of Breivik, simple evil seems to suffice as an explanation. (See Sohrab Ahmari’s account of his trial nearby.)
A civilized modern society is paradoxically more vulnerable to an act of individual malevolence than it is to a terror plot that at least its law enforcers are watching for. There may be no real defense against the Loughners and Holmeses save for the guardrails of watchful friends, family and community. And society’s determination through its justice system to suitably punish the killers.
I can agree with the question, just not the answer given.
Laws only mean something to people who are not going to commit crimes in the first place. Once a person decides to kill another, there is no law that is going to deter them from committing the act. They are not concerned with what is going to happen to them at all. The premeditated decision to kill is a decision that takes all other reason out of play and puts sanity on the sideline.
A lone killer has little fear of being stopped by law enforcement. They can no more be stopped than I could have been walking to dinner tonight because until they kill, they were indistinguishable from me as I walked down Princes Street to the Balmoral Hotel tonight. Free societies do not consider a person guilty until proven innocent, the opposite applies. Until that line is crossed, they are no different than any other citizen.
As the quote above illustrates, laws and law enforcement in these situations are mostly a retroactive feature of an open society. Punishment comes after the crime, not before…and our society has gone to maddening lengths to expand the rights of the mentally ill, the fanatical zealots and social misfits – because they have rights, too. We are shamed if we deign to cast a light on anti-social behavior, even if there is a history for fear of being called a bigot or worse. Such was the case with the Fort Hood shootings – Nidal Hasan exhibited behaviors that indicated that there could be an issue but political correctness prevented appropriate actions from being taken. Neither the military nor the FBI heeded any of the warnings.
Recognizing mental instability is worthless if we are unwilling to do anything about it. We have become a country more willing to protect the criminal than the victim. There is a case in Kentucky of a 17 year-old girl who was a victim of a sexual assault and is facing jail time for tweeting the names of her two attackers after they got a sweetheart plea deal.
I get it, I really do – in spite of my post yesterday about needing more people packing heat, I do understand the fear that every disagreement could wind up like a reunion of the Earps and Doc Holliday and the Clanton and McLaury brothers at the OK Corral…but what do we do in a society where we are prevented from something as simple as tweeting the names of convicted criminals. What do we do when we cannot rely on law enforcement to be everywhere at once? What do we do when a government seeks to deny us the most basic human right, that being to be safe in our person and to take whatever actions necessary to preserve that safety?
Reasonable people can disagree but for me, I do not wish to give up the right to protect myself and my family to a government that cannot be expected to protect me. This is not a shot at our law enforcement people at all, it is just a statistical impossibility to think that the police, the FBI or any number of agencies can stop one lone murderer out of 315 million people in a country of 3.8 million square miles, especially one like James Holmes, an apparent psychopath with no prior history of violence.
But a person with a gun and a full mag might well have stopped or significantly reduced the body count.
Why is it that we will go to the ends of the earth and spend decades in legal appeals for convicted murders on death row, even to the point of voiding death sentences – but we will not allow for the possibility that carrying a weapon can save an innocent life? Would not the prevention of the loss of one innocent life in that theater in Colorado been worth as much?
Rational and civil men in a rational and civil society can disagree without resorting to violence. If they can do so without a sidearm, the possibility that they can do it with one is just as great. There is no reason that carrying a gun could not become as ubiquitous as carrying a cellphone or a pocket knife. Societies are not un-evolved because they seek to prevent violence through such means, they are unenlightened if they don’t.
The lessons of the Aurora Theater 9 shootings, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood and Tucson indicate that there are not always rational civil men about. Personally, were I in Theater 9, I believe that a strongly worded law would somehow be less comforting than my 9mm Baretta PX4 at my side.