The Paradoxical Vulnerability of Open Societies

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.

25 thoughts on “The Paradoxical Vulnerability of Open Societies

  1. Ours is not really a free and open society: we are no longer free to carry our weapons as we once were. And the notion that there would be more violence if we all carried is ludicrous on its face. Think about it: if you are in a room with 50 armed people and you get mad and pull your weapon, exactly how do you think that’s going to turn out for you? So think about it: how likely are you to actually get mad and pull your weapon? I would offer that only the insane would do so in that situation – and the insane are going to do what they will whether you’re armed or not. So, why wouldn’t you rather be armed? it beats being dead.

    Besides, even if you do not want to carry a weapon and something happens where you think there is going to be gunfire: just get down and let the criminal deal with those who know enough and have courage enough to return fire. Contrary to what the nay-sayers would have you believe, there are very, VERY few people in society who will stand their ground and shoot back, and the majority of them actually know what they are doing – often times, better than the criminals.

  2. Back in the day, there were armories where the the townsfolk kept their muskets and powder. Out in the old West, many sheriffs would make drovers check their guns before being allowed in town.
    I am 58 years old, and I not recall ever seeing people walk the streets openly carrying, not even in Alaska, and I mean rural Alaska, Yakutat.
    You are pining for a time that never was

  3. No Mel,
    During the revolutionary and frontier period, all men and women, boys and girls, learned to be proficient with the use of arms. During the Revolutionary men and boys of fighting age were expected to contribute to the protection of the community. They provided and carried their own “small arms”, while each community kept their canon or crew served weapons in the local armory in the middle of town. Yes, the town armory would keep powder and ball on hand, but individuals were expected to arrive ready.

    Think volunteer fire department today. But you provide your own arms and accoutrements.

    • No tex….

      When John Lawson came to the Carolinas in 1701 to explore and hunt, one of his first observations was that “the meanest Planter” in America could enjoy hunting. Even “A poor Labourer, that is Master of his Gun” might hunt under the law. Yet Lawson also noticed that these settlers all worked hard on their land and devoted little or no time to hunting, leaving that pleasure to the Indians. When Lawson went exploring with two settlers, he discovered that his was the only gun: “We had but one Gun amongst us [with] one Load of Ammunition.” “Relying wholly on Providence,” the three men, like so many others in early America, traveled among and with many different Indians for the next few weeks without mishap. 75 Lawson concluded that journey by noting that the local Indians were mostly friendly and “hunt and fowl for us at seasonable rates.” He thought no place “so free from Blood-shed, as Carolina,” though he warned his readers that they would have to bring their own arms and ammunition with them to America.– John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina (London, 1709),

      You are repeating a myth. Did the victims of the Boston Massacre shoot back? Nope, in fact they were throwing rocks and bottles at the british soldiers.

      • I think Mel,
        We are BOTH CORRECT, depending on where, time and place, one was.

        The “shot heard round the world”, 19 April 1775, Lexington and Concord and “Paul Revere’s Ride”, fits my fact pattern. Hundreds of Americans came to the aid of the intial 70 or so militiamen that said “no” to the British’s demand to lay down your arms.

      • Mel, May I add one of Thomas Jefferson’s admonitions to America?
        “A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks. (Thomas Jefferson, Encyclopedia of T. Jefferson, 318 [Foley, Ed., reissued 1967])

  4. My father lived in such a time – in Newburgh, NY. The boys would carry their weapons to school, put them in their lockers and take them hunting for the family’s dinner on their way home after school every day. That was in the late 40’s and early 50’s.

    I remember here, in Lynn Haven, when I was in high school in the 80’s, it was nothing to see rifles in the gun racks in the back windows of the trucks in the school parking lot.

    There have been MANY such times in this nation. Revisionist history just wants you to believe there never have been. It’s the only way the collectivist agenda can survive: on lies.

    • When I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, I knew lots of boys, who had their shotguns, rifles, and gear in their vehicles while they were in school. Either they had been hunting before school started, or were going after school let out. No one gave it a second thought. It was part of growing up and learning responsibility.

      I never heard of any problems occurring with the gun owners.

      The problems came from the dope smoking crowd, the thugs, most of which had no idea what end of a firearm to point away from themselves. Usually it was because there were no adults in their life to share and teach responsibility. No one who cared for them in their lives.

  5. I do not wish to live in a POLICE STATE, where a police officer is on every corner waiting for a crime to possibly occur.

    Those who wish to do harm to others, wait until the “coast is clear” before enacting their crime. So the wolves, wait for the sheepdog to be on the other side of the meadow before they strike. Most law enforcement personnel care deeply for others and wish to help. However they cannot read minds or foretell when a crime will occur.

    The average crime takes mere seconds, while the average response time is usually measured in minutes.

    If we were to divide everyone into 2 groups, gun owners and non gun owners, in my experience the “gun-owning crowd is much more responsible, polite, gentle, and caring for their fellow person. They understand that dead is dead and there is no sequel to dead; as there is in the movies.

  6. You raise some interesting points. And some worrisome ones. Tis a slippery slope. For starters- the line between genius and insanity is often a very narrow one. (howard Hughes is just one example that instantly springs to mind).

    And just in the recent past week (and no- I am NOT making any claims of genius here) we have had Michelle Bachman slammed by McCain for her paranoid allegations against Huma abedin and now raving about Keith Ellison. We’ve had good ole boy Sheriff Joe promulgating theories that have been thouroughly debunked, Allan Watts continuing is his diatribes,

    I remember a line from Arlo Guthrie a while back- “I’m not the threat I had hoped to be” or something along those lines. Most folks- despite thier varying degrees of madness, are relatively harmless. (In the physical sense- when you consider their effects on others the matter becomes more complicated)

    And I don’t think it’s “political corectness” that has much to do with it. After all, it was Reagan who cleared the aslyums. (and yes, at the time I lived at the ‘end of the line” – the fartherest north their tickets to freedom would take them- and saw firsthand the effects.)

    And a crackdown on those deemed “crazy” would harm those on both the far right and the far left- many of whom are as often right as wrong. And of course history is replete with examples of the “professionals” long deeming something a mental illness, only to be found out to be wrong. (homosexuality is probably one of the more glaring modern examples).

    And let’s face it- an armed society creates a paradox. I lived for the better part of a decade next to a mentally unstable, paranoid, and heavily armed individual. One who regularly confronted my guests with guns (some of which were quite illegal). Someone who fired on people I knew. And someone who the local police were scared of (by their own admission) and largely powerless to do anything about.

    I’m sorry. I believe in gun rights. Hell, I believe in the right to own fully automatic heavy weapons, among others But I don’t believe this is an absolute. And I believe our founding fathers intent was prevention of a standing army- and a well regulated state miltia , that at their governors preference, could serve for the nations defense. I don’t believe for a second our founding fathers ever foresaw the current state of our society. I always loved the law in Oregon while I lived there- You were free to own heavy machine guns so long as your local sheriff approved. And while this system had it’s weaknesses- I found it far superior to the options on either side of the arguement.

      • No, I don’t think people should be allowed to own guns if they are entally ill. And while this will lead to abuses- ie: people that are fine to own guns being denied, it is one of the compromises we make as a society.

        And no- I wouldn’t require proof from an MD. (Compelling someone to a doctors care is a whole other slippery slope).

        As I referenced with Oregon laws- it is ultimately up to the local sheriff. And as stated- while this brings on it’s own host of abuses, again, it is a compromise we make as a society.

        And since you called me “drug boy” I’ll ask you this. What do you think of the case (from Oregon again no less) of them trying to ban medical marijuana patients from obtaining a concealed carry permit?

        Like most issues- there is no simple solution, nor one that will please everyone, nor one that won’t have serious drawbacks. But there is an answer better then what we currently have.

        • And since you called me “drug boy” I’ll ask you this. What do you think of the case (from Oregon again no less) of them trying to ban medical marijuana patients from obtaining a concealed carry permit?

          All right, silly boy (I must refer to you as I refer to the other boys) I believe if they allow a drunk to own a concealed carry permit, they should also allow a pothead.

    • “And I believe our founding fathers intent was prevention of a standing army […] I don’t believe for a second our founding fathers ever foresaw the current state of our society. ”

      The founding father’s did not have to know how the nation would evolve. They knew how past nations evolved and came to their demise. In fact, many of their correspondence to each other is filled with their foresight and opine on the matter. But yes, they intended to thwart the efforts of a would-be tyrant.

  7. Respectfully,
    Reagan just agreed with the Democrats idea of “clearing the asylums”. You are leaving an inaccurate impression with that sentence. The theory was to “mainstream” those who were in the asylums so they could function in society. Unfortunately not completely accurate.

    As for Michelle Bachman’s allegations, they are true as to huma abedin’s familial connections. Ms. Bachman is on the Intelligence Committee also……

    One can tell who the progressives are by who attacked Ms. Bachman.

    • That’s funny, especially since Packer engaged in cannibalism after apparently becoming hopelessly lost. Although modern forensic evidence has suggested that he might have been telling the truth about what happened. No DNA evidence, though. 🙂

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