“Are we prepared that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” Obama.
Anyone surprised by the direction Obama goes from here isn’t paying attention. He is a man who longs for the Big Crisis, because the Big Crisis means opportunity. The Big Crisis means taking severe steps, steps that normally people would oppose, but in light of the magnitude of the Big Crisis may view as necessary.
As illustrated in Obama’s remark, those ‘steps’ often entail restrictions on freedom, because, according to Obama, they are “somehow the price of our freedom.”
The purpose of this essay is to dispute that premise.
Two of my atheists friends have chafed at my insistence that gun control legislation is utterly useless for solving such crimes, but rather than deal with the many illustrations I gave showing how such legislation did not work or could not work (ie, the person followed all the rules, or acquired the guns even though they were illegal, or–shocker, used knives in their mass slaying!) their retort is “So what is your solution?”
All real solutions must begin by taking the world as it really is. Anything else is suspect; at the best, they only make us feel better. At worst, they are a way to exploit people for reasons they will rarely learn. Here is a real world fact: All people die.
Apart from two documented cases that many will find disputable, every person who has ever lived, has died. Every first grader that has ever existed eventually died, or they will be dead within the next hundred years or so. This observation is irrefutable (DB, Tim, would you like to dispute it?) but it doesn’t follow that we should be happy about it, or that we shouldn’t try to postpone it, or make the intervening years enjoyable and worthwhile. It does mean that here is a problem that has no solution.
Why set our sights so low as “How can we stop mass deaths?” Why not, “How can we stop all deaths?”
Shouldn’t we be looking for a solution to death itself? I think it is safe to say that all my readers will agree with me that there is no solution to death within the power of any man to implement. Can you imagine a conversation with a ‘death control’ advocate? “We should outlaw death!” Followed by me, saying, “Uh, no matter what you do, people are going to die, always and everywhere.” Then they say, “So, what is your solution?”
What kind of conversation can you have, here? Our hypothetical death control advocate’s argument has implicit assumptions that are completely out of tune with actual reality.
Likewise, Obama. The idea that these slayings are connected ‘somehow to the price of our freedom’ is absurd. Mass slayings have always existed. Murder has always been part of human history. Before there were guns. Even when murder was not legal. Knives, cars, bombs, fire, rope, you name it: all have been deployed to kill people in numbers small or large. Mass slayings exist in ‘free’ countries and in tightly controlled countries. If not by gun, then by machete.
Superficially, it seems as though we could end or reduce mass slayings. In actual fact, it is a problem that has no solution. It has no solution because people are the way people are. People are the way they have been for centuries. The modern myth that today we are ‘more sophisticated and progressive’ then people in, say, the 1500s is just that, a myth. People are the same. They will not change. On their own, human power, they cannot change.
The great innovation of the United States is that for the first time in human history, a government was built up based on the way people really are. Significant and meaningful checks and balances were erected because they knew that without them, the tyranny they fled in Europe would return to them. They viewed the ‘right to bear arms’ as the ultimate check and balance against that tyranny, should the Constitution’s checks and balances on the government be insufficient. And wisely so: historically and to the present day, most mass murders have been perpetrated by governments upon their own people. (See Democide.)
As of this writing, in the last few months, Syria has slaughtered some 40,000 of its own citizens.
What is your solution to this? I have an idea. Let’s create something called the ‘United Nations.’ We’ll give the countries of the world the power to influence other countries to behave civilly. They can pass resolutions and treaties. And no more people will die at the hands of their own government… Problem solved!
Of course, this ‘solution’ has been tried, and has been a miserable failure from Syria to Sudan, from Rwanda to North Korea. If anything, the naiveté embodied in this ‘solution’ is more likely to fuel oppression and mass slaughter for the decades to come.
Only by realizing that there are some things that have no solution can we begin to fashion a reasonable, rational, reality-based response.
Mass murder by crazy people, with guns and without, is such a thing. It has nothing to do with the fact that we are a free society. The fact that we are a free society merely shapes the form in which the mass murder takes place. Where guns are banned, lunatics turn to other means, or manage to acquire guns anyway. This is reality.
A reasonable, rational, reality-based response will begin by taking people as they really are and drop the notion that we can find a ‘solution.’ It will dispense with the idea that such incidents are connected to the societal structure in a place–no matter where you are, such things will happen–while being aware that the form in which the incidents occur might vary based on that structure.
So what does that mean going forward? Well, I have my own ideas, of course, but I think it would be better for my liberal friends and activist occupant of the White House to accept my argument and think through the conclusions for themselves. If they are my ideas, they will never accept them.
But I can say what it won’t mean: restricting the liberties and freedoms of law-abiding men and women like myself. By definition, law breakers do not follow laws, only the law-abiding do. Laws and regulation will only restrict the rights and liberties of the only people who don’t need those laws and regulation, and leave them vulnerable to those who are not curbed by those laws and regulations.
No crisis, big or small, is able to dispense with this, which is just common sense.