The first reaction to the Aurora Massacre was the usual call for making sure that “this never happens again”. Everyone from New York City Mayor Bloomberg to author Salman Rushdie to mystery writer Patricia Cornwell called for imposing gun control to insure “this never happens again”.
And yet if we were to confiscate every privately owned firearm and outlaw the manufacture of new ones in the country, if we were to forcibly institutionalize anyone suspected of being mentally ill, and if we added naked scanners to movie theaters; we still could not insure that this will never happen again.
And yet Colorado has half the murder rate of Illinois, as adjusted for population. Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and New Hampshire, all full of guns, have far lower murder rates than gun control states like New York, California and Illinois. According to Bloomberg, “If we had fewer guns, we would have a lot fewer murders.” But guns are not proportional to murders.
Utah has the second highest gun ownership rate in the country and the eighth lowest homicide rate. Wyoming, the state with the fourth highest gun ownership rate has the fourth lowest homicide rate. Meanwhile New York is 48th in gun ownership, but is the 18th highest in its murder rate.
We escape tragedy by searching for control and this is an obscene gift that we give to liberalism and its counterpart, the police state. Both promise us a better and safer world in exchange for our freedom. After every tragedy they promise us that they can keep it from happening again. They can’t. No one can.
The illusion of control attempts to tie James Holmes to some larger issue, whether it’s gun control or movie violence. It ignores the banality of individual evil, to make him into some larger monster that we can fight. But sometimes there is no meaning to evil except that it exists. No way to make sense of it or transform into a social crusade. Evil just is.
We can make war on organized or semi-organized enemies. We can bomb Hiroshima, round up the Mafia, launch drone strikes on Al-Qaeda leaders and break up cartels. We cannot however make war on the evil that lurks unexpectedly in human brains.
The edifice of government towers over public life. It is built for fighting systems, groups and “Isms'” and it can be used to ban guns, lock up the mentally ill or launch another one of its incessant public education campaigns. Its ability to stop an individual bent on causing harm to other individuals is highly limited at best.
That is where the illusion of control breaks down. The system can promise to stop gun violence, but it can’t stop a man with a gun. All it can do is exploit the tragedy for more power. Only individuals can stop individuals. The only control we can possibly have comes from living in a society where the people do the right thing… and are empowered to do the right thing.
But that is not the society that the gun-controllers and police-staters want to create. The society they want is a place where everyone sits quietly, offers no resistance, contacts the authorities and waits for the accredited branches of the government to do something. A place where everyone knows that if they do something, they may be arrested or sued by the criminal afterward. A place where people are expected to be willing to die, but not fight back.
It takes a great deal of conditioning to break the reflex of leaving things up to the proper authorities. It takes something like seeing two towers fall in burning rubble while sitting on a plane that is clearly headed toward a similar mission. But shortly afterward the proper authorities will be back on the job, reminding everyone to fly planes, submit to some profiling-free groping, and pay no attention to the man with the beard and the itchy underwear chanting “Allah Akbar” to himself in the window seat.
Bloomberg replied to a suggestion that if more people in the theater had guns they might have been able to fight back, with, “To arm everybody and have the wild west all the time is one of the more nonsensical things you can say.” And in Bloomberg’s world it is nonsensical. By “Wild West”, he means anarchy and when you’re running a major city that has more employees than some countries have people, the last thing you want is anarchy.
Systems respond to a failure of control by intensifying control. Going the other way is “nonsensical” to them. To Bloomberg the Aurora Massacre was a failure of control, which every “rational” person has to respond to by agreeing that we need more control. Find the “loopholes” and close them. Tighten the noose and this will never happen again… until the next time it does, when it will be met with the same response.
More loopholes, more nooses and more zero tolerance. Make a law, name it after a murdered child and sit back confident that nothing like this can ever happen again because the big book of laws just had another forty pages added to it.
That is the government world, a place where every problem can be solved if you throw enough money, manpower and laws at it. And that world is as imaginary as the comic book world playing on the movie screen during the massacre. That is why gun control is so appealing. Unlike murders, guns can be banned.
Government is not god, though it often seems to aspire to the job. No amount of regulations can exercise complete control over the world around us. All they do is create a hedge maze within which both we and the criminals operate. And criminals will always be better at navigating that hedge maze.
Those who follow the law will always be proportionally more dis-empowered by regulations than those who do not. The flip side of a police state in the anarchy boiling underneath. The more laws there are, the more they are broken. The more control is centralized, the more corrupt the controllers become until the criminals are in power and those who are in power are criminals.
A police state is not a perfectly-controlled society where everyone follows the law or gets locked up. It’s thugs with shotguns, tattoos and uniforms, dark sunglasses covering their eyes, collecting bribes from the criminals they are in league with. It’s a president with forty mansions to his name and an entire apparatus of party loyalists who feed the bribes up to him. It’s not a place that’s free of crime; it’s a place that’s saturated with a crime, where everyone is a criminal from the leaders down to the little boy picking your pocket because otherwise the gang leader who runs the block will beat him.
We can turn America into that place in 10-15 years. All we need to do is spread the failed liberal policies that destroyed the country’s greatest cities to the rest of the country. Then try to lock down that anarchy with gun control, SWAT teams and 5 million regulations. Give it time and we’ll manage to achieve the current Democratic Party platform of being just like Mexico.
In America the police state has emerged as an attempt to manage the consequence of liberal social policies. Import enough immigrants from lawless countries, put them side-by-side in major cities and it will take a police state to manage the consequences. Destroy values, promote cultural anarchy while running regulatory totalitarianism, and you will need a police state. Destroy manufacturing and keep enough men of all races out of work, and the police state will be needed to manage the violence. Import enough followers of a religion in which terrorism is a mandate, and it will take a police state to maintain even temporary normalcy.
Officially liberals don’t like the police state very much, and yet the police state is the only thing that prevents the countries afflicted by their policies from completely melting down. And when faced with a problem, whether it’s a man filling in a swamp on his own property or individuals owning firearms, they resort to the power of the police state. Right now they are telling us that if we just had a police state where all the firearms were controlled by the police, this will never happen again.
Adulthood means knowing that this will happen again. That madmen will kill people and it is our responsibility to prevent that not by passing a few laws that invest more power in a police state, but by being aware and taking action when necessary. And knowing that this too may not be enough.
We have some impressive technologies, but those don’t make us gods. We have information at our fingertips, but that is not the same thing as control. We do not control the world and we certainly do not control other people. And it is important that we remember that.
The actions of James Holmes are not a reflection on us or on that imaginary village that raises all of us. It is a reflection on him. To forget that by assigning responsibility to the gun or the movie is to abdicate individual responsibility and throw up our hands to the liberal gods of government and the police state to come and save us from ourselves. And they will eagerly answer the call.
The power of the individual to do good comes from a sense of individual responsibility. Take away that responsibility and the country begins to rot. Bury it deep enough and there are only sheep waiting for a wolf.
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