Still Operating Under The Same Old Delusions

I’ve been contemplating whether to comment on the Virginia Tech shooting or not.  At times, having been doing this for about five years, you realize that you’ve probably said it all before, though.

So I’ll refer you back to what I said in July, 2003 after one city council member shot another in New York City:

The shooting in New York yesterday got me to thinking about the way our society treats guns and the crazy idea that we can somehow create a “bubble” of safety which is free from all harmful elements.

For some time now I’ve thought about violent crime in a way similar to disease.  The agents of the disease can be thought of as malevolent microorganisms that are damaging the host organism by harming the individual cells that make up the whole.  We can choose a couple of alternative ways of dealing with this problem: 1) sterilization (the boy in the bubble method), and 2) immunization (distributing the means of counterattack and prevention throughout the body).  I am of the opinion that the second option, as related to a distributed defense (i.e. a pack not a herd, to borrow a phrase) is ultimately better. 

The first option, sterilization, means attempting to prevent the disease causing elements from even getting into the body.  In real life this is manifested in airport screening, metal detectors at courthouse entrances, gun-free school zones, the federal statute against having a gun in a postal facility, etc.  From my vantage point these methods have not only failed miserably, but they make the problem worse, since they create zones of increased vulnerability.  In fact, we seem to see more cases of mass shootings in gun-free zones.  I tend to think that this occurs because the killers, while mad or insane, do engage in some calculation about the relative chances for success of their plans.  Especially when they’re trying to make a big splash.  Which would make more noise in the press?  A story about a mass murder or a story about an armed citizen stopping an attacker (no need to answer that one, since we know how the media will report each one already).  There will always be holes in the “bubble” that will be exploited by those with evil intent.  Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that a perfect barrier is not possible (if you think it is possible, solve the problem of drugs getting into prisons first and get back to me).

Immunization is not necessarily a perfect defense.  It requires distribution of the means to respond to the threat throughout the body of the people.  It does not always work.  There may even be times when innocent people are killed.  This is comparable to real immunization, where a vaccine sometimes kills people.  Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where there are no perfect solutions.  But this does have the advantage of not having to rely on the convenient fiction that it’s possible to screen out all threats and live happily within a bubble.  While microorganisms can’t think or weigh the consequences of their actions, criminals sometimes do.  Not only does having a distributed defense allow for swift preventative action against criminals, it can act as a deterrent, lowering the chances of success and dissuading some from committing certain types of crimes.  And for those criminals who don’t get the message, it removes them from the pool of criminals, so they won’t be around to commit future crimes.

I suppose the only thing I can think to add, which I discussed with some members of our CERT class on Tuesday night, is the fact that once you’re in a situation where someone is lining you up against the wall, you should consider yourself dead at that point and you’ve got nothing left to lose by fighting back.  But this requires the right mindset, which our culture seems intent on breeding out of us.  I’d recommend getting a copy of Jeff Cooper’s Principles of Personal Defense.  It’s more of a pamphlet than a book, but it gives you a glimpse into the warrior mindset. 

The right mindset is, in some ways, probably more important than what weapons you might have.  It allows you to use what you have at hand with speed, surprise, and ruthlessness when required. 

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