On December 9th, there was a kind of Summit in Washington of city mayors and police chiefs, to discuss with Presdent Clinton what to do about violent crime. He said he thought we were fed up, and ready for some Action. He's right.
If government has any function at all, it is to defend us; so if this problem is getting worse and not better, it follows that that they have all done a very poor job. So it's good that they held a meeting; but I was disappointed by its outcome. Far from confessing failure and promising improvement, they set out to damage us the victims, by further reducing our ability to defend ourselves! It seems as if having failed itself, government wants to make sure we fail too.
Berserk in Newbury
Both the Hicksville train massacre on December 7th and the November 1st tragedy in Newbury focussed our attention again on this Gun Issue, and since it's understood that the Newbury killer appeared to be mentally disturbed, some hold that ownership of guns should be banned for those with similar symptoms.
Trouble is that, according to his neighbors, he didn't exhibit any worrying, unusual symptoms. He was known as a "loner"; he was a bachelor living with his parents; he didn't easily engage in light conversation; but he went about his business quietly and without bothering people. Until November 1st, that is.
So if one were to try to frame a gun prohibition law for people like him, how exactly would one define the category? - no guns for loners? None for poor conversationalists? - none for bachelors over 30? None for those with a dispute with the Town? (Now, THAT could really disarm the citizenry!) It can't be done, obviously. 250 million accurate psychiatric evaluations would be needed.
So another approach might be tried: Why not ban all semi-automatic weapons, ie those whose breech is automatically reloaded after each separate pull of the trigger. Would that help? - not in the Albro case. Reportedly, he stood inside Newbury Town Hall for several minutes, arguing with the staff he was about to murder, and firing indiscriminately in to the walls.
He only needed four shots, to kill two plus himself, and wound a fourth. He could have done that several times over in the time available before the police arrived, with a bolt-action rifle or a shotgun. In fact, had he used a repeating shotgun, ready loaded, four might have died instead of three.
So, the gun-banners might say, zap the lot: like some other countries do, forbid the use of any gun by anyone. Trouble there is that the only people who would obey that law are the law-abiding, and they don't need it! The habitually violent would meanwhile become more violent, because they would know that none of their victims would be armed. So, as with so very many well-intended laws, that one would backfire and make worse the very problem it tried to solve.
And of course, intending suicides like Mr Albro would not even read it. If you're about to commit murder-suicide, you don't stop to ask if it's legal.
A Better Way
As is often found to be the case in "On the Other Hand...", a much more promising approach is the very opposite of conventional wisdom; instead of seeking to reduce gun ownership, we could actively encourage more of it. There would be many cases where that would make no difference, I admit. But it MIGHT have helped, in both the Newbury and the Long Island cases.
So, suppose that all gun laws had been repealed and that a cultural attitude had been encouraged that holds self-defense to be a good idea, in contrast to the present official disapproval.
In such an environment, it would be socially praiseworthy to learn all one could about REAL gun control (that's the sort that helps one hit what is aimed at) and most people would, then being competant shooters, choose to own and carry one. Most likely, the ladies working in Newbury Town Hall (and many of the L.I. train commuters) would have had a pistol in each purse or briefcase.
Now in comes a deranged man, shouting and threatening and shooting the walls. He says you're one of his intended victims. What do you do?
You get out your gun, you take aim, and you shoot him down. And even though he has the huge advantage of surprise, the chances are fair that one of you three, at least, is going to hit her mark before any of you need die.
Some reports of the Albro case told of dismay that violence had spread from the cities even to the delightful town of Newbury; as if there were an inevitable, irrational social trend going on - an uncontrollable Plague.
Once again, I disagree. Growth in violence at large springs from observing real violence, not in TV fiction but by government. In this column we have noted the example set by the Feds when killing members of the Koresh and Weaver families; and we all see the violence frequently used by its police, as in the Rodney King arrest. Monkey see, monkey do; it's terrible, but quite understandable.
Violence or the threat of it is inherent in every cent the government collects as taxes, in a system of unprecendented larceny that sets a massive example to every potential thief in the ghetto. Violence is the very essence of warfare, the exclusive domain of government. Violence is actively stimulated by its "war on drugs." And a great deal of citizen violence springs from a sense of utter frustration with the blind, arrogant, senseless policies of government at every level, that trap the underclass in a permanent cage of poverty and despair.
Violence will decrease when government decreases, and not sooner.