With the recent shootings in Nashville and Louisville, we’re going to suffer through another mindless gun control debate. Much of that debate ignores our duty as citizens in a free society.
The Left has opened constructive debate by claiming that Republicans are complicit in the murders – for disagreeing with them on the means to stop future murders. They are reciting their standard talking points:
- They don’t want to attack our right to hunt.
- Nobody needs to own a weapon of war.
- The public wants guns kept out of the hands of criminals.
- We need to do something – anything.
- We don’t need guns; we have the police for protection.
- Blah, Blah, Blah.
The right is countering:
- The 2nd Amendment is not about hunting rights.
- Semi-automatics are not weapons of war – and leftists are idiots for thinking so.
- None of the left’s proposals will prevent criminals from getting guns.
- When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
That last bullet is the critical flaw in the gun control debate on both sides of the argument.
Law enforcement’s inability to protect us from the thug on the street is not a response-time problem. It is a natural and necessary outcome of our governing philosophy.
Our law enforcement is not designed as a protective detail. Their slogan may be to “Protect and Defend,” but our systems are designed to deter and prosecute. Deterrence is achieved when criminals fear prosecution. When their risk/benefit analysis concludes that the benefits don’t warrant the penalty, threats are less likely to become offenders. However, deterrence is not real-time protection from an attack.
The reality is that police, prosecutors, and courts are not proactive – as protection requires. They are reactive – as the Constitution demands. They’re not in the business of preventing a crime which is about to happen. They’re in the business of responding to a crime which has begun – after the harm is done. Most police officers want to provide protection for the innocent, but their toolkit to do so is necessarily limited.
Besides the limitation that the police can’t be everywhere at all times without turning America into a police state, law enforcement officers are not screened for their willingness to sacrifice themselves for others (as the Secret Service is). Many will put themselves in harm’s way to protect the innocent as was done in Louisville. Others will not. The odds of the police being present during an assault are slim, and even if they are, the outcome may be Uvalde (where the police listened as the innocent were slaughtered) rather than Louisville (where the police were wounded engaging the threat).
The alternative to turning law enforcement into a protective detail would be to make the police proactive – use the police to preempt violence just as the military can. Soldiers can protect us by interdicting emerging threats before an attack occurs. That works for national security but not for personal security. We don’t live in the world of Minority Report, in which law enforcement magically determines who will be future offenders and neutralizes them in advance of a crime. When our police surveil innocent people, identify those who may commit a crime, and then take action to neutralize them, it is not a service to us. It is a civil rights violation.
That limitation is not a shortcoming of our criminal justice system. It’s the way it must be. The name “criminal justice” is literal. It is a system to pursue justice for crimes. It is not a system to interdict threats on our behalf. As much as law enforcement may wish to protect the public from threats, it can’t do it effectively because of our governing philosophy. People are presumed innocent and are guaranteed freedom from unreasonable search, surveillance, or impediments to their freedom. Until a crime has been committed, citizens have an individual right to be left alone.
A person who has a propensity for violence is only a threat and is still innocent under the law. Until they become an offender, they have rights which law enforcement is sworn to protect. That is not a bug. It is a feature of our system.
If we consider this limitation a shortcoming and attempt to fix it, law enforcement becomes an offense to our Constitution. Agencies will go rogue – just as the DOJ and FBI have. Our Justice Department has violated the rights of parents, Catholic parishioners, “election deniers,” political protesters, and white supremacist boogeymen with unreasonable searches and surveillance in a futile search for future offenders. Our Justice Department has been destroying our Constitutional republic with the justification that they are “protecting” us. Is that what we want from all law enforcement agencies?
Preemptive protection by the state comes at the cost of our freedom. That is the unavoidable outcome of changing our system from one of criminal justice to one of personal protection.
If we wish to live in a free society with individual liberties, we cannot expect the police to protect us from the thug on the street. We have both a right and an obligation to provide our own security because we have chosen to live free rather than as subjects of a police state. To cede that duty is to also cede our liberty.
My response to the gun control advocates is that firearms have no inherent good or evil. They are merely tools. However, they are the only tool which neutralizes the size and strength of any assailant in a confrontation – making them the tool of choice for self-protection. No matter how large, a rapist has no advantage over a woman trained to use her gun. No matter how vicious, a gangster has no advantage over an old man who has a weapon to guard his home.
Most people can become reasonably proficient in firearm use with relatively easy training – making them an ideal choice of tool. As the saying goes, “God made men, but Sam Colt made ‘em equal.” Firearms take the inequality out of a confrontation – allowing the weak to defend their rights from attack by the strong. Isn’t that a good thing?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that as inner-city crime explodes, black women are the fastest growing group of gun owners. They understand the reality of their circumstances and are taking steps for their own security. They are accepting the obligation that accompanies their decision to live free.
There are many ways to defend ourselves. Firearms are just one very effective means to do so. But we need to recognize that if we wish to live in an America which protects our individual rights, we have an obligation to tend to our own security. The reality is that the police will investigate our murder, but they are unlikely to prevent it, and should never have sufficient power to “secure” us. If we wish to live free, we will probably be the only innocent person present, when we become the prey. Defense or death is exclusively our choice.
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