I would like to preface this by saying that while this is intended to be devoid of partisan politics, I will admit some premises are based on a small government interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
As we are all aware, there has been a recent wave of garbage humans committing atrocities across the country. As per usual, the conversation post-rampage has been on gun control, with an unproductive dose of talking heads placing the blame where it does not belong. The only person responsible for the misdeeds and scumbaggery of an individual is that individual.
It is untenable to think the government has the authority or the ability to protect us all from every possible tragedy. The only person directly responsible for the safety and security of your family is you. The harsh truth of it is this: in order to have the freedoms we enjoy, we must accept the fact that some people are evil and will use those freedoms for evil.
“Those that would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
There is a famous tirade from Jeff Daniels acting in HBO’s The Newsroom where he counters other speakers and students by saying America is not that special and rambles off other countries that have so-called “freedom.” It is a compelling argument, with swelling music behind it to tug on your emotions, but it is wrong and here’s why. Our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the American Experiment more generally are unique in human history as well as across the world today.
The truth is most countries – including many western nations – do not enshrine the rights we take for granted in this country within their core legal framework. In Canada and virtually all of western Europe you can be fined or even jailed for speech. Canada has seen a rash of comedians brought up on charges in front of their “Human Rights Council” and forced to pay exorbitant fines. You can be jailed in the UK for “offensive or abusive online messages”. The First Amendment exists to prevent that happening here. There is however a concerted effort from the left to curb the First Amendment much like the Second has been curbed over time.
Proponents of adding some sort of ‘hate speech’ clause adopt the very vague standard of these European countries. Believing through flawed logic that offensive speech is equivalent to physical violence, the inevitable conclusion is that some speech is violent and should be punishable like a physical assault. To any rational human this is an absurd contention. The First Amendment means we recognize the difference between speech and violence. You are allowed to say mean things in this country, and you should be. You are allowed to be terrible human as long as you are not actively committing or inciting violence. We must accept the bad with the good. We cannot bend to the subjective whims of the twitter mob. This is precisely why we are a constitutional republic, and not a mob-rule democracy. Thankfully the U.S. Constitution is a damn durable document. It may however be facing its toughest challenge yet.
“I may despise what you say but would fight to the death to defend your right to say it.”
In today’s world one must question the motives of the media. At what point does the profit incentive override the mission? As the customers of these companies, what do people want: information or affirmation? I believe the latter. People tune in and listen in large part to hear that the way they think is right. We have to let facts inform our opinions, and not allow our opinions inform what facts we choose to accept. The reason I bring this up is because the national conversation is controlled by a relatively small group that has an un-quantifiable power to persuade. We live in an era of headline culture, and the casual news observer is easily misinformed. Often on cable news or print media there is little distinction between straight news and editorializing – that is to say, someone’s opinion. We are constantly bombarded with the opinions of activists posing as journalists.
As citizens – especially armed citizens – we have a duty to remain well-informed. We have a duty to be steadfast in defense of our unalienable rights. We have a duty to prevent the erosion of these rights; failing to do so is death by a thousand cuts. If we allow the Second Amendment to be restricted, they will soon come for the First. The Second Amendment exists to protect all others. It is a safeguard against a tyrannical government.
Tyranny comes in many forms. If you are reading this, you likely are not in need of a lesson on the importance of the right to bear arms. There has been a lot of conversation lately around “Red Flag Laws.” Personally I think there has been a sea change and it would appear even (R)epublican lawmakers are entertaining the adoption of such laws. The rising star Dan Crenshaw expressed support for Red Flag Laws on the state level, and was promptly ridiculed for doing so. When we hear that term, we all recoil at the thought of such a law that sounds ripe for abuse: your anti-gun neighbor calls the cops anonymously and seven sheriff’s deputies show up to confiscate your firearms.
There is also nuance to this; the left’s version of these laws is different from the right’s. The right’s version includes the preservation of due process. Here’s the problem though… The right says due process will be preserved, and weapons only confiscated when there is “clear evidence violence is about to be committed.” This seems logical, right? It sounds reasonable to say if a person with intimate knowledge of someone’s state of mind has reason to believe they are on the verge of something terrible, they can report that individual and the authorities can get involved with the presence of actionable evidence. To me this sounds awfully close to thought-crime. What is the standard of evidence? One statement? Two? What is the punishment? Is it equivalent to the potential damage that could have been done? How long does said confiscation last, and how does one prove they no longer have bad intentions?
Someone break out the oracles and let’s go full-on Minority Report. I am all about a vigorous debate, however the slope is very slippery in today’s culture. Going back to accepting the fact that garbage people can do garbage things; it is foolish to believe every horrible act can be prevented. In extreme cases could similar laws be useful? Probably, but we need not rush into anything. There is much to be teased out. Make sure you are aware of your rep’s position. Read enough to form your own position.
The reality of modern life is that it’s too easy. We are too soft. I once had a Platoon Commander that made our platoon run hill sprints immediately after a lackluster performance in company PT. We deserved it. He proceeded to explain why this was happening; we were too soft. The Taliban is made up of men that sleep in the dirt and eat a bowl of rice a day. Not for a weekend, or a month, but for their entire life. That is their existence.
Think of countries such as Israel. They do not blind themselves from reality. They acknowledge there is potential danger everywhere and have an established culture of vigilance. Each citizen realizes the part they play in the safety of themselves and those around them.
We westerners are spoiled, filled with eternal optimism and a constant refrain of “that’s not how it should be.” Which is right – innocent people shouldn’t get gunned down on an afternoon trip to Wal-Mart. That is reality though. Our options are to accept this reality and with that accept the responsibility we have to ourselves and our families, or continue to grumble.
Having a culture of well-armed and well-trained citizens is the best deterrent out there. The people that commit these acts of evil are cowards. That type of bad guy is not prepared for a fight; they are prepared for a slaughter. I assure you there are more out there right now. With every day of coverage around these killings the others out there grow bolder. We need not make these people famous! They are in it for the notoriety. Almost always they reference previous villains as inspiration, with goals of “beating the body count.” Again the media has a larger role to play than they will ever admit.
So what can you proactively do?
This is not solely a pitch for you to train with us, although your business is appreciated. We don’t care where you get training as long as it is practical and solid. Get first aid training. Carry at least one tourniquet in your vehicle if not on your person. Understand that evil can visit you at any time. Much like Crossfit or veganism, this is a lifestyle. You must maintain situational awareness and keep your head on a swivel. Never abandon your firearm for comfort. Remember the safest place for that handgun is on your body. Hone your skills. No one knows how they will react in a high intensity situation like an active shooting until they are in it. But it is possible to mitigate negative reactions. You owe it to yourself and your family to train to the best of your ability. In the event a day comes that you do have to engage a threat, you will default to the highest level of training you MASTERED.
Domestic politics aside, America still stands for something. There is a reason Hong Kong protesters were waiving the AMERICAN flag as a symbol of the freedom they yearn for. Founded on the principles of individual liberty, property rights, and the recognition that each man is his own, the United States of America is the greatest country to ever exist, because freedom, freedom, and freedom. Let’s keep it that way.