Today is a terrible day. This post is certainly late to the story: 28 people dead, 20 of them children at the hands of a lone gunman in a Connecticut elementary school.
As a gun blog, folks will likely assume I will fall to so called “political” lines, that the choice here is keep guns legal and increase risk or to ban guns and to create safety. It is my experience that most crimes like this have little or nothing to do with the tool, and everything to do with two things: how we manage and address force, and how we handle emotion.
In terms of force, the key question I think our society needs to consider is what is force to be used for? Can we reach some common ground on use of force? So many of our conceptions of force are about getting revenge or getting advantage. I am not one to blame media, but I believe it can be a representation of perceptions people hold in society. The fictional character Dexter in the HBO hit show captures and slaughters people he perceives as “killers” in an attempt to reach justice that cannot be attained through conventional policing. The show explores what may be a broad perception of a justice gap between what can be proven through legal means and evidence that cannot make it to the courtroom. On ABC television Revenge tells the tale of Emily Thorne, whose father was cast, unjustly, as a terrorist. Emily, through a web of subterfuge, endeavors to bring down the family who caused her father to go to prison and who murdered him while he was there.
In my current research I have even been reading about nonviolent coercive force, such as used by activist groups around the world. In these circumstances, protests against business, governments or between political factions is used to GET something.
In all of my reading on force the only uses of force that are NOT for the purpose of getting something are policing (all aspects, including SWAT, Bail Enforcement and daily patrol), security, and self-defense (including all aspects of martial arts and concealed firearm training that I have studied).
I think, and this is a little off the cuff, that when people feel an emotion like, fear, frustration or anger, they jump to the conclusion that they are not just feeling the feeling, but that they are wronged in some way, and that they have to “fight” to get justice. They immediately lash out, often becoming offenders, assailants – offenders that feel like victims. By the time that someone has reached that level it is almost impossible to pull them back. There are some organizations that try to restore this type of offender, but often, in my perception, they only increase the risk of the community they try to bring these offenders into.
This mindset, to lash out to get justice, includes broad swaths of our society. It includes liberals who ostracize, castigate and disparage people who do not think, act or buy the ‘right’ way for social justice. It includes conservatives who do the same, rejecting people because they don’t utilize big box discounters, “prep” for disaster and rely on family and community support over federal agencies and social safety nets. It includes “in clubs” from elementary school to business associations that act to manage and control members and to ostracize others to remind members why they must hue to the norm.
To explain my approach, to the above issues, I’ll prep for emergency as best I can while not judging others who are ill prepared. I’ll work for social justice, but I’ll take social justice messages with a grain of salt and I will refuse to participate in mass movements and ideological positions of all stripes. I avoid in clubs. That’s that.
The way that the security mindset differs from what I’ll call the ‘reactive/assaultive justice’ mindset is that protection is more important than emotion. Would you protect the person who cheated on you in college? Would you protect the person your former partner cheated with? Would you protect someone you perceived had wronged you in the past? Would you protect someone who you believe failed to protect you when you believe they ‘should’ have? If you can answer yes, and I certainly can, then you have the security mindset. You are a protector.
I believe this is at the core of today’s challenge. You can take every weapon from somebody except those that matter: their hands, their legs, their head and their mind. What no one can regulate is what goes into the mind, what occurs in the mind, and what comes out through action.
To provide a couple of examples, Dale Royer, a graduate student at Iowa State University in the 1980’s believed his professor was acting against him to stop him from receiving grant money. His anger and hate seethed up in him, and, though people began to notice his erratic change in behavior, no one did anything to stop him. He ended up going to his family farm in Iowa, filling gasoline cans with diesel fuel from the farm gas pump, breaking into his instructor’s home, dousing the bottom floor and front stairs in fuel, and lighting it on fire. Two children were killed of smoke inhalation on the top of the first flight of stairs. One of those two was in my seventh grade class. Though he used terrible destructive force there has yet to be called a ban on diesel fuel, much to the relief of trucking companies across the nation.
On September 28, Salt Lake police had to shoot a man threatening to detonate an explosive device he had in a backpack on a downtown electric rail stop. The man had an extensive criminal record and some bizarre behavior, as documented by The Salt Lake City tribune http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54985828-78/mayhew-lake-officers-salt.html.csp The contents of his backpack have not been disclosed, though authorities have stated the materials had the potential to explode. It is likely that his materials were common. Can we ban all items that could rise to such a level?
It is impossible to regulate out all danger. In fact, assailants have deep capacity for innovation and adaptation. A person intent on causing harm will do with the only limit set by the extent of their imagination and capacity to cause harm. When guns are banned assailants will adapt to fire, bombings, automotive or airplane assault, and who knows what other means. To provide safety and protection in our society we need to increase the protective mindset and decrease opportunity based and reactive mindsets that lead to such things as bullying, assault and battery.
You know what, I’m just going to go ahead and posit Murdock’s first rule:
All peace must be backed with force.
If you want to commission some research from me I’ll gladly back up my first rule.
The question is who has the right to bear force? Is it the individual? Does the responsibility to protect derive from the right to self-defense, and is that an individual right or a collective right? Once we determine that force must exist, how do we manage, regulate and implement it in timely and sufficient amount to effectively stop intended assailants.
Please take some time to think on this matter deeply. I believe it is at the heart of the real conversation. Without deep consideration of reasonable force we are just left with the emotional rants of CNN and MSNBC talking heads.