~ The first set is (forgive me) philosophical, because what happened there is not a tragedy.
A tragedy, in this context, is when a hurricane wipes out a city, or tornados flatten schools, homes and trailer parks all over the Midwest. The destruction, injuries and fatalities caused by earthquakes, volcano eruptions, floods and tsunamis are tragic in the applicable sense of the word: They involve the infliction of pain and suffering by impersonal forces far beyond the control of any human being.
What happened in Aurora, or Columbine, or Virginia Tech — or what happens almost any night of the week in New York or Chicago, where a few media-hyped slaughters are far outdone by the continuous mayhem on the streets — is not a tragedy, it is an atrocity, which in its most relevant sense is the intentional result of human evil working its will upon the innocent and defenseless.
And for those who think that the fact that the perpetrator may well be clinically insane makes what he did any less evil does not understand the moral truth that, just as extraordinary acts of heroism or charity have spiritual resonance beyond the scope of the acts themselves, so do acts of darkest depravity.
Good and evil, we are correctly taught, are not subjective but objective realities, and the agents that work for either end of the moral equation are part of the outcome as well as the process. Machiavelli’s aphorism that “the end justifies the means” is a slogan that inevitably passes through a gate labeled “Arbeit Macht Frei” and ends up in the gulag and the lao-gai.
Rather, the ends are the means: Who we are dictates how we act and produces what we create. A murderer may be insane, but that does not make the things he does any less objectively evil, or lessen the need to remove him from society.
~ After expressing profound sympathy for the victims and their friends and families (and honoring the heroism of the three men who reportedly sacrificed themselves for their female companions by blocking bullets with their bodies), we should also recall what law professor Glenn Reynolds (who blogs as Instapundit) points out: There are two classes of people found at every such random incident, shooters and victims.
And the best way not to be a victim is to have the ability to shoot back, something denied those killed and wounded in Aurora by the owners of the movie theater itself.
Very few people are likely aware that there was another random firearm-related murder in Aurora just a few days before James Holmes opened fire. One person, a pastor’s mother, was killed in a shooting at a church before an armed member of the congregation (an off-duty police officer) shot the perpetrator dead.
But firearms were banned from the movie theater showing Batman that night, proving once again that “gun-free zones” are among the most dangerous places in the country, as only criminals will have firearms there.
Laws, as examples around the world show, will never keep weapons out of the hands of such people.
That is proved, as I referenced above, by the experience of our largest cities. Investor’s Business Daily pointed out in an editorial July 24 that “The gun-controlled Windy City is on a pace to have 450 murders this year, an Aurora every 10 days.” And in the week from July 2 to July 8, “there were 21 murders in New York,” IBD said.
“Granted, New York City (where, as in Chicago, firearms possession by law-abiding citizens is also effectively banned) is a lot larger than Aurora, Colo. But its citizens have one thing in common with the patrons of the Century 16 theater — they were not allowed to defend themselves.”
Perhaps it’s time for survivors to start filing lawsuits to hold the theater’s owners responsible for preventing people from defending themselves by exercising their constitutional rights.
~ We should also free ourselves of the false belief that any possible reform of our laws regarding the possession and use of firearms would make such incidents “impossible” in the future. Timothy McVeigh killed 163 people with a rental truck filled with fertilizer, solvents and widely used commercial explosives, hardly things that people will ever be refused permission to buy.
But, let’s stick to firearms. James Carville, the prominent Democratic consultant, said this week that the National Rifle Association has a “dominating position” in American politics — but does anyone really think that if millions of voters didn’t vote for politicians who supported firearms rights and against ones who didn’t, the NRA would have any clout at all?
It’s not the NRA, it’s Americans’ love of liberty and support for the right to defend themselves and their families against the agents of evil, that drives what remains of the “debate” over firearms’ civil rights in this country.
Barring the imposition of a new control regime by undemocratic processes (such as a new Supreme Court ruling overturning D.C. v. Heller, which recognized that the Constitution protects an individual right to bear arms), that right is nearly impervious to legislative assault, and will be as long as Americans keep voting the way they are now.
That’s a good thing, because it offers the only hope that average citizens have of defending themselves against those whose evil works itself out in assaults on the innocent.
Columnist Thomas Sowell, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, lays it out: “You would never know, from what (New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg) and other gun-control advocates have said, that there is a mountain of evidence that gun-control laws not only fail to control guns but are often counterproductive. For those people who still think facts matter, it is worth presenting some of those facts.
“Do countries with strong gun-control laws have lower murder rates? Only if you cherry-pick the data. Britain is a country with stronger gun-control laws and lower murder rates than the United States. But Mexico, Russia, and Brazil are also countries with stronger gun-control laws than the United States — and their murder rates are much higher than ours. Israel and Switzerland have even higher rates of gun ownership than the United States, and much lower murder rates than ours.
“Even the British example does not stand up very well under scrutiny. The murder rate in New York has been several times that in London for more than two centuries — and, for most of that time, neither place had strong gun-control laws. New York had strong gun-control laws years before London did, but New York still had several times the murder rate of London.”
~ In the meantime, we’ve seen some truly astounding things come out of this event. Most have been too widely covered to belabor here, but it remains astounding that a professional news reporter on a major network, Brian Ross of ABC, would so carelessly link a James Holmes found on a Tea Party website with the entirely different James Holmes who was the actual perpetrator.
Following the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, who found several people with his name in trouble with the law, I entered “Michael Harmon criminal” into a search engine and immediately was told that person had been arrested on July 14 for domestic abuse.
Anyone could have cited that fact and linked it to me, even though that Michael Harmon is 12 years younger than I am and lives in Oakland, Calif. In fact, a website, howmanyofme.com, reports that there are 1,113 Michael Harmons in the country, many of whom are likely less than stellar citizens.
And since I have used the term “Tea Party” in several columns, my name is tied to it on the Internet. So I’m just as vulnerable to a false linkage as the James Holmes libeled by Ross — a reporter whose reflex to check Tea Party sites, rather than, say, sites about the ACLU, the Democratic Party or even the Occupy Wall Street movement, is what is most telling about his journalistic malfeasance.
Compounding the irony is that Mayor Bloomberg, one of the nation’s most prominent Republicans-in-name-only, actually called on police officers to go on strike until stronger firearms laws were passed.
That is, it is worth it to him to have police violate their oaths (it is illegal in New York and most other places for police and firefighters to go on strike) to put more citizens in actual danger to get laws passed that will not increase public safety one bit.
As was noted as soon as he said it (and he has since retreated from his idiocy), all that would show is that people really are in charge of their own self-defense — a constitutional right that liberals like Bloomberg continue to deny to Americans unfortunate enough to live under their iron-fisted rule.
Remember two things about the cops: First, they are not a crime-prevention force, they are a crime-solving force. After all, the Supreme Court has ruled they have no constitutional obligation to protect us from harm.
Second, “When your life is in danger and seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”
One cannot, as Dave Barry’s saying goes, make up such nonsense as the ideas Bloomberg and other gun-banners continue to spout. Could anyone really be this disconnected from reality, this utterly foolish?
Oh, that’s right. They’re progressives. Of course they can.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org