August 01, 2011

Punishing the law-abiding is not justice

Governments, academics, and game stores are once again responding to the actions of a deranged terrorist by punishing the law-abiding:

Vancouver Sun: Norwegians call for tougher gun laws
The Independent: Noted British academic outraged by events in Norway
Rogalands Avis (in Norwegian): World of Warcraft and Call of Duty removed from store shelves

I'm sorry, but this reaction is just as insane and delusional as the actions of Anders Behring Breivik. Because he hated and feared Muslims, Breivik bombed a government building and shot down in cold blood dozens of unarmed children at an unarmed island summer camp. The problem is not that Breivik had easy access to "highly dangerous killing instruments". The real problem is that no one on the island was prepared to defend themselves against a madman with a gun. To make matters even worse, Breivik dressed himself in the uniform and badge of a police officer. For all any of his victims knew as the attack unfolded, they were being shot down by a representative of the government, a government that forcibly disarmed them and then delayed responding to emergency phone calls, giving Breivik nearly a full hour to leisurely destroy every life on the island that he could find.

Millions of Norwegians who would never dream of performing such a callous and sadistic crime own firearms. They use their "highly dangerous killing instruments" for target shooting, weekend competitions, and hunting. Some of them are collectors who own dozens of firearms and not a single round of ammunition. Why should these law-abiding citizens of a free country be punished because one lunatic took exception to the liberal policies of his government? In order to prevent such a tragedy from occuring again, would it not be better to train and arm the adults on the summer camp island? If the camp's counselors and administrators had been armed and proficient, they could have stopped this tragedy while the Norwegian police were still trying to determine if the weather was pleasant enough to fly a helicopter.

Breivik enjoyed war games. Why does that mean that millions of law-abiding Norwegian gamers who fully understand the difference between reality and virtuality must be denied access to their favorite games? How does punishing students, office workers, busboys, cooks, and millions of other people from all walks of life prevent mass murder? Despite decades of research and millions upon millions of taxpayer funds passed over to academics of all types, not a single legitimate research project has ever found a direct connection between enjoying war games or first person shooters and mass murder. The fact that a mere handful of deranged individuals play these games and then go on killing sprees does not indicate that all those millions who also enjoy the games are going to magically follow in their footsteps. Removing computer games from store shelves will do nothing to prevent the next deranged shooter from slaughtering innocents. Thinking that it will is exactly the same kind of delusional thinking demonstrated by Breivik, McVeigh, and the terrorists of 9/11 who "trained" on Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The idea that the masses must be punished in order to prevent deranged individuals from performing acts of violence is collectivist. Attempting to engineer a modern culture through denial of individual freedoms is a completely Marxist idea. Disarming free individuals does not bring a violence-free utopia. It does precisely the opposite. By removing weapons from their people governments down through history have empowered themselves to use genocide and mass murder as tools of political expediency. The end result of a disarmed populace is always the same. Sooner or later the government in question will demonize one class of their citizens and make every effort to kill each and every individual in that class. The Chinese Communist Party slaughtered farmers, the German National Socialist Party slaughtered Jews, the Khmer Rouge slaughtered the economically successful, right now in Iran and Syria the governments are slaughtering advocates of a free society. In every single historic case of mass genocide, disarming the free people of their society was a prelude to official mass murder in numbers that are staggering to comprehend.

Breivik killed around 90 of his fellow citizens. This is a terrible tragedy. I would not want to do or say anything to lessen that. In 2003, a similar number were killed by an out of control pyrotechnics display at a nightclub in Rhode Island. And yet, no one called for the closing of nightclubs or the banning of pyrotechnics in rock and roll concerts. Tragedy is part and parcel of life in the real world. We will never live in a world without tragedy. While it is true that we should not be seeking to bring about mass murder, nor should we be looking for ways to make the work of mass murderers easier, responding to a tragedy such as the one in Norway by removing the rights of free citizens to pursue their hobbies and harmless competitions is not the answer.

There is no utopia in our future. It is time to abandon the idea that government is somehow magically responsible for making the world a better place. Putting too much power in the hands of government is a historical formula for greater oppression and massive genocide. The only realistic way to make our world safer is for each of us individually to be prepared to step up and take charge when events spiral out of control and disaster is imminent. Keep exits open, clear, and easy to see. Arm responsible adults and train them in firearms proficiency. Teach children the best routes of escape should an emergency occur and keep emergency supplies readily accessible. Basic first aid, basic survival, and basic self-defense are the responsibility of every adult citizen. Abrogating that responsiblity to the police or some other government agency can only have one end result: dystopia.

You and you alone are responsible for the safety and education of your children and yourself. It is delusional and insane to assume that a government bureaucrat is more objective, more intelligent, and more capable of responding to danger than you are. You and you alone are the first line of defense. The only way to prevent another mass murder is for you to have the skills and tools necessary to step up and end the rampage the moment it begins. The only way you can have access to those skills and tools is to prevent power-mad government bureaucrats from stealing your freedoms when a tragedy occurs.

Your future is your responsibility, not the government's.