As an opinion blogger, the zeitgeist obliges me to comment about the Arizona shootings (even if I have nothing especially interesting to say).

The predictable response has been “Round up the usual suspects.” While the left in particular has jumped on this to excoriate extreme political rhetoric on the right, the left refuses to realize that its own rhetoric is often no less extreme. In fact, some of the left’s rhetoric, attacking the right’s alleged extremism, has itself been quite extreme. (This includes the overdone attack on Sarah Palin for using the term “blood libel;” click here for an example.)

I have commented before against extreme political rhetoric – especially the syndrome of not just disagreeing with political opponents, but demonizing them and impugning their motives. Here again the left shares fully in the guilt. (Republicans “want to destroy Social Security” and so forth.)

But – none of this has anything to do with the Arizona shootings. Based on what we know about the shooter, it is highly unlikely that he was influenced by that notorious map with congressional districts “targeted” or by any other political blathering. He was a very disturbed misfit whose actions would not have been prevented by some imagined halcyon climate of political civility.

Next. Few people are as libertarian as me. It’s a basic principle of mine that if government wants to tell folks what to do, it had better have a darn good reason, that concerns the well-being of others. You’re not allowed to harm someone, but otherwise should be free to do as you please.

But – I don’t see why anyone should be permitted to buy the kinds of guns and ammunition used by the Arizona shooter. They have no conceivable legitimate sporting use. They’re for killing people. Preventing such killing is society’s Job One; it’s the chief reason why we implicitly agree to surrender some of our liberty to government, in the Social Contract. Society cannot prevent every murder, but surely we can at least restrict access to equipment that has no purpose other than murder.


5 Responses to “Arizona”

  1. Kimberly Draiss Says:

    For once, I actually agree with you entirely- even, strangely enough, with you last paragraph. Ordinarily, I would count myself among those Second Amendment types who believe that gun ownership should not be unreasonably restricted, but I agree with the premise that there is no legitimate reason for someone to own those types of firearms. Interesting.

  2. Lee Says:

    I have been sadly disappointed by the press’s coverage of this event. This many people are killed every day in the USA. Apparently the press doesn’t consider this to be a problem, nor do the politicians — except when the targets are rich or powerful (or children?).

    I also find it odd that the press blames the chickenhawks (Limbaugh, Beck, etc.) rather than the actual hawks for the pervasive American belief that violence is a reasonable way to address problems. Although Obama and H. Clinton can see clear as day that violence is counterproductive in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict they continue the “send more forces,” “deny more civil liberties” approaches of the Bush administration when it comes to conflicts involving the USA. Is it any surprise that so many of us are convinced that violence is a reasonable approach to problem solving?

    FSR COMMENT: “So many of us”? It is a common syndrome of the left to over-emphasize societal problems. Violence is a paradigm for this. Some would portray America as a fundamentally violent society. What nonsense. I think the last time I personally experienced any violence (a punch) was around 1965. “Pervasive American belief that violence is a reasonable way to address problems”? In fact, given our evolutionary history, what is absolutely extraordinary is the extreme degree of peaceableness we experience in normal everyday life. Episodes like Arizona shake us up because they are so rare and exceptional.
    As for the Palestinians, I have never understood why they fail to follow the strategy of Gandhi.

  3. Lee Says:

    Yes, the Palestinians would do well to do a Gandhi. I think maybe some of them are even trying that for months at a time, but some impatient blows it by firing a missile. Meanwhile Gazans are living an existence that just plain sucks, and I can see why they are having trouble sticking to the Gandhi route. By using violence, the Israelis too are going for the suboptimal route. The British finally routed out those IRA terrorists via dialogue, not “mowing the lawn.” But I can see why the Israelis grow impatient as well. If Obama/Clinton/Mitchell stepped in with some determination, maybe this could get sorted out to everyone’s benefit — hopefully they are working behind the scenes.

    Thank you for the correction — you are absolutely right that I exaggerated present-day violence; I agree that, especially on a personal level, we are quite peaceful compared to history. Of course, we keep striving for even better, but that doesn’t justify my exaggeration. On the nation vs. nation level, I am not a good enough student of history to know whether the current level is better than the past. Regardless, I opine that we’ll need to keep striving here as well.

    FSR REPLY: Re nation-to-nation violence, there is indeed (yes, believe it or not) a powerful downward trend. This is covered in some depth (surprise) in my highly wonderful book, The Case for Rational Optimism.

    But, you write “Episodes like Arizona shake us up because they are so rare and exceptional,” and I find that confusing. I would have said that these episodes happen every day within our relatively peaceful borders; I’d be curious to know your thoughts on what makes the Arizona episode different from the daily killings we already experience.

    FSR REPLY: It is certainly not every day that a gunman kills 6 people including a Federal Judge and wounds a bunch of others including a Congressperson.

  4. Lee Says:

    I suspect that it would have been news, if the shooter had killed six “ordinary Americans,” since most of our daily killings are one or two at a time, but I suspect the newsworthiness would have died away after a few days and the political “fallout” would have been next to nonexistent. (Admittedly, that’s a gut feel, not based upon hard evidence.)

    I think the real reason that this is news is the targets, the Federal Judge and the Congresswoman. I can’t help thinking that too many of us feel that these two are more valuable as people than the usual targets of fatal violence, and I find that attitude to be objectionable. (If you have a convincing counterargument that would do much to restore my faith/optimism in people regarding this news item!) Other than that they are rich and/or powerful I see little to distinguish these two high-profile victims from the usual victims.

    FSR COMMENT: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
    Or, rather, all people are equal, but some are more newsworthy than others.

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