Another wretched mass-shooting – this time in the normally tranquil California desert-town of San Bernardino – has shocked the country and produced frantic new calls from liberal politicians for the country to “do something” about guns. Police and the FBI have reported that on December 2, a “devout” Muslim man and his wife – both heavily armed with rifles and improvised explosives – entered a room around mid-day at the San Bernardino Regional Center, where the husband’s co-workers were holding a “holiday party.” There they opened fire, killing 14 people and wounding at least 21 others in just a few minutes, with 65 to 75 shots. After escaping to their vehicle – a rented SUV – the couple became involved in a wild gunfight with police, in which both were fatally wounded, about a mile from the initial crime scene,.
Later reports indicate that the pair lived in a rented house in the nearby community of Redlands, California. Neighbors say they mostly kept to themselves, but that many people were observed coming and going. Numerous packages were also delivered to the house, and there seemed to be a lot of late-night activity in the garage. A police-search of the house after the shooting uncovered a large cache of weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition, numerous pipe-bombs, and the materials to make more. One neighbor said she didn’t report these curious activities because the people seemed to be Middle-eastern, and she didn’t want to be accused of “racial profiling.” (God help us!)
As my pop used to say, “It isn’t funny enough to laugh at, but we’re too big to cry…” In truth, though, it is hard to blame this timid, unnamed neighbor for being reluctant to come forward and be labeled as a (possibly racist) “complainer.” The president and his minions have so stirred up the racism issue, and so intimidated most ordinary people, that one can imagine witnesses not reporting an armed helicopter-drop into the White House grounds because the parties involved looked like members of a “protected” ethnic group. (We live in strange times.)
Meanwhile, politicians of every stripe are living out the classic doggerel: “When in turmoil, when in doubt/Run in circles, scream and shout!” How can we stop this kind of thing? is the question being shouted from the housetops. And sycophantic media have eagerly joined the chorus.
Some politicians claim to know the answer to that question – the president being chief among them. Before the bodies were cold in San Bernardino, Mr. Obama practically ran to the TV cameras to proclaim that we must pass “common-sense gun laws” to prevent this kind of atrocity from happening again. (Never waste a good crisis.)
Exactly what “common sense” means to the president is not clear, but based on his previous preachments on the issue, one supposes that it involves, at the very least, making it nearly impossible to obtain a gun legally in the country. And, as I have written before, I believe he wants his crowning “legacy achievement” to be a partial (or even total) repeal of the Second Amendment. He has made it abundantly clear that he considers the right to keep and bear arms an outdated relic of pioneer days that does not belong in a modern, civilized society.
I will admit that at some level, Mr. Obama does have a point. America is no longer what it once was – although probably not in the way he thinks. Some two centuries ago, John Adams wrote: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Are we still “a moral and religious people”? Many of us still are, of course. But clearly, too many are not. (Statisticians point out that even 1/10th of 1% miscreants would amount to 300,000 people.) Does this mean that free access to arms is one of our founding principles that we must give up? This makes very little sense. Since criminals typically don’t obey firearms laws, the only parties left unarmed by Mr. Obama’s “common-sense” laws would be law-abiding people. Who (besides brigands and murderous swine) will be the better for that?
Yet the question remains: how can we protect society from crazed individuals, plus a growing population of people whose moral compass points in an entirely different direction from that of our founders and most Americans? The answer, as one might expect, is not simple. Nor is it rocket-science. Other societies, at other times, have dealt with the problem of faceless, unidentifiable, evil persons living in their midst who unleash harm and terror on innocent people at unpredictable times.
One of those places was the British colony of Kenya. The time was the 1950s, when the Mau-Mau uprising became a force in anti-colonialism stirrings. The Mau-Mau’s modus operandi was terrorism waged against whites who held most of the colony’s government posts. No one knew who the terrorists were, as their identity was a closely guarded secret. They might be your houseboy, grocery-deliveryman or other ordinary person. One night they would sneak into your house and murder you and your family; or they might gun you down in your driveway. The situation was completely chaotic. The Mau-Mau seemed unstoppable.
Finally, the colonial government decreed that every white adult – male and female – must be armed at all times. Policemen were authorized to stop any individual on the street and ask to see his/her weapon. If a person couldn’t do so, a fine would result. With the policy in full force, the Mau Mau terror simply faded away – defeated by a vigilant, war-experienced people who did not hesitate to take drastic action when it was called for.
Why was the measure effective? Were terrorists really that worried about grandmas, housewives and civil servants? Maybe not, but terrorists generally expect to be unopposed. It’s more fun that way. They’re not looking for the OK Corral. Certain depraved individuals evidently find a powerful draw in seeing people cower in terror as they face their deaths. But when the promise of low-cost sport evaporates, terrorism becomes far less attractive as an occupation of choice.
Armed resistance from their prospective victims might not deter crazed religious fanatics, of course – be they Methodists, Amish, Muslims, Hindus, or Baptists. (I could be mistaken about the Methodists, who are unfailingly polite.) True believers might be willing to proceed with their deeds in the expectation of dying heroically for “the cause,” but the presence of armed individuals in any crowd of people is certain to save some lives. Numerous current events have shown what happens when none are present during an attack.
In the recent San Bernardino shooting, not a single person in a crowd of at least fifty was prepared to offer armed resistance. This was certainly due to strict California laws that prohibit carrying arms into a public place of business. The same was true in Paris during recent attacks that killed over 100 people. France has very restrictive gun-laws, so no one in that theater was armed, and none in the restaurant had a weapon, either. Ditto for the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, where a disturbed young man shot twenty children to death in 2012.
Even at Fort Hood, Texas – where in 2009 a crazed Muslim major killed thirteen and wounded thirty while shouting “Allahu akhbar” (Allah is great) – not one person in a post full of experienced soldiers could respond with deadly force to the killer’s attack at a family restaurant. The reason: personnel normally entrusted with the world’s most powerful weapons may not carry personal arms on a military base.
The lesson for us from the defeat of the Mau Mau is obvious. Indeed, we already know, first-hand, what it teaches by the experience of some of our own cities and states: i.e., when citizens are known to be armed, violent crime decreases. In the case of military bases – where most residents are soldiers already experienced with weapons – the solution of arming the general population could hardly be clearer.
To begin with, the “gun-free zone” delusion must be abolished by law. It is a magnet for crime. In all schools, businesses and government offices, as many workers as possible should be armed and trained to respond to threats – obviously on a volunteer basis, individually, but mandatory for all establishments. Of course, there would be no racial element, as in 1950s Kenya. An alarm system should be required in every public building – possibly linked to occupants’ cell-phones. Each room would be equipped with an emergency-button and an indicator-panel. A teacher (or other worker) would press the button if danger arose. This would sound an alarm in all other rooms and cause an indicator to show which room had issued the warning. Cell-phones, Ipads and other electronic devices integrated into the system would also be signaled.
Should an alarm be given, armed workers would drop everything and converge on the endangered location with all deliberate speed to deal with the threat. Students and unarmed workers would be trained to stand clear and take cover. The alarm would also notify the police.
All this would cost time and money, of course, but how much is the safety of workers and students worth to us? Training would be needed, and it would certainly disrupt what Americans consider normalcy. But there’s no value in pining for the past. We are at war, and we must deal with that reality. If we don’t, a lot more people are going to get hurt.
The terrorists have a clear field. Huge federal efforts haven’t kept them out of the country. They seem to be everywhere. We don’t know who they are, and when we do see something odd we’re afraid of being called “racists” if we report it. Americans in our comfy homes, cars, stadiums, shopping malls, schools, churches and workplaces are sitting ducks.
Despite Mr. Obama’s near-religious convictions about abolishing guns, disarming us further will help only the bad guys. The president is living in his own dream-world, but we are not. We have a serious problem here, and we need to come up with serious solutions. Let’s get to work.