We take sympathy and sorrow for granted when people die in circumstances like the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. Unfortunately, we can also take for granted that a chorus of voices in favor of gun repression, as if the availability of guns inspires mass murderers.
You’ll hear all of those debates elsewhere and may argue the issue below. I wish to look at the topic from a different angle. Part of my summer reading has been Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage, and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New Conflict, by David Tucker . Despite the title, I am not suggesting that the Colorado shooting was an act of international terrorism. It has inspired some terror, some panic, though it is not under the purview of Homeland Security in the way most of think of the function of that organization. The author of this book makes several good points on his topic, but one especially applies today, to this situation.
Can we expect to depend on police to deter and prevent every violent act against the public? No. Why not? Because the police cannot be every where. What should we do about that? We could increase the number of police and amount of other types of surveillance until every place and every person is watched. Do we want to live like that? I know I don’t. Dr. Tucker, an expert on terrorism, speaks to that question in his book. The argument for this is that if you are a person living peaceably, that someone is watching you should not matter; no harm will come to you. In fact, you will be safer, because the police can always see what is happening to you. Think, if George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin had been under surveillance, there would be no question of what had occurred between them. Young Mr. Martin would still be dead. The police could not possibly have come in time to prevent that shooting.
Police surveillance of the auditorium in Aurora could not have prevented that shooting, either, unless a policeman or a set of them or some equivalent security personnel had been present. To make America more safe we can forget the second amendment and ban all guns, but that will not really prevent violence as criminals will still be able to obtain guns and guns are not the only weapons available to the violent. We can have police and other forms of watchers everywhere. The alternative is citizen response. Tucker cites examples of the latter and the fact that prompt response by private citizens is what actually stops violence at the scene, immediately. The police cannot respond immediately, you or I seeing an act of violence, a shooter, bomber, whatever, can act. He notes problems in vigilantism, but notes that, “Both increased government power and in increased citizen vigilance might lead to abuses, but only the latter will increase the capacities and the freedom of American citizens.”
Training the citizenry to respond and not only how to respond, but how to get out of the way when official police authority arrives on the scene, is certainly possible. Communities can train citizens to be, in essence, an effective militia. That’s constitutional, isn’t it? Television and Internet training is also possible. We should do this.