Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gun massacre in Nebraska shopping mall

Terrible ! Horrific ! What can government do about it ?

Why is it that human beings always think of the 3rd question in response to something dangerous, shocking or frightening ?

Sometimes its the victims of road accidents and gun crimes (or their families) who are the most vocal and prominent campaigners when it comes to asking for new laws to be passed to prevent a repeat of such a tragedy.

And in such a climate, who would dare debate someone who lost a family member ? A victim has the moral high ground, even if the arguments he puts forward are stupid, thuggish, pointless and meddle in the lives of thousands of others.

Back to the story at hand - there was a horrific gun massacre in a shopping mall in Nebraska that killed 8 people. What should government do about this? My answer is short and simple. Make sure there are laws in place to protect the rights of individuals only as far as treating violence, murder and theft as the most serious of crimes.

Not only are these laws in place, but Nebraska already has strict gun laws banning people from carrying concealed handguns. And therein lies a clue - how did one person manage to wound at least 5 and kill 8 people before he could be stopped ? Its the same answer to the question "How did 19 males without guns manage to hijack 4 large aircraft on 9-11?".

Relying on police to get to the scene and do something is going to take some time. When you put security in the hands of the state, and don't take steps to protect yourself, this is what you get. If there were armed civilians and security guards, he may have been stopped sooner, as has been the case on a US college campus where an alert young trainee police officer with a firearm in his glove-box managed to stop and handcuff a crazed student about to begin a gun rampage.

So one direction could be "government should do less to stop people from protecting themselves and taking care of their own security". Then .. theres the other direction. The one that is so popular these days. The "WHAT ELSE can government do?" direction. Well, let's look at the details of this massacre:

A 20-YEAR-old high school dropout who walked into a suburban shopping mall in Nebraska and gunned down eight people before killing himself had just been fired from his job at McDonald's and broken up with his girlfriend, his landlord says.
Let me say in my most leftist voice - What else could we have done as a society to stop this ? Easy answer - ban girlfriends from breaking up with boyfriends.. and then ban employers from firing employees. Or at least introduce new laws that require anybody who suffers the termination of employment or a relationship to go to counselling. [/sarcasm]

Why don't we just accept that this is a tragedy, and that they do happen, and no system can stop tragedies thus we should not try to regulate everybodys life in some small effort to prevent the unexpected, but instead leave it up to individuals and give them as much freedom as possible to look after their own health and safety.

In Victoria, the government is about to pass new "safer booze laws" that give police new powers to patrol party-spots, and shut down nightclubs for 24 hours if there are fights or disorderly behaviour, and also to ban the offenders from entering these night spots again. And the key campaigners for these laws are relatives of victims of violent crime that happened near night spots:

Families of young men injured and killed in street attacks lashed out last night at the delay sparked by what they described as Liberal Party nuisance tactics.

Bill McCormack, whose son Shannon died after being struck outside a Melbourne nightclub, attacked MPs for sitting on their hands.

"Politicians are paralysed by their indecisions," Mr McCormack said.

The mother of a second victim said she was gobsmacked that politicians could quibble over such important laws.

Of course, the lobbying power of these relatives is extremely powerful, the lazy Herald Sun journalist simply reprints their quotes with no countering viewpoint:

Mr McCormack -- whose son Shannon, 22, died in June a week after being assaulted in Southbank -- said he was appalled at the delays.

"They don't have the courage and the guts to stand up for Victorians," he said.

"No one should have to stand by their son's hospital bed for 24 hours a day, seven days a week and watch him slowly die.

"I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. I wouldn't even wish that upon the kid who hit my son, it's that awful."

Susan Hucker, whose son John was in a coma for weeks after an incident outside a Lorne hotel during schoolies week last year, was angry about the delay.

"The safety of people far outweighs the political rewards of stopping these laws from being introduced," she said.

"It's totally out of hand and it's very disappointing that other families may now have to go through something like we've been through before the laws are changed."
It looks like a fight or drunken behaviour at a club can ruin the night for everyone.. the police can waltz on in and declare the party over, no matter how much everybody else is enjoying themselves or how well behaved they are.

This is the opposite of liberty and destroys our freedom of association and freedom of movement. It doesn't make people more sober, less violent, and more responsible citizens. It doesn't even relate to the issue of drunk and violent mobs using violence and killing people.

We have courts and police to deal with homicide and assault, and the perpetrators are going to end up in prison for a long time to come. We don't need surveillance cameras and more police powers, and it hasn't worked in Britain. Less regulation, leave it up to the clubs to decide. After all, nightclubs do not want violence and drunken behaviour because over the long run, they lose females and other patrons, and their business loses revenue.

But whilst the relatives of the victims speak for more laws, common sense will get no microphone and no public hearing.