Aurora: Where Tragedy Endangers Liberty
Hard cases make bad law. And the worst law comes from the hardest tragedies.
Nor have there been many harder tragedies than the theater killings in Aurora, Colo. As such, there can be no worse law than any legislation coming from it.
Perhaps, when such monumental events occur, our legislatures and houses of Congress ought to recess - ostensibly out of respect for the victims, but in reality, out of respect for freedom.
Mark Twain said it best when he plagiarized the words of Judge Gideon Tucker, who observed, "No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session."
For instance, after the Twin Towers fell, our government quickly created the Department of Homeland Security. It did nothing that the government had not already done except create a secret trillion-dollar security apparatus so far-reaching that Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover might call the ACLU to complain were they still alive to do so.
Tragedy endangers liberty because it excuses the inexcusable use of power to pacify fear.
There is nothing more disgusting than a politician grandstanding on the grave of a crime victim. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City should be condemned for appearing on talk shows the Sunday following the Aurora killings and feathering his political nest with demands to take more state control of the personal arms that help guarantee liberty. But many people love it. They are only too happy to surrender their freedom for the perception of security
Whether the Batman shooter (I will not mention his name) was evil or crazy, there was very little government could do to prevent his act. If a Chechen terrorist could get bombs or guns into a Russian police state or a rebel could get a rocket-propelled grenade into a garrison state like Syria, then clearly no law in a free society like ours could eradicate those dedicated to evil.
Laws have little effect on those determined to break them. So laws to protect the innocent must be balanced by the burden they place upon their liberty.
Our British-based system of jurisprudence does not prevent crime. It punishes crime already done. This is the price we pay for liberty. A police state can take liberty upon suspicion of a future crime, but history tells us that such power once given to the state is abused more than used. It did not help the Syrians and cannot help us.
Enacting new laws to stop a crazy man from acting irrationally in a Carthage, N.C., nursing home or an Aurora, Colo., movie theater is simply a fraud on the public perfected by ceding to the state the right of law-abiding citizens to be free.
It is the same kind of placebo that stops bombs from being set off inside an airplane with 100 people but does nothing to stop a bomber from blowing up 200 people standing in line for a security check. It strips travelers naked with radiation to prevent old ladies with knitting needles from boarding aircraft, but does nothing to stop a military doctor from gunning down fellow soldiers.
In the case of Aurora and Carthage, an armed adult citizenry might have saved some lives, but perhaps not. The truth is that we are all warriors in the exercise of liberty. And, the exercise of liberty is not without risk. We can tell our children that the risk is minimal, but it clearly exists.
Reliance on a combination of brave first-responders and a well-armed civilian population is not foolproof. There are plenty of fools in Florida and elsewhere who take their right to bear arms as a license to become a vigilante. Errors will always occur, especially in a society dedicated to individual freedom. And those errors may result in death. But, as Patrick Henry reminded us, "Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?"
Creating new obstacles to freedom by limiting access to self-protection may seem to some the mark of a legislator executing his contract with his constituents. But it is really a politician contracting to execute our liberty in pursuit of a "nanny state."
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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