Can A Free Society Stop Mass-Murders?

With the shooting in Las Vegas yesterday, the response I’ve noticed from most has been sadness, and some anger.How could anyone do such an act of evil? ISIS/DAESH claimed that the man was a recent convert to their cause and that the act was in their name, but there’s no evidence of this. The police are investigating every lead, including trying to find his girlfriend who seems to have left the country. But it’s possible we may never know.

Some having been talking about how to prevent such a thing from happening again. I’ve heard calls for gun control. Realistically, there is little chance of lasting change in gun laws nationwide. Some state governments might try to enact new restrictions on the right to bear arms. But would they do anything more than give opponents of gun owner rights a sense of satisfaction for “doing something?” Just a few years ago, a mass-murderer killed dozens in Norway which has far more restrictive laws than we do. There have also had cases of airline pilots committing mass murder/suicide by crashing the plane into the ground/water. And then there was the Oklahoma City bombing. This act of domestic terrorism was carried out not by a gun, but by a bomb made from fertilizer. There were a couple calls to “tag” all bags of fertilizer shortly afterwards, but died down as people realized this just wasn’t practical.

Technology may also make gun laws more difficult to enforce. 3D printers are getting more sophisticated, and it wasn’t long ago someone used one to make the body of a gun. While it lacked the firing mechanism, it’s not hard to imagine that down the road future printers will be capable of making fully functional firearms, without registration numbers to track. I’ve heard of a couple calls to make more sophisticated 3D printers restricted, but so far there hasn’t been much of a response by gun ownership opponents.

And of course, there’s the idea of punishing tens of millions for the actions of one single individual.

So can anything be done? One of the most interesting responses I heard on the subject was from one friend, whom I mentioned before in a commentary on the 9/11 terrorist attack, who called mass-shootings, cults, global warming, police brutality, and a number of other issues part of a larger problem. He felt for all his accomplishments, man was still a creature hard-wired for a more primitive, rugged existence. As evolution designed us for a live of savagery, a never-ending struggle of killing to eat and fighting other tribes, we were simply not made for an easier life of civilization. We are, in his mind, cavemen with guns. Ancient instincts, that once served us well, now come back to haunt us in the form of mental illnesses, religious and political extremism, mass-murderers. and other troubles. Technology, whether in democracies or dictatorships, socialism or capitalism, has become a force-multiplier for madness. We have, quite literally, become too smart for our own good.

His idea of a solution? Obviously we can’t put the technological genie back in the bottle. In the short term, he concluded human societies need to seriously rethink their ideas of rights and freedoms, such as privacy and religion. He felt there should be widespread surveillance to pick up any warning signs from anyone that they could potentially lash out, and that the authorities should be able to detain such people until their problems were taken care of. He also wondered if certain people should be allowed to hold public office, “should we allow the election of a President of the United States who subscribes to the Christian Fundamentalist belief the world will end in our lifetime,” or even to vote. It wasn’t simply an issue of those preferring to live free moving to the country as they could still go mad and come back to populated areas to wreck destruction.

In the long term, he felt what was really needed was a selective breeding/genetic reengineering program to weed out humanity’s caveman instincts to make him a more rational, not necessarily smarter, being. To make humans more like the Vulcans of science-fiction, albeit without the pointed ears and arched eyebrows, was the only way he felt to ultimately stop acts of mass-murder and genocide and save the planet. Trouble was, he felt, human authorities are not usually more rational than those they govern. Even if such programs were enacted, politics would either make them ineffective or filtered through the ideological viewpoints of the party in power from the start, or changed to be so later on. And authorities with their own agendas would use such powers to selectively pick on those they didn’t like. He predicted that eventually religious fanatics would provoke a nuclear war that would send Humanity back to the Stone Age, or the Iron Age if he was lucky. While humanity would recover and rebuild, the equipment to drill for oil and coal would be rusted away. And with the easy to reach mines and deposits long depleted, we would be in for a long Dark Age lasting for many thousands of years, with the tribes and kingdoms warring and enslaving one another until the cold slow hand of evolution eventually produced a human brain that could more easily find solutions other than violence and was less prone to mental instability and superstition.

But as smart as my friend was, I’m going to have to disagree with him.

Sadly, disaster has followed Humanity wherever he goes. And as we have greater control of the natural forces around us, though far from complete, more and more often disaster would come from the hands of other human beings. Over time there have been many who argue that the answer is to keep freedom away from the common man. Voltaire for instance rejected the idea of a republic for a people, saying humans were best governed by an enlightened monarch.

Such acts of madness have happened time to time throughout history. But overall such acts have been in overall decline over the decades. On occasion, such madmen will attract followers, such as Bin Laden, and must be delt with time to time by our military. Dealing with individual criminals at home, obviously there should be adjustments over time as to how the police can deal with, and if possible intercept them. But this shouldn’t rob the common man of the ability to defend his home or be prepared for the small possibility of a local tyranny such as the one locals rebelled against in Athens Tennessee in 1946. As for my friend’s suggestion Man needs to be genetically altered to face the future, it’s my opinion it is not necessary. Civilization, and then the civilization of democratic republics, have faced many challenges over time under homo sapiens, and it is still prospering.

Evil exists, and on occasion rears it’s head to strike. But we shouldn’t have to trade our freedoms for security.

Murray M. Lee

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