Bad People Do Bad Things
Monday July 23, 2012
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From Edmonton, Alberta
The Council of State Governments West
I have been struggling, all weekend, to try and understand what happened in Aurora, Colorado.
There are some 315 million of us in America and I suspect all but a very few have been trying to do the same thing.
Here's what I do know. I do know this is should not be seen as an opportunity to make political points for or against gun control. Many have done this and they should be ashamed of themselves.
Constitutional protections are not without limits.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote (in Schenck v. United States 1919) that the First Amendment did not confer an unlimited right to speech:
"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."
Note the word "falsely" in that sentence; a word which is almost always left out when using this as an example.
I am a big Second Amendment guy. I have a 9mm Beretta and I don't want the government to come and take it away from me.
On the other hand, I have never seen the need to keep an assault rifle in my house nor to have 6,000 rounds of ammunition on hand.
I don't know that this event should cause every theater in the nation to install magnetometers to make sure no one is walking in with a weapon, but we have seen in our lifetimes major upheavals in how we conduct ourselves because of the actions of one or a few people.
The 9/11 terrorists have changed with way we deal with air travel. A guy who tried to ignite his sneakers means that virtually every person travelling by air has to take his or her shoes off. The underwear bomber has resulted in millions of Americans being irradiated every time they go through an airport security line.
Way back in 1982 someone tampered with Tylenol capsules in the Chicago area poisoning seven people. That person was never caught but it has cost world's consumers tens of billions of dollars in tamper-proof packaging ever since.
There are likely many more examples, but these few make the point.
Someone will raise the argument that some 36,000 people are killed and over two million injured in automobile accidents every year, and no one urges banning cars.
That is true, but most people don't buy cars to aim them at things or people. Many people are crappy - or, too often, impaired - drivers.
Do we really want to revisit the 18th Amendment?
President Obama did what Presidents have to do when horrors like Aurora, Colorado happen. He went there and tried to bring some solace to a shattered community.
He did it well. He looked and sounded like I want my President to look and sound in circumstances like that.
We don't yet know what this happened. Maybe we never will understand what would drive someone to spend that much time, money and energy in such a destructive endeavor.
I do know that the answers are not likely to be easily arrived at, notwithstanding the cable chat shows.
I was offered the opportunity to go on Elliott Spitzer's Current TV program Friday. In response to the email I wrote if the segment was going to be the potential political outfall from Aurora, I wasn't interested.
The producer simply wrote back asking for my availability for this week. Obviously, that is exactly what they wanted to talk about.
This is a violent world. A Google search of "suicide bomber" returned 9,400,000 results (in 0.21 seconds).
Dozens, if not hundreds of Syrians are dying every day in the violence there.
Daily, it seems, reports are coming out of places like Bulgaria and Pakistan of people blowing themselves and others up to make some statement or another.
I do not want to diminish, in any way, the gravity and horror of the event that occurred in Aurora, Colorado Friday morning.
What we might be able to take from it is, it is another example of something which does not have an easy answer; something that does not fit on a bumper strip; something that isn't easily reduced to a sound bite.
There are no easy answers. There are no black-and-white solutions.
Sometimes bad people do bad things.
Before On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Oliver Wendell Holmes opinion, the Tylenol murders, and the Census Bureau's look at auto deaths and injuries.
Also a Mullfoto from Edmonton, Alberta (which is in Canada) and a Catchy Caption of the Day.
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