Following any shooting conspicuously covered by the media there are a few predictable responses in the public discourse. All of these responses are perfectly natural and describe the human experience in its many variations. Among these responses, patterns emerge and in recent years some of these patterns have become not just firmly established, but have taken on the characteristic of a shibboleth. A leftist shibboleth.
This virtue-signaling, leftist shibboleth is, “We need new laws.” Leftists recite this demand every time they encounter a behavior that they find distasteful or, as with free speech or a mass murder, an act that threatens their feelings of safety. These new laws, they promise, won’t be like the ones before them. Leftists proclaim and believe that these new laws will have some extraordinary power to do what no law or combination of laws before them has been able to do: prevent the legal transgression of criminal violence. New laws, you see, are magical.
The reason leftists always want to use new law as the means to address choices that they find distasteful and choices that result in criminality is because they do not understand the purpose or function of law. Leftists ever imagine that laws are meant to control people; to control behavior and compel compliance. Control has never been the function of law and law always fails in this misdirected purpose, which easily explains why leftists are forever unsatisfied by how their laws fail to impact crime. Yet in the face of repeated failures they continually sell the idea of the Magical Law that will once and for all correct the problem. Why, then, does the magic never work?
As John Adams rightly observed in his letter of October 11, 1798 to the Massachusetts militia…
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Those paying attention today will note how modern leftist society is tearing at the edges of this very inadequacy that Adams warned us about. The spirit of Adams’ sentiment here touches on the proper function and purpose of just law. Laws are boundaries. The purpose of law is twofold: 1) to describe prohibited behaviors which would otherwise infringe on citizens’ individual liberty and property (e.g. don’t steal, don’t murder), and 2) to describe rules of order so that many people can operate and interact safely in a complex environment (e.g. traffic laws). Component to these functions, law also describes the penalties for transgression. Nowhere in these functions is there any ability of law to control individual choices or prevent transgression. Civil society operates on a mutual agreement to obey the law AND to do so with the promise of punishment for transgression. Note that this promise of punishment is not just meant to function as a deterrent. Just as this promise is the gauge by which bad people might weigh risk, it is also the gauge by which good people will determine an administration’s worthiness to govern (is it or is it not enforcing the laws?). In the end, by cordoning off unacceptable behaviors from acceptable ones, our laws describe our public mores and cultural character.
Law has no capacity to prevent someone from robbing a store or from making an illegal purchase or from murdering a neighbor. These are acts of volition; free choices that are a byproduct of life in a free society. Yet when some bad person commits some terrible act, leftists in government and civil society will cry, “If you want these things to stop, we must make more laws; tougher laws!” What they mean is, “This time it’ll be different, but we must destroy your liberty to make the difference!” Oh, and it is never different. It’s never different because criminality is the product of culture and character, not of laws.
Leftists ever work to craft a society that proclaims, “Character and culture don’t matter! Depravity is just as functional as morality! Refutation is hate speech!” Yet when one understands law and human behavior, and examines the record of crime and social interaction throughout human history, it becomes clear that with regard to man’s capacity and choice to commit violent crime, character and culture are the only things that matter.
You, the reader, likely own some kitchen knives or gardening implements, a baseball bat, or perhaps even one or more firearms. You deliberately chose to purchase these products that have been used by people to kill millions of other people throughout history. But in accordance with civil society, you simply agree not to murder someone with these tools. This is a choice that you are free to make or not make. Should you choose to commit a murder with one of these tools, no law could prevent you. You would likely be apprehended and rightly punished, but no law compels your choice. Instead it is your core values and morality that drive your choice to live peacefully within the law or to break the law by committing violence against an innocent.
The leftist observes your moral, peaceful choice and does not trust it. The mere fact that you could choose to behave in a criminally violent manner threatens their concept of social order. Moreover and because of what they know of themselves and those like them, they believe that being armed with a firearm changes people into power-drunk ogres who will shoot you down if you dare disagree with or annoy them. Also, leftists don’t believe in good and evil because that would imply that there are moral absolutes and that core values matter. Therefore, your freedom to choose peace or violence is reason enough in their mind to prove that your potential means of inflicting terrible harm must be outlawed or highly constrained. And if you own the outlawed means for inflicting harm it must be confiscated from you. In this effort they seek to remove your ability to choose and instead control your actions under their regulations rather than your free will. In other words, since people may choose to do bad things, and we can’t tell the good from the bad until they do harm, rights are irrelevant and we must destroy liberty to preserve (the feeling/delusion of) safety. This ridiculous approach seems appropriate to leftists because they subscribe to the fallacy that if you but pay close enough attention to your emotions you’ll find that so-called God-given rights don’t really matter. Instead, what matters is how people feel. Therefore, the fact that putting up a “Gun-Free Zone” sign has no effect on those who choose to ignore it (again and again, with bloody results every year) is irrelevant. Prohibition and destruction of rights is all a leftist knows. When he believes something must be done, he has logically but one card to play: tyranny.
The moral person understands that in a free society bad people will sometimes do bad things and the proper response to this fact is to preserve an individual’s liberty to defend against this unwelcome anomaly. He understands that civil society is fostered by and must be built upon the family and the instilling of moral core values; in the absence of which a society spoils and crumbles. The immoral, emotion-driven person believes that free will cannot be trusted. He understands that civil society is built upon government programs and forced compliance (with the proper allocation of resources). Therefore, government should be set up to compel compliance and greatly limit choices in order to prevent unsafe or illegal ones. The difference here is one between a society where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are cultivated and revered – and – one where existence, obedience, and the pursuit of compliant virtue are enforced and despised. The former is the American ideal. The latter is the leftist ideal. They are enemies and the one must crush the other…and keep crushing it lest it take hold again.
In the United States of America, our unalienable rights to keep and bear arms, to free speech, free association, free practice of religion, and more are being continually and incrementally crushed by leftist tyranny because the leftist fallacy of magical law, with its allegiance to emotion rather than to morality, is never sufficiently challenged. If our unalienable rights are to endure, we must defend them with vigor and righteousness, and if necessary—as is our right and responsibility—with arms.