Living in a free society makes a risk-free world impossible, yet national tragedies like 9/11 and the recent Tucson shooting often frighten Americans to such a degree that they call on the government to go to almost any lengths necessary to keep us safe.
After 9/11, the federal government created a vast national security state, the likes of which we'd never seen in American history. Today, the Department of Homeland Security employs nearly a quarter million federal workers and is the largest government bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Post-9/11 so-called security measures were hastily enacted by Congress, and new powers were assumed by the president that gave the federal government unprecedented power to keep tabs on its citizens. Still, this monstrous federal bureaucracy was not able to prevent a man from boarding an airplane and attempting to detonate an "underwear bomb" on Dec. 25, 2009. Private citizens, not Uncle Sam, stopped this would-be terrorist.
Still, how did the government react to the so-called Christmas Day bomber? It increased its own authority to harass and intimidate innocent airport travelers via the TSA. The public backlash was widespread, but Americans shouldn't have been surprised. The government's answer to any crisis is always more government.
When Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a political event for Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last week, it's hard to imagine what kind of government initiative could have stopped this terrorist act. What kind of heavy-handed police state would we have to live under in order to prevent the mere possibility of such an unpredictable shooting? Would we need surveillance cameras on every street corner? Would we need to give the police the same pat-down powers we already give the TSA? Would we need to federalize all law enforcement? It's hard to imagine Americans standing for any of these measures.
Yet in the wake of the Tucson shooting, many politicians and pundits, particularly from the Left, immediately began calling for more gun control, harshly criticizing Arizona's carry-and-conceal laws by which citizens are allowed to carry firearms in public. Yet if Tucson residents were burdened with stricter gun laws similar to gun-free and crime-ridden cities like Washington, D.C., chances are Loughner would have been able to kill or injure even more people.
Consider the case of 24-year old Joe Zamudio, one of the men who subdued Loughner. Zamudio legally carries a concealed weapon, and on the day of the shooting, the fact that he was armed gave him the confidence to rush Loughner and help bring him to the ground. Or as Zamudio told MSNBC's Ed Schultz, "I was ready to end [Loughner's] life." The very liberal Schultz, who began the interview by praising this man's heroics, seemed taken aback by the overtly pro-gun rhetoric. Schultz then asked Zamudio again if he was truly prepared to shoot Loughner. Zamudio replied, "Damn right."
In any other context, Zamudio's forthright language would be used by liberals arguing the need to increase gun control. They would probably say that an American population filled with "hotheads" like Zamudio cries out for such regulation. Yet it was Zamudio's fearlessness — aided by a handgun — that potentially saved countless lives.
Zamudio's example is better than instructive. It is integral to understanding that perhaps the only way to avoid future Loughners is to allow more citizens to carry firearms. We shouldn't be condemning America's gun culture. We should be encouraging it.
After 9/11, Congressman Ron Paul opposed the federalization of airport security, the creation of the DHS, and increased police state measures, but he proposed legislation that would allow airline pilots to begin carrying firearms in cockpits. It's much harder for terrorists to commandeer an airplane when pilots can fight back, Paul reasoned. Most pilots agreed. There was no need to take away the freedoms of passengers. The odds that a 9/11 hijacking could occur would be significantly decreased by simply allowing pilots this one new freedom.
Likewise, it will be much harder for future domestic terrorists of Loughner's sort to open fire on the general public when that public has the means to fight back. Liberal fears that a more well-armed populace will produce more gun violence have proven to be completely unfounded over the years, and in most carry-and-conceal states, violent crime has either remained the same or decreased slightly.
After 9/11, our federal government exploded in size, all in the name of keeping us safe. But by its very nature, massive bureaucracy is inefficient and structurally unequipped to stop the rare individual who might commit a terrorist act. On the contrary, it has often been an alert citizenry that has been a more reliable safeguard against terrorism, foreign or domestic. This will remain true for the foreseeable future.
American freedom dictates that we will never have a risk-free society. But taking away our 2nd Amendment freedoms could certainly put us all at more risk.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.