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Have The Terrorist Won?

January 14, 2011

Glad to be back after my long hiatus from the blog. I swear I was just away for vacation (unlike when anyone disappears from ESPN for a month and then you find out it was because of a sexual harassment allegation). This break was voluntary, but I’m ready to get back to my occasional post.

So, you’re probably wondering what prompted me to post the title of this article. The reason is this story

For those of you who don’t like to click on links, basically it’s about Republican Chairman of Arizona’s 20th Legislative District Anthony Miller. He is a Black Republican who was closer to the John McCain side of the party than the Tea Party side. Miller has been receiving threats from Tea Partiers. So, in the wake of the Tucson shooting, Miller stated that although he “loves” the Republican party, “I don’t want to take a bullet for anyone.”

Tea Partiers are angry for the implication that they would ever kill anyone, but it’s hard to argue to Miller that he wasn’t in any danger. Still, this story makes me more upset than most politics news (most of which makes me upset to some degree). When elected officials on any level fear that they can’t serve because to do so would risk their life, the crazy people with guns have won.*

The idea that an American would have to resign for safety is disturbing, and needs to be dealt with. My solution (and I know Neoconservatarian disagrees 100%) would be to have stricter gun control. I’ve heard all the arguments against but still, the more we outlaw these needless and dangerous weapons the better strength we give law enforcement officials to prevent murders like the ones in Tucson before they occur. Whatever the solution, we need to get on it, because in America, no one should ever have to resign because of threats on his or her life of family. When that happens, the terrorists have won.

Glad to be back, hope everyone had happy holidays 🙂

*I do not mean that people with guns are crazy. I am specifically talking about people for which both things are true, the insane and armed.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Aptronym permalink
    January 22, 2011 4:06 am

    So…the only people with guns will be the people in power and criminals?

  2. Aptronym permalink
    January 24, 2011 5:56 pm

    No, let me take that back. I’m getting ahead of myself. The issue here is not gun control, and it never will be as long as your argument takes the form outlined in this post. The problems begin with your very premise and pervade your argument right up until its faulty conclusion. To address your conclusion directly would be to validate every step used to get there, and that is something I cannot do in good conscience.

    You begin your argument by conflating two separate incidents: the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 bystanders in Tucson, Arizona on January 8, 2011, and the resignation of Anthony Miller later that day due to threats against his person. The article you linked to shows no evidence that the man responsible for the shooting was in any way related to the threats against Miller, and nothing in the investigation to date has determined a specific reason for the gunman’s actions. (See the Wikipedia article on the incident for further details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Tucson_shooting.) The link between the two is solely in the mind of Anthony Miller. The shooting would have happened without the threats, and the threats would have happened without the shooting. The only effect of the shooting in Miller’s case was to cause him to take the threats against him seriously out of fear that the political climate was capable of producing true violence against politicians.

    This last point is much harder to prove than it looks. As stated, no concrete motivation has been discerned for the gunman in the shooting, and even if his motivations could somehow be linked to the Tea Party movement or the political climate as a whole, the very nature of his actions places them solely at his feet, rather than at the feet of any political movement or ideology. No aspect of today’s political climate has made a killer out of an otherwise moral citizen, or, I can assure you, the body count for such killings would be much, much higher. The only killers running around are men like Jared Lee Loughner, who already have ample fuel for their madness regardless of political clime. To tie these men to a given political movement or atmosphere is an illogical leap, akin to blaming a newspaper for being kindling for an arsonist. However much Miller was scared into resignation by the shooting, his actions are no more supported from a rational perspective than they would be if the threats against him were taken in isolation.

    Thus the two incidents cannot be linked by fact or cause beyond Miller’s own appraisal of his safety. The only possible means to lump the two together in your condemnation is categorical, by somehow equating the threat of violence with violence itself. This approach is just as flawed as the others for the simple reason that speech is not action. Make no mistake: any threat, whether written or verbal, should be treated as if it were a promise and responded to in kind. Such threats should and do have legal repercussions, and those who resort to issuing them deserve a level of moral condemnation second only to those who resort to actual violence. But no matter how serious threats become, a threat of violence may never materialize, while enacted violence already has. The difference isn’t hard to see: fourteen people injured and six lives lost.

    So even the categorical association between the two incidents cannot be made without placing threats via email at the same level of severity as a premeditated shooting. Therefore the claim that “the crazy people with guns have won” due to the resignation of Anthony Miller is a gross conflation of two wholly different incidents. If you are referring to the people who threatened Anthony Miller, you have failed to make a logical or convincing case that they should be placed in the same category as crazy person with a gun Jared Lee Loughner and have failed to provide any evidence that they deserve this categorization without such a comparison. If you are referring to Jared Lee Loughner himself, you are basing your entire argument on the belief of one man, Anthony Miller, that he is in some way in more danger from the threats against him because the shooting occurred than he would be if it hadn’t. This perspective cannot be backed by logic, and so there are no crazy people with guns who have won because of Miller’s resignation. Again, you are conflating two separate incidents and your argument suffers because of it.

    The point you could have made successfully was that those who threatened Miller into quitting should be condemned. I would agree with you wholeheartedly on this point: threats are to be taken seriously, and any action that can be taken against the perpetrators should be. The argument is not without its flaws, though. The article you linked leaves out a number of crucial details, as has Miller. I did not see an excerpt from any of the emailed threats, nor any hint to the specific nature of their content, nor any verification that they exist or come from Tea Party members. While I understand the potential risk in doing so, especially depending on the nature of the threats, it would clear up a lot of doubts and be in the public’s best interests if he released some of this information. Furthermore, the article does not state what action beyond resignation Miller is taking regarding the threats (such as purchasing a handgun or accepting a security detail from the police). This could simply be shoddy journalism, but if he is taking no further precautions, he either is a fool or does not truly feel threatened by the emails, the latter possibility offering some support to the theory that he is resigning for other reasons. Still, given threats made against him, his decision to resign was a reasonable one, even if it was triggered as an emotional response to an unrelated incident rather than a logical reaction to the threats. The central premise of the argument is sound, and your point would have been a valuable one to keep in mind as political debate heats up.

    This is not the argument you chose. This argument in no way ties into the shooting and therefore in no way implies gun control. It was useless to you for drawing the conclusion you wanted, so you discarded it. The argument you chose is based on the assumption that two unrelated incidents are connected to allow you to link guns to political intimidation. The argument you chose is invalid. And not only did you miss a perfectly valid argument against political intimidation, you missed a strong one in favor of gun control as well. The Tucson incident itself provides plenty of fodder for the usual anti-gun arguments, though I’ll point out from the beginning that nothing short of a police state or the complete removal of all guns from both legal and illegal markets (which very well might be impossible) could have prevented the shooting. There’s an argument to be made that the gunman might not have been able to kill as many people had his magazine not been so large. The shooting also occurred fast enough (over the course of about 15 seconds) that one could make the case that the presence of other guns on the scene could not have stopped the shooting any faster than the unarmed civilians who brought him down. Ultimately, I believe that all of these points are answerable, but addressing them would require deep thought on the posited benefits of gun control, leading to intellectual growth on both sides of the debate. Instead, I only had to address the issue when hypothesizing what your argument could have been. The rest of your argument failed so completely that, as stated, it was not an argument for gun control. The logic did not even survive until that point.

    This brings me to the part of this post that I find truly appalling, more so than any false assumption or butchery of logic. You think that the greatest crime here is not the shooting of 19 innocent people, the violent loss of six lives at the hands of one deranged man. No, the part that makes you “more upset than most politics news” is that a local politician resigned due to unspecified threats from a separate group altogether. There is no outrage for the killings beyond the fact that guns were involved. The only crime in your eyes is that a man renounced a political position out of fear for his life. Had you chosen to analyze the two events separately, this would not be an issue: both incidents are disturbing and merit true concern. The downright appalling part, though, is that you combined the two events and the resignation came out on top. It matters more to you that a politician lost his job than that six people were killed. This is the part I find unconscionable. This is the reasoning that bends your outrage into a parody of anything that’s decent, and this is the perspective that blinds you from drawing any of the reasonable conclusions that were there for you to draw. Your rampant, psychological desire for gun control has prevented you from even making an argument for it. What’s worse, it has caused you to discard the lives of six individuals in the name of your own bias. Think twice next time, and make sure that you have your priorities straight.

  3. David permalink
    August 7, 2012 1:14 am

    There is no place for threats of physical violence in a civil society to go unheeded or unacknowledged. There are already laws on the books for such things.

    Criminals, however, are in the “business” of ignoring such legislative pronouncements as a matter of course.

    As Jeff Cooper once opined, “There is evil out there. Be glad that there is a way to stop it.”

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