"Hope" is not a Plan
October 17, 2007
The recent arrest of TI reminded me of something a co-worker said at lunch one day. We were discussing one of the more eh-- "unique" guys that works in our department and he said "I hope he doesn't have a gun". I didn't respond out loud for reasons that will soon be obvious, but my first thought was "Well, I don't care if he has a gun 'cause so do I. Fair fight." It had never occurred to me to be scared of the weirdo, but my unarmed co-worker obviously felt differently so I started to consider his state of mind and his statement: "I hope he doesn't have a gun." You hear statements like this all the time, but the absurdity behind it hadn't hit me until that moment. I remember thinking: Really?! "Hope" is plan A? What's plan B -- "hope he doesn't shoot me"? And I suppose plan C is "hope I don't bleed to death"? Hope isn't a plan at all! What about "shoot him first"?
I suppose I always knew in the back of my mind, but didn't realize it consciously until then, that I don't worry that much about who has a gun and who doesn't because I'm prepared to deal with them either way. Which brings us to TI. I hate that guy. That fuckin' look he always has on his face -- like he accomplished something. You didn't do shit and you're not worth shit, so piss off. OK, not the point. The point is that society spends a lot of time worrying about who has guns and that worrying is what led to his arrest.
Here are a couple of facts from the case that I don't think people are putting together:
- After TI was arrested, they discovered that he already had three guns in his car and six in his house.
- The ATF describes this as a common case. The only difference is that the defendant is famous.
In other words, he isn't supposed to have guns, but he's had them anyway for what? Months? Years? If him having a gun was such a danger to society all that time, then his arrest at this point was obviously not all that helpful. And we can also see that there are many more felons out there just like TI -- already armed.
I'm not saying it wouldn't be awesome to keep dangerous people unarmed, but I can't help thinking that we're dedicating a lot of effort toward that end with very little to show for it. People are going to get guns no matter how many of them you catch outside the gun store. Some douche bag got one of my guns by breaking into our apartment and guess what -- he didn't submit to a background check. (Was it you, TI?) This is where some people are going to say "That's the problem. If people weren't allowed to have guns in their house at all, criminals couldn't steal them." Great idea! TI wasn't allowed to have guns in his house and-- oh, wait.
Sarcasm aside, the more important point is that we don't "keep and bear arms" because of criminals. We have guns to protect us from anyone that would violate our rights. That could mean criminals or it could mean congress (I'll let you, the reader, decide whether or not I should have listed them as two different groups) or it could mean some foreign threat. Not to get too philosophical in the middle of a practical argument, but the right to arm and defend yourself exists independent of any need to actually do so. So disarming everyone in an effort to disarm a few felons isn't an option. The only way to defend against armed attackers is for the good guys to be armed, too. Maybe we should be spending some of that law enforcement money on tactical weapons training for ordinary citizens when they attend public high schools and maybe, if you pass, you even get a gun. (I'm partially kidding, but I wouldn't be surprised if that actually made us safer.)
Spare me the crap about how ordinary citizens shouldn't do such things and protecting us is the police's job. First of all, you can't expect them to protect your rights against all aggressors because one of the biggest aggressors is their boss, congress. Second, saying that it's the cops' job to protect you from a mugger is like saying it's the paramedics' job to keep you from wrecking your car. You know that's not true. Paramedics show up after the fact and try to make the best of a bad situation. The cops will do what they can, including risk their own lives, to protect you if they happen to be in the right place at the right time, but 99% of the time, their job is to show up after the fact and write your story on a little notepad (assuming you're still alive to tell it). The person ultimately responsible for your safety is you.
So, I don't mind doing some things to keep guns out of the hands of violent shit-bags, but don't let "hoping the criminals don't have guns" be plan A. Assume they do have guns and act accordingly.