Well, as usual I'm late to the party. While the news was breaking about the mass shooting in Arizona, I was touring the Sig Academy with a dozen close gunnie friends. The Northeast Blogger Winter Social (AAR tomorrow morning, I promise!) immediately followed the tour, and then yesterday was spent with family rather than behind the keyboard. It seems as though some whack-a-mole started shooting at his congresswoman, killing six people and wounding Congresswoman Giffords severely.
Naturally, at this point the navel gazing has begun in earnest. Some folks call for more gun control, as though some deranged psychopath hell-bent on killing a political figure that he's had a grudge against since his teens is going to be deterred by yet another gun law. Even more chilling is the bill proposed by PA Representative Robert Brady that would "make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress."
Three words spring immediately to mind: Rope. Lamppost. Politician (some assembly required).
You do not get special protection because you're a politician. You made the conscious decision to run for an office that will put you in the spotlight. You know full well that politicians are in the limelight; odds are that's one of the many things that attracted you to the job in the first place. You already get special considerations and protections that are far above and beyond what the average person gets - the FBI has already taken over the investigation into this shooting, for example.
Freedom is messy. It involves risks. It's a tradeoff of security - more specifically, the illusion of security - for liberty. Police states are secure, at least more secure than countries ostensibly labeled as free - yet even in China there are still mass murders. Even in areas with strict gun control, draconian punishments, and government agents armed with machine guns on every street corner people snap and kill their fellow man.
There is no way to prevent something like this from happening.
That's hard to come to grips with, isn't it? Surely there must be something we can do, some law we can pass, something we can ban or modify or require a permit to own/say/carry/do? The hard answer to that is no, no there isn't anything we can do, certainly nothing that we as a free people would tolerate. The ending of I, Robot comes to mind - where humanity is "protected" by being locked in their homes, kept away from each other and all potential for harm.
There's security in being locked away, alone, in a cage.
There's a line in "Stranger in a Strange Land" that sums it up: "There is no safety this side of the grave." - the only way to truly be safe is to stop living entirely. Life is risk. Freedom is risk. Everything is a risk - life is, as the joke goes, a sexually transmitted, terminal condition. We tacitly approve of the risks of living in a (marginally) free society because the alternative isn't any better - folks with armed soldiers patrolling their streets are hardly any safer than we are; in most cases they're a lot less safe. Restricting the rights of honest, law-abiding Americans - whether it be their right to own or carry a firearm or to speak their minds about the local representative - isn't going to stop the next deranged lunatic.
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
That is all.