A national tragedy occurs, innocent Americans killed. As a people we are shocked, upset, angry, hurting. We barely have all the facts, but what we do know is that a horrifying crime was committed, an attack on innocent people that wounded us all. Something must be done!
Amid the maelstrom of words and emotions, an enemy emerges. A narrative is built against that enemy. despite the lack of evidence that they were responsible for the attack. They have weapons that can be used in a similar attack. They must be disarmed. They must submit to restrictions, sanctions, weapons inspections. We demand it, because we're convinced that doing so might prevent another tragedy whether there's any evidence of that or not. Because we have to do something. The wound is too deep and raw to accept any inability to act, even if against a scapegoat.
The enemy protests it's innocence and repeats that it had nothing to do with the horrifying attack. It's sympathetic, but it refuses to take blame for something it insists it had nothing to do with. It asserts it's right to possess weapons for self-defense and refuses to cooperate with what it feels are unreasonable demands. It's prepared to accept certain reasonable limits on type and number of weapons, and restrictions on who may possess them. It's certainly amenable to disarming criminals who would attack innocents. It in no way supports these rogue actors and does not support arming them. However, they refuse to accept collective punishment for the crimes of an isolated few. And they rightfully fear that the reasonable restrictions proposed are merely a pretext for disarming them entirely and leaving them utterly defenseless. They worry that the enforcement regime will cause them harm, and will be an unbearable assault on their rights and freedoms. They don't trust that it will stop at merely reasonable restrictions, and that the more they surrender now the less they'll be able to resist later.
But we will not accept those excuses! They must be disarmed! If they will not cooperate willingly, we'll bring the full weight of law to bear against them. And if that does not work, we'll enforce the law, oh yes we will. We will go to war to take their weapons that we have declared unlawful and we will capture and kill all who resist.
Sound familiar? It should. But it's not 9/11/01. It's 12/14/12.
This time, the target isn't Iraq and "weapons of mass destruction", it's fellow Americans and "weapons of mass murder". But the call for pre-emptive, nay, preventative war is the same. Will we let loose the dogs of war again in our pain and anger? Will we once again accept the casualties of a War on Guns (here we go again with that whole war on a concept thing) as mere collateral damage? Will we accept the demonizing of the "enemy" as a justification of stripping them of their rights, their freedom, even their lives? Will we destroy and confiscate their property, capture and imprison them if they fail to surrender and kill them if they resist?
Don't tell me it can't happen here. Ask anyone on the wrong end of the War on Drugs how it works. Ask any of the millions of prisoners of war in that ongoing fiasco, look at the lives it's destroyed and the property and livelihoods wiped out, take a look at the long list of those who have died under the gunfire of law enforcement. Look at the families and careers and communities shattered in that war.
And get ready to see it all over again if this War on Guns gets off the ground. And like the War on Drugs, and Prohibition before it, expect to see the demand for the new contraband not diminish, the supply go underground but remain readily available, and the new black marketeers enriched and criminal empires built from the spoils. Expect innocents to die in the crossfire. Expect the collateral damage in the War to be far in excess of the harm it's trying to prevent. Because that's what happens in a war of prohibition. Every. Single. Time. We've done this enough to know how it works, and how it ends. We understand the expensive and destructive quagmire and how difficult it is to withdraw once engaged.
And yet, so many of us are prepared to do it all over again, in the name of the victims of the attack that hurt us so. Like wounded animals we're ready to lash out at anything nearby in our rage and pain.
Just like we were in the wake of 9/11. Ask the Iraqis and Afghans how well that worked out. Ask the dead soldiers, and the collateral casualties on the ground. Ask the victims of the economic destruction the war has wrought. And look at the smiles on the faces of the war profiteers as they count their ill-gotten gold.
Then ask yourselves if you really want to do this again.