Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Strange juxtaposition

with 8 comments

I believe a truth generally recognized is that the US precautions regarding flying—the strip search, the pat downs, the random luggage wreckage, the shoe/belt/coat/hat/coins/keys/whatever removal, and so on, far in excess of common sense and the practices of other countries (most of whom have experienced much more terrorist activity than the US)—are close to paranoid and also almost entirely “security theater”: ineffective stunts done publicly to make us feel better and to postpone actually dealing with the problem.

But we also frequently read reports (such as this morning’s) of someone going berserk and shooting a bunch of people. This sort of occurrence is increasingly common—once a month? more frequently?

And yet: people grow hysterical about any small effort to control the availability of firearms. The slightest effort to make firearms less readily accessible—particularly to those we least want to get them—are shot down (as it were) by the National Rifle Association and their paid Congressional hirelings.

Does anyone else find this juxtaposition odd? Timorous about flying, but willing to be shot to death in malls and schools. Strangely fearful on the one hand, fatalistically accepting frequent stupid deaths on the other. Going to any lengths—regardless of privacy, humiliation, intrusive searches—when around airplanes, but rejecting any hint of control of firearms.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.


UPDATE: Another example of the schizophrenic approach, provided by James Fallows. This one again is on the timorous, fearful side. The article at the link is about the panic terror induced by observing a guy taking a photograph of a tree, with an armed emergency response to this threat to our safety.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2012 at 9:42 am

Posted in Daily life

8 Responses

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  1. Simple explanation. Your first example involves brown-skinned people who speak foreign languages and don’t believe in Jesus. The second example involves white, American, Christian men. The end.

    Well, almost the end. There is of course the little matter of the second amendment to the constitution explicitly protecting our right to bear arms. One could make the case that the fourth amendment gives us the right not to get felt up at the airport, but that’s a slightly more esoteric argument.



    27 February 2012 at 12:35 pm

  2. Constitutional arguments seem to matter much less these days: As you say, Amendment 4 is out the door (good chant, that) by the seizure and searches of private computers at borders, plus of course the warrantless wiretapping and surveillance, not to mention the torture and murder of prisoners, plus the extra-Constitutional right of the President to order, on his own authority and no due process, the death of American citizens, and the indefinite imprisonment of mere suspects, and the increasingly aggressive steps to prevent the exercise of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances (Amendment 1) and laws directed against people and organization simply because of their religion (Amendment 4), as in the various laws passed to prevent mosques in various states. I don’t think a 2nd Amendment argument bears much weight, if any. If we can completely abrogate other amendments in the Bill of Rights based on fears over our security, I would think the 2nd Amendment is ripe for abrogating—how many more crazed killings must occur before we take a hard look at exactly what this Amendment is actually delivering. Why should it be privileged above the 1st and 4th Amendment?



    27 February 2012 at 2:02 pm

  3. Again, all those things you’re mentioning…they’re all in the service of protecting ourselves from Those Other People.

    As far as gun control, I’m largely uninterested in it. I’m all for background checks and restrictions on how many rounds your magazine can hold. But unless you’re willing to do a wholesale ban such as in the UK or Japan, I don’t see where it helps to do more than that. I might be willing to go along with such a ban, but I don’t see where anything like a majority of Americans is going to agree with it anytime soon.



    27 February 2012 at 2:11 pm

  4. I think both (all three) topics can be looked at similarly. Just as 99.99% (or greater) of people flying in commercial aircraft mean no one else any harm, and 99.99% of photographers are not staking out their next target, 99.99%* of the firearms in America are never used to kill someone or commit a crime.
    Freaking out about a law-abiding citizen carrying a holstered gun into Starbucks is akin to losing it over the brown-skinned guy in seat 17D. In both cases the overwhelming probability is that nothing is going to happen.

    [*over 250 million firearms vs. about 11,000 firearms murders]



    27 February 2012 at 2:11 pm

  5. But how do we get the TSA and security-terror to back down? In other words, how do we instill in our citizenry the same support for the 1st and 4th amendments that they so overwhelmingly show over the 2nd amendment? Why does that one amendment get such special treatment? It’s as if people get hysterical over any threat to the 2nd amendment and get hysterical if we *don’t* undermine the 1st and 4th. I’m not so sure that Scott’s race-based argument is all there is to it—in fact, I strongly believe that there’s much more to it than that.



    27 February 2012 at 2:21 pm

  6. If you have a better explanation, lay it on us. Me, I’m currently working on a Grand Unifying Theory of American politics with this principle at its core.



    27 February 2012 at 2:28 pm

  7. The defense of guns makes perfect sense psychologically. The more threatened you feel by both potential terrorists and even more so by the government’s efforts to ensure security by infringing on civil rights, the greater the sense that the gun is the only and final protection of personal and collective freedom. The right to bear arms, I believe, has its origins in precisely that protection of freedom. The gun is the final line of defense against totalitarianism. Look at Syria…’nuff said.



    28 February 2012 at 1:47 am

  8. No, see that doesn’t work. It isn’t at all fear of the government’s tendency to infringe on civil rights. If that were the case, we’re left with the puzzle of indefinite detentions, strip searches, warrantless wiretapping, etc.–which people don’t seem to care a lot about.

    I’m telling you guys it’s all about fear of The Other. Policies and positions which square up nicely with it, we like. Those that don’t, we don’t.



    28 February 2012 at 5:59 am

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