On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the city of Mumbai, India’s largest city and financial capital, was crippled for three days following a series of ten coordinated terrorist attacks that left at least 173 dead and hundreds more injured. A previously unknown group called the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The Mumbai terror attacks, which dramatically interrupted the month-long media festivities following the election of Barack Obama and the daily flurry of reports of appointments, pronouncements and other news from the Office of the President-Elect™, took the flummoxed mainstream media completely by surprise. After all, isn’t it an article of faith for the faithless that the so-called terrorist threat is a fiction concocted by Bush-Cheney in order to shred the Constitution and start an illegal war, while further enriching their Big Oil/Halliburton cronies? Following the trial lawyerly tradition of pleading in the alternative, there is no terrorist threat, and if there is, didn’t the Deccan Mujahideen sports get the memo that terrorism is passé now with Barack Obama in charge of the Office of the President-Elect™?
But I digress.
While the carnage in Mumbai might have served as a teachable moment to reconsider the media and political elites’ unswerving faith in their unexamined meta-narrative denial of the continuing existential terrorist threat, the Mumbai attacks were swiftly pushed off the front page by breaking news on Friday that star New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg at a midtown Manhattan nightclub.
Plaxico’s accident sparked quite an uproar in the local NY sports pages. Even as few uncorroborated details trickled in, players, pundits and fans alike speculated about the legal, financial and career ramifications of this latest controversy involving Burress. With neo-Prohibitionist fervor that would make Cotton Mather blush, local politicians couldn’t resist joining in the opportunity to lecture us about the dangers of mixing unlicensed handguns, professional athletes and nightclubs.
To their credit, beyond expressing relief that Plaxico’s injuries were not serious or life-threatening, the New York Giants organization offered no comment, preferring to adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude until all the facts were in before chiming in on the incident. By contrast, according to this NY Daily News piece , New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg vociferously called for prosecutors to throw the book at Burress and lambasted both the Giants’ organization and the hospital where Burress was treated for his injuries for not reporting the incident to the police.
New York law requires a minimum 3 1/2 years in prison for a conviction of second degree criminal possession of a weapon. While other jurisdictions tack on penalties for using a weapon in connection with the commission of a crime, the New York criminal possession law makes it illegal simply to own or carry an unlicensed handgun, even if kept unloaded in a locked briefcase or carried concealed for legitimate self-defense purposes. There’s the rub. Under the New York law, carrying an unlicensed weapon for self-defense purposes is never legitimate.
That the prohibition is directed against the possession of an unlicensed weapon only makes it seem reasonable. The catch-22 of the New York law is that it is virtually impossible for anyone in New York City who doesn’t work in law enforcement to obtain a license for a handgun. I don’t know if Plaxico tried to register his Glock in New York or if the weapon was registered elsewhere, but I do know that his application to register his handgun in New York City would have been denied.
Which brings me to a tiny problem with the New York weapon possession statute.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution plainly states:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states:
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
It seems to me perfectly obvious that New York’s criminal weapon possession statute directly conflicts with and explicitly violates Plaxico Burress’ constitutional right to keep and bear Arms under the Second Amendment. If the New York law doesn’t violate the Second Amendment, then I can’t imagine any restriction whatsover which would violate the Constitution.
[Sidebar: If you believe that the Second Amendment was not intended to safeguard an individual’s right to own and carry firearms, then either reading comprehension is not your friend or you are an Ivy League Constitutional Law professor of a modernist jurisprudential bent who deems constitutional interpretation a matter of ignoring the plain meaning of the actual text altogether in favor of a malleable “Living Document”™ whose meaning is to be found (i.e., invented) within its penumbras and emanations.
As I am not one of said constitutional law professors, it strikes me as equally obvious that, pursuant to the Supremacy clause found in Article VI, Burress’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms trumps New York State’s unconstitutional criminal weapon possession law to the contrary, and that any judicial officer who still respects his/her oath to support the Constitution, must hold likewise.
So what do Plaxico’s problems have to do with the Mumbai terrorist attacks?
For starters, it is curious that the same pundits and politicians who condescendingly presume to lecture the rest of us on what should be done about Plaxico Burress were remarkably reticent about what should be done about the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks. While there was much initial speculation about the identities and background of the Deccan Mujahideen attackers and none-too-subtle hints of sinister links to Pakistan’s ISI security forces, the media showed little interest in an al Qaeda connection, and zero interest in the global totalitarian ideology animating this and other local jihadist groups.
In contrast to his outburst over an accidental discharge of a weapon, Mayor Bloomberg’s response to the Mumbai attacks was lukewarm. He noted the similarity between Mumbai and the 9/11 attacks, offered condolences to the victims’ families, and announced that he had met with police commissioner Raymond Kelly on heightened security for the holidays. But the anger and outrage reserved for Plaxico Burress or Bloomberg’s critics re: his decision to ignore term limits and run for a third mayoral term was conspicuous only by its absence.
Second, the cognitive disconnect between the relative significance of these two incidents and the responses they generated suggests a deeper problem than the usual misplaced priorities. The Plaxico story is utterly, utterly insignificant in the greater scheme of things, yet it generated extensive commentary. The Mumbia attacks, while horrific and diabolical in their own right, are part of a much larger story of far greater significance, not just for India, but for us. Viewed in this larger context, Mumbai represents an ominous marker in the continuing global existential struggle between the forces of Western Civilization and the enemies of freedom and democracy, whose outcome remains very much in doubt. Yet we act like the hobbits of Bag End gossiping about the Sackville-Bagginses’ latest machinations even as the Dark Lord’s armies are encircling Gondor and the Nine Riders have been loosed to find the One Ring.
Third, on a growing number of topics, the transparent bias of our Matrix Media is becoming increasingly self-evident. On the subject of guns, gross media manipulation and deliberate distortion are now the norm. With few exceptions, our haughty herd of independent minds blindly follows a seemingly anti-Darwinian imperative of giving maximum sensationalist coverage to crimes and accidents involving handguns, while steadfastly ignoring myriad instances of law-abiding citizens using handguns to prevent violent crimes and protect lives and property. Indeed, as John Lott notes in his definitive study More Guns, Less Crime, many such incidents go unreported as the mere display of a weapon is often sufficient to deter a would-be assailant. Yet whether by sloth or design, when the journalist’s traditional bệte noires, superficiality and hastiness, are coupled with story selection shenanigans and garden variety modern journalistic bias, the result is the creation of a Bizarro media reality where lies become truths and Big Lies becomes gospels.
Plaxico’s accident and media-generated hysteria notwithstanding, the dangers to the general public from having guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are greatly exaggerated, while the obvious benefits that law-abiding citizens enjoy simply from living in proximity to responsible gun owners are similarly downplayed.
I spent the first 28 years of my life in New York City, then spent a year in Birmingham Alabama. The difference in crime rates and security concerns was astounding. As any native New Yorker prior to Giuliani can attest, you just knew there were certain areas you were well advised to avoid, like Central Park after dark, for example or riding the NYC Subway through certain neighborhoods or late at night. You learned to be especially careful and expert at “profiling” people and sizing up potentially dangerous situations (while artfully avoiding even the appearance of committing the unpardonable politically correct sin of profiling). You just knew that you could still be a victim of a robbery or murder at any time.
When I arrived in Birmingham, the first thing I noticed was how friendly and relaxed people seemed compared to New York. At first, their behavior made me suspicious. When people seemed “too friendly” in New York, it usually meant you were dealing with a tourist, a con-artist or a mugger trying to bring down your guard.
New Yorkers would not even leave radios inside their locked cars because when you got back the radio would be gone and window broken. You counted your blessings if the radio wasn’t terribly expensive and because the thief broke a side window instead of the windshield. In Birmingham, no one bothered to lock their cars. Many people didn’t even lock their doors at night. It made no sense to me at all. What was wrong with these people, I wondered.
After a while, I realized that the biggest difference between Birmingham and New York was that Birmingham did not have the restrictive gun control laws we took for granted in New York. In fact, you could buy a rifle, or even a handgun, in the sporting goods section of a department store.
Just 10 days after I moved to Birmingham, my father died and I took a quick flight back to New York to make the funeral arrangements. On the cab ride home from the airport, just a few blocks from my apartment, I witnessed a violent altercation between two inner city youths. The instigator flailed at the other youth repeatedly with a metal post attached to a bicycle seat while his victim ineffectually tried to protect himself, trying to explain that he hadn’t stolen anything from his assailant.
Watching this violent assault taking place outside my cab, it suddenly dawned on me how much I had changed after less than two weeks away from New York. The incident took me completely by surprise, as I had not been paying attention to my surroundings, which was the thing that surprised me. I had turned off the complex battery of self-defense mechanisms that normally operate on autopilot when living in New York.
At that moment, I had an epiphany. Long before John Lott provided the irrefutable statistical evidence, in a flash of intuition I saw there was a inverse correlation between gun ownership and violent crime. Even though I didn’t own a gun, living in proximity to other law-abiding gun owners, I was the vicarious beneficiary of the protection they provided to the community. By contrast in New York City, it was the criminals who enjoyed the unintended benefits of restrictive gun control laws. Unless you were unlucky enough to choose a plain-clothes cop for a victim, from the point-of-view of the predator, the unarmed law-abiding population of New York were just easy prey. This truth was so painfully obvious and so simple that I was amazed I’d missed it all those years living in New York.
My one-year stint in Alabama ended, and I moved back to New York City the following year. I tried to share what I’d discovered with friends and family who never lived outside New York. It was like trying to explain colors to a blind person or water to a fish. They didn’t try to refute what I was saying; they simply dismissed what I said and pitied me for being such a Philistine to actually think that a place like Birmingham, Alabama, where people actually spend their Sundays attending church services instead of brunch at Elaine’s or reading the Sunday New York Times, could actually have discovered something of value that their culturally-enlightened betters had overlooked.
So what’s the connection between these eccentric reveries, Plaxico’s troubles and the Mumbai attackers?
There’s this: if a disarmed populace are easy prey for ordinary criminals — who as Batman reminds us are a cowardly and superstitious lot — what chance do they have against an implacable and ruthless enemy determined to destroy us for reasons wholly unfathomable and mystifying to their intended targets? An adversary capable of hiding and plotting and conspiring in plain view. An enemy utterly possessed by an unimaginable existential hatred, an unquenchable desire to inflict as much suffering as inhumanly possible, and a fanatical certainty that eternal Paradise awaits those who commit barbaric and unspeakable atrocities against us, the Infidels.
Mayor Bloomberg argues that punishing Plaxico to the fullest extent under the law will “send a message.” As it is de facto impossible for anyone who isn’t a law enforcement officer to obtain a valid permit to lawfully own and carry a handgun in New York City, the message Plaxico’s prosecution will send to New Yorkers is disarm or go to jail. And that’s good news for criminals, and especially good news for jihadists who’d gladly die for the chance to kill infidels. A criminal conviction of a popular public figure under New York’s gun control laws isn’t going to deter them — after all, for most of us jail is an unpleasant place we want to avoid at all costs; for jihadists, it’s a fantastic opportunity to network and attract new recruits, and let’s face it, like multi-level marketing franchise opportunities, global jihad is a full-time recruiting venture — but it will deter the rest of us from a time-tested method of protecting ourselves from them.
Remember the story shortly after 9/11 about the disgruntled cab driver who tried to go on a shooting spree at the El Al counter in LAX airport and was quickly gunned down by an armed security officer. The media couldn’t figure out what motivated this character to go on a shooting rampage. By sheer coincidence, the shooter just happened to be a Muslim, had been witnessed cheering the 9/11 attacks, and frequently harangued neighbors and area residents with Koran-thumping anti-Semitic rants. The media concluded that the shooting was likely prompted by a dispute over a cab fare.
I suppose it was also coincidental that the shooter just happened to pick the Israeli El Al terminal as his target. Well, in a sense it was coincidental. The shooter picked the one airline out of 50 that had an armed security guard in the lobby. Oops.
And this: A city that seeks to promote “civilized” society through increasingly restrictive and Draconian gun laws invariably ends up criminalizing legitimate self-defense. As every good prosecutors understands, excessive prosecutorial zeal and overreaching can turn a certain conviction into an acquittal. Jurors are human beings after all, and human beings are hard-wired to appreciate justice, fairness and due process. Excessive and mandatory prison sentences for statutory “crimes” involving behavior that is perfectly legal and normal in most other jurisdictions fall under the category of laws that at minimum invite responses ranging from scrutiny to civil disobedience.
Perversely, New York’s strict criminal weapons possession law actually creates more crime than it ostensibly prevents. That Burress’ teammates, organization and attending physicians, acting independently, and at varying degrees of personal risk, opted either not to report or took affirmative steps to hide evidence of Burress’ involvement suggests to me that a significant percentage of otherwise law-abiding persons can be caught up in the criminal justice system from a simple desire to mitigate the unintended consequences of bad laws. Much like the enlightened French once prohibited the rich and poor alike from begging in the streets, so too New York’s laws prohibit both criminals and law-abiding citizens from carrying weapons in self-defense.
What the New York law actually accomplishes — when it isn’t honored in the breach as in Plaxico’s case — is to function as an ad terrorem device to dissuade law-abiding citizens from an effective means to deter criminals and reduce violent crime. The evidence is readily available to anyone willing to take the trouble to compare crime rates and violent crime rates in counties with gun control laws vis-à-vis counties without such laws.
Under normal circumstances, New York’s gun control laws are simply a bad idea. In an age of deranged Islamist extremists who think globally and acting locally, it is an invitation to disaster.
Confronted with an enemy that has repeatedly demonstrated they can literally strike anytime and anywhere, a modern democratic society has three choices. It can create a Leviathan police state security apparatus of a type and scope normally associated with totalitarian regimes, which are inimical to democracy and freedom. It can ignore, minimize, or simply hope that the threat goes away on its own, effectively abdicating its primary responsibility of providing for the common defense. Or it can engage the enemy wherever they can be found, do whatever it can to protect and defend the homeland, and encourage its citizens to take reasonable steps to look after themselves when the government can’t help.
Consider this: if a series of coordinated terrorist attacks similar to what happened last week in Mumbai took place here in the U.S., where would you rather face the jihadists? In the financial district in Manhattan or downtown Dallas or Houston, Texas?
Would you rather meet the local version of the Deccan Mujahideen in a gun-free school zone among liberal educators at New York City’s prestigious Dalton school or at a bar/nightclub in Dallas that plays country-western and hip hop, and where the Dallas Cowboys and Harley Davidson enthusiasts hang out and almost everybody’s packin’ heat? To ask the question is to answer it. I’m a lifelong Giants fan, but I’d gladly count Romo, T.O. and the Harley guys as my homies on this one.