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Violence and the illusion of safety

Defending freedom is inherently unsafe, but it's worth fighting for



With the tragic killing in Orlando fresh on our minds, there is again another push to ban and limit firearms. Let’s shelve firearms for a moment and look at what Orlando was about. Can we safely sum it up with “violence and the illusion of safety?” That is what we are really talking about, right? A sick person wanting to commit violence and the profound impact on us when we realize that the world isn’t safe?

On the one hand, we have someone bent on killing people. Race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other motivations aside, he was a psychopath bent on murder.

And then, like other mass murderers before him, he was able to find the perfect venue. He found himself a place with a lot of people who were unarmed. You know, because it was a “Gun-Free Zone.” Or perhaps better said in the words of Jeff Gonzales, a VRZ—“Victim-Rich Zone.”

Of these two points above, what do we have a reasonable chance at impacting? I guess we could legislate some laws and make killing people illegal, thereby ending violence as we know it. But as sad as it is, I think we can agree that people are going to commit violence.

What about the idea of a VRZ? Is it possible to do something about those, which seem to coincide with all the mass killings?

We are so quick to outsource our security to law enforcement. And don’t get me wrong, they do a pretty good job, all things told (I used to be a police officer in San Jose). But how quickly do they usually get there? Is law enforcement proactive or reactive with respect to violence? 

I’ve taken statements from people who have been stabbed. I photographed a young woman’s body after she had been shot in the face. I’ve never made it to a crime scene right before or during the event, though. For some reason, people usually choose to not kill people in front of police officers. Come to think of it, people usually choose not to kill people in front of people that are armed, either. There aren’t a lot of people kicking in the doors of gun clubs to shoot up the place.

So what are possible solutions? Get rid of guns? Will the campaign be as successful as removing drugs from the streets (Mind you, we can’t keep drugs out of our prisons, arguably the most secure facilities ever)? Will the criminals relinquish their guns, or will it just be the law-abiding citizens?

For argument’s sake, let’s say we got rid of guns. Where does that put us? Like Australia and England? Do they have less violence committed with guns? For sure, they do. Do they have no violence committed with guns? Regrettably, they do not; somehow people choose to disobey the laws. But more to the point: Is there less violence in those or other countries with gun restrictions? Or has the method of violence merely changed? 

But, of course, beyond just guns, we have the AR-15, which was not used by the Orlando shooter. We don’t want those rifles to go away, though, do we? Because we need them, we want police officers to have them, right? Why do we want the police to have them, though? I would assume we want them to have those rifles to protect us. It would further stand to reason that they use those particular rifles because they are effective. Not that they are more powerful than other rifles (they are less “powerful” than your standard hunting rifle), but they’re effective in other ways. They are ergonomic, easy to manipulate, easy to train with, compact, light, useful around vehicles and in buildings.

But do the police need them because people are breaking into their homes and places of business, threatening them and their families lives? Or do they need them with the intention of “serving and protecting” the public? You and I. 

So with respect to me and my family: Should I choose to take on the responsibility of protecting my family? Would it be reasonable for me to have the most efficient, ergonomic, compact, light, and easy-to-train-with weapon?

We will never end violence. It is inherent in a small percentage of the population and will always be. Orlando, beyond the tragic loss of human life, peeled back the thin veneer of safety. Freedom in a free society isn’t absolutely safe. But how much of that are we willing to part with to make us feel safe?

I will continue to train with my firearms—to protect myself and loved ones. Not because I like violence, but because I like freedom, freedom that comes with independence and not being constantly beholden to someone else for my safety and security. Freedom is messy and far from safe, but it puts the responsibility on the individual. 

And that poses the last question. How many people want to actually be responsible for anything, let alone their own safety? 

Ivan Loomis was once a police officer in San Jose, but now lives in San Luis Obispo. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter to the editor at letters@newtimesslo.com

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