Aggrieved former LAPD cop Chris Dorner is on the run. He’s killed three and released a long, angry, narcissistic, but otherwise coherent manifesto. He sounds like an entitled, over-promoted guy who fell back on the old saw of racism when things didn’t go his way. His Navy career didn’t work out, he was a mediocre cop, and when his training officer was ready to call him out, he decided to lie about her. After stewing for a few years, he finally decided to throw in the towel and get even in a blaze of glory.
He also was a liberal-leaning gun control supporter with opinions on just about everything. Somehow this angry cop’s rampage is being used to support gun control. But notice, suspending moral judgment for a second, how his actions and the overreaction of the Southern California cops provide strong evidence for one of the key foundations of the Second Amendment. Second Amendment supporters say that the right to bear arms flows from our founding history, where armed Americans threw off the control of the British and its state-of-the-art military. This possibility and this reserved “last resort” power was always supposed to reside in the people and their arms. We are told it is unrealistic today that this would ever be necessary or that it could ever be effective. But here we have one man without any supporting network tying up thousands of law enforcement officers who are used otherwise to operating in a permissive environment. The police are crippled, over-reacting, and one man has created fear and chaos throughout Southern California.
If the government ever truly were resisted by even a smallish percentage of Americans, it would not get very far. Dozens or hundreds or thousands of Dorners could easily destroy its ability to govern at all. And we have seen this in our own history in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We have also seen it in the history of other nations such as Northern Ireland, Algeria, the West Bank, and today in Syria.
First world militaries and their tanks and planes and high tech gear are not so effective at addressing this kind of problem, and, in their over-reactions, tend to alienate the very people whom they purport to represent. This is the essential “David and Goliath” paradox of guerrilla warfare.
Now Dorner is a grievance-collecting nutjob, as best we can tell. And he was also a former cop, which suggests letting “only the police and military have guns” is not necessarily such a bulwark against shooting rampages and mayhem. Let’s not forget Nidal Hasan or the biggest shooting spree killer of all time, Woo Bum Kim, a pissed off South Korean police officer.
On a purely tactical level, actions like Dorner’s or of the DC Sniper or of any of the other criminals who go “toe to toe” with law enforcement, show that the ability of the government to police things when it is opposed directly (rather than merely evaded in the manner of the typical criminal) is very limited. And if this type of activity were to happen on a large scale in an organized or spontaneous resistance by, say, 1% of America’s 100mm gun owners, it would be utterly impossible for the military, police, and other apparatus of the government to govern.
This would be a nightmare scenario, of course, just as all wars are terrible affairs. One could not know that such claimed oppression and call to resistance were not the prelude to tyranny, as in the French Revolution. But political oppression, the greatest tool of mass murder in the last century, is also nightmarish. To pretend that it is an unknown phenomenon of right wing fantasy and not a real threat to freedom in a decadent, divided country like the United States today is the real fantasy. At least in a world where we retain our arms, we have the means to protect ourselves from any number of threats: common criminals, an oppressive government, or would-be oppressors masquerading as freedom fighters.