It’s always a warning sign (unfortunately usually ignored) when someone explains himself by resorting to clichés. For example, my successor as chairman of the English Department claimed that he believed that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
He then went ahead and stared breaking things.
Last week the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, responded to the shooting at the high school in Santa Fe by claiming, “We have to get creative,” to think “outside the box” to find a way to stop shootings.* His creative beyond-the-crate solution: reduce the number of school entrances and exits. Fewer doors, he reasoned, would offer fewer opportunities for gunmen to penetrate school buildings. I wrote “reasoned” because his was a totally logical argument. Unfortunately, the Lt. Gov. didn’t allow his reasoning to continue to its obvious conclusion: build schools with NO doors, thereby preventing gunmen from entering the buildings at all.
One picture in the news reports about the Santa Fe shootings was of this schmuck, who showed up at the scene with a flag and a gun:
I’m not sure what his flag was supposed to do—perhaps supply a force field to shield him in a gun battle—and I’m even less sure to what avail his weapon would be in the circumstances. I will guess, though, that he thought of himself as that “Good Man With A Gun,” who would stand up heroically against one of those “Bad Men With Guns,” who allegedly are running amok in this country. He has what I suppose ought to be called the “High Noon Complex.”
I have an abiding interest in the history of Soviet spying in America and Great Britain before, during, and after WWII. You know, Philby, Burgess, and Maclean over there and the Rosenbergs, et al. over here. I am at present reading a biography of Harry Gold, the nebbishy chemist who served as a courier between the scientist Klaus Fuchs and Russian agents. What struck me was the fact that at the time the United States was at its greatest peril during the Cold War, facing a nuclear power enemy—whose atomic bomb program was advanced by the secrets Fuchs supplied—the undercover agents of the Soviet spy agencies and the clandestine American traitors did not have stockpiles of weapons. The United States government was not going to be overthrown by domestic force and violence. And a ragtag bunch of NRA whackos was not going to be needed to defend our institutions.
In almost every case of recent mass murders—whether at schools, churches, or public gatherings—the murder weapons were legally purchased. For example, the Las Vegas gunman bought his own, while the Santa Fe shooter used his father’s legally obtained arms. In most jurisdictions, government authorities have sprinkled fairy dust over gun owners, granting licenses to them (after background checks of one sort or another) for potentially being “Good Men With Guns.”
The reality is, however, that that same legal weaponry is just waiting to be turned into killing machines.