There’s one annoying trend I see whenever a particular topic comes up. This problem is born of small, short-sighted thinking, and an overdose of Hollywood romanticizing of the topic. I’ll tell you the topic after a bit of explanation. There are three general levels in planning: Logistics, strategy, and tactics. Tactics are about what you’re doing at the moment of a struggle with what you have on hand. In military terms, that means what you’re doing in a particular battle or skirmish. Strategy is the next level up, and it’s about how you achieve bigger goals through those individual battles.
I recall a show about Hannibal’s attack on Rome, and from that depiction, it looked to me that Hannibal was a tactical genius and a strategic idiot. He could beat Rome’s armies out in the open quite consistently and even while outnumbered, demonstrating his tactical ability. It didn’t do him any good, however, because he apparently failed to think about what he’d do once he had gotten to Rome: He wasn’t equipped to put the city under siege. Rome’s armies outside the city could keep their distance while skirmishing with Hannibal’s foragers to slowly starve and demoralize the rest of his army.
That brings us to the next level: Logistics. Plans need resources and support. In military terms, soldiers need food, tools, weapons, ammunition, transportation, and so on. Logistics is about how you get those resources where you need them. Good tactics and strategy make the most of what you have, but without supply lines, there’s a limit to what you can do. If you can’t feed and equip your soldiers, it’d be insane to go to war.
Now, for the topic that got me started on this line of thought: Gun violence in America. Whenever I read a thread about it, there are inevitably some irresponsible gun owners who demonstrate their short-sightedness because they obsessively focus on the tactical level. They see the issue like a Hollywood action movie where the heroic gun owner stoically kills the bad guys to defend his family or innocent bystanders, and thus they commonly claim the latest shooting would have been stopped if someone there had a gun.
Of course, it’s not as simple as Hollywood. I can imagine a shooting turning into a meat grinder if the first defender ends up being mistaken for a second assailant and gets shot by another defender because they couldn’t know how many assailants there really were in the fog of war. But the fine details of that argument can wait for other posts, since that’s also at the tactical level, and this post is about the neglect for logistics.
Let’s start with with a person who wants to go on a killing spree for whatever reason. Before he maps out where he’s going to rampage or finalize his hit list, he’s going to need to think about one major concern: How is he going to get a weapon? If he can’t get his hands on a gun, that’s going to put a big damper on the killing spree. Melee weapons may be accessible and even improvised, but the would-be victims can also improvise roughly equal defenses, reducing the lethality of a melee rampage compared to a shooting spree. Even without improvised defenses, it’s generally easier to run away from an axe-murderer than it is a shooter.
I think the purpose of gun control is to make the logistics of a killing spree more prohibitive. Make it harder to get guns, and fewer would-be criminals will be able to go through with their plans. Making it more difficult will prevent crimes before they happen. If the would-be shooter has to buy a gun illegally, the police have a chance to be on his tail before he commits a murder, not after. If the would-be shooter has to take and pass a gun safety course and avoid being flagged for anger management issues, he’s going to have a harder time getting a gun legally.
That particular countermeasure also keeps guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t be allowed to carry guns. One thing America needs to face as a nation and a culture is that a lot of these shooters aren’t inherently “special” or “different.” A lot of them are gun owners who are too irresponsible and too hotheaded to be trusted with a gun. They aren’t sinister, inhuman figures lurking in the shadows, they’re “normal” people without the self-control to prevent a heated argument from turning into a shooting. They’re people who lose perspective when they get stressed and lash out without thinking about the consequences.
I’d be glad if there was some obligation to check for anger management issues before allowing someone to carry a gun. Without the gun, spontaneous shootings are less likely to occur. I’d rather have a black eye than a bullet wound if I ever get on the wrong end of someone’s bad day. A lot of people have paid lip service to the notion that gun culture is supposed to self-regulate and weed out such people, but I don’t see it in action. I’m sure there are responsible gun owners who try to perform that thankless task, but their influence seems too weak to accomplish a change in gun culture. Kudos go to those who try to fight that uphill battle.
Now let’s talk about safety in general. If I thought I needed a gun for self-defense, what would that say about how safe I feel in society? Hollywood action movies may be a lot of fun to watch, but would I want my life to depend on having the qualities of action movie characters? No. If I have to defend myself like that, that means society’s already lost the more important battles.
I’d rather leave that up to experts: the police. It’s simple division of labor. They’re not just there to respond to crime, but to prevent it. Farmers farm so I don’t have to grow my own food, so I can do what I want to do with my life and contribute to society in my particular way. Law enforcement fights crime so I don’t have to. People who have enough sense to think about consequences know they risk getting caught, so the mere presence of police can prevent some crimes that way. If we regulate gun ownership and outlaw means of circumventing the added safety measures, police will be playing an active part in disrupting the logistics of gun violence well before I need to draw a gun or dial 9-11 to defend myself. If I had to rely on gun ownership for protection, that amounts to time and effort spent on maintaining a weapon and vigilance I could otherwise spend on better things.