Whodunit?

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Dr. Malcolm Cross
Dr. Malcolm Cross

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”  So goes the saying.  In the aftermath of the mass murder in Orlando last week, many are wasting no time trying to put their own spin on the horror, thereby trying, deliberately or otherwise, to either exonerate or at least reduce the blame the shooter must bear for the slaughter.

Some say, “Nobody is at fault, since the slaughter didn’t really happen.”  They say that it was simply a simulation to help train first responders.

Others say the slaughter was the work of the FBI, with the shooter either its agent or its patsy.  They argue that the FBI wanted to give President Obama an excuse to implement tighter gun control laws.

Why would some people think this way?  Some psychologists argue that many cannot believe that acts of profound evil, with far-reaching results, may be the product of a lone evildoer.  Hence they deny that the act happened at all, or else attribute it to a conspiracy.  This “thinking” may be behind the belief, reflected in The X-Files or Oliver Stone’s JFK, that Kennedy’s death was the result of a shadowy conspiracy whose parties made Lee Harvey Oswald the fall guy.  But whatever the reason, we can easily and safely consign them to the same category of crackpots who’ve said that we never landed men on the moon, that O. J. Simpson didn’t kill his wife and her friend, that the destruction of the Twin Towers was engineered by George W. Bush and the Israelis, that President Obama wasn’t born in the USA.

More problematical are those who, without denying the identity of the shooter who actually pulled the trigger, have also weighed in, claiming the atrocity was the fault of:

The National Rifle Association, for blocking the passage of gun control laws which might have prevented the shooter from acquiring the weapons he used;

The proponents of excessive gun control laws, which prevented the nightclub patrons from arming themselves and thereby giving themselves a fighting chance to kill the shooter in self defense and stop the slaughter;

Conservative Christians, currently accused of stirring up homophobia and Islamophobia;

Donald Trump, for his opposition to the immigration of Muslims to America;

President Obama, who wants more immigration in general, and more Muslims to come to America, whether as immigrants or refugees.

The list of who doesn’t want this crisis to go to waste is endless. 

No rational person can truly believe that anyone in the aforementioned list actually wanted the slaughter to take place.  The truly rational would be the first to agree that anyone—Trump, Obama, the NRA, conservative Christians—who could have prevented the slaughter would have done so.  Yet the fact remains that having seen the slaughter, many want to use it to advance policy goals they believe to be in America’s best interests, whatever those goals may be.

The problem with using this crisis is that to argue that the probability of future crises can be diminished is to argue that the current policies, and those who made them, are at least partially responsible for the current crisis in the first place.  This shifts at least some of the blame for the crisis from the shooter to the policymaker.  If the shooter was able to murder because there was too much gun control, or not enough, than are not those who made or supported these policies partly to blame?

And if Donald Trump or President Obama or the NRA is partially responsible for the shootings, how can we, in all fairness, make the shooter himself take the blame?   

Besides, more careful analysis of the shooter may show, as in many other cases, that nothing could have been done to stop him.  Operating so far beyond the norms of civilized society that he might have come from another planet, and so determined to do evil, he might well have been able to navigate his way through the thickets of laws and public policies anyway, regardless of what they might say and attempt to prevent.  If so, this suggests that changing policies now—in effect, locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen—may fail to prevent future atrocities.

In this particular instance, the question is moot.  After all, the shooter himself was killed by the police.  But there’ve been similar crises in the past, and unfortunately there will be more in the future.  Efforts at finger pointing—blaming policymakers for the actions of human monsters—will take energy away from the most productive courses of action society can take—the identification of potential monsters; the prevention, when possible, of the implementation of their evil agendas; the detection of evildoers should prevention fail; and the uncompromising insistence that those who do evil, whatever gun control or other policies are in effect, should be held accountable for their deeds with the swift and certain administration of justice.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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