“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever.” Deuteronomy 29:29
Not every tragedy, atrocity, or act of evil is rooted in politics, has its source in a public policy and is redressable through the political or legal system. This is a point all of us on all sides of the ideological spectrum would be well advised to internalize.
Accusing individuals who never incited any violence as being responsible for the evil acts of a single perpetrator, such as the El Paso Walmart shooter, is scandalous. The perpetrator alone is the perpetrator, along with those who gleefully cheer his action. The rest of us should all be on the same side. We should not point fingers at our political opponents for responsibility for murder by a madman.
Once that simple fact is recognized, it makes sense to try to learn about the source of a growing crime or terrorism trend and try to find a solution to the problem. But one must approach such an endeavor with the understanding that not every problem is caused by or redressed through a public policy decision. Each generation, due to culture, technology, environment, and an amalgamation of endless factors, is confronted with evils that previous generations didn’t experience much, but also is free of other evils other generations dealt with. Politics is not necessarily the cause of the problem or the solution.
When it comes to protecting the safety of the public from mass murder, it is certainly fair to explore public policy. After all, protecting us from external/foreign threats is emphatically the job of the federal government, and protecting from internal threats is the job of either the federal government, local governments, or both, depending on the circumstance. However, in a free country, with today’s technology of social media fueling a copycat mentality of the most evil and demented people, there is a limit to what can be done to prevent the most confounding form of homicide – lone wolf mass murder by people without any record of crime.
The reason we focus here at CR so much on being tough on crime in general and illegal immigrant crime in particular is precisely because these issues are redressable. In the case of illegal immigrant crime, as I’ve often said, it’s not that the crime is inherently more evil when perpetrated by an illegal alien than by a citizen, it’s that it is so much more preventable. By definition, it’s the lowest-hanging fruit on the “do something to protect public safety” tree, because if the laws were actually enforced, any illegal alien arrested by law enforcement for a crime would be turned over to ICE and removed from the country, thereby ending their career as criminal threats to Americans.
It should be easy to “do something” about crime committed by career criminals from other countries. There are at least two million who remain here.
I often highlight in this column cases of American criminals with endless arrest records who remain out on the streets. Cases of juveniles in Prince George’s County, Maryland, for example, who were arrested for MS-13 murder, but let out on the streets again to commit a murder exactly one year later. Those are all preventable by public policy. If we really are clamoring to save every life, there should be no debate over those “no-brainer” known wolves, who are known to the public as a safety threat, irrespective of their identity, political motivation, or mental health status.
Then there are the first-time, lone-wolf mass shooters, crimes that truly are perplexing from a public policy standpoint. Basic criminology teaches that most murderers first build up a prior rap sheet before committing the ultimate offense. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 70 percent of violent felons from 1990 to 2002 had a prior arrest record, and 57 percent had at least one prior arrest for a felony. In other words, murderers are generally those who have repeat histories of DUI, burglary, weapons charges, drug trafficking, gang activities, etc. Unfortunately, most of these mass murderers defy that trend.
Any truly honest political commentator should recognize that these individual crimes are the toughest to pre-empt.
The Left wants to make out that somehow those people are fueled by Trump or conservatives. But a quick look at the top 10 or so mass shootings shows that the El Paso shooting is the first alleged white supremacist attack to make it into the top 10. Almost all of the others were committed by mentally disturbed people with unknown motives. The Vegas shooting, by far the deadliest of all, is still shrouded in mystery, with an unknown motive and a profile of the killer and his methods that defies every other pattern. The second deadliest mass shooting – the Pulse nightclub shooting – was a jihadist attack.
Mass shootings are much more about a trend of evil and/or mentally ill people seeking notoriety than any one particular motivation. And despite the fact that we are a very sharply divided country, none of these attacks really portend a political civil war more than a growing problem of mass murder by mentally ill individuals. The attack in El Paso should not be used as a cudgel to silence legitimate debate over border security and illegal immigration the same way the attack on Steve Scalise and the GOP softball game should not be used to stifle progressives, even though the shooter was a Bernie Sanders volunteer.
One point I think almost all Americans would agree on is that impetuous reactions, rather than reasoned debate over the cause of the problem, harmed us after 9/11. We created policies that did nothing to target the source of the problem (bad visa policies) but instead cast a wide net on the constitutional rights of citizens. Let’s not repeat the same mistakes. Rational arguments without name-calling that address holistic problems with the humility of our limitations are a good starting point to find any real solutions. In the meantime, our desire to do something about perplexing problems should fuel addressing the public safety threats that are indeed 100 percent avoidable.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.