Terror in Texas
by Ari Armstrong, September 20, 1999
"Our culture is falling apart."
Such is the view of the Baptist minister of the Fort Worth church recently victimized by a killing rampage.
While murderous bigots and psychopaths have always been among us, the pastor's words ring true in the aftermath of the recent string of public shootings, hate crimes toward minorities and homosexuals, and nihilistic outpourings of rage. As Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News wrote September 16, "The headlines bleed through the statistics. By the numbers, violent crime has dropped for the last seven years. But month after month, even week after week, the nation has been assaulted by horrific stories of innocents attacked or slain."
Another sign of our cultural degradation is President Bill Clinton's explicit abnegation of personal responsibility and his invocation of collective guilt. Clinton granted there was "something horrible" in killer Larry Ashbrook's heart, "but," he quickly added, "we cannot use that as an excuse" to avoid restricting the freedoms of honest citizens (AP, published September 19 in The Denver Post).
Apparently individual responsibility is now just an "excuse" that gets in the way of an ever-growing centralized State. Clinton disagrees with the notion that the law should focus on holding criminals responsible for their crimes. "The NRA and that crowd has got to stop using arguments like this to avoid facing our shared responsibility," he said.
In other words, according to Clinton, moral culpability of the Texas shooting lies not with Ashbrook, but with the millions of law-abiding citizens who own guns for self-protection, who prevent crime over a million times per year, and who are largely responsible for the recent decline in crime in the United States by taking the responsibility to carry concealed handguns in states which permit the practice.
Thus, Bill Clinton, the man credibly accused of a brutal rape, wants to take individual liberty away from those who live responsibly, and put more social control in the hands of the FBI and ATF, the organizations behind the terrorist assault in Waco, Texas that killed over two dozen children in 1993. The ATF, largely responsible for enforcing gun-control laws, has brutalized honest firearm owners for decades; the Waco assault was just the most spectacular of that agency's abuses.
Bill Clinton, with his moral ideal of "shared responsibility" and universal controls in place of individual responsibility, is sounding more and more like the leading figures from the pages of Leonard Peikoff's book The Ominous Parallels, in which Peikoff analyzes the rise of fascism and traces the precursors of that ideology in America (Stein and Day, 1982). "Collectivism," Peikoff writes,
is the theory that the group (the collective) has primacy over the individual. Collectivism holds that, in human affairs, the collective -- society, the community, the nation, the proletariat, the race, etc. -- is the unit of reality and the standard of value. On this view, the individual has reality only as part of the group, and value only insofar as he serves it; on his own he has no political rights; he is to be sacrificed for the group whenever it -- or its representative, the state -- deems this desirable. (7-8)
One fascist discussed by Peikoff, Alfredo Rocco, called for "sacrifice, even up to the total immolation of individuals, in behalf of society." He continued, "For Fascism, society is the end, individuals the means, and its whole life consists in using individuals as instruments for its social ends" (8). Bill Clinton, with his seemingly innocuous clamoring for "shared responsibility," is behind Rocco but on a similar path.
It's telling that Clinton is the same person who once said, in so many words, that American taxpayers cannot be trusted to wisely spend their own money. Similarly, American citizens are not to be trusted with their (Constitutionally guaranteed) right of self-defense.
But collectivism is false. There is no such thing as collective guilt. There is only the possibility of some people taking control over the lives of other people. In this case, Clinton wants agents of the ATF to take greater control over the lives of honest gun owners. All the socialistic ideals fail because there is no super-entity called "society," there are only individual people who live among each other. The socialistic notions reify "society" and, in attempting to subvert individuals to that society, achieve only the subjugation of some individuals at the hands of others.
The sad irony is that the murderous rampages of Ashbrook and Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and the political philosophies of Bill Clinton all manifest the collectivist mentality. Ashbrook hated Baptists because of their group identity and reportedly because of that denomination's outreach to Jews. Harris and Klebold hated "jocks" and minorities. These killers wrongly assigned blame according to the groups to which others happened to belong. Similarly, Bill Clinton blames honest gun owners for the behavior of others by invoking collective guilt. While there is little comparison between Clinton and the killers in terms of the moral repugnance of their actions, the ideas professed by these people share the same root.
Let us return from high theory to the specifics of the Texas shooting. What is disturbing (if not surprising) is how readily the main-stream media jumps to Clinton's side in calling for more gun-control laws to further restrict the rights of honest citizens. Even many so-called "news" stories have been heavily biased against gun rights.
Ron Fournier, an "AP political writer," wrote September 16, "The shooting posed a potential political problem for the two-term governor [George Bush] who signed a 1995 law allowing Texans to carry concealed weapons with a permit. Democrats have questioned his commitment to federal and state efforts to require background checks at gun shows."
Why would Bush's passage of a concealed carry law in Texas pose a problem for the candidate?
If anything could have cut short the rampage, it would have been a well-trained concealed carrier at the scene. Ashbrook fired at people "slowly, methodically," according to Fort Worth Police Chief Ralph Mendoza (Megan K. Stack, AP, published September 18 in The Rocky Mountain News). Ashbrook used a 9 mm Ruger semiautomatic handgun for most of the shooting. He is reported to have used a total of three magazines (which means he reloaded twice) and shot about 30 rounds. He killed six people at the scene and injured seven others, hitting a target with roughly one of two bullets, which means he took the time to aim and didn't just shoot randomly.
So a sociopath was standing up in a church, slowly firing at people, while everyone else was dropping to the ground or running for cover. Someone with a handgun could have taken careful aim from a covered position and fired at an upward angle at Ashbrook from a prone position. A double tap to the head or upper body would have put a quick end to the murders.
As John Lott has proved in his book More Guns, Less Crime, concealed handgun laws have drastically reduced the number of mass shootings in states with those laws. That Ashbrook was not deterred is probably due to two factors: he didn't expect to meet armed opposition at the church, and he planned to commit suicide anyway.
So where is the AP headline, "Citizens urged to carry concealed handguns, undergo firearms training?" That's the only policy with any hope of reducing the kind of mass murder suffered in Texas. Instead, the AP has only criticized Bush for his pro-concealed handgun policy.
Instead of facing armed opposition, Ashbrook faced only a vulnerable but brave 19 year old teenager, whose only recourse was to try to talk Ashbrook out of firing more rounds (Houston Chronicle, September 18). The young man apparently succeeded, because Ashbrook killed himself with six full magazines left in his jacket. The young man said, "Sir, you don't have to be doing this... You need religion in your life... Shoot me if you want to; I know where I'm going when I die. What about you?" While the young man's actions are commendable, he had to put himself in great personal danger and his response had only a delayed effect at best.
I must wonder, though, why no one attempted to tackle Ashbrook. During the shooting at an Oregon high school, a student with firearms training was able to tackle the killer and put the gun on safety. While a semiauto can be reloaded fairly quickly, one wonders whether an alert bystander with a knowledge of firearms might have subdued Ashbrook.
Besides criticizing Bush for signing a concealed carry law in Texas, the AP story by Fournier also raises the issue of background checks at gun shows. But how is this relevant to the Fort Worth shooting?
Ashbrook purchased both his guns at gun stores that already have to conduct background checks. He purchased the 9 mm at Village Gun Sales and a .380 pistol at Guns N Such (Jeff Prince, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 19). Apparently, Ashbrook passed the checks. (The date of purchase is unknown, so he may have bought the guns before the stores were forced to conduct the checks.)
While Ashbrook was obviously mentally disturbed, there is no indication that any formal record existed concerning his mental illness. Nor is there any indication of a prior criminal record. Thus, Ashbrook probably could have passed all the background checks ever run on him. That the AP raises the issue of background checks proves only that anti-gun activists will politicize any tragedy to advance their social controls, even though such policies would not have stopped the violence.
But even if Ashbrook had been unable to pass a background check, he still could have bought a gun on the black market or stole one. Ashbrook planned his rampage and would have been able to acquire a gun through means other than legal purchase. A story in the Houston Chronicle claims to have found a link between Ashbrook and a white supremacist group called Phineas Priests (Evan Moore and Jim Henderson, published September 17 in The Rocky Mountain News). If it's true that Ashbrook had friends such as these, the prospects of his finding an illegal gun are especially good.
It's always the same. Those who would control the lives of others always blame freedom for the problems of society. Anti-freedom activists impose new social controls that only make matters worse. Professor Lott has shown that mandatory waiting periods on firearms purchases increase crime by keeping victims disarmed. It's hardly coincidence that the recent shootings have occurred in a time when the rights of honest citizens to own guns have been more restricted than ever before. Still, armed citizens prevent crime over a million times per year. But the social engineers will hear nothing of the facts, will trust no one with individual liberty, will use every excuse to regulate and restrict the lives of others, regardless of the consequences.
If we continue to fall into collectivist social controls, our culture will only continue to unravel. It is only by building a system of individual liberty and individual responsibility, it is only by casting off the "shared responsibility" of surrendering our freedoms, that we can hope to maintain the cultural foundations of peace and prosperity.
Let us turn away the false-hope of politics and embrace responsibility for each our own actions. Let not the fallen victims in Fort Worth and Columbine die for the vanity of those who would impose their will over the free and the brave. Rather let us embrace the heritage of liberty which is our birthright and break the chains of collective guilt which led to the recent killings and which lead us now into the snare of tyranny. Only thus can we honor to the names of the fallen:
Shawn C. Brown, 23