There’s a scene in United 93 when Ben Sliney, FAA National Operations Manager, looks at the big board of aircraft crisscrossing the United States in terror. Every dot on the map represents a commercial airplane, a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of hijackers, capable of being rammed into a building or densely populated area.
Before 9/11, no one except Tom Clancy (read Debt of Honor) looked at a commercial aircraft and saw its capabilities as a weapon of mass destruction. On that day, Sliney issued an order to ground all commercial planes. Later we learned four planes were hijacked, three of which hit their targets. Four planes out of 6,500. Less than 0.1%. Nineteen hijackers out of a million passengers. Less than 0.002%.
Manmade systems’ susceptibility to the creative disruptions of a relative few is truly astounding. Something as benign as a flash mob, by upending the delicate social order, can degenerate into chaos, wherein people coming and going in peace and tranquility suddenly require armed guards to protect them from each other.
“In its extraordinary complexity, modern civilization is extremely vulnerable to the outlaw—whether the alcoholic driver or the hijacker, the heroin pusher or the bearer of AIDS, the guerrilla or the computer criminal, the mugger or the assassin.” –George Gilder
Take a moment and look around you. Consider all the ways you could hurt someone. Consider all the pain and destruction you could inflict in just a few seconds. Look at the person nearest to you. Your jumping at his throat is the last thing he would suspect.
So what’s stopping you? Little more than a culturally adjusted sense of right and wrong. Opportunities abound for someone or some group of people lacking that adjustment. Only an unconscionable, draconian system of laws buffering the people’s every movement claims to mitigate every mortal danger posed by a maladjusted minority threatening to bust loose.
After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the usual suspects are calling for more gun restrictions. Their maternal looks of concern have served as the masks of totalitarian government for a hundred years. A weapon, whether it be an airplane, a gun, a motorcycle, a chainsaw, or a gas can, only poses a danger to innocents when it falls into the wrong hands. New York Times columnist Charles Blow says he has a “right to not own a gun and still feel safe.” It does not cross his bleeding heart that his safety goes hand in hand with his neighbors’ right to bear arms.
By my calculation, in 2011 there was roughly one gun murder for every thousand handguns owned by Americans. Yet liberals quake at the sheer number of guns, as if gun ownership transforms otherwise unarmed people into homicidal maniacs. Try to take their guns—disturb that compact that’s existed between the government and Americans for hundreds of years—and they just might!
P.S.: Tonight I’m going to a professional basketball game here in San Antonio. There will be about 18,000 people there, not counting stadium staff. Despite being total strangers, somehow we’ll make it through the night without eating each other. And, unless a disturbed individual bent on mayhem slips inside, it won’t occur to me to worry whether there are a thousand guns in the building, or none.