By F. Paul Valone
The following column was published by The Charlotte Observer on January 12, 2000 under the title “Fear and freedom: Is safety worth the price?”
At present, we face fear by creating a strip-searched, wire-tapped world of retina scanners and biometric identity cards.
Scene 1: Circa 1980, a college professor resembling Che Guevera teaches a course entitled “Revolt and Political Change.” Terrorism, teaches Che, seeks to generate fear in the populace, forcing governments to alienate citizens by resorting to police state tactics.
Scene 2: In uniform and displaying flight crewmember identification, I pass through airport security in Toronto. Although the FAA entrusts me with 118 passengers, Canadian security searches my bags and body. My arms outstretched, a dour woman passes a hand-held metal detector between my legs.
Fear is the weapon not just of terrorists, but of malcontents who murder in schools, churches and offices. While differing by objective (the former to undermine governments; the latter demanding infamy), both sow fear. Their legacy is a world under lock and key.
Despite declining school violence, fear of Columbine-style massacres sprouts metal detectors at entrances and “zero tolerance” policies under which schools expel students for possessing fingernail clippers.
Despite dropping crime, the FBI advocates a national DNA databank capable of tracking your movements. And under the 1996 anti-terrorism law, not only may resident aliens be deported in proceedings using evidence they cannot see, the Secretary of State may brand any group a “terrorist organization.”
Airports now deploy passive body scanners which, according to the ACLU, show “underneath clothing and with clarity, breasts or a penis, and the relative dimensions of each.” (While still a U.S. Senator, Bill Bradley cheerfully advocated using scanners against pedestrians on streets).
At present, we face fear by joining other “democracies” in creating a strip-searched, wire-tapped world of retina scanners and biometric identity cards.
Scene 3: In the hinterlands of Texas, Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch advises his class: “Make your attacker advance through a wall of bullets. I may get killed with my own gun, but he’s gonna have to beat me to death with it, ‘cause it’s going to be empty.” Ceding nothing to political correctness, his course is called “Urban Rifle.”
While half the students are cops, others are chiropractors, pilots and programmers—not wild-eyed zealots, but ordinary people sharing a quiet determination that neither they nor their families will succumb to lunatics, terror or thugs.
You see, we have a second option: Beyond hiding, we can brand those like Usama Bin Laden and Dylan Klebold enemies of our lifestyle…and resolve to respond.
Studying multiple victim public homicides, Yale researcher John Lott concluded that banning lawful adults from having guns in schools actually aggravates violence: “We’re trying to create safe cover for your children, but my concern is that we’re creating safe zones for those interested in harming our children.” In Pearl, Mississippi, and Edinboro, Pennsylvania armed adults stopped massacres.
But who could rationally advocate guns in schools? Dr. David Schiller, for one. A veteran of multiple military actions, Schiller distinguished himself as a weapons and tactics instructor for the Israeli Defense Force. After the Munich Olympics massacre, he advised Berlin’s SWAT team, earned a Ph.D. in political science specializing in Middle Eastern terrorism, and served as an expert on counter-terrorism for the RAND Corporation.
“In 1973-’74 I lived in a Kibbutz in Northern Israel,” says Schiller. “During Passover week…we in Galilee experienced the first of a number of PLO attacks targeting specifically schools…
“We heard…the same dumb arguments by some good people…like ‘We do not live in the Wild West here!’ Or: ‘Guns don’t solve problems!’”
Schiller describes how parents and teachers armed themselves to protect children: “When the message got around to the PLO groups and a couple of infiltration attempts failed, the attacks against schools ceased. Too much of a risk here: Terrorists and other evildoers don’t like risks.”
Given the success of concealed handgun laws (even North Carolina’s primary gun control group called ours a “good law”), our measured response could expand the capabilities of concealed handgun permit-holders—people certified sane, sober and law-abiding by the FBI.
Augmenting the fear of encountering armed victims should be certainty that attackers of children will receive no quarter: “French authorities solved that problem…with a stealth-type approach…and a .357 bullet in the head of the perpetrator, when he refused to surrender”, says Schiller. “No follow up imitations occurred in France.”
Finally, while some advocate enhanced penalties for “hate crimes,” few propose legislation punishing hate-induced public attacks. Might greater likelihood of lethal injection deter a fame-seeker or two?
Security is the progeny of police states; fear is the price of free society. We can sacrifice freedom for safety or defend our lifestyle against those who attack it. The choice is ours.