What we’ve seen in Paris this weekend is not an attack, or an incident, or a tragedy. It’s war, and war, like it or not, is fought with guns. Because terrorism works precisely by striking at random, it’s silly to expect the police to be able to protect everyone at all times. When there are men out there teaming up to kill you, the rational and prudent thing to do is to at least make sure you have a chance to fight back.
Food for thought.
Let me say up front that I don’t think you end terrorism simply by arming your populace. Terrorist use a range of weapons and tactics, and a pistol – even a .45 – won’t stop them all.
But it is pitifully easy for a terrorist to acquire a gun, even in countries where private ownership of firearms is strictly circumscribed. All a terrorist need do to inflict dozens of casualties is to find someplace with no cops, release the safety, and open fire.
Let us, for the moment, ignore the author’s overt point and delve into his meta-message: in a war against an enemy able to bypass formal national and civil defenses to inflict casualties against the populace, government monopoly on the ownership of firearms is inadequate and perhaps indefensible.
At the very least, this opens the door for auxiliary and private security forces, with trained and licensed personnel, to carry firearms. Would the Copenhagen attacks have succeeded if Dan Uzan had been armed while standing watch outside the synagogue? What if the guards at the Bataclan had been packing, and had known what to do when trouble showed up toting AK-47s?
France, much less Europe, is not ready for an armed populace. They probably won’t be until we in America can find a better way to retain our firearms as a bulwark against tyranny while eliminating accidental deaths and curtailing gun homicides. Accidental gun deaths in the US last year claimed five times more lives than the terrorists did in Paris last weekend, and that alone inveighs against just selling a gun to every man-Jacques in the street.
But the asymmetrical threat of terror demands asymmetrical responses that, if nothing else, raises the difficulty and cost of terrorist acts. Armed protection in public gathering places is a good start.
But the real issue is that it is time for the leaders of Europe to stop relying upon time-honored tools forged to meet different threats. It is time to get creative and a little ruthless, to come up with ways to make terror too costly for ISIS to imagine. And the answer is not airstrikes. How many more innocents must die before Europe truly understands that armies, police, constraints on speech, and appeasement of Islamists do not constitute a defense against the most serious threat Europe faces today?