William Spengler sharpens the debate

Another horrendous tragedy; another chapter in the gun control discussion. On the surface of it, it’s a story that reinforces the current mood for serious action in the U.S. for limiting the ubiquitousness and availability of firearms. Sadly, it perhaps illustrates, even more sharply, the possible futility of simply attempting to legislate the country into a safer state of being.

William Spengler was a convicted murderer, a parolee and, quite simply, clearly a deeply disturbed individual. He left his despicable life doing what he is quoted saying he loved doing best, “killing people”.

As a man on parole, he was prohibited from owning weapons for life. Of course, that prohibition meant less than nothing to him, much to the sorrow of his victims’ families. Whatever supervision he was under – and there’s no suggestion (yet) that it was in any way deficient – it was not enough to prevent his acquiring and using weapons.

One would expect the vigilance of Spengler’s supervisors, and their duty of thoroughness, would be several orders of magnitude more careful than the oversight of average citizens prohibited from possessing weapons, who would be constrained by law, but ‘supervised’ mainly by their conscience as to compliance.

Like it or not, for the American public, the discussion about gun control and its relationship to Second Amendment civil rights, will expand to other civil liberty issues almost inevitably. Likely areas that may come under discussion include: limits on the scope of the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure; modifications to rights of parole; mobility rights for the mentally-disturbed offender, and, perhaps most ominously, the “right” of society to take action pre-emptively against “high risk” individuals without any offence history.

Americans are the most liberty-conscious and freedom loving people on earth. Their zeal for it is both their blessing and their curse when it comes to crafting effective solutions to deal with the senseless violence that has left them reeling in recent days.


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