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California Attack: Initial Thoughts Updated 

We are beginning to learn more about the gunman, who would surely want his name to be mentioned here. The toll of dead currently stands at five, wounded–including children–at ten. Consider this from Fox News:

His sister, Sheridan Orr, told the Daily Mail her brother had ‘no business’ owning weapons. She said he had struggled with mental illness throughout his life and at times had a violent temper, adding that he confided in his mother on an almost daily basis.

‘He would get wound up and I think she spent a lot of time calming him down,’ she told the Daily Mail. ‘He would be irrational, irate and uncontrollable, and scream and yell. It was difficult to manage him.

By all means, take the link and read the entire article. It paints a familiar portrait of a very disturbed, violent man, a man family, neighbors and the police knew as such. There was even a contemporaneous warning:

His mother told the Associated Press that her son called him the day before the shooting saying: ‘Mom it’s all over now. I have done everything I could do and I am fighting against everyone who lives in this area.’

Apparently infuriated by the longstanding dispute, [the killer], armed with a semi-automatic rifle and two handguns, opened fire in seven different locations across the tiny rural community of Rancho Tehama Reserve, including near an elementary school. His first two victims were two of his neighbors.

There is also another Fox News report that the local police responded to a domestic violence call at the killer’s home the day before the attack. No resolution to that call was provided, however, after the attack, police found the killer’s wife, dead, in their home. He apparently cut a hole in the floor and stuffed her body into it. The police believe her death was the trigger for the rampage. Presumably, she was aware of the danger he represented, but if so, and if she told authorities, the police are not thus far providing that information.

None of this, however, suggests a clear and effective future policy, which would have any hope of preventing such attacks.

We have chosen, and thus far, occasionally fitfully and uncomfortably preserved, a representative republic. We have chosen liberty, which honors the primacy of individual rights, rights that cannot be taken away without due process. This particular killer had apparently recently been arrested, while in the grips of paranoid rage and delusion, for stabbing a neighbor. His mother posted a substantial bond, and it is unclear whether a condition of his release stripped him of firearms. The article also does not address whether a court ever declared him mentally incompetent, but it is reasonable to believe no such declaration was ever made. If it were, surely it would be reported by now.

Choosing and maintaining a representative republic also means we accept certain risks. Crime in the Soviet Union, while surely more common that its dictators let on, was somewhat suppressed, but that suppression came at the cost of liberty, and a hundred million, likely more, died to support and hide communism’s lies and crimes.  They had no means to fight back.

We chose our risks because the alternative is worse, far worse. So we affirm the unalienable right of the common man to keep and bear arms because we believe self-defense to be a fundamental, unalienable right, arguably the most important right of all, for without it, every life is forfeit to the fleeting, tyrannical whims of the state, or the brute force of the young, strong and evil. Thus do we honor due process and the rule of law. Thus do we not take the weapons of any man without compelling cause and lawful process.

But the killer was crazy and dangerous! He stabbed someone! He shouldn’t have had weapons! Quite so, but hindsight is always crystal clear, and there is the small matter of presumed innocence until one is proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

And if the police, in violation of the law and the Constitution, seized the killer’s firearms, he would be rendered harmless? What of his knives? His baseball bats, lengths of 2” X 4”, screwdrivers, hammers, chisels, hatchets, axes and chain saws? Would the police seize his motor vehicles, common household and garden chemicals that could be fashioned into explosives? Why not then simply cast him—or anyone neighbors, family or the police think might possibly be dangerous to others—into prison and in an act of enlightened penology, throw away the key?

If so, how are we different than the Soviet Union, consigned, as Ronald Reagan said, to the ash heap of history? Do we truly want to resurrect that particular phoenix?

We have also learned the killer rammed his vehicle through a school gate and began shooting. We do not yet know if he actually intended to attack the school as a particular target, or merely chanced upon it in his mad intent to attack the entire community, though the latter, perhaps in a suicidal range and desire to go out in a blaze of deranged glory after murdering his wife, seems more likely. Apparently the school, as most schools these days, locked doors, and the killer chose not to take the time to break in, something that is actually quite easy and quick. The Newtown shooter entered the locked building by means of firing several rounds through a large window, taking only seconds. The apparent difference seems to be one of intent. The California killer seems not to have been focused on killing school children. The Newtown killer was. Can we therefore believe locked school doors are effective in stopping a determined killer? Sadly, no.

I’ve often written that our mental commitment laws can be improved, but their current state is the result of decades of concerted work by progressives that have made it very difficult indeed to identify and deal with the kinds of people they scream should not be allowed weapons. A more efficient background check database and delivery of information would help, but while progressives claim huge numbers have been thereby prevented from buying arms, they do not tell the whole truth: most of those denied are soon authorized because of glitches and mistakes in the system. And of course, retail gun dealers are not the only source of weapons. But that’s why we must ban them all! Right. And would progressives trust the Trump Administration with a monopoly on arms? Conservatives would surely not trust Democrats, and with more than slight justification.

And so we carry on, enjoying the liberty so many have died to preserve, even understanding the risks it poses.

Update, 11-16-17, 2130 CST:

The Hill has a stunning report:

The man who killed five people Tuesday in a shooting spree in Northern California was barred from owning guns, The Associated Press reported.

Court records show a judge ordered that Kevin Janson Neal could not have guns as part of a protective order filed after he was charged with stabbing a woman earlier this year.

Records also show Neal was charged in January with five felonies and two misdemeanors, including illegally firing a weapon and possessing an assault rifle, the AP reported.

Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said Wednesday that Neal had two homemade semi-automatic weapons and two handguns registered in someone else’s name.

I don’t understand. The killer was prohibited–by law–from possessing guns. He was the subject of a protective order! How could he possibly have had guns? Unless…

Unless people plotting mass murder aren’t terribly law abiding, nor are they interested in obeying the law in general… Could that be possible?