Now that alleged cop-killer Chris Dorner’s week-long rampage has come to an end, and we can all breathe a sigh of relief, maybe, finally, we can all admit that there’s a big problem with the “good guy with a gun,” that NRA leaders have been promoting.
Guns, in the most reasonably idealized view, can serve as a hobby or a means of protection. People have defended themselves successfully with firearms (though, it is increasingly seeming like these are the exceptions to the rule). And on the small, individual scale, gun ownership is not inherently something to fear. As I mentioned in prior columns, I was raised around guns and do not advocate eschewing gun rights generally. But then there’s Chris Dorner.
Beyond the fact that people who write manifestos generally are incapable of thinking they’re in the wrong, the whole tragedy in California smacks of Dorner taking for granted that he was the NRA’s proverbial good guy. As twisted as it sounds, try to see the situation from Dorner’s damaged perspective: one lone vigilante standing up to government corruption and defending the ideals of freedom in a situation in which the odds are stacked staggeringly against him.
Objectively, Dorner was a murderer. But violence, corruption and racism are well-known forces at play in police departments across the country, be that force in L.A. or Philly. It seems that most no one speaks against the existence of the social ills Dorner said he was raging against. Unfortunately, though, violence—be it gun-related or otherwise—typically only begets … further violence.
And that goes doubly, as we all found out Tuesday, for when that violence is directed at the powers that be. Just look at the controversy surrounding who started the fire that burned down Dorner’s Cabin. Whether the police intentionally lit up the cabin or it was caused unintentionally by a tear gas grenade (called “burners”), it’s clear that Dorner’s messy saga came to a gruesome end.
Dorner was not mentally ill and certainly was not a sociopath, according to psychologists working the case. So, essentially, it looks like he believed what he was doing was right and necessary. And therein lies the problem with the NRA’s theory about Good Guys With Guns: With something as subjective as good and bad, especially in the presence of a vigilante like Dorner, the situation is bound to be volatile. What comes out of vigilante situations like this is what an individual or small group deems best for them alone—not society at large.
And that is exactly the same type of tyranny and corruption against which extreme gun supporters say their beloved weapons are to be used.
He chose bloody revolution as the catalyst for his campaign against the LAPD’s injustices, which isn’t exactly that far off from the revolution-scented reasoning behind the right to bear arms that groups like the NRA have been spouting for years. Essentially, it’s Government Boogeyman syndrome all over again, albeit with the vicious addition of actual actions to Dorner’s delusions of grandeur as the exposer of all things corrupt and intrusive.
But let’s say that a violent revolution like Dorner seemed to support was justified, that he was right (he wasn’t), that chaos and murder will lead to anything positive (they won’t). Does anyone actually think their personal arsenal can compete with state and local government?
Just look at the response to Dorner’s rampage. As crass as it may sound, he only killed four people and the sheriff’s department virtually burned him alive in what some say amounts to a summary execution. Maybe that brutality is to be expected when police officers and civilians alike are losing their lives, but that answers which side is more likely to have a higher capacity for that brutality in situations that far-right-wing gun supporters seem to be expecting.
I am not, of course, arguing that corruption and unfair play don’t exist at every branch and level of government—power, after all, does corrupt, and people will stoop to incredible lows to keep the spot they’ve carved out for themselves. However, we are a pretty advanced society with mechanisms in place for dealing with that corruption. What Dorner tried to do was bypass them in the most destructive way possible while still getting what he wanted.
Encouraging similar behavior in the face of corruption and government overreach in gun owners as the Good Guy example undoubtedly does is irresponsible at best, and intellectually dishonest at worst. Because if enough people are actually buying into that, we might come to find that we ourselves are the very boogeymen the Second Amendment is presumably designed to stop.