After all the feedback on my last article “Auditing Shooting Rampage Statistics” I said that I would record all the corrections in my data set and publish an updated statistic if there was another shooting and the subject became timely again. I did not expect that it would be the next day. So, rather than repeating the statistical analysis from last week, I want to talk about something a little bit different.
I want to personally thank everyone who commented on the article. Not being a gun enthusiast myself, I learned alot about firearms from you all. I’ll especially be careful about the incorrect use of the term “assault rifle” to describe semi-automatic weapons. Even those who were critical of my research provided valuable insights that I will incorporate into any future analysis of the data. The most difficult criticism to resolve is that we only have figures for successful civilian resistance. We don’t have figures for unsuccessful civilian resistance. Sadly, this is exactly the situation in this most recent rampage shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin.
On Sunday, August 5 Wade Michael Page entered the Sikh Temple after he reportedly called the temple and asked when it would be most crowded. He killed six people and wounded four, including a police officer, before fatally shooting himself. He did this with a basic 9-millimeter pistol, which he purchased legally, after passing all the required background checks. The owner of the gun store even said that Page’s demeanor the day he purchased the firearm “raised no eyebrows whatsoever”. Page had no need for a semi-automatic riffle. What made him deadly was his military training.
The President of the Gurdwara, Satwant Singh Kaleka, heroically tried to save his congregation. He attempted to stab the gunman, even after being shot twice in the upper leg, but was killed in the process. In this incident his death has captured headlines, but in many cases the failed civilian resistance simply goes unreported, making it a difficult variable to account for. But I just don’t have it in me to talk about the statistics anymore. Not yet.
When I read the headlines I thought of the Kirpan dagger. All practicing baptized Sikhs carry a curved dagger, both as a symbol of the power of Truth to cut through falsehood, and more practically as a tool to defend the powerless. I’m no expert on Sikhism, but as it was explained to me some Sikhs view this is a ceremonial obligation, and wear a miniature dagger as a necklace. Others view it as a utilitarian obligation, and interpret that the firearm has replaced the dagger as the preferred tool of defense in the modern world. This is why many Sikhs choose professions in law enforcement or private security where they can carry a firearm.
The Sikh community has a decent argument for gun rights under the First Amendment instead of the Second, but even without a firearm Kaleka was a courageous exemplar of his creed, the Saint-Soldier.
There are those who say there are no atheists in foxholes. I don’t believe that, but there is a morsel of Truth in it. Nearness to death has a way of banishing our pretensions, and excuses and acquiescence to social pressure. Our sincere selves are revealed, perhaps for the first time. The falsehood in this statement is the implication that there are no sincere atheists, which is why it’s so offensive. Indeed, an atheist is as likely to find belief in a foxhole as a theist is to find disbelief. It is sincerity that is exposed and tested in foxholes. Face to face with death, Kaleka found the courage one pledges when they carry the Kirpan dagger. In other words, whether you share his faith or not, you cannot say that he was not a man of sincerity.
It’s not only danger that reveals our sincerity. When tragedy reminds us of death our highest Truth can be revealed. Some offer prayers while others offer condolences. But for those whose highest Truth is the State, tragedy signals a time to quote religious scripture in the form of the Second Amendment, or to supplicate to their god by begging from their priests.
As details surfaced and Twitter exploded with gun rights debates I found myself disgusted with politics. Sickened by a population too ideologically lock stepped to allow the aggrieved time to mourn the dead before leveraging tragedy for political agenda. Within an hour of the story breaking, while the gunman was still inside the temple, there were already people posting phone numbers of Representatives asking people to demand action for whichever side of the debate they were on.
I had a more emotional reaction to the Sikh Temple shooting than I did to the Dark Knight shooting. My wife suggested that it was because there is an implied sanctuary in places of worship. If that’s true it’s a character flaw, because the life of any individual should be equally inviolable. I think it was because Sikhs have suffered the lion’s share of attacks intended for Muslims, because to bigoted idiots they look more Muslim than Muslims. That’s not confirmed in this case, but it happens often enough that I have this weird sense of indirect responsibly when Sikhs are attacked. That doesn’t make much rational sense either, but it is a kind of double injustice.
The day of the shooting my wife and I brought flowers to our local Sikh Temple, the Gurdwara Sahib in Fremont, CA, to express our condolences and sincere affections. The brother guiding us through the Temple invited us to offer prayers with him. Being unfamiliar with their religion I asked if I could offer prayer as I was accustomed. I raised my hands in supplication and the words came to me, “Ya Allah, may I live to see an era which recognizes the siblinghood of all humanity.”
Fundamentally, if we’re arguing about gun rights we’re talking about symptoms and not causes. Until we ask why some of us want to kill each other we’re not addressing the root cause of gun violence. And that’s where it all ties back into liberty for me. Whether it’s the Muslim’s dream of a universal human siblinghood, or the Christian’s dream of loving our neighbors as ourselves, or even the atheist’s dream of a new age of reason, the State is not necessary or possible in these dreams. Because the gunman could not shoot up a temple or a theater full of people he understood were his brothers and sisters. A Statist could not send the armed agents of the State to confiscate his neighbor’s property if he loved the gun enthusiast as himself. And no rational society, however constituted, could tolerate the kind of lunatic collectivism required for hate crime, and State crime to continue.