Saturday, June 11, 2022

In Context: Overcoming Power Deficits

Senate Majority Leader Schumer began his daily floor remarks Wednesday by saying, “Mr. President, today, the House oversight and reform committee heard from a witness who, by all means, should never ever ever have had to come before the Congress, Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old girl who survived the shooting in Uvalde, TX.”

There's nothing to disagree with there. We agree that shooting should not have happened.

It did, and so the question now is what could have been done to prevent it there that could prevent that elsewhere.

A gun is in instrument of power. It's used to overcome real or perceived power deficits. Republicans are not wrong when they observe people who abuse the power of firearms often come from broken homes and have lost a sense of purpose and meaning. As common as some of those problems have become, it is very difficult to anticipate and prevent when such damage to one person will explosively affect others. It's even harder for lawmakers to identify actions to punish on their path toward that destruction.

A secondary approach for policymakers is to mitigate the potentially damaging effects of explosive behavior. In the case of hardening schools, this includes things like single points of entry, locks on doors, etc. Another element of hardening includes enabling an organization not to be powerless against extreme threats. When law enforcement is insufficient, adult citizens should be allowed to equitably defend themselves and those for whom they are responsible. Uncertainty for the assailants is additional protection against them.

About half the Members of Congress believe they can rebalance the power deficit by reducing the power of everyone, including perpetrators. This actually increases the power deficit if a perpetrator overcomes the additional limitations.

Confusing matters even more is language about empowering people used in reference to disempowering people. On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Hoyer commented on the floor saying, “My friend from North Carolina suggested hardening the schools. We have hardened this chamber over the objections of some.” By the latter, he was referring to Members of Congress not being allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights while serving in the Capitol. Reducing the personal power of the People's elected Representatives is not a form of hardening the institution against potential threats.

There are two possible opposite policy tracks here:

Possibility #1. Congress never completely balances out the power deficits. If it doesn't, then the only way to effectively deal with an extreme power imbalance is to allow people to equitably answer firepower with firepower. Until that is rightfully accepted and widespread, the imbalances will inevitably have consequences like we now mourn.

Possibility #2. Congress nearly completely balances out the power deficits by reducing the power of everyone. Gun registration, then confiscation, except for firepower retained by the people in power. The political power becomes absolute power, corruption ensues, and a much larger power imbalance becomes painfully entrenched for the long term.

Father, we thank you that there are conversations in Washington among people who disagree about the nature of these problems and how to solve them. We ask you to give wisdom and words to Your People, to open the eyes of those who need understanding, and open the hearts of all to follow Your Way in these matters at this time. Father, we ask you to strengthen the will, knowledge, and wisdom of those seeking to prevent absolute power from corrupting your work in this Nation.

“Take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16)

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