WASHINGTON — The failure of law enforcement at all levels — local, state and federal — to protect 19 children who were massacred by a lunatic in Uvalde, Texas, in May has raised serious questions about the role of the police in our once free society. Admittedly, Uvalde’s case was extreme, as 376 armed policemen did little or nothing to stop the massacre perpetrated by a madman. There was no command and control; the decisions made on the spot were chaotic and grotesque; and the essence of what law enforcement did was to protect themselves from evil, rather than to stop evil.
Uvalde’s killer began his rampage by shooting at random into the school building from a parking lot across the street as he walked towards the school. He apparently entered through a door that authorities said was locked. This was not the case. The police themselves waited 44 minutes to get the key to this unlocked door, which none of them even tried to open. The on-scene commander was not in electronic communication with his team, his dispatcher, or the other 24 police departments present.
The Texas legislature condemned the police response; and now the heartbroken parents are left with no remedy. This is so because the United States Supreme Court has consistently held that the government and its agents have no duty to interfere with ongoing crimes and no general duty to protect the innocent. According to this series of cases, collectively called the DeShaney Doctrine, police can physically observe a bank robbery, rape, or murder, and legally do nothing.
Joshua DeShaney was a 4-year-old boy who had been repeatedly abused and irreparably brain-damaged by his own father whose behavior was well known to the local government. When the mother sued the government for failing to protect Joshua, the Supreme Court ruled that the government enjoyed the common law privilege to allocate its resources with impunity. In other words, the government decides who it will protect and who it will allow. Unsurprisingly, the DeShaney Doctrine obligates the government only to protect itself and those it has confined.
There is nothing in the Constitution that compels the DeShaney doctrine. It’s just a big government protecting itself. There are many selfless police across the country who would bravely step in to stop violent crimes because they have the ability to stop them and because it is always right to save innocent human lives.
In Texas, where it is legal for anyone over the age of 18 to openly purchase and carry a handgun, it is illegal to carry one in a school. Local school officials can request exemptions to this law from state officials, and these exemptions have been granted to the 137 school districts in Texas that have requested them. Of course, in none of the districts where teachers and staff are armed have there been any killings.
Just this week in Greenwood, Indiana, before police arrived, a 22-year-old civilian shot and killed a shooter who had started a deadly rampage at a mall. If Indiana hadn’t recognized the right to carry a gun, we could have had another massacre in Uvalde or Buffalo, New York, on our hands.
The problem here is too much government, a progressive goal dating back to the beginnings of the Nanny State 125 years ago, when cities and towns began government monopolies on law enforcement and schools, and taxed everything the world in their jurisdictions for the so-called services these entities provided, whether the taxpayer received the services or not. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy like Uvalde before people recognize that America is no longer a free country.
In a free country, the government needs permission to do everything. In America today, we all need government permission to do anything, even to defend ourselves. Ayn Rand called it an inversion. Ludwig von Mises described government as the negation of liberty, and Murray Rothbard called it the monopoly of force in a given geographic area without presumption of moral propriety. The government has no competition; he has guaranteed customers who must pay his bills; and he immunized himself against the consequences of his own failures.
Why do we give the cops a badge and a gun and unchecked authority to restrict our free movement, then immunize them against their own failure to do what is expected? The police are at the heart of the clash between order and freedom. Freedom is natural to humanity. Order is imposed by the tyranny of the majority.
Imagine that Uvalde has no police force and a group of parents have hired private police to protect their children at school. Would we even have this conversation? Of course not. Yet, if the private police failed to protect the children, would they not be fired and prosecuted?
The same government mentality – pay whatever we ask for and accept whatever we give – wants to deprive us of our right to self-defense and leave us defenceless. This is the progressive dream – an egalitarian society where the government takes from each person according to our ability and gives others whatever it decides they need, and we all depend on it.
Because most people prefer the illusion of security to the sweet fruits of freedom, the government has managed to steal freedom and create the impression that only it knows how to use force for good. Uvalde shattered this illusion.
What are we doing about it?
Thomas Jefferson argued that no government is moral without the consent of the governed, and all government needs the real personal consent of the governed once in a generation. Without consent, the government has no right to deny freedom. Even with consent, if the government is not doing what we hired it to do, if it is infringing on liberty and allowing others to take life, liberty or property, it must be changed or abolished.