The Illusion Of Control

On Friday six people were shot in Minneapolis:

Police said the incident happened around 2:30 a.m. on 5th Street between Hennepin and 1st avenues near an alley by Sneaky Pete’s.

Minneapolis police officers were nearby and took three people into custody. Two guns were recovered. The six who were shot received noncritical injuries and were treated at Hennepin County Medical Center.

“Violent acts like last night’s shootings are abhorrent and contrary to the values we hold as a city,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a statement.

The mayor pledged a full investigation into the circumstances leading to the incident, which occurred around the time most downtown bars close. However, in an e-mail exchange with the Warehouse District Business Association executive director obtained by the Star Tribune, First Precinct Inspector Michael Kjos said there was no evidence that the two rival groups involved in the violence came from a bar or nearby business.

Kjos said the area was “saturated with police officers” and several officers witnessed the gunfire but did not engage because there were too many pedestrians in the area. The arrests and recovery of the two handguns followed a foot chase, Kjos said.

The responses have been typical. Calls for more gun restrictions, hiring more police officers, and restrictions on establishments that serve alcohol are being made. Gun restrictions have only ever served to disarm people willing to follow the law. Officers were on the scene so having more available wouldn’t have changed anything. And there was no evidence that the perpetrators had been in an establishment serving alcohol so additional restrictions on bars wouldn’t have made any difference. What this story demonstrates better than anything is that centralized controls are ineffective.

The question still remains, what can be done to deal with situations such as this? Contrary to popular belief the solution isn’t relying on third parties to deal with the problem. As with anything else in life the only solution is to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.

You cannot control the actions of others so the first step is getting that silly notion out of your head. Once you’ve accepted that fact you need to ask what steps you can take to make yourself safer. For situations such as this the most effective option is avoidance. Our subconscious is pretty good at picking up on subtle signs of danger. Oftentimes people write off these feelings by telling themselves they’re just being paranoid. Don’t do that. If the little voice in your head is telling you something isn’t right then you should listen to it and vacate the area.

Another step would be to keep a clear head, which means not drinking. But telling people not to drink is worthless because they aren’t going to listen. Instead I will take the middle ground by pulling a page from the responsible drinker’s playbook. Every group is supposed to designate a sober driver. There’s no reason that person should only be concerned about driving. I like to think of designated drivers as designated adults. Their job is to ensure everybody gets home safely. In addition to driving that should also involved being the lookout. If their little voice is saying a situation is dangerous they should inform the group that they need to be elsewhere. Granted, herding drunks is like herding libertarians but a designated adult can only put forth their best effort and each person is ultimately responsible for themselves.

If you’re not drinking you should also carry a gun. You can’t control when you’ll find yourself in this kind of situation but you can increase your odds of survival. As with popular belief regarding centralized control the popular belief that having less armed individuals increases overall safety is bullshit. Relying on a third party for protection isn’t a solution because you can’t guarantee a third party will actually protect you. Take charge of your defense and carrying the most effective means of defending yourself when you’re responsible enough to do so (i.e. not when you’re drinking).

Stop asking what “we” can do. There is no we. There is only you so ask what you can do. Until you ask the right question it’s impossible to come up with the right answer.