In June, a gunman attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida, killing 49 and wounding 50, including one police officer. It was the largest mass shooting in modern American history. It was the worst act of violence perpetrated upon the LGBT community since the UpStairs Lounge arson attack of 1973. And as the shooter proclaimed allegiance to Daesh (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL) during the attack, the massacre was the deadliest act of terrorism perpetrated on U.S. soil since 9/11. The weapons used in the attack were bought legally even though the shooter himself was on a terrorism watch list. Clearly, whatever system was in place didn’t prevent what it was supposed to prevent.
What followed was a predictable cycle of news, grief, outrage, debate, and stalemate. The Democrats filibustered for 15 hours on the floor of the Senate until the GOP agreed to vote on a gun bill, but one can only wonder what could or should come from it. One side seeks to protect the public. The other side seeks to do the same thing. Neither seem particularly interested in what the other has to say. Meanwhile, during the filibuster itself, 38 shootings across the country claimed another 12 dead and 36 injured.
Compliance Week takes no position on the 2nd Amendment and gun control, as it is not our purview. But we mention it here because the gun control debate often raises a particularly far-reaching counter-argument. Regulating firearms is pointless, so goes the logic, because those who would misuse firearms won’t obey the laws anyway. And restricting gun ownership only hurts those who would use guns responsibly. Why bother?
One could make that case for any kind of regulation. Financial services, defense contracting, manufacturing, retail … all have had their own catastrophes that resulted in swift, sometimes clumsy, sometimes self-defeating regulatory action. All must live with internal and external regulations that impose the will of the many upon they, the few. All while knowing that anybody hell bent on misbehaving is unlikely to let some rule get in their way. So why make any rules at all? Why bother to build systems to ensure their compliance? Why create cultures where we want to obey those rules even when nobody is looking?
On that, I am reminded of how the nightclub shooter approached a gun store owner in search of body armor and bulk ammunition. The store owner, understandably alarmed by this customer, said he had nothing to sell him, and later informed the authorities. He did not have to, really. He could have stayed quiet. But he did it out of a concern for the public welfare and, presumably, a desire to do good. And he probably saved a number lives in so doing.
Why create rules? Because even though there will always be monsters among us, they remain in the shadows by our inherent desire to look out for each other, to keep tragedy as far at bay as we can, knowing that we will never always succeed. We make rules set a standard. Standards become practice. Practice becomes culture. Culture becomes our truest guide.
The rules we make must be good ones. They must make sense. They must be just. And sometimes, the best rule is not to make one at all. To find a solution that works for the majority of us while respecting our different wants, needs, and views is hard and controversial work. Why bother? Because it is the challenge before us as a society. Because it is a measure of our greatness as a nation. And because we are all in this together.