, , , , , , ,

A fictional pistol duel between Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky
A fictional pistol duel between Eugene Onegin and Vladimir Lensky*

*Vladimir Lensky is a fictional character in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky‘s opera Eugene Onegin.  The story is based on a verse novel by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


They have done it again.  This time it was in Rochester, NY.  Two volunteer firemen were killed and two seriously injured.

I gathered the following information from CBCNewshttp://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/12/24/firefighters-shot-rochester.html (24 December 2012 and 25 December 2012).

The dead are:

  • Lt. Michael Chiapperini, of Webster police and West Webster Fire Department.
  • Tomasz Kaczowka, a volunteer with the fire department.

The injured firefighters in intensive care were named as:

  • Joseph Hofsetter.
  • Theodore Scardino.

As for the shooter, he has been identified as William Spengler.  He had spent seventeen (17) years in prison for manslaughter.  On 18 July 1980, William Spengler beat his grandmother to death with a hammer and was convicted of murder in 1981.  Released in 1998, William Spengler did not have the right to own a firearm, as is the case with all convicted murderers.  However, Mr Spengler had a gun and, after killing and injuring his victims, he committed suicide, as did Mr Lanza.

Reason vs Self-Interest

This may sound simplistic, but William Spengler killed not only because he had a propensity to violence, if such was the case, but because he had access to a firearm.  As I wrote in my blog, dated 18 December, no one can shoot someone else without a firearm.  Had Mr Spengler not been in possession of a firearm he could not have ambushed firefighters, killed two of them, injured two more and committed suicide.  This must end and it can end.

However, the four million and a half members of the National Rifle Association stand in the way of reason because Washington lets petty self-interest — what else — dictate its policies.  In other words, the government itself — and the government is the people — gives the nation the questionable “right” to bear arms, thereby allowing massacres.

Francisco de Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razón produce monstruos), c. 1797

Francisco de Goya, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueño de la razón produce monstruos), c. 1797

The “Armed Brigade:” Cowboys and Indians

I believe the logic of members of the NRA is thwarted.  In their opinion, schools should be protected by what I am calling an “armed brigade.”  The remedy the National Rifle Association, the NRA, has proposed would make the situation worse.  In fact, it is not a remedy, but a symptom pointing to a deeply ingrained atavism.  Members of the NRA still live in a by-gone age when settlers in the Wild West were killing their way to the Pacific Ocean, doing so legally.  Imagine what would happen if the school’s “armed brigade” started to shoot at a potential killer.  It could be a shootout in perfect “cowboys and Indians” fashion.

We are not actors and actresses in a movie; this is real life.  In real life, we do our best not to have shootouts.  I have heard grieving or frightened citizens say that they now want a firearm.  I can understand their feelings.  Many rape victims also want a weapon.  Yet letting individuals carry a weapon keeps alive the classic confrontation of Western movies.  Remember the scenes where two men faced each other and the fastest “gun,” shooting from the hip, killed “the bad guy.”  These were duels à l’Américaine, but duels nevertheless, minus a Codex Duello.

Pushkin killed in a duel, dead at 37

When writer Alexander Pushkin (6 June 1799 – 10 February 1837; aged 37) was fatally wounded duelling with Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthès, duels were illegal in Russia.  Georges d’Anthès was therefore incarcerated in the Peter and Paul Fortress, but he was soon pardoned and returned to France.  The point I want to make is that, in 1837, duels were illegal in Russia.  In fact, they had been illegal in many countries beginning in the 17th century because of the staggering number of victims.  Similarly, if an American citizen now has a firearm and fights against an individual bearing arms, it is also a duel and one person dies, if not both.  There are victims.

Consequently, the bearing arms for self-protection solution and the “armed brigade” solution are both recipes for disaster.  When President Obama addressed the people of Newtown, he stated that during his Presidency, four massacres had occurred, the saddest of which was the Newtown tragedy — children died — and another killing occurred on Christmas Eve.  In these instances, firearms were not used for self-protection.  All were attacks by armed individuals.  I hope Washington will rally behind the President who wishes to put into place bolder gun-control legislation.

Individualism and Collectivism

Putting firearms in the hands of individuals is extremely dangerous.  It is as though a nation let citizens take the law into their own hands.  We cannot take the law into our own hands.  If citizens did take the law into their own hands, it would be a serious breach of the social contract, or a breach of a covenant.  In fact, it would be unbridled individualism and near complete denial of collectivism, i. e. collective rights and duties.

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog on Thomas Hobbes (5 April 1588 – 4 December 1679, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke.  It addressed the social contract.  People get together, surrender some “freedom” — such as bearing arms — and live in safety.  This does not preclude the appropriate measure of individualism, but it creates a balance between individualism and collectivism.  In other words, people can still put a little picket fence around their house and lock their doors — I don’t — but the other side of the picket fence is someone else’s property.  Note that in my example, both homeowners, individuals, are respecting a law, a covenant, so that order is maintained.

We have red lights, stop signs, speed limits, construction codes, fire safety codes, etc.  It’s called the rule of law.


Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  (7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893)
Eugene Onegin 
The Death of Tecumseh

The Death of Tecumseh

© Micheline Walker
19 December 2012