We are hyper-legalized and hyper-sensitized. Every deviation from the norm, large and small, becomes the subject of the 24/7 cable news obsession. The unscrupulous politicians are the ones who build each new aberration into scripts that feature their political position tied into the aberration in a causal connection. Could be cause, could be effect, and the script either supports their position, or undercuts their opposition. Integration of the aberration into political scripts occurs after-the-fact of the aberration, when foresight is no longer necessary.
So let’s call the 24/7 coverage the first level of abstraction from the aberration, and let’s call building the aberration into a political context the second level. The third level happens when laws are created at the margins of our liberty, criminalizing the aberration and/or regulating the rest of society in a manner to inhibit conditions that permit the aberration to occur. The legal response tries to protect society, notwithstanding the feasibility of actually accomplishing societal protection. Whatever the outcomes, the political machinery uses the aberrant grist to feed its mill. As the gravity of the causal aberration fades in time, the legal response goes on forever, permanently limiting liberty for the remainder of the law abiding.
While the details can be argued about how terrible events filter through political and legal mechanisms to narrow our American liberties, the general model appears to be well-trod ground. If the exchanges between limiting liberties and public safety were effective, one could argue it’s all worthwhile. But they aren’t good trade offs. The reasonable and justifiable legal responses don’t leave us with an outcome of absolute public safety. They leave us with a myth of safety.
History has shown that there are aberrants in development, waiting in the wings to immortalize their name in the legal record books. Our legal system provides a mechanism to enable and encourage such fools with a path to immortality of a sort. We are a constitutional nation of law, but legalities can only do so much to protect us. Our political and legal system should quit seeking this holy grail. The answer does not appear to lie in the direction of further limits to liberty, especially since the system itself seems to have become a motive.
Look at the long view. Do we really want the parameters of our free life and society to be the sum of responses to an endless parade of psychos, zealots and assorted nutjobs?